Fish & Feathers: Time for coyotes, quail and decisions!

<I>RON MALAST photo</I><BR>This coyote was taken this past weekend near Toppenish. The photographer's grandson was lucky with a close-up shot.

Having just returned from central Washington, I can assure you that now is the time to hunt the wily coyote, if you are up to it. Our primary objective was to gather quail in the areas around Toppenish and we were not disappointed. We ran into many coveys of between 50 to 100 birds, easily tracked in new fallen snow. In every instance, there were one or two sets of coyote tracks intermingled with the sign of the tasty birds' markings.

The weather was cold, 15 to 25 degrees, and had been for several weeks. The ponds and sloughs were frozen with a complete absence of ducks, but coyote tracks were everywhere. For those of you who are not hunters and whose only objective in life is to "save" everything that walks and flies, let me remind you that coyotes can be bad boys. Central Washington is prime habitat for quail, pheasants and chukar. Along with mice, these species happen to be at the top of the coyote's menu. You generally don't have any trouble getting permission from a farmer to hunt "daws" on his property, especially during the winter when food is scarce.

Coyote hunting is not like shooting fish in a barrel. They are wily as the word suggests, have better moves than an NFL tailback, know the country they live in and are very crafty at using natural cover.

Hunting them, unless you happen to chance upon one, requires a scoped rifle chambered in a flat-shooting caliber such as .223, 22-250 or 22-hornet (you get the idea). You also need a full camo outfit including face covering, spotlight, gloves, warm boots, a varmint call, preferably a spotter with binoculars and scent. You should refrain from smoking, have patience and have your rifle sighted in for at least 200 yards.

The coats of Central Washington coyotes this time of the year are prime and so is the quail hunting. Coyotes may be hunted during daylight or night. Just remember that it is unlawful to hunt any wildlife at night during the months of September, October or November in any area open to a center- fire rifle deer or elk season.

Orange for OregonI did not know that Oregon is one of only 10 states that does not require big game hunters to wear hunter-orange clothing while in the field. Washington requires all modern-day rifle hunters to don the color while hunting. The death of a 15-year-old boy who was shot by his uncle this past year brought this to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's attention. He was the 19th hunter to be shot in Oregon since 1992. The commission will study the requirement for the 2011 season. In the meantime, they will consider public comment next spring. Studies show that game animals' eye structures render them unable to distinguish bright orange from other colors in the woods.

So what's for discussion? The Medford-based Oregon Hunters Association has resisted hunter-orange mandates in the past. This could be a long story but it isn't going to be. If the hunters in Oregon vote this mandate down, they should be forced to hunt in Washington with only their camo suits and find out which is safer. The ODFW should have their heads examined to allow this condition to exist. Macho! Macho! Macho! There should be no discussion regarding this matter - make it law.

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