Some folks will shoot a predator when the opportunity arises, while others prefer them to about any other game, and spend their hours afield actively seeking critters in this category. There are many methods of hunting predators, from using calls to running them with dogs, and there are enough species of predator along the Texas coastline to keep a hunter busy – and happy. Except for some regulations regarding harvesting of fur, there are generally no restrictions on predator hunting – it is truly a sport for all seasons. A predator hunter with a good reputation is also often welcomed by property owners who might turn away a quail or deer hunter who had not paid a lease fee. On the other side of the equation, fur bearers in Texas seldom grow a pelt worth much on the fur market, and most animals in the predator category are nut generally classified as prime eating, so this sort of hunting is for sport – and maybe a rare trophy mount – only.
“Top Cat” – the bobcat is at the top of the list for predators in this area. Common enough to be a viable target, yet cunning and secretive enough to be a real challenge, bobcats show up often in taxidermy shops, waiting for the proud hunter to take them home. Although many are killed by accident by deer hunters, calling is probably the most effective method of hunting them. Running ‘cats with hounds is exciting sport, but takes a big chunk of land, while a caller can set up anywhere it is legal for him to shoot. Bobcats can exist comfortably surprizingly close to population centers, especially since dog hunting has dwindled in popularity. Callers use everythng from .22 rimfires and shoguns through speedy centerfire .22’s and calibers in the .243 and .25-06 range, depending on the area hunted. Another option for callers is to “shoot” the cats through a long telephoto lens on a camera. Personally, I like having them around, and will find it hard to shoot one on my property.
Bobcats feed mostly on rodents and ground dwelling birds, although some are certainly big and strong enough to take down a young feral hog – or a fawn deer. I read somewhere was I was younger that if a bobcat grew as large as a cougar, humans would not be safe in their range, because they are very aggressive and fearless, whereas a cougar is more shy and secretive. I watched a good dog and a big cat fight for over 30 minutes one time, and it was a sight I could probably have sold tickets to in some social circles. I have many game camera pictures of cats around feeders and in food plots where deer have been gathering, but rabbits and squirrels feed in th same areas, and are more normal prey for a cat.
This is a good sized coastal Texas bobcat, with very good markings.
When I was growing up in East Texas, a lot of old-timers seemed to see “black panthers” under every bush in the woods. It did no good for a mere teenager to try to tell them that not only was there little chance of seeing a cougar in that area, but that there had never been a black cougar recorded anywhere, at any time in history. One of my 8th grade teachers assured me he wasn’t seeing cougars, “just your ordinary little black panthers”. It was hard to deal with that attitude. On the other hand, even the old timers seldom speculated about wolves or coyotes in our woods (although they would have called them both wolves, had they thought they were around. There just weren’t any wild dogs larger than a red fox around. Just before I moved to the coast, however, and this would have been in the mid 1970’s, some evidence was being seen that coyotes were moving into that part of the state. Now, the coyote is as widespread and abundant as the feral hog or the cockroach. Biologists tell us that the native Texas Red Wolf is pretty much extinct, but like those old timers back home, I saw several animals in the late ’60’s, early ’70’s outside of Alvin, Texas, that were obviously wild animals, but appeared larger than a coyote.
At any rate, coyotes are so numerous that between them and the buzzards, a hog carcass on my property seldom lasts overnight. ‘Yotes will definitely take down young deer, and maybe some not so young, and they are known to feed on hogs – primarily the young, old and disabled. They are also more of a danger to livestock than a bobcat, because they will hunt in packs. Again, calling is the best way to see a coyote, as they are mostly nocturnal. Where coyotes are run with hounds it is primarily a spectator sport, much like fox “hunting” with hounds. The dogs do all the hunting, while their human cohorts mere;y listen to the sound of the chase. As in fox hunting, sometimes the dogs will catch and kill a ‘yote, but more often the quarry goes free after some very brisk exercise on the part of all participants. When calling in brushy areas where shots will be close, or where cattle may be around, shotguns are often used for coyotes. In more wide-open areas, something like a .222 or .223 does a good job or a .243 for even longer ranges. Personally, I use a .22 Hornet for most “varmint” hunting, but recently acquired a .6mm/.223 barrel for my Thompson Contender platform, which will handle bullets from 60 to 95 gr in weight that should make a great ‘yote rifle. I also have a 14″ scoped Contender pistol barrel in .223 that should be good to over 100 yards. Removing some coyotes from the landscape probably helps nature as much as hurts it, and may also benefit game birds and animals, from quail to deer.
I have seen exactly one game cam picture of a fox on my property – a small gray fox. I have been told foxes fall prey to coyotes, and are not found in numbers where yodel dawgs are numerous. As a young man in East Texas, I called fox, but the ones I managed to shoot were ahead of dogs. I got a make red fox one very cold morning as he tried to lead the hounds away from his mate. He measure 4 feet long from tip of nose to tip of tail, and he had begun shedding the winter coat on his hindquarters, so his tail was a bit short. I shot a few gray fox that were treed by my dogs – they are almost cat-like. It was my experience that fox were easier to call and not as wary as a bobcat, so coyote caller might expect to see them occasionally.
Rat-Coons & ‘Possums
Raccoons are our most common fur-bearing animal, and our most destructive animal pest. Deer and hog hunters always know coons will be eating more corn from their feeders than the intended target animals ever will, and they will raid crops and gardens, prey on poultry, and can get into just about anything. Coon hunting with dogs is great sport, and they don’t generally run as far before treeing as a ‘cat or coyote will, making it “safer” for your dogs. Just sitting in a stand near a feeder at night will likely give you plenty of shots at coons, and I kill a few in the daytime near feeders. Night hunting for coons OR hogs should probably be put on hold during deer season, however, if for no other reason than to avoid spooking the deer. Most coons from the Texas coastal plain will not have pelts of much value, unless you just want to make a Davey Crockett hat!
‘Possums are just plain nasty. While I have eaten coon, and enjoyed it, I will pass on baked possum – even with sweet ‘taters. I do not LIKE these animals, and shoot as many as I can. Probably not a mature attitude, but it’s MY attitude. For both coons and possums, the .22 LR is by far the best choice of weapons.