Remote Beaver Island on Lake Michigan is coyote hunting paradise
By David Graham
From the Flint Journal. Republished with permission.
BEAVER ISLAND — Beaver Island residents like to point out that their island in northern Lake Michigan is the largest, most remote, most inhabited island in the American waters of the Great Lakes, but they have other claims to fame, as well.
For one, the island is still home to good numbers of beaver, as fur trapper Mark Valente can attest. This 51-year-old permanent resident has lived on the island, mostly alone, since 1977, and makes a good part of his living by trapping beaver and other fur-bearers and making their pelts into hats, mittens, headbands and other winter gear.
Mark LaFreniere also helped us out and Steve West of the Chamber of Commerce was a big help with travel arrangements and car rental.
The island also lays claim to being a coyote hunter’s paradise – the reason Flint Journal writer David V. Graham, two Grand Blanc Township men and a Novi man visited the island recently.
But this island, roughly 14 miles long and a little over 6 miles wide, also can lay claim to being a coyote hunter’s paradise.
I went to the island last in early February for four days with Bill Teer, Roy Dingler, both of Grand Blanc Township, and Rob Zgoda of Novi.
Valente, a modest, gentle spirit, went out of his way to show us good spots to hunt for coyote. More than one resident told us that he was the best man on the island for such information because he knows every swamp and forest on the island. We found that information to be correct.
Several residents, who told us that few people hunt coyote on the island, begged us to hunt their properties because they have lost cats and dogs to the predators.
One resident even had a neighbor plow out a quarter-mile road after dark so we could hunt at a designated spot at dawn the next morning.
The method we used to hunt coyotes was to set up two hunters overlooking a swamp, woods or shoreline and call for 15-20 minutes or so. One of the hunters does most of the calling (imitations of wounded rabbit cries, squeaking mice or coyote barks and howls), although some hunters like to use an electronic caller that leaves both hunters free to shoot.
If a coyote is within earshot, they usually will investigate the call. If the hunters are quiet and motionless — and are wearing good camouflage — they might get close enough for a shot.
Our first day on the island, we went to two spots recommended by Valente. Teer and Zgoda went to one spot on the edge of a dried-up beaver pond, where five minutes after Teer sat down and started calling, a coyote showed up.
Zgoda, who was armed with a single-shot Ruger .223-caliber rifle, saw the coyote approaching and was ready when it got nervous and took off running.
Teer did a little mouse squeak with the back of his hand and the coyote stopped briefly 70 yards out. Zgoda dropped it with one shot through the shoulder. It was a 30-pound female.
Zgoda was pleased with his success.
“Bill did a great job of calling that animal in,” he said. “I just pulled the trigger.”
Zgoda said he plans to have his friend make a “mountain man” hat out of the full pelt.
Two days later, Teer had his own adventure when he was hunting by himself on a dry lake bed, while hiding in some marsh grass near the middle.
“I was calling and scanning the shoreline when I noticed something in back of me out of the corner of my eye,” Teer said. “When I turned, I saw two coyotes running away.”
Teer shot at them twice, but they got away uninjured. The coyotes, which many hunters regard as one of the most intelligent and toughest animals to hunt, had circled behind him to catch his scent.
“It is typical of what coyotes do in an open area, trying to get behind you to catch your scent,” he said. “I think this island is a great place to hunt for coyotes because they don’t get the hunting pressure they do in other places. We saw tracks in nearly every place we hunted.
“The only drawback here is that a lot of the roads aren’t plowed in the winter and we couldn’t get to some of the places we would have liked.”
Dingler said that even though he didn’t see any coyotes, he thought Beaver Island was great for coyote hunting.
“I thought that it was outstanding,” he said. “We were fortunate that we had contact with Mark, who helped us get onto private land to hunt. If we would have had more time to learn the coyotes’ travel patterns, we would have killed more of them.”
There are large numbers of coyotes in Michigan, and the animals have been spotted in all 83 counties.
Beaver Island hunting information can be found at the Chamber of Commerce web site www.beaverisland.org .