by Darren Johnson
What was that? I thought to myself. Did I really see a flash of gray moving toward the open field? I strained to see some kind of movement through the thick brush, but try as I might, it eluded me. I was certain that a coyote was lurking in there somewhere but I just couldn’t pick it out in the jungle of vegetation.
My set-up was almost perfect as I was tucked into a pocket of brush virtually camouflaged from sight. The wind was a mild cross-breeze that was pushing my scent away from the field and the hay was freshly cut. The crows were already searching the mowed field for food. I was very confident that it was just a matter of time before the coyotes showed up for an easy meal. With an hour and a half until dusk, I just needed to be patient.
I had waited to hunt this field for almost a year. While I had seen coyotes in this field many times on my drive to and from work, my plan was to wait until the day the field was mowed as it seems to bring out the coyotes in packs. They can’t resist a quick look through the mowed hay in hopes of finding a mouse or rabbit carcass. When the phone call from the farmer came around noon, I rearranged my schedule to be in the field later in the day. I shot the rifle to make sure it was zeroed in, threw on my gear and headed out.
Based upon the wind direction and the geography, I felt certain that the coyote would enter the field from my right and should cross in front of me as they searched for food. With the cover breaking up my silhouette and the favorable breeze, I felt certain I could get a high percentage shot off. At a range of about fifty yards, and them preoccupied on finding a meal, I was confident that this would be a hunt I would remember for a long time.
I scanned the field once again and as my gaze shifted to the right edge of the field, I saw it. A large coyote stood at the field edge, scanning for danger before stepping into the open. As slowly as I could, I shifted in my seat and raised my rifle. So far so good, I thought. The coyote lowered its nose to the ground and stepped into the field. Like a beagle searching for scent, it started moving across the field in a zigzag pattern. It was now in the open and I just needed it to stop for a second.
I had the rifle shouldered and was focused on the coyote through my scope. I moved the safety off and settled my finger on the trigger. As much as I tried to stay calm, the adrenaline was flowing and my heart was pounding. I tried to slow my breathing while centering the crosshairs on the broadside coyote’s chest. In spite of my lack of composure, this was shaping up to be an easy hunt.
Seemingly, out of nowhere, I heard a sharp “yap” off to my left and lifted my head to take a look. A second coyote was in the field and had busted me. Knowing this wasn’t good, I tried to find the original dog in the scope but couldn’t see it. Looking up again, I realized that my window of opportunity had slammed shut and the coyote was gone. My only choice was to take a shot at the second coyote but as I swung the rifle around I saw it running full speed away from me.
In spite of my near perfect set-up, a great wind and the freshly cut field, I was going home empty handed, busted by a coyote that I didn’t even know was there. As I walked back to the truck disgusted with myself, I knew I had accomplished one thing. I did have a hunt that I would remember for a long time. A really long time…
For more excellent writing and photography by Darren Johnson, please visit his website: Taking a Walk on the Wild Side