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#765246 - 09/25/07 07:57 PM A Different Breed Of Decoy Dog
YoteU4ic Offline
New Member

Registered: 09/25/07
Posts: 14
Loc: Sierras, California
Greetings All:
This being my first post, thought Iíd tell you all a little about myself, and ask your opinions about working with a dog in deep snow (at altitude). This could be a different take on using dogs to hunt predators (specifically coyotes), so I wonít be surprised if you think it a bit strange. Here goes; kindly bear the length of this post while I explain myself, just a bit...

Iíve been training and handling working dogs as an avocation for over 25 years; am a former wilderness search dog handler; developed the only (known) canine wilderness handling protocols, in cooperation with the US Forest Service; backpack (in summer), snowshoe, skijor, and sled using dogs (in winter); but, am freshly new to coyote hunting. On the other hand scent dynamics, canid behavior, and wilderness survival methods are comfortable topics for me.

At present I primarily handle a 91 lbs Alaskan Malamute (Merit, pictured below) that packs his own goods in summer and tows a pulk carrying 100 to 150 lbs of (snow) gear, when trekking in the California Sierras during winter (where I live, near Yosemite National Park). Consequently our primary yote hunting areas will be the Emigrant, Carson-Iceberg and Mokelumne Wilderness areas within the Stanislaus National Forest. During winter nights temperatures can sometimes approach zero in these places (with wind-chill), yet average winter temps usually run from 10 to 32 degrees above (Fahrenheit) -- depending on time of day.

While I acknowledge that Mountain Curs, Catahoullas, Bealges and various Coon Dog breeds are the preferred choice among most coyote hunters (with good reason). The lighter composition, lack of a thick undercoat, and inability to pull substantial weight for distances of those fine breeds make them unsuitable for my winter purposes.

Now while Malamutes are not widely known for their hunting abilities, they can (as most dogs) be taught to track for scent-specific triggers (territorial urinations, scat, undercoat droppings, etc.) humans cannot readily detect at distance. Moreover there is approx. 120,000 square miles of wilderness in my local forest, and with snow inhibiting travel..? It would help greatly to only focus on areas where coyotes are KNOWN to frequent. In short, as you may gather, maintaining traditional yote hunting breeds in harsher environments is too problematic for my purposes.

So hereís my plan, submitted for comments:

1) I intend to train the Malamute for scent-specific triggers on yotes, with a silent alert (probably laying down or sitting). The aim here will not be to pinpoint the location of a coyote, but locate general territorial boundaries and site visitations. From a canid behavioral standpoint, I donít want my dog interacting directly with the yote(s) -- only its environment. Therefore, because my dog is trained to urinate on command (true deal, he really does, I can explain why later) Iíd encourage him to liberally scent-mark WITHIN the coyotes (visitation/territory) perimeter.

2) Once the general territory of a yote(s) is located, my hunting partner and I would set-up a stand with the Malamute BEHIND us in front of a widely visible area (kill-zone) secured by a tree tether. The tether is pulled very taut between two trees and allows the dog lateral movement within a 50 to 75 foot span, and one to three feet of backward & forward movement. Within these limits the Malamute can move about, lie down, drink water, etc. but he cannot move from the oblong confines imposed by the tether. We have very effective snow camo for both ourselves and weapons, and given limits of the canine eye and probable focus upon the Malamute; we donít anticipate quick detection.

3) Weíd start calling using challenge, announcement, distress, and coyote localization calls. Merit (the Malamute) can also bark loudly upon command so weíd encourage this following calls (especially coyote challenge & critter distress), to vocally make his presents known.

Methodology Behind The Plan
Coyotes (being predaceous canids) are consistently territorial. Even in the off-breeding winter months we feel they could be enticed to investigate an intruder, because THATíS what is consistently in their nature to do. Our aim is to have the yotes investigate the domestic dogís intrusion, just within rifle range and no closer. I will not allow the physical engagement or chase of a coyote by any of my dogs, for a number of reasons.

In part, because of the Malamutes actual and perceptible size (they can ďlookĒ larger and heavier than they really are, due to a full and fluffy winter coat). I donít want the Mal getting too close to the yotes, to lessen any intimidation factor. From 75 yards or more the Malamuteís size wonít be easily discernable by the yotes, and within that scope (literally) theyíll be toast.

Additionally, I theorize that because the Malamute resembles a wolf (the coyotes natural rival) more yotes might be called in as reinforcements, as is common coyote behavior in Alaska. Granted there are no wolf populations in California (yet), but Iím banking on instinctive rivalry to kick in if this theory plays out accurate.

Through this plan of action I aim to make the domestic dogís presence very pronounced, in conflict with coyote predaceous feeding and territorial behaviors; which are heightened during winter months when food in the wild is scarcer. This seems like the best use of a harsh environment dog bred to fulfill multi-functions; pulling, tracking, and predator decoy.

