In the classic Clint Eastwood movie Pale Rider, prospectors fall on hard times when an evil industrialist chokes the flow of creekwater that allows them to pan for gold. Luckily, the “Preacher” is handy with pistols. The prospectors aren’t forced to dry-pan or migrate, as they had feared.
Where am I going with this? You and I are the prospectors, and the creek is our supply of fawns. Guess who the bad guy is. Some experts are telling us to back off on our doe harvests if our flow of fawns is dropping off to a trickle, as it is in many locations where fawns are being diverted down a coyote’s gullet. In other words, we should learn to live with lower deer harvests. Learn to dry-pan.
I don’t want to learn to dry-pan. I want to call in Clint Eastwood and ride to town with pistols drawn!
Now, the part where I calm down and explain more clearly.
These experts have a point, and it is backed up by good research. We know beyond any doubt that coyotes are taking heavy bites out of annual fawn crops in many locations. We know spring trapping to increase fawn survival has produced mixed results. Some studies found great success in rapidly restoring fawn recruitment by putting a dent in coyote numbers just before the fawn drop. But some, after spending a lot of time and money removing a lot of coyotes, did not measure a significant increase in fawn recruitment. Thus follows the advice: If fawn recruitment is falling, reducing doe harvest is easier, cheaper and possibly more effective than spring trapping.
My problem is this:
Coyotes. Eat. Buck. Fawns.
The fawn drop is the fountain that nourishes our future hunting. It produces the bucks I will rattle in one day. It produces the doe backstraps that will sizzle on my grill. If I relinquish control of this fountain to coyotes, I am giving them the sizzle and resigning myself to dry-pan in the dust of a former creek bed.
Yes, if fawn recruitment is falling, we should back off the doe harvest immediately. But the next thing I’m doing in that situation is deploying some traps in spring. Professional trappers are extremely effective, though unlike the Preacher in Pale Rider, they do not work for free. Learning to trap is not easy and requires a huge time commitment before you become effective at removing significant numbers of coyotes. But these options are available in most areas (check your state’s trapping regulations), they’ve been shown to help in multiple studies, and the alternative is to continue allowing coyotes to kill many bucks and does for you.
If fawn recruitment is down and you suspect coyotes are to blame, attempt to manage their impact this spring. You might find you can re-open the floodgates on fawn production.
VIDEO: If you locate a fawn carcass, look for these clues pointing to the culprit.