by Ron Kruger
Coyotes are a complete wilderness survival package.
Coyotes are cunning, have a better nose than a deer, better eyesight than a turkey and better hearing than probably any other wild creature.
That¹s why there are so many of coyotes, and why they have expanded their range across North America into states and regions where they are an invasive species doing great harm to native wildlife.
But coyotes do have a fatal weakness—they are suckers for the sounds of an animal in distress. That¹s why anyone can hunt them, because anyone can blow a distress call, or at least use an electronic caller.
Calling one in is exciting fun. Some say it is even more fun than calling in a gobbler during the spring. And even though you don¹t eat coyotes, each one you harvest saves countless rabbits, deer, wild turkey and other game and non-game species—maybe even someone’s poodle or cat.
The more open the area, the more cautious coyotes are, and the more they tend to circle downwind at great distances. That¹s where flat-shooting center-fire calibers, such as a .223, 22/250, .222, etc., matched with a good scope are best. If, however, someone already owns such varmint calibers, they likely already know about coyotes and how to hunt them.
For newer hunters, I suggest hunting in the woods. If you don¹t have a big woods nearby, a shelter belt or small stand of timber will work. In wooded areas, especially with hilly or mountainous topography, coyotes are naturally less cautious, and wind currents are less predictable. Their response to calls is more immediate and direct. In this tangled terrain, you¹re likely to get fast, close encounters, so the weapon of choice is a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot. The same gun you use for turkey hunting, duck hunting or even squirrel hunting will work fine. Shotguns are surprisingly effective for coyotes out to about 40 yards, and they generally do less damage to the pelt than center-fire rifles.
The most important aspect to successfully hunting coyotes, and the one most overlooked by new hunters, is scent control. Bathing before the hunt, wearing scent blocker suits and paying attention to wind direction when you set up to call is at least as important as it is for deer hunting.
Concealment and camouflage are also critical. Whether hunting in open fields or dense woods, you need to conceal yourself in some type of tangled structure to break your outline. Just as with hunting deer from the ground, I prefer a fallen tree for a natural blind, and if it still has some leaves on it, even better. Full camouflage is important, including face mask and gloves. Also be mindful of possible glints from glasses, guns or other equipment. Sit in shaded areas whenever possible. And don¹t fidget. Like turkeys, coyotes can see you blink from considerable distances.
If your patience is a little short for other types of hunting, coyote hunting is perfect. Rarely should you spend more than one-half hour in a spot. Move at least a few hundred yards and try again, or better yet, have several tracts of land lined up where you have permission to call coyotes. Most landowners welcome some pressure on the local coyote populations, recognizing the pressure coyotes are putting on wildlife.
A dying rabbit is a popular call for coyote hunters, but I believe the best calls are those that mimic the most common food sources for the particular area you are hunting. In the deep woods, this might be a fawn bleat during fawning season in the summertimes, or it may be an excited turkey call or a baby squirrel.
A Mr. Squirrel call, used in conjunction with a sapling branch beaten on the ground to mimic the wing flapping of an avian predator squeezing the life out of a baby squirrel, may be the best coyote call. It seems to bring coyotes on the run without caution, thinking they can quickly steal an already captured meal from a hawk or owl.
The most common mistake, and the one I made often during the first couple of years, was calling too loudly. One of the best coyote hunters I’ve meet did all his calling by sucking air through wet lips placed on the back of his hand to create a very soft squeaking noise, like a field mouse. Whether you’re using an electronic or mouth call, keep the volume low at first, then crank it up only after you’re sure you haven’t drawn the attention of a nearby coyotes.
Anyone can hunt coyotes, with most any weapon and most any call. However, don¹t expect to just walk into the woods somewhere, crank up an electronic call and pile up the pelts. It’s not that easy. But nothing this much fun is ever that easy.
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