Coyote hunting and quality deer management go hand in hand, and while it’s easy to focus on food plots, hinge cutting and timber stand improvement this time of year, now is also the time to check predator control off your post-season to-do list.
Adequately managing the coyote population within a given area has been proven to dramatically increase whitetail fawn