Virtually every trapper I talk to has been asking me if there’s any positive news, that I’m aware of, regarding the fur market this upcoming season. If you read the Fur Market Report, you pretty much already know as much as I do, and to say that it’s going to be a challenge, would be safe. But I’ve been through this before, like many of you, and it seems like there is always a way to make a few dollars, if you can take advantage of a situation.

My world revolves around coyotes, so that’s what I’m the best informed and prepared to talk about. The coyote market has taken a real beating, and it was a beating that several very well-informed people didn’t see coming. Sure, we all knew about Canada Goose discontinuing putting coyotes on their parkas, but they only absorbed maybe a quarter of the coyotes produced. There were several other manufacturers buying coyotes and were shutdown with the Covid situation that has severely affected China, which is where the bulk of coyotes at least go through for part of the process. There’s definitely a lot of speculation on how all this will play out, and I’m genuinely concerned about the future. But, like the weather, we have no control of it, and we’ll have to deal with things the best we can.

I’m going to throw some ideas out for you to consider this season, hopefully I can inspire you and you’ll be able to approach things with a positive attitude this fall.

First, I’m going to stress that anyone trapping coyotes for fur has been providing landowners and sportsmen a service; for free usually. With several years of favorable coyote prices across a large portion of the country, the better areas have had a fair amount of pressure, and huge numbers of coyotes were harvested. Coyote numbers will continue to rise with this pressure taken off, you can take that to the bank. Deer populations throughout North America, and antelope numbers across the west will take a hit in a lot of areas. That equates to less sportsman opportunity, and of course, fewer dollars generated at local and state levels.

It's a legitimate argument to mention and remind landowners that every predator harvested whether it’s coyotes, fox, skunks, coons, or any other critter that feeds on wildlife, helps them as well.

More and more ranches and farms are getting leased for hunting rights every year, and there’s serious money involved in most cases. It’s often a huge investment, and on a yearly basis that might extend for several years, or generational. To approach the landowner, as well as the person or group leasing the property about some compensation to offset expenses isn’t out of the question. A fee per coyote harvested in the fall or winter fur season will help somewhat. It might not make up for the entire value of what a coyote pelt was worth the last several years, but it can’t hurt either.

In some cases, serious money can be made doing large scale predator control work for the right type of situation. People serious about raising big deer fully understand that it takes an older animal to produce good antler growth, and that means that they have to stay alive that long. Year-round predator control efforts are what’s called for in many cases, and this can equate in to an even bigger opportunity than just fur harvesting. I firmly believe that people well versed in all forms of predator work will be in demand in the future, and this is going to be spurred along by the depressed fur market.

I know this isn’t news to many of you, but I’m mentioning it now, because I feel that it’s a good thing to remember when you’re out knocking on doors and scouting in the late summer and early fall. I also know that most people reading this don’t buy into the old story of predators only preying on the sick and the weak. We as trappers have been a major factor in bringing that lie to its knees. I personally see it throughout the year, and it’s magnified during the denning season.

The first mule deer fawn that I saw this spring was in the belly of an old female coyote that I called in on June 2. She hadn’t responded to my efforts of getting a vocal response to the howls from my open reed call, but I spotted her hunting while thoroughly glassing the area from my calling position. I probably wouldn’t have spotted her if it hadn’t been for a doe deer that I noticed. The “muley” doe appeared to be watching something, with its big ears cupped and aimed directly at that something, so I focused on that area and briefly spotted the coyote hunting through some rocks on a hillside. I switched to a fawn bleat/distress call, and within a few minutes I spotted her closing the distance at a slow pace. She was very cautious, and when she got to maybe 500 yards, I noticed that she had a slight limp in one leg. My dog was working out in front of me, and I didn’t want the coyote to spook since she was alone, so when she stopped inside of 250 yards, I was already lined up on her. My bipod was adjusted to the right height, and the rifle’s butt firmly resting on my pack. A “chip shot” as a buddy of mine calls it.

After calling and glassing long enough to satisfy myself that she was alone, I made my way down to her. Her belly looked like she’d swallowed a soccer ball, and when I cut her open, fresh fawn ears, a snout, a hoof, and a large amount of meat was found. I took a few pictures with my phone to send to some deer hunter friends, as well as a few of my buddies who do coyote work too. I captioned them, “One of the Reasons I Do What I Do”.

