Coyote hunters grandfather and grandson enjoy time out in the cold running their greyhound dogs and catching coyotes. Pelts are sold to a traveling fur buyer.
Gage Taylor, 16, of Pratt, likes cold weather. He also enjoys hunting. He also likes spending time outdoors with his dogs -- 16 greyhounds to be exact. The best way to combine all those likes into one big package of enjoyment, for Gage, is to go coyote hunting.
"I like to go on weekends, or during vacation anytime. But we have to wait until it is cold for the dogs," Taylor said. "If the weather is too warm it will kill them. They run better in the cold."
Taylor, who uses greyhounds to chase down coyotes, then shoots them (the coyotes, not the dogs), learned the sport from his grandfather Orville Taylor. Thursday the pair met fur buyer and trapper Calvin Calp in Pratt to sell a nice collection of coyotes hides -- 16 to be exact.
"They are in pretty good shape," Taylor said. "Only one or two was too mangy to keep but overall they seem to be in good condition this year. There are a lot of them."
Taylor said he caught the 16 coyotes over a period of two days, driving through fields and pastures looking for the predators, and then when spotting them, turning out the dogs to run them down.
"We generally take eight dogs out at a time," he said. "When we see a coyote we let out three or four. They get pretty excited. It's fun to watch them go."
The dogs Taylor and his grandfather use for running coyotes are from genetics the family used to run on the track. They are purebred and descended from speed champions, but they no longer take greyhounds to the racetrack.
"I had a couple of sons that used to do this with me but they got out of it," Orville Taylor said. "Everyone got too busy."
Gage Taylor enjoys working with the dogs and hunting coyotes with his grandfather.
"We have farmers that are more than happy to let us hunt over their property," he said." There are so many coyotes out there right now and if the population gets out of hand it affects everyone."
Coyotes are an important part of the western Kansas food chain, but when the numbers get too high they prey on livestock, taking down baby calves, eating chicken flocks, even venturing near city limits and feasting on house cats. Sickness and disease also become a problem when there are too many coyotes for the environment to support.
Fur buyers like Calp used to be able to pay a decent price for coyote pelts, but the value has gone down, due in some part to politics and sanctions against Russia and China.
"Most of our pelts are sent overseas to those places and we just can't move them now with current policies in place," Calp said. "A lot of fur dealers have just quit the business because we can't move the pelts, but I've done this for almost 50 years. I've seen it get this low and come back. We still sell at the auction houses up north (Canada)."
Prices Calp paid Taylor for his 16 coyotes on Thursday varied according to size and quality. Three were worth $10, most of the rest brought $5 each, several only netted $2.
Taylor admitted the check he received probably wouldn't cover his expenses, especially since he and his grandfather tore up a truck pretty good on the last hunt.
"We hit a hole yesterday by Kingman," he said. "We've already spent $1,000 trying to fix it and it's not done yet."
Taylor could probably make more money just raising and selling his dogs, as they market anywhere from $400 to $1,000 per greyhound puppy.
He would rather keep them and hunt, though. That puts a smile on his face.
"I just love watching the dogs go," he said. "Sometimes a coyote will outrun them, but not very often. They get noisy when it's time to go. It's just a lot of fun."
Taylor also hunts deer, pheasant and turkey, but if given a choice he would probably choose running coyotes any day ... as long as it's cold enough for the dogs.