I could hear the foot pads of the coyote drumming on the hard Arizona desert floor as they raced towards us, looking for an easy meal of rabbit. Two of them burst into the opening about 30 yards from me and I put them in a pile with 2 shots from the 12 gauge. Gerry Blair, standing with his back to a greasewood bush, muttered something that was not fully understandable, but I did pick up on the word “hog”.
Most of my life as a hunter and trapper in the wilds of America has been spent alone. I wanted it that way. I like people in general, but when I go to the woods, I cherish being quiet and alone. When chasing after coyotes, I rarely take anyone with me. Some of them get in the way, some talk too much—constantly interrupting my thought process and concentration on catching coyotes. Some have labeled me as anti-social, but I don’t believe I am. I’m just a little selfish when it comes to my time in the woods. Either way, it really doesn’t bother me how most people label me or what they think. I’m a happy woodsbum.
Occasionally I have hooked up for brief forays with other true coyoteros and have both learned more about coyotes and enjoyed the excursions. Gerry Blair of Flagstaff, Arizona has been a noted authority on calling predators for decades and was a blast to hunt with. Gerry was a hard hunter and very serious when he needed to be. He was a prankster and a genuine smart ass at times and we had a ball together. I don’t think anyone has ever known more about killing Arizona coyotes and other predators with any sort of game call than Gerry Blair.
Gerry and I would take turns doing the calling and we both called and killed about the same amount of coyotes. He was impressed with my use of a mouth diaphragm call back in the days when it was unheard of. I was impressed with the big galoot’s knowledge and savvy on calling game, especially coyotes.
At one stop we had set up well out of sight of the truck and it was Gerry’s turn to call. He cut loose with a round of pitiful squalls with his favorite call, an old Circe. After about the third call I glimpsed a yote darting through the brush, heading wide open, straight for Gerry. Old Gerry let go of a few heart wrenching moans with the Circe and all of a sudden, the coyote had my partner by the pants leg. If I hadn’t been there, I probably wouldn’t have believed such a thing could happen.
Gerry was yelling and kicking at the coyote and I had broken up laughing at the sight – a thirty-pound coyote hanging on to the leg of a 200+ pound screaming man! I couldn’t shoot for obvious reasons. Gerry finally kicked free of the coyote, but the critter dived right back on him. By this time, I was down on my knees laughing so hard that tears ran down my face. I couldn’t see for laughing but I heard Gerry’s 10 gauge (he called it Moosedick) roar and I looked up to see parts of coyote flying everywhere. Gerry gave the coyote and me a cussing I’ll long remember. I will always cherish the memories of time spent with Gerry Blair.
I have at times turned down much needed money from guys who wanted to pay to go with me and learn. It wasn’t that I am selfish or don’t want to help someone else. I just didn’t think that I could stand being with someone for several days, from sun up ‘til dark. I have never thought of myself as the best or the greatest anyway and wondered if I was worth their hard earned money. The ones that I did take appeared to be satisfied in the end, but I guess I’m just too much of a loner for that kind of work or service.
Willis Kent (deceased) of Montana was another old coyotero that I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with. He was a soft moving, quiet sort of guy who would never talk anyone to death. When he spoke, he had something worthwhile to say and if you listened, you’d learn something. Willis roamed from Montana to New Mexico and Arizona trapping and calling coyotes and other furbearers. It was how he made his living as long as I knew him. At one time, like myself, he would guide hunters in the fall to supplement his income. But again, like myself, he tired of spending that much time with people and gave up guiding and outfitting.
Willis owned the first coyote decoy dog that I had ever seen or hunted with. Fuzz was the pooch’s name and he was a crackerjack to say the least. Willis would make a stop where he figured or know that coyotes laid up, give a howl with his mouth or hit the siren mounted on his truck and we’d listen for a reply. When we got one, along with Fuzz, we would move in closer and set up to call.
Fuzz sat close to Willis as he called, looking and listening. When the dog knew a coyote or coyotes were near (long before we would know), he would bristle up and whine. His master would give the command to go get them and Fuzz would leave in a rush. Willis and I would ready our guns to shoot. Seldom were we ever disappointed by the Fuzz. He would soon have one or more coyotes on his butt and come straight to us. What a masterful play and exhibition of skill it was! I often have wondered how many coyotes old Willis and Fuzz took as a team. I doubt if Willis could have told me. He was a supreme coyote man but never bothered with numbers or bragging, and he could kill just about any coyote that needed it.
Willis and I would leave his home in Lewistown an hour or more before daylight and drive to a sprawling ranch on the Judith River where we were working on coyotes that were sneaking on to a game preserve. The owner had all sorts of exotic goats, sheep, deer and elk in thousands of fenced in acres. The coyotes had developed a taste for the sheep and goats, costing the folks a goodly sum of money.
Normally we would make a few calls for coyotes before checking and setting traps. Fuzz was always on the truck, ready to go, well before we ate breakfast. Mrs. Kent always had us a large cooler chocked full of good eats ready for us each morning. There were no stores or restaurants where we operated.
One morning I noticed Willis putting one of those old timey hand drills on the truck and couldn’t figure out how this related to coyote control. When I asked about it the old coyote man just grinned and said, “You’ll see.”
At one point along the chain link fence perimeter, a large 4’ road pipe went under the roadway and fence at a deep gully. Tracks showed how coyotes were using the pipe to access the preserve and the tasty sheep. It took a while, but Willis and I managed to drill several holes in each end of the pipe. The holes were used to fasten snare support wires and the anchored end of the snare itself. By using debris to block the middle of each end of the pipe, we were able to hang 2 snares on each end. What a setup! We hung several coyotes in the next week at this location. As I’ve said before, a serious coyotero has to be adaptable and have the ability to think things through.
I spent many memorable days with Willis under that beautiful Montana sky. Deer, both whitetail and mule deer were everywhere. It was not unusual to count over a hundred on any day. While sitting on the tailgate one day, eating lunch we spotted 3 or 4 bull elk working their way towards us.
I dropped down into a nearby sand wash with camera in hand and worked my way towards them. Willis made a few calls to get their attention. At one time I had all of those trophy bulls within 30 yards of me. I took some decent photos of them and the real kicker was that one of the bulls was almost solid white!
To follow in the footsteps of coyoteros such as Gerry Blair, Willis Kent and some others is an honor indeed. These were men who had been up the creek, over the mountain and seen the varmint. Now I’m an old timer. I’ve been a sort of fledging writer for many years, but cannot find the words to aptly describe much of what I’ve been blessed to see.
Long live the coyoteros!