Many years ago I was rifle hunting on our adopted family farm in Maryland. It had been a long season and I was looking to put a few more steaks in the freezer. My stand was set in a magnificent 400+ year old white oak at the center of a fenceline overlooking a soybean field on one side and a hayfield on the other. Early December in Maryland is usually a time when the rut is about over and bucks are beginning to lose interest in the does and spend more time replenishing their fat reserves for the coming winter. Hence my choice of stand locations for this evening hunt.
The day had passed with little deer movement. So just before last light, when a group of does entered the hayfield, I steadied my Remington 30-06, selected one of the mature does and fired! I watched the deer go down in hardwood creek bottom on the other side of the hayfield about 350 yards away. By the time I got my gear and myself out of the stand, the last light had faded and darkness was upon me. So I decided to return home and recover the doe the following morning. Being that it was december, and the overnight low was supposed to be in the teens, there was no concern over spoilage.
The next morning I conned a good buddy of mine, Levi, into coming over and helping me recover my deer. It had snowed 4″ overnight, but thankfully I was able to see where the doe went down and mark the tree near where she fell. When Levi and I entered the creek bottom, we were surprised to see a coyote bust from some briars in front of us and disappear into the timber. It wasn’t hard to tell what the coyote was doing. A long trail of blood and hair leading into the briars gave the game away. It had found my deer during the night, dragged it to some cover, and devoured, with some help from his friends I’m sure, nearly half of the deer!
This was the first time that I had ever had a deer stolen by a coyote or any other competing predator and the last. I have never since made the decision to let a deer, that I knew was down, lay until morning. Coyotes are relatively new to the piedmont areas of Maryland as their populations are expanding and reclaiming ancient territories. I do not blame the coyote. He was just doing what he does best. I am to blame. But we learn from our mistakes, and I have not lost a deer since.