A newborn fawn lies curled in the tall grass. It doesn’t move, driven by instinct and natural behavior to remain motionless. Its mother, a wary doe, feeds in the meadow a couple hundred yards away.
Seconds later, a pair of cunning coyotes stalk through the grass, knowing what time of year it is and all too aware of the meals that await them. Then it happens. One of the coyotes stumbles across the young fawn’s bed. The fawn runs, but the chase it short. Both coyotes haul the newborn deer to the ground, ripping and tearing at flesh as it bawls, crying out in distress.
It doesn’t last long. The coyotes succeed. The fawn dies.
The fawn recruitment rate just took yet another nose dive.
The coyote is not native to the eastern half of the country. It’s because of man that it spread eastward from the Great Plains region. Now, the species is taking its toll on whitetails. And fawn recruitment rates that once soared well over one fawn per doe are now 0.2 to 0.5 in many states.
That’s unacceptable. It’s time we stepped up and started helping whitetails in an area that no one is. Here is how you can do that.
Hunt and Trap Coyotes
Coyotes have become a serious problem within the last several years. They’re multiplying like rats and there are few (if any) predators that can keep them in check. Except us. We can. And that’s what we’re going to have to do.
Hunting coyotes is a great method of controlling ‘yote populations. I recently just got started doing it and killed two off land I deer hunt on. Grant it, that’s not much. But I’m learning. And I plan to get better at it as time goes on. I want to take at least three to four coyotes off each piece of ground I hunt per year. That’s a big goal. But I’m just stubborn enough to work up to it.
There are two times you should focus on: spring and winter. Hunt coyotes hard in spring during that period when fawns are dropping. That’s the most important time to reduce coyote populations. The other time is when whitetails are at their weakest in winter. Target song dogs during these two times to have the greatest effect.
Trapping is another endeavor on my list of to-do’s that I never have done before. I know, I’m encouraging you to do it and I’m saying I've never done it. But that will change starting this coming winter. Lord willing, I’ll be trapping to my heart’s content.
Don’t Forget Bobcats and Bears
Everyone talks about coyotes. That’s why bobcats often slide by under the radar. They’re fawn killers, too. And they’re multiplying. I remember about five years ago when it was rare to get a trail camera photo of one, let alone see one in person. Now, I see them out and get photos of them, regularly. It’s time hunters manage them.
In most places, there isn't as much you can do about bears. But if you have a season where you are, take advantage of it and help manage the species. They kill fawns, too.
Remember Small Predators
Don’t think for a second that foxes, badgers, and other smaller predators won’t take the opportunity to kill a newborn fawn. They have a much tougher time after fawns get their legs under them. But during those first several crucial hours after birth, a good-sized fire ant could pack off a fawn (kidding, of course). Needless to say, they’re vulnerable.
There are several good ways to do this. The best is to log mature timber so that undergrowth can receive sunlight. Early successional habitat is very important to prey species. Another good method is to plant native grasses. Put land in the CRP and CREP programs. Lastly, pile downed treetops and other vegetation-based debris in areas where deer can utilize them. Ultimately, allow land to get thick and nasty with growth. Farmers hate it. But deer love it.
It’s all about helping does to help their fawns. I like to do that by supplementing them with minerals. Not all fawns die from predation. Some die because their mothers are too weak from birth, a lack of milk production, etc. Supplying the right minerals (trace mineral and di-calcium phosphate, among others) will help does. Not to mention the aid it gives bucks while growing antlers.
Editor's Note: This was originally published May 5, 2016.