One of the most popular cartoons in the 1960s was the "Roadrunner". Its cast of characters was limited to Wiley Coyote and the bird. Always after the "beep-beeping" fowl, Wiley always failed miserably--often painfully. But he has the last laugh.
Currently, his kind is firmly established in New York. The Department of Environmental Conservation estimates 25,000 of 'em live here. The only roadrunner you'll see is on bill boards.
Shy, modest, blessed with superior sense--and senses--coyotes were considered God's dog by Indians west of the Mississippi. Their remarkable journey East indicates heaven favors the beasts.
First appearing in the state around 1920, the eastern coyote filled the vacuum created when our wolves were hunted to extinction.
In the span of a human lifetime, they've multiplied almost miraculously. You see, fully 30 percent larger than their western kin--the result of breeding with Canadian timber wolves, their natural enemies--our eastern variety resembles wolves and has been hunted with the same prejudice. Unlike wolves, however, coyotes are solitary, hanging out in family groups consisting of couples and their young pups. When the kids grow up, they're run out of the territory, and end up traveling for up to 100 miles in search of their own turf.
This independence and wanderlust allows their numbers to prosper when the population is stressed through heavy predation.
Today, they rank as one of the state's most popular furbearers.
Best of all, they're a great remedy for cabin fever. When the NFL's last touchdown of the year has been made and the road to the Final Four comes to an end, coyotes are howling at the moon, daring you to come out and get one.
Oswego County is loaded with the beasts. Lance Clark, wildlife biologist for DEC Region 7, says they're pretty evenly distributed throughout the county. However, they're easier to hunt west of I-81, because the greater abundance of farmland, brush and lowlands makes getting at them easier for mortal hunters.
They're taken in one of three ways: trapping, hunting with dog packs, or by a single hunter calling them in.
The latter is the most personal and popular technique, and offers some of hunting's greatest excitement.
Go for them by decking yourself out in camo-they have great vision. Find an area in heavy brush--you want to be where they feel comfortable--and mask your scent with a circle of film canisters filled with cotton soaked in bobcat, rabbit or red fox urine. Set a varmint decoy to the side to draw the coyote's attention, and use a game call like Quaker Boy's Cottontail Screamer to send out a distress signal. After communicating for a few minutes, hush up and keep your eyes peeled for the coyote.
If one doesn't show in an hour or so, move and start over again.
Coyotes howling in the hills are a marvelous throwback to more primitive times. By heading out into snowy woods to get one, you join their celebration and participate in one of life's most enduring symphonies.