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Track Maker – predator on the homestead

Track Maker – predator on the homestead

The Track Maker

I waited until it warmed up before going out this morning. Six below. -6°F, “feels like” -17°F (feels like needles on bare skin) when I went out. The ducks peeked out the door. A hen waddled out, looked around, stretched her right leg behind her, wings out straight, turned around and waddled back inside. I closed the door behind her and filled the water pans. The chickens are pecking at a pan of bacon fat I gave them a few days ago as a treat. The extra calories help them stay warm and maintain weight. We’re in the coldest part of winter now. I think I’ve already told you that. Ava snuffled enough birds to be satisfied that all was well, looked for eggs in the usual spots on the floor (she stares at them, I’m sure hoping they’ll leap into her mouth since she’s not allowed to take them) and went to the door to wait. One egg from Sweetie. The ducks aren’t laying and only three chickens are popping out eggs every couple of days.

It’s so cold the snow squeaks under foot. Ava and Zoey took off in the direction of the food plot then waited to see if I were going with them. None of us are getting enough exercise these days. I’d bundled up before leaving the house so we could go for a short walk. There were game cameras to check this morning. What left the tracks we found while walking Sunday afternoon?

Bobcat or Coyote?

Do I want to deal with an early bobcat or a coyote? Coyotes are easier when it comes to poultry but bobcats are far more interesting. I fed a starving bobcat at the end of winter 2015 to keep him alive and away from my birds. Do I want to do it again? The deer have moved on so I can set up a feeding station at the bear bait site without worrying about causing problems for the deer. Would I rather bait a coyote in the same spot? The difference between a feeding station and a bait is species. I’ll feed a bobcat to keep it away from the ducks and chickens but I’ll bait a coyote in order to shoot it. A bobcat will stay away from people if it isn’t desperate. A coyote is an opportunist waiting for one escaped bird rather it’s starving or not.

We went to all three cameras, two in the food plot and one in the wood yard, and swapped the cards. I pried the first one open with a little effort but the clasps on the second and third cameras were frozen solid.  There’s nothing good about taking your gloves off when it’s -7° and breezy but I wanted those cards.

And the Pictures Show…

The pictures show nothing definite but I’m pretty sure the track maker is a coyote. Right side of the screen, a coyote head. The camera triggered two seconds too fast for a full body shot. The batteries were probably too cold to snap the second photo sooner. Normally there are three or four empty pictures before something walks into the frame. We have the head and tip of a busy tail.
coyote, food plot, winter, track maker
track maker, coyote tailNotice the lack of tracks on the snow? The coyote is light enough to stay on top of the crust. Deer break through. It’s a big advantage for the coyotes. It snowed a few times between December 28 and January 6 when the track maker returned. I hoped to find the culprit in this photo but didn’t. Cold batteries again. Look closely. There’s a snowshoe hare
snowshoe hare, food plot, winter, snow, track makertrack makerHere’s what we know. Bobcats don’t come near the house unless they’re starving. We’ve had four bobcats here in 18 winters. All were starving and desperate enough to take their chances with us and the dogs. Two of them came in the winter of 2015 when we had more than 200 inches of snow. One of them killed two ducks but the other found the feeding station and didn’t come closer. We know there’s another coyote here. There aren’t any indications of a bobcat. I think the hare hopped through and the coyote followed its tracks and/or scent later. It snowed Friday night into Saturday morning. There wasn’t much of a crust on the snow for the coyote to stay on so it broke through and left the tracks that then collected snow.

Nature sleuthing. Don’t you love it? I believe the track maker is the coyote. Case dismissed.

November First on the Homestead

November First on the Homestead

November First on the Homestead

The kitchen is cool, almost cold in the morning now. November first dawned in the 20°s, feeling more like December. Sourdough bread spent the night in its first rise in the coldest corner of the kitchen. Poke poke poke. I dumped the flattening dough from the bowl into a bread pan and pushed it aside to rise for the day.

After coffee, chores, and then a breakfast of homemade bread toasted on cast iron, an Autumn spiced bear sausage patty and a duck egg, I spent a little time preparing the rest of supper. Butternut squash soup with Linguica sausage and the sourdough white wheat bread. Peeled, cut up, chicken stock, pan fried the sausage to release some fat and improve flavor, tossed together in the crock pot to simmer. And then off to lunch with a dear friend I’ve missed.

november first, homestead, butternut squash soup, linguicahomemade bread, november first, deer huntingDeer season (rifle) opened Saturday, a few days earlier than what used to be November first. Steve and I spent the morning and evening on a ridge looking for a buck we chased on closing day last year. He wasn’t registered so unless Mother Nature got him, or the hunter who fired a shot that echoed between two ridges and down into a valley found him, he’s out there. You couldn’t prove it by us. We found tracks big enough to be a buck but that’s all we saw.

ridge, deer hunting, november first, autumn colorsNovember first, birch trees, autumn, foliage, November, deer hunting

Butchering Day

Sunday was on of those days I dread and look forward to. I dread the killing and butchering of the meat chickens but I look forward to excellent meat from happy, well-raised chickens, and to having the job done. Chicken wise it was the worst year ever. More mortality than ten years normally put together. Started with 32 chickens, butchered 21, couldn’t use the meat from one because it had some sort of yuck of which I’ll spare you the details. The turkeys’ day comes this Sunday.

Loss

Steve put down an injured runner duck. She was seven or eight or nine years old and still in excellent health but mortally wounded. She was already shivering in the cold. Can’t have her freeze to death this winter. She survived a bobcat attack many years ago. She didn’t lay many eggs anymore and she absolutely didn’t want to be touch but she was still a valuable part of our homestead. She made us smile. Her two sisters spent November first looking for and quacking to her.

new moon, november firstCoyote Problems

I’m distracted early in the morning and again late in the afternoon each day but Sunday by coyotes. They’ve been in the backyard, around the hen house and meat chicken pen, and even on the porch. Finding their wet paw prints on the porch is annoying and uncomfortable. They shouldn’t be this comfortable being close to the house with us and two dogs here. I’ve been sitting in a popup ground blind, calling like a screaming jack rabbit (which makes me want to shoot the speaker after 30 seconds) and a howling coyote. So far no good. They show up a half hour before and after legal shooting time. We can’t night hunt them again until mid-December when the last deer hunting season closes.

I’m hoping the November first new moon brings change in deer movement and opportunities to rid the neighborhood of the coyotes. It’s time they went back into the woods and away from the few homes on our road.

November first already. Where did this year go?

Routine Change – Freezing Cold Nights

Routine Change – Freezing Cold Nights

 Routine Change

Routine change seems to happen quickly even though fall creeps in slowly, particularly this year. Last week we had daytime temperatures in the high 70’s and nighttime temps in the low 50’s. This morning the hose was frozen because the temp dipped into the high 20’s. At 10 am the water trickled through enough to get the thawing process started. Routine change: drain the hose during evening chores and make sure it’s stretched out where the morning sun will find it earliest.

Moving the Chicken Tractor

Every morning I let the Cornish Cross meat chickens out of the tractor to run for the day. I bring them a little corn to help them warm up quickly. Every evening I move the tractor onto clean grass or soil, move their five gallon waterer into the tractor, and wait for them to go in for the night. Routine change: As of today I’m moving the tractor in the morning and leaving the tarp over it so the sun can warm the ground during the day, giving them a warmer spot to sleep at night.

Building a Fire

checked firewood, routine change, dry firewoodMost mornings I’m up early, start the coffee, get the kindling and firewood, build a fire and get my shower while the coffee finishes. I dress by the fire that’s still catching, barely enough warmth to start the groan and pop of the heating metal. Routine change: Bring in the kindling and firewood after evening chores. Build the fire first thing in the morning, then start the coffee. Coffee takes a few minutes to make because we grind beans each time we make a pot. The spent grounds are stored to be scattered in the herb garden. Building the fire first won’t make a huge difference but it’s a few extra minutes for the heat to build.

I’m looking forward to days inside later this week, watching the rain fall while sitting by the fire, working without interruption, writing writing writing for something other than a paycheck. I’ll roast a chicken with potatoes, carrots and onions on an open fire by the pond on Wednesday and then use the leftover chicken for chicken salad with cranberries and walnuts, fajitas and a soup.

Coyote Problem

routine change, coyote, meat chickens, cornish cross, A coyote has been hanging out here for more than a week. One came through in April and July. A youngster very much attached to our back porch, backyard and orchard, visits nightly for the past week. It arrives a little earlier each night, just after Steve turned off the noisy saw and came in last night.

We can’t night hunt again until mid-December but if I catch it in the act of bothering the meat chickens, well, it’s days are over. The cold nights seem to have spurred its desire to hunt here. The deer haven’t been around since the coyote showed up. I will feel bad for ending its life. It’s not an animal I’ll eat and I won’t tan its hide. I really don’t know what I’ll do with it; it’s been quite a while since we’ve had to kill one. I hope it takes on a routine change before it’s too late.

And speaking of killing. <sigh> One of the meat chickens, a hen, is mostly likely developing pneumonia. We’re in wait-to-see mode. We have two choices. Treat her with antibiotics or slaughter soon. We’re two or three weeks away from processing all of the meat chickens. We don’t want antibiotics in our food when we have a strong alternative. She’s fryer size now, certainly large enough to provide three meals for the two of us. I’ll see how she is in the morning. I’m ready for the poultry routine to change, for them to move on to the freezer. It’s chilly during the day, cold at night, and sometimes so windy I have to tack down the tarp covering the entire tractor at night. It’s not good meat-raising weather now as it takes more food to keep themselves warm as well as grow.

Are you going through a routine change as autumn progresses?

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Living with Coyotes on the Homestead

Living with Coyotes on the Homestead

Living With Coyotes on the Homestead

Living with coyotes is a part of living in the woods. There were at least two coyotes on a game camera over the winter, far below the numbers we saw in our backyard 10 years ago. The population is under control now. In early March I had Ava and Zoey outside after sunset to run out some of their energy while I closed in the chickens and ducks. We know predators are here on a regular basis because we live in the woods. Still, hearing a coyote yip one hundred yards from where I was standing is alarming.living with coyotes, living with wildlife, predatorThe birds were tucked in for the night but noisy. Ava and Zoey played keep-away with a toy of some sort. The yip stopped them in their tracks. Ava’s familiar with coyotes but we doubt Zoey had heard or seen one. They were about 100 yards from the backyard. I put the dogs in, hid behind the edge of the garden shed with a rifle and yipped. A return yip, then a howl, and then my reply. We went back and forth several times until the coyotes moved away.coyote, game camera We had a coyote howling in the backyard, circling the meat chicken pen and trying to dig under fence to get into the duck and chicken pen this fall. There are pictures but we didn’t see it with our own eyes.

Tips On Living With Coyotes

  • Keep small livestock and poultry penned. Avoid offering a coyote any kind of temptation.
  • Make a lot of noise if you see a coyote. Don’t let it get comfortable near your home and any areas outdoors you use on a regular basis. If you hear them too close to the homestead you can hit the panic button on your vehicle’s key fob to set off the alarm.
  • Keep cats and small dogs indoors unless supervised.
  • A livestock guardian dog is usually enough to keep coyotes away.
  • Persistent coyotes can be removed. I asked a local trapper to deal with our problem. Five days later she stopped in to show me the first coyote she trapped. Problem solved.
  • In my state, predators may be shot if they’re caught in the act of harassing livestock. If I’d been able to catch the coyotes trying to get to the birds I could have shot it.

Living with a coyote or coyotes is a growing issue. Do what you can to avoid conflict and call a trapper or game warden when necessary.

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