In any event, what say you PM dog folk?

Iím hoping for your opinions as to how this plan might play out, points of correction you see, and any areas where it might be improved upon. And while using dogs for coyote hunting is not a breed-specific thing, I hope that Iíve successfully conveyed tactical modifications to suit my Malamute.

I look forward to all constructive input.


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#765247 - 09/25/07 08:57 PM Re: A Different Breed Of Decoy Dog [Re: YoteU4ic]
mikegranger Offline
Retired Admin/moderator

Registered: 11/17/01
Posts: 4057
Loc: Lewistown, Mt USA
Mark,

Welcome to PM. We're a pretty good bunch of folks here. Look forward to more good posts like this one.

A couple of things came to mind while reading your questions:

1) High mountains and deep snow isn't typical coyote habitat. They don't like walking around in the deep stuff anymore than I do. Granted, I haven't hunted in areas like you are describing, but I have friends who have and most say coyotes follow game out to the valleys during winter months and they don't waste their time hunting coyotes where few (if any) remain.

2) You're making it too hard. Teach the dog to set beside you while calling and if there are any coyotes around they'll come investigate. Once you see a coyote, let the dog go out a bit then bring it back. No reason to have him tethered.

You'll quickly learn there is a lot written about coyote hunting, but until you get out there and apply the basic principals to success, it's just "book learnin".

Take the dog out, kill a few coyotes and let us know how it's working. Don't try making it too difficult or think you have to have every gimmick and gizmo sold to be successful. It just ain't so. You'll quickly learn what works and what's bunk.

I hope this helps. Remember, always, I repeat, always take good pictures for us to enjoy.
_________________________
Endeavor to Persevere!

Mike




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#765248 - 09/25/07 11:25 PM Re: A Different Breed Of Decoy Dog [Re: mikegranger]
Duane@ssu Offline
Retired moderator

Registered: 04/24/01
Posts: 4095
Loc: Gods Country
Mike said it well.It sounds like you have good control.That is the key with decoy dogs.I don"t tether my dogs after the first 3 or 4 times out.They should challenge on command, or come back on command.This is the hard part to training a decoy dog.I don't want to be a "know it all",I wouldn't tie the dog.I would have it sit off to my side,(6 to 10 ft)and start calling.When the coyote responds it will look at the dog not at you.You should get the shot, and then send the dog.I want my dogs to go to the yote after its shot.If its "winged" they will catch and finish.Some disagree,but this is my way.If there are more than one yote and the dog goes to the first kill the others will come to help , and you can kill them also.Just my opinion.hope this helps. Duane
_________________________


"IF YOU'RE GONNA TALK SMART,YOU BETTER RIDE A FAST HORSE"








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#765249 - 09/26/07 03:23 AM Re: A Different Breed Of Decoy Dog [Re: Duane@ssu]
YoteU4ic Offline
New Member

Registered: 09/25/07
Posts: 14
Loc: Sierras, California
Mike & Duane:
Thanks for the welcome and good advice and while Iím certainly NOT unappreciative, there are methods to my madness with respect to tethering my dog. Although having said that; this is why I detailed the plan and asked questions, to help determine if there are handling alternatives or if Iím simply asking the Malamute to work in too many directions. Considering your comments, the latter may be more accurate than not, time will tell.

Merit (my Mal) has been trained under handling protocols that emulate LNT (Leave No Trace) principles of outdoor ethics -- for canine application. He has been taught to resist and break chase of wildlife; deer, rabbits, squirrels, etc. This was a component of the program I developed in coop with the Forest Service, and is primarily geared for non-hunting (recreational) dog lovers while in wilderness.

Bottom-line I see is that releasing my Mal to physically engage coyotes would be counterproductive and confusing to the dog, not to mention a detriment to our longer-term goals. But Iíll give this more thought and see if some alternative can be worked, perhaps allowing my dog to vigorously antagonize (but not physically engage) is the happy medium.

So yeah, I agree, while it may seem as though Iím making this too hard. There are sound reasons behind the methodology; a consistency with what Merit has already been taught. BUT! Where thereís a will, thereís a way so Iím confident a work-around might be developed.

Also as many good handlers know itís all about reading the dog. And that canít be done accurately until weíre out in the field, in real life scenarios. It might just be that Iím asking Merit to perform conflicting activities, yet I donít believe so at this stage... But time will tell.

And Mike, certainly, photos and hunt reports will be shared. Heck thatís part of the fun of hunting, sharing the experiences with friends..! SO yes, not to worry, I wonít be shy about providing pix and detail.

Thanks again, gents, your insights and comments are very much appreciated!