I saw other fawn deer that day, and some held very tight. For the most part mule deer trust their ability to make their fawns lay still where they put them, rather than try to run a coyote off; like doe antelope do. I’m sure both tactics work, most of the time, but I find enough fawn parts at coyote dens to know that fawns are a main source of food for a month or two.
I get a lot of similar pictures throughout the year, and show them to people to educate and remind them that coyotes do eat meat, and it’s often taken on the hoof. So, remember this when you are touching bases or asking for permission. Make sure they understand that every coyote taken will be a benefit to them.

Another thing to consider as this fur season approaches is the fact that, for the most part, the bobcat market appears to be somewhat stable, and maybe even a bright spot in today’s fur market. I know a lot of trappers changed their focus to mainly coyotes the last few years as their numbers have been good in most regions and the market for both Semi-heavy and Heavy coyotes was good.

Sure, most coyote harvesting results with some cats caught in the process, and incidental cats are welcome, if in season. But anyone who has focused on cats knows that you can be off their travel way or hunting pattern, even several yards, and you won’t catch a fairly high percentage of them. I can tell you from experience that changing your focus a little bit to slightly rougher pockets of cover, heads of drainages, and sharp, narrow ridges can add cats to your coyote catch easily. Every area that will hold cats has its own cover types and changes, but habitat that holds rabbits and other small game and birds is the place to look for cat sign, and that would apply to just about anywhere.

I watch a few TV shows and DVDs that show cat trapping footage, and almost always, I can spot a few likely spots when they pan around showing the surrounding terrain. Sure, you’ll catch some cats in flagged sets where they’ll eventually travel along the road, but looking for exact cat pinch points will possibly out produce some marginal places. And, coyotes hunt those rough pockets too, so gang sets of traps or snares, or a combination of both, can produce a lot of predators.

What I’m trying to say is that a slightly different approach to location might add some valuable cats to your catch, and likely add to your coyote count too. So, it’s a win-win deal.

Of course, all of this depends on the available sign to read and accessibility. Droppings of all types are important, and predators will check out each other’s droppings on a regular basis, creating focal points that need to be considered.

Dirthole sets and flat sets made with bleached bones catch a pile of cats every year, and yes, even with no flags at them. Keeping things simple and doing the basics has always worked best for me, so I see no need to vary from it.

I also can’t say enough about trying to utilize brushy patches of cover, including even very small pockets the size of a house, that a cat or coyote might hunt through, as a place to set up with snares if possible. I can’t tell you how many times a couple of well-placed snares changed a day’s catch and outlook for me. Again, reading the terrain with a possible cat in mind can add a few sleeper hot-spots for snares.

The last thing I will mention is to consider having some fur tanned as a source of income down the road. I know that many people do it on a yearly basis, myself included, and I’m always surprised at how many a guy can move throughout the year. Outfitters can sell a lot to clients that hunt with them, and consigning a few to them or one of their guides takes some of the work out of it. I realize that it isn’t always an option for moving a large catch, but it is a legitimate way to market some fur.

I recently helped a friend bale over 300 coyotes that he was sending to get dressed (tanned). He was unloading them out of his utility trailer, and handed them to me five at a time. I then positioned them in the baler properly, to make a nice uniform bale. I had time to look at some of them closely and I noticed that he had a pretty good variety, from pale colors to red and brown, as well as slights and even a few fairly rubbed pelts in the mix. Obviously, he was getting a variety tanned, so he’d have something for everyone’s taste, as well as price range. Good business on his part.

Personally, I’m getting about 20 fairly decent Wyoming coyotes dressed, to use on collars for a few garments, as well as some to sell to people that are looking for a nice wall hanger. I’ve done it for years, and no, it’s not like getting a fur check at the end of a long winter, but it’s a way of having a little cash flow through the summer.

Any way you slice it, we have some tough times ahead, at least for the immediate future. The fur industry is just one thing that is hurting, as anyone who is paying attention already knows.

I hope I’ve helped some of you consider a few ways to approach the obstacles that are sure to come. I don’t feel the coyote fur market is over forever, but we’ll need to rethink things to survive in the meantime.