Do Coyotes Target Adult Deer? New Hunting Tactics Observed

It is well documented that coyotes kill fawns, but what about adult deer? Some say that coyotes rarely take on a full grown healthy deer, and after the first few weeks of life a deer is for the most part safe. Most studies I have read agree with this assessment. Yes of course there are exceptions, but for the most part when coyotes kill adult deer those deer are usually sick or injured. Now some new evidence is coming to light that just might shake things up.

Steve Rinella from MeatEater posted an email from one of his listeners that hunters should find very fascinating. The post details observations of coyotes using pack hunting tactics to kill healthy adult whitetail deer.

After listening to the MeatEater Podcast Ep. 118 where Steven Rinella, Janis Putelis, and Dr. Karl Malcolm discussed coyotes’ impact on whitetail fawn mortality, listener Colby Denison wrote in with his unique perspective, as he has conducted independent research on Eastern coyotes.

“Our coyotes (or “coydogs” as we call them) are known mature deer killers specializing in hunting in deep snow. From January to March, the deer herds in the northern areas of New Hampshire and much of Maine migrate miles out of their mountains to Spruce-Fir or Hemlock dominated forest stands to winter. Coyotes transition from mostly solitary hunters to 5-8 individual packs often comprising of a family group with several other subordinate “transient” animals. This seasonal transition has been well documented in studies and attributed to both a phenotypic and genetic response to increased prey size.”

Scroll to see Colby’s account of a kill that happened one early morning on a beaver pond in his backyard. Upon further tracking, Colby found “the deer was healthy and had been pushed onto the ice by a chasing group of 3-5 coyotes. “Walking” tracks of 2 coyotes around the pond made me think there was an ambush. You can see where she slipped and the dogs caught up in pic # 2. Pic # 5 is one week later; we estimate anywhere from 5-8 coyotes were scavenging nightly.”

Colby has since seen similar pond kill sites on three different occasions. “These large groups of coyotes polish off a carcass in no time and all you will find is a skull and spinal cord.”

Colby Dennison offers very compelling evidence that seems to contradict conventional wisdom. Have these coyotes developed new tactics that allow them to target animals that used to be fairly safe?