Coyotes in the Prairie State

If you like a hunting challenge and don’t mind some cold weather, going after the wily coyote in the Prairie State may be just for you. From Nov. 10, 2006 until Feb. 15, 2007, it is legal to hunt these wild canines 24 hours per day. That’s right; it is OK to hunt them at night even using lights. In fact, the coyote is normally most active at night. There is no limit on them so you can take as many as you want.

Illinois has very little chance of depleting the supply of coyotes any time soon. Many farmers or other folks who live in rural areas might be eager to give you permission to hunt coyotes on their property. It seems that coyotes have developed a fondness for the taste of cats and other small domestic pets in addition to their normal diet of mice, rats, rabbits, birds and small deer. Even though they do eat some berries, fruit, and insects, their primary food of choice is some type of meat.

The propensity coyotes have for devouring little “Whiskers” or little “Rover” makes it hard for the average pet owner to warm up to the idea of having coyotes around all the time. Most people who stock pheasants, quail and other game birds on their land also would like to see these canine predators thinned out.

The coyote has keen eyesight, excellent hearing, and a terrific sense of smell. He is also smart. If he can figure out a way to get his food easily, he will do it. He’s sort of like your average teen-ager in that regard … but back to the topic at hand. When he is all decked out in his winter coat, the coyote can weigh anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds. He can run very fast for a short distance when necessary. He has been known to sprint up to 45 mph over a short stretch.

Coyotes normally breed in February or March. The female may deliver a litter of four to nine pups after a pregnancy that lasts about two months. By the time he is 2 or 3 months old, the coyote pup is learning to hunt for himself. Shortly after that, the young coyote will often leave the rest of his pack, and make his own way in the wild.

So how does one go about hunting the coyote? A good approach is to find some habitat where a coyote is likely to dwell, such as a field or woods next to a creek, river, lake, pond or other body of water. Then, conceal yourself by wearing appropriate camouflage, and make the sounds of an animal the coyote loves to consume. There are several electronic game calls on the market that reproduce actual sounds made by rabbits, deer, pigs, etc. If you are in an open field, you might want to use a rifle, but if you are in the woods, you might want to use a shotgun since the shooting distance will likely be shorter. For more information about hunting regulations and coyotes in general, check out the Illinois Department of Natural Resources web site at

This article was provided by the Illinois State Rifle Association. For more information about the association, call 635-3198 or visit

From the Dec. 20-26, 2006, issue

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