Edited by YoteU4ic (09/26/07 03:26 AM)

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#765250 - 09/26/07 09:51 PM Re: A Different Breed Of Decoy Dog [Re: YoteU4ic]
Duane@ssu Offline
Retired moderator

Registered: 04/24/01
Posts: 4095
Loc: Gods Country
Have faith in your dog,I will not let my Catahoullas chase deer by sight,but I ask them to blood trail wounded deer.They will learn to work when asked and not work when not asked.My cow dogs will bite for blood when sent into a herd, or lay at the fence and watch the cows mill around.I expect alot out of my dogs.Some get it done and some don't.It sounds like your dog has wits enough to do whatever you ask.Teach him a command to go half way to a yote,and come back.It will take time but I'm sure will work.
_________________________


"IF YOU'RE GONNA TALK SMART,YOU BETTER RIDE A FAST HORSE"








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#765251 - 09/27/07 02:59 AM Re: A Different Breed Of Decoy Dog [Re: Duane@ssu]
YoteU4ic Offline
New Member

Registered: 09/25/07
Posts: 14
Loc: Sierras, California
Quote:

... It sounds like your dog has wits enough to do whatever you ask.Teach him a command to go half way to a yote,and come back.It will take time but I'm sure will work.



Duane youíre a gent, thanks for confirming what I was working out mentally (mentioned above). I think youíre perspective of allowing my dog a halfway trip is a fine happy medium, and this is inline with his prior training so high consistency is maintained.

Plus Iím thinking this method might also bolster the coyoteís confidence, seeing what appears to the yote as a larger dog than itself running from it (speculation on my part).

Yeah the more I think about it, the more I like this angle. Setting up the training routines would pose no problem; making exercises for precision, just a matter of time devoted. So yes I believe this is the way Iíll go!

Thanks again, your training insights are much appreciated and respected!

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#765252 - 09/27/07 03:02 PM Re: A Different Breed Of Decoy Dog [Re: YoteU4ic]
MAJay Offline
Predator Master

Registered: 02/04/04
Posts: 66
Loc: New England
Just a thought on tethering and coyote calling. I work bird dogs myself and don't use my dogs while coyote hunting; but I have called in enough coyotes to know that they often come in from every conceiveable direction. A tethered dog, even a malamute could "potentially" be put at risk if a pack or family unit were to come in from your blind side. This risk is small, but I think you will find that coyotes have an amazing skill at approaching a situation from the "wrong" direction and with the time and effort you have in your dog I'd be surprised that you would run that risk. If the dog is set-up close and not tethered as most decoy dog handlers do it you reduce the risk to the dog as you could react to a situation quicker. I have seen a coyote hamstring a rottweiler so fast that I almost could not process what was happening on the edge of a yard in Washington. The coyote couldn't have been 40 lbs either. That experience has kept me from considering using a bird dog as a decoy dog.

Just my .02 to consider.

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#765253 - 09/27/07 04:22 PM Re: A Different Breed Of Decoy Dog [Re: MAJay]
YoteU4ic Offline
New Member

Registered: 09/25/07
Posts: 14
Loc: Sierras, California
Quote:

MAJay:...A tethered dog, even a malamute could "potentially" be put at risk if a pack or family unit were to come in from your blind side. This risk is small, but I think you will find that coyotes have an amazing skill at approaching a situation from the "wrong" direction...



Agreed, 110%!

Your take is but one consideration I had with the original plan, and had intended to tether the dog not more than five (5) to ten (10) feet away. In the event of a surprise coyote flanking, Iíd be within rescue distance to intervene; but then intervention poses its own set of risks to me as well (bites, rabies, etc.? Yikes!).

Mals spat often enough during tangles while sledding, and routinely posture a good game for dominance (in investigative mode) when greeting new dogs. But they are certainly no match for a wild canid with generally much sharper canine teeth, than domestic dogs.

I believe the risks can be satisfactorily managed by NOT tethering, and training for strong (precision) returns. This will take some time, but itís worth the effort -- safety of my dog being a primary consideration. But then (being trained under SAR techniques) my Mal is accustomed to serious alpine situations, and has the nerves to match which helps matters.

To achieve the necessary routine (dispatching the Mal to greet a yote(s) at or about halfway to distance, and then engage a precision recall) Iím considering the use of an e-collar (right up your alley). And although (as you probably know) while some folks have a real distain for e-collars, when used properly they can be a humane and extremely effective tool. Take Pat Callahan for example, the dogs get it (snake = avoid it) within 15 minutes or so.

Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts and input.

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#765254 - 09/27/07 11:31 PM Re: A Different Breed Of Decoy Dog [Re: YoteU4ic]
Duane@ssu Offline
Retired moderator

Registered: 04/24/01
Posts: 4095
Loc: Gods Country
I always try to help and give an honest answer to a ? based on my experiece.As for e collars they are a Godsend , if used correctly.You will be in good shape and learn alot about yourself and your dog in the coming months of training your dog to decoy.Good luck and be safe.
_________________________


"IF YOU'RE GONNA TALK SMART,YOU BETTER RIDE A FAST HORSE"








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