If the title of Michael Huff’s new book, “Understanding Coyotes,” seems a bit vague, the subtitle – “The Comprehensive Guide for Hunters, Photographers and Wildlife Observers” – should clear it up. It’s not a hunting book, though the information contained within is stuff every coyote hunter should know. Instead, as the subtitle states, it is a guide book for anyone who wants to catch a glimpse of the world’s wiliest predator, whether through a rifle scope, a camera lens or a pair of binoculars; though I suspect once they’ve read this book cover to cover some casual nature observers will be less inclined to seek out old Wile E.

While it includes anecdotes to illustrate his points, Huff’s book is largely a concise compendium of research translated for the layman. To collect material for the book he spent years studying coyote research and interviewing prominent coyote researchers, as well as countless hours in the field observing and hunting the critters.

The first part of this three-part book is largely natural history and biology. The most consistently successful hunters, photographers and wildlife observers are the ones who study their quarry. The more you learn about the life history of wildlife, what they do and why they do it, the more you can predict what they might do next, which is fairly important if you want to observe them.

For example, Huff segregates coyotes into three categories of spatial distribution: residents, dispersers and transients. Dispersers are typically sub-adults, more often males, leaving their natal range presumably to locate a new territory. This dispersal is most common between October and January.

If you’re a hunter, you should already see the lights going on. Young, naive and in unfamiliar territory, these dispersers are the spike-horn bucks of the coyote world. But as you’ll learn by the end of the book, even they are no pushovers.

While not directly applicable to those seeking coyotes, some of the information is just plain fascinating. For example, one scientist studying coyote DNA has proposed changing the name of the eastern coyote to “coywolf” because they are a quarter size larger than their western cousins and as much as one third of their mitochondrial DNA is from the eastern wolf.

The book’s second part addresses coyote predation. If you’re a deer hunter but not yet a coyote hunter, the section on coyote diet might nudge you in that direction.

While they are the ultimate omnivore, consuming just about anything and everything that contains calories, the preferred food throughout most of their range is white-tailed deer, a subject to which Huff devotes an entire chapter. He also cites research showing that coyote removal programs do help improve fawn production, at least in the short term.

Livestock growers might also take note that coyotes consume up to $10 million in sheep and goats annually. And berry growers might be surprised to find that blueberries were present in 68 percent of scat samples in a Maine study.

The third part of Huff’s book addresses the coyote’s keen senses, something hunters, photographers and wildlife observers must try to overcome. Though they have poorer visual acuity than humans, coyotes can see five times better than us in the dark and have a 20 percent wider field of view. But their greatest asset is their nose. They have 45 times more scent receptors than humans and the portion of their brain dedicated to scent detection is 40 times larger than ours.

Whether you’re a hunter or merely a wildlife enthusiast, “Understanding Coyotes” is well worth the money and time. It’s a quick read, owing in part to Huff’s short and to-the-point writing style. But it’s packed full of useful and interesting information.

Again, it’s not a hunting book but an objective look at North America’s most versatile and adaptable predator. It’s available for $19.95 at createspace.com or amazon.com.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

filed under: