Wyoming Elk Hunter Has Rare, Weird Standoff With Belligerent Coyote

A Riverton man had a rare and bizarre standoff with a coyote while elk hunting over the weekend. The wily critter barked belligerently and kept getting closer – but finally backed off before the hunter decided to open fire.

Mark Heinz

January 29, 20245 min read

A coyote barks and postures at David Mossburg over the weekend as he was hunting for elk near Riverton.
A coyote barks and postures at David Mossburg over the weekend as he was hunting for elk near Riverton. (Courtesy David Mossburg)

There’s one Wyoming coyote out there who doesn’t know how lucky he is to not have caught a chunk of hot lead this weekend after standing off with an elk hunter and defiantly barking at him for several minutes.

The hunter, David Mossburg of Riverton, told Cowboy State Daily that the encounter was bizarre and a little frightening, because he’d never seen a coyote behave that way.

“In the video, you see him take two steps forward, and I was thinking he was coming for me,” said Mossburg, who caught video of the encounter on his phone.

He’s relatively new to the outdoors in Wyoming, having moved here not that long ago. But Mossburg said he spent plenty of time in the woods in his home state of Tennessee and is no stranger to coyotes.

‘I Have A 12-Gauge With A Deer Slug’

The standoff happened when Mossburg and his son were on a late-season elk hunt this weekend near Kinnear, which is northwest of Riverton.

His brother-in-law owns some property along the Wind River, so they decided to hunker there.

“Elk pass through there from time-to-time,” Mossburg said.

He chose to set up in a brushy area, he said, adding that, “I kind of put myself in a little gully.”

Any shot opportunity there would likely be close, so Mossburg opted to keep his Remmington 870 12-gauge shotgun loaded with slugs. He handed his .30-06 rifle to his son, who would be hunting on more open ground.

Mossburg said he started favoring the shotgun for close-range hunting while he was still in Tennessee.

“Maybe two or three times while hunting back there, I would step around some trees, and there would be a beautiful whitetail buck, but by the time I got my rifle swung around and the scope on him, he’d be gone,” he said.

Shotgun slugs are superbly devastating short-range rounds, blasting gaping holes through whatever they hit.

And at one point in the video, Mossburg can be heard conveying that concept to the foolhardy coyote.

“Uh, I have a 12-gauge with a deer slug, do you want me to shoot ya? Huh? Huh? Why don’t you go with your buddy, live another day?” he says in the video.

Watch on YouTube

‘You’re Scarin’ Away My Elk’

He first spotting two coyotes trotting toward him not long after parting ways with his son, and he admired how healthy they looked.

“A lot of the coyotes I’ve seen were scrawny, mangy, dog-looking things. But these had really nice coats,” Mossburg said. “At first, I even wondered if they might be wolves. But then I saw, clearly, that they were coyotes.”

The coyotes got to within about 40 yards of Mossburg before noticing him, and one immediately bolted away.

But the other stood its ground.

That’s why the beginning of the video is so jumbled, Mossburg said. He wanted to make sure his shotgun was ready before continuing to record.

The coyote paces a bit at first, and after Mossburg hollers at it, it starts yipping and barking at him – getting decidedly shrill at times. The standoff continued for a couple more minutes, with the coyote answering Mossburg’s warning with more barks.

“You know I can shoot you and I don’t even need a license. You know that? You’re scarin’ away my elk,” he said to the coyote at one point.

He also informs viewers that “if I drop the phone” it meant he decided to shoot.

His warning to the coyote was true. Coyotes are classified as a predatory species in Wyoming, meaning that they can be shot at any time, and no license is required.

Decided Not To Shoot

Mossburg said he understands why some other hunters might chide him for not just blasting the coyote when he had so many chances to do so, but he didn’t really feel like killing it unless he had to.

“I also wasn’t sure exactly where my son was at that point, and that’s part of the reason why I didn’t shoot the coyote,” he said.

After more barking and posturing, the coyote finally, wisely, decided to break off and trot away.

Mossburg later discovered that his son had been about 100 yards away and heard everything.

“He told me that there was so much barking, he thought maybe a pack of coyotes had surrounded me, because it seemed like a lot of noise for just one coyote,” he said.

Why The Belligerence?

Mossburg said he’s not sure why the coyote was so bold. The animal appeared to be perfectly healthy and fully aware, so he doesn’t think it was desperately hungry or diseased.

He speculates that the other coyote might have been its mate.

“I think maybe the one that took off was a pregnant female, and the one that stood off me was the male, trying to be protective,” he said.

That could be a logical explanation. Coyote mating season takes place about this time of year. And news outlets in areas with suburban and urban coyotes have warned their audiences that coyotes during mating season can get bold and aggressive – particularly toward dogs.

Mossburg said the encounter was fascinating and “weird.”

But it won’t discourage him from his newfound passion for hunting in Wyoming.

“My brother-in-law owns Hi Mountain Seasonings,” he said. It’s a Riverton company that makes big game spices and jerky-making ingredients. “So I married into a mentality of, ‘Hey man, you need to go hunting and make jerky and stuff.’”

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter