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Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 138. Coyote hunts in the olden days

It's Just Me Again No. 138, by Chuck Hinman: Coyote hunts in the olden days
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column is: Chuck Hinman: IJMA 313 : Wardrobe mania

By Chuck Hinman

One of the haunting memories of my childhood is the eerie sound of a pack of coyotes howling in the night. I have no memory of hearing coyotes in the day time; all are of hearing them after we had gone to bed. It was difficult to pinpoint where their plaintive cry was coming from or how many were in the pack. Both man and beast listened with a curious uneasy interest when coyotes howled. Our collie dog, Sport, whined softly and uncomfortably when coyotes were doing their thing. I will never forget that sound.

In the early 30's farmers became alarmed when the coyote population increased considerably. It wasn't unusual to find carcasses of calves in their pastures. A young calf was no match for a pack of hungry coyotes.

I am uncertain as to the details but a governmental authority in Gage County Nebraska where we lived declared a bounty (amount unknown to me) for a pair of coyote ears.

Farmers became so enraged over their losses to coyotes that they organized coyote hunts on Sunday afternoons. Although these hunts occurred seventy-five years ago (I would have been ten years old) I think they covered an entire township. However as I am writing this, a six mile square area seems like too much land for several hundred hunters to surround and walk to the center. Nevertheless that is the way I remember it happening.

It must have taken a lot of organization that would be mind boggling. It was advertised with signs on telephone posts within the area covered by the hunt.

On the afternoon of the hunt our family of three didn't have much fire-power. Dad had a 16 gauge double-barrel sawed-off shot gun, brother Bob had a B-B gun, and I had a stick (I suppose). I didn't have a gun in those days!

Mom drove us to the perimeter point where we started from and she knew where the hunt was to end (the center) so she could pick us up. No dogs were allowed for obvious reasons.

I have been on several of those hunts and the weather was good in all of them. It was winter time and seasonably brisk.

The countryside in those days was overrun by rabbits, both jack rabbits and cotton tails. From the beginning of the hunt it sounded like a war zone. At the beginning there were several hundred feet distance between hunters. Coyotes would be seen on the run but the kill didn't happen until the center of the hunt was approached.

The hunts I was on bagged between fifteen and twenty coyotes each.

There were a lot of sore muscles, chapped lips but a big dose of camaraderie of men and boys doing their thing on a Sunday afternoon.

And of course there were a lot less voices in the coyote choir to howl Sunday evening after the hunt. Even the cattle herds and the chickens in the chicken houses got some welcome rest.

Written by Chuck Hinman, February 26, 2008

Writers note. I was just visiting with fellow resident of Tallgrass Estates John Miller. He grew up in Pennsylvania. I told him I had just finished this memory story about coyotes in the "olden days" in Nebraska. I suggested that being from back east he had probably never seen a coyote. He smiled and said that he hadn't seen any since this morning! He went on to inform me of a pair of coyotes (some times three) that make frequent trips through their backyard (and mine) here at Tallgrass Estates in Bartlesville, Oklahoma! It is indeed a small world and I didn't think to ask John if these coyotes share in the food bowl with their shih-tzu "Tinker Bell" -- a favorite at Tallgrass Estates! Maybe we should organize a wheel chair only coyote hunt on the back lawn of TE. - CHUCK HINMAN

This story was posted on 2012-02-12 06:52:06
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