When we think of game animals, coyotes aren’t going to be high up the list – if they’re on it at all. Most people aren’t a fan of this gangly pack animal for supper. A few common factors as to why that is include their scavenging heavy diet and their resemblance to man’s best friend. But are coyotes really edible, if we get down to the gist of things?
Yes, you can eat coyotes. The question boils down to taste, as the flavor of their meat will heavily vary between seasons. They also don’t usually attack humans, but are very much a threat to hunters with their maws and claws – especially when trapped or agitated.
There are a couple of things that set coyotes apart from other odd game animals. It’s important to inform yourself on those aspects before going on the prowl hunting them.
Resemblances and Meat Quality
Coyotes often end up compared to dogs, at least on superficial levels. Their feeding preferences are quite similar, and most people would be hard pressed to tell at a distance.
Some people might be squeamish at the idea of hunting down animals that share a resemblance to dogs, especially if they happen to be pet owners themselves. Figure out if you’re one of those people before proceeding – the last thing you’d want is to hesitate near a coyote you’ve just agitated. Coyotes are very territorial animals, and are especially aggressive during mating season.
It might relieve you to know coyotes and dogs do not usually get along. While they won’t battle one another unprovoked, there have been a number of instances of the two species at odds. Suburban neighborhoods near such territories often report coyote attacks against their pets. It may help you see them as game animals rather than the treasured pets they aren’t.
Also, coyotes aren’t technically an invasive species. Rather, they naturally emerged to fill in the ecological gap once humans started driving away or killing larger predators. Most invasive species don’t have hunter’s bothering about tag limit, but in this case it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Make sure you get the proper legal documentation needed, on top of the usual hunting licensure requirements. Pay special attention to tag limitations regarding coyotes – counties may differ stringently on their respective hunting policies. Legal consequences for ignoring them could lead to your license being revoked, steep fines, or even jail time.
Coyote meat is known to be quite gristly, and has been likened in both taste and texture with dog and wolf meat. This isn’t too bad of an issue, given how many options there are to tenderize meat we’ll go on about at a later point in the article.
A general rule of thumb is that carrion eaters usually don’t make for good tasting meat. As an animal that does have certain predatory tendencies, they also end up being host to more toxic metals and pollutants in their body – though that difference is usually negligible.
The taste varies greatly with the seasons as well. In warmer seasons, coyotes will be eating carrion far more often. This is because heat leads to meat in the area rotting quicker, which adversely affects their taste and nutritional value. At the very least, it doesn’t do anyone who wants to eat them any favors.
Conversely, winter and other cold climates end up with better preserved meat for them to feast on. Coyotes are also very active during the winter, and can pick off other animals that are scrounging for food or tucked away in their shelters.
Rabbits and chipmunks make for the usual fare for coyotes, though some have taken to raiding residential areas for food – pets or livestock make no difference to these hungry scavengers. There have also been reports of coyotes targeting bigger game like moose or elk during times of scarcity.
A coyote you bag in the winter is far more likely to be palatable. A summer catch may have rotting meat in its belly, have fleas or infections the hot air helps thrive. If you’re choosing to try out fresh coyote meat in the summer, cook thoroughly and heavily season it for a better experience.
Brine solutions can also help staunch the worst of bacteria buildup, though actually cleansing that needs thorough washing, heat from cooking, and generous use of antibacterial herbs like garlic or ginger.
Coyotes are very noisy animals, prone to howling, bark, and make other sounds to communicate. They also have a predilection to hunting in open areas over forests or woodlands. They’re a very strange animal, being very stealthy but leaving plenty of distinct indicators of their presence in the immediate environment.
The biggest thing that gives away coyote population is a marked reduction of other animals in the area. Coyotes need to consume at least two pounds of meat per day, and greatly affect local populations with their voracious appetites.
Key examples include foxes, their competitors in the niche. Coyotes eat foxes, but the inverse is not true, and fox populations often end up displaced by roving bands of coyotes. The same happens for smaller game and poultry. If you notice less squirrels in the vicinity, it’s quite possible you’ve got coyotes in your midst.
Most long arms should suffice for hunting purposes, but coyotes also have an excellent sense of smell. You’ll be forced to stay downwind and, at minimum, take longer ranged shots than you may be used to. If you happen to have skunks caught, you could make use of their scent glands as an effective cover scent option.
An AR-15 can make a decent showing here, and can double for deer duty. A .22 caliber should be enough to put them down, though it does require far more precision to get a clean kill. The usual hunting rules apply: go for head or heart shots, and shoot from an elevated position for better protection, minimal overpenetration, and minimized collateral risk.
You could also utilize different calls to draw them in. Other options range from prey animals to fellow coyotes on the prowl, or even pups in distress. Coyotes catch on quickly though, so avoid overusing calls or playing them improperly.
Thankfully, coyote attacks on humans are rare. Usually, they seek to avoid human contact as much as possible, choosing instead to feed on domestic animals or livestock. This doesn’t make them any less of a threat to humans.
Coyotes are very territorial animals. If you’re encroaching on their land – especially during mating or breeding season – you’d best be prepared to put them down decisively. This goes doubly so during their breeding and mating season, which peaks from December to March.
They also carry diseases like rabies and tularemia, though these two can be dealt with easily enough in the cooking process. Their fur often has a whole host of parasites, worms, and fleas riddling their coat, and prolonged contact without proper sanitation could get you ill.
Skinning and Preparing Coyote
Once the pelt is separated, it’s time to start slicing. Most of the coyote will be tough to chew, necessitating very serious efforts to soften the meat. The softest part of similar animals (dogs and wolves) is the tenderloin, so using that cut with your treatment of choice should yield a more succulent dining experience.
Brine solutions and seasoning blends can manage the chemical treatment needed, denaturing the proteins and preventing them from drying out. Garlic and ginger are effective at this purpose, though pineapple and even drinking alcohol can achieve the desired effect when applied to meat.
Tenderizing efforts can come with simple bludgeoning with a heavy object or scoring your cuts with a knife. Both of these work on a similar principle to chemical treatments, breaking down meat fibers to soften your meal’s texture. Like other wild game animals, make sure you slow cook the animal. Or, at the very least, ensure the entire cut is thoroughly cooked through.
For the most part, preparing coyote meet is a lot like how one would handle dog or wolf meat. It’s simply not as common due to cultural distinctions, misattributed health risks, and wide taste range dependent on a lot of factors.
While not the most ideal game of choice for most aspirant hunters, coyotes make for great sport and decent eating. They’re very clever animals that can provide a lot of meat for a day’s work, and have very serious effects on the local environment. Bagging them helps other displaced animals’ flit back into their niches, on top of getting you a decent-sized slab of meat for the next few days.