Coyote hunting a preemptive measure to hinder cabin fever
"There's one right there!" my friend Jeff Tschetter yelled as he slammed on the brakes and we skidded to a halt.
The seat belt across my lap threw a mean sucker punch as I lurched forward from the sudden stop.
Jeff frantically pointed, his finger tapping the window like the staccato of Morse code.
I was still trying to catch my breath as I pulled the .223 from its sheath and stumbled out the back door of the pickup truck.
We were in the middle of Jeff's uncle's pasture. Cows lazily munched their cud and stared with glazed faces at the unfolding commotion.
But mixed in with the multitude of bovine was an imposter that nearly went unnoticed had it not been for Jeff's keen eyes. A coyote stood broadside not 75 yards away - and not 20 feet from the nearest cow.
"Shoot it, quick," Jeff hissed as he scrambled to grab his own weapon. "But for God's sake, don't hit the cow!"
After a couple seconds of fumbling with the bipod, I had the bolt action rifle steadied on the truck bed rails. Then, the coyote suddenly turned and began trotting away. Thinking fast, I made a noise; something like the mix between a fawn's bleat and a kitten's meow.
The varmint stopped, its cold, black eyes staring, unblinking, as I peered through the crosshairs.
With one last check to make sure my shooting lane was clear, I chalked up my first coyote of the year; a beautiful female with a thick, pale gray and brown coat.
Harvesting it was a little unorthodox, but not uncommon in the great state of North Dakota. Though shooting from or on a motor vehicle is prohibited when hunting big game such as whitetail deer, it is not illegal when pursuing coyotes and their varmint ilk. And though I prefer hunting Wile E. using rabbit-in-distress and howler calls, I'd never pass up the chance at one standing broadside in the middle of a pasture inside 100 yards.
That just doesn't happen.
Besides, the rancher who has his cattle penned up will be much happier knowing there is one less potential calf killer on the loose.
What made the hunt sweeter still was the setting: God's country - North Dakota's Badlands. Sprawling fields and pastures intersect tracts of native prairie dotted with Russian Olive trees and buck brush.
If flora is media of the artwork, then geography is the canvas. The ground is folded and wrinkled like a dress shirt that's been stuffed inside a duffel bag for a month. Deep gullies gouge the landscape while steep hills conversely jut skyward. All around, varying sizes of rocks and boulders vein about in the same manner that glue and glitter adorn a child's homemade Christmas card.
And in a world of unequaled harshness, life abounds. Many forms of big and small game call this place home; everything from elk and mule deer to sharptailed grouse and prairie dogs.
If there is anywhere in the world to get the jump on cabin fever before it takes hold, then this is it; a true sportsman's paradise.
Jeff and his wife, Kammy, were kind enough to invite me for a weekend of traversing the area around Watford City. On the agenda were pheasants, coyotes, and a whitetail doe for Jeff's still unfilled muzzleloader tag.
Though we only managed to scratch one of the skittish ditch chickens and Jeff's freezer remains devoid of venison, the coyote certainly made for a memorable experience.
And the fact that coyotes have an open season all year in North Dakota means their pursuit can last well through winter for diehard varmint hunters. Hunting them isn't rocket science, either. A few basic calls purchased cheaply from the local sporting goods store, the appropriate camouflage and a rifle is all the equipment required. Then, it's just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, keeping vigilant and being patient. Sooner or later, a coyote's stomach will get the best of it and you'll get the chance of controlling the predator population.
So if watching your bobber slowly freeze while sitting on a bucket in the middle of a lake sounds unappealing, consider taking a crack at coyote hunting. According to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, there are more coyotes now then there has been for the past 18 years.
If that's not the ideal prescription for curing cabin fever, nothing is.
Tyler Shoberg is Sports Editor of the Pioneer as well as an avid hunter and fisherman. He can be reached at 701-451-5717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.