Chad Belding had it happen numerous times, the shakes, that is. The 33-year-old knows the adrenaline rush that comes with calling coyotes well. As a pro-staffer for the Ohio-based Zink Calls, and from his home in Sparks, Nevada, Belding is currently working with goose calling legend, Freddie Zink, on a new series of predator calls, as well as an in-your-face coyote hunting documentary.
“Between August ’05 and May ‘06,” Belding told me, “my partners and I called 120 dogs to the gun. Now, we didn’t kill all those, of course, but we got to experience that rush 120 times.” It was, as Belding said, nothing short of incredible.
What’s fascinating to me about Belding, and particularly in this age of electronics, is that all but two of these 120 coyotes fell to mouth calls—nothing digital, just lungs, plastic, and old-fashioned pressurized air. Belding’s his unscientific conclusion? Mouth calls, perhaps though antiquated in the 21st Century, still work, and work well.
But mouth calling coyotes is more than simply buying brand X, sitting yourself down, and commencing the blow-and-wait…blow-and-wait routine.
“A lot of coyote hunting mistakes happen long before the first sound is ever made,” said Belding. “This first one’s simple, you have to be in an area where there are dogs. A lot of guys think they can just go in and start calling. But you have to consider the variables, the hunting pressure, time of year, food sources. You’ve got to know these variables in order to put yourself in the right spot at the right time.” He continued. “Next is your walk-in. Were you quiet with your door? If you’re driving a diesel, did you drive too far in and make too much noise? Were you too aggressive with your 4-wheeler, and again, go in too far? It’s all about stealth. Using the terrain, keeping the sun at your back, watching where you step, and always keeping in mind the wind direction.”
Are we ready to sit down and start blowing that call? According to Belding, there’s still some education.
“From what I listen to,” said Belding, “most guys have a tendency to do three things wrong with a mouth call. They call too loud, they call too much, and they call too long. It’s important to understand the biology of the prey animal you’re trying to mimic, let’s say a rabbit, and what happens when they’re injured. A rabbit’s lung capacity is much smaller than ours, and he simply can’t squeal as long nor as loud as a human can blow a call. It’s physically impossible. They run out of air quicker. And as they run out of air, those cries get sketchy and broken and panicked. And that’s what you’re trying to accurately reproduce in the field.”
Up until now, we’ve talked about mouth calls and rabbits. True, high-pitched cottontail squalls and the low-pitched, gravelly jackrabbit squeals are traditional sounds; however, is being fluent only in bunny enough to seal the deal every time? “I prefer an open-reed call,” said Belding. “With practice, you can get a fawn-in-distress sound. On that same call, you can get a jackrabbit. You can get a cottontail by sliding your lips back and biting down a little harder on the reed. You can get a woodpecker. Again with practice, you can get elk calves or cow elk in distress.”
Efficient predator callers, says Belding, are well-versed callers, fluent in several different languages, so to speak. And it’s important to note that all of these elements, including mimicking the sounds of different prey species while at the same stand, can come into play.
“Never be afraid to try different sounds,” cautions Belding, “even at the same stand. If you’ve been there for 15 or 20 minutes, try something else. Maybe something else will catch that dog’s attention.”
“To become a good coyote hunter,” Belding said, “you have to learn to read the body language of that animal. Just like you’d read a flock of geese or a gobbler that’s approaching your set-up. What I want to tell people is to challenge themselves. We’ve been filming coyotes for the past 18 months, and it’s the toughest thing we’ve ever done. But it’s taught us to watch and learn. When does a dog stop coming to a call? Why does he stop? How does he use terrain to approach a call? Is his nose elevated trying to catch our scent, or is his nose on the ground trying to cut our tracks? It’s important to understand that coyote hunting is a cumulative education process. It’s tough not to immediately think gun, but the more you watch, the more you’ll learn. And the better able you’ll be to adjust and adapt when that dog does this or that.”
For more information on Zink Calls’ new line of predator and turkey calls, visit their website atwww.zinkcalls.com. And be sure to check out Belding’s inaugural DVD project, Devil Dogs -24/7, available on-line, or at a sporting goods retailer near you.