Predator hunting a fun winter pastime, day or night      

Now that the year has come to a close and the annual deer seasons are over, it is time for the “other season” to begin, something I much enjoy and always look forward to. Predator hunting is a fast-growing pastime, and for good reason because it offers a unique and challenging atmosphere for enjoying Michigan’s great outdoors.

There is no doubt the coyote has become the star in regards to predator hunting in Michigan, because it is a highly prolific, adaptable and efficient predator, and I’ve watched how its numbers have spread throughout our state during the last four decades. (Not to mention all of North America as well, including regions it has never been in before, and now it has even crossed the Panama Canal and is moving into South America). The coyote can even do well in an urban environment.

Also on the predator list are the fox (both red and gray) and, where legal (refer to the Michigan DNR Hunting Guide), the bobcat. While this is commonly referred to today as “predator hunting,” I, being old-school, still tend to call it “varmint hunting.” But whatever you wish to call it, Michigan offers excellent opportunities.

In my Thumb area, this entails strictly fox and coyote, because the bobcat hunting zone is further north. Whatever method you use, predator hunting is extremely challenging, and for me, it helps to shorten up a typical long winter.

One of the oldest forms of predator hunting is using hounds, a time-honored method steeped in tradition which goes back eons, with dogs and humans working constructively together. It is by no means a slam-dunk affair, and a case in point is a hunt I was on near Rogers City.

The hounds were pursuing a bobcat in a dense cedar swamp, and I was thrilled to the core when I could hear the baying of the hounds coming my way as I intently watched the gaps in the cover and the sound of the dogs came ever closer.

Pretty soon, I spotted the dogs passing through the gaps as they went right on by me, but I never did see that bobcat. There is no question in my mind that it was like trying to spot a wisp of smoke whisking through the shadows. Such happens, and I do thoroughly enjoy listening to the hounds “singing,” which is always a major part of this atmosphere.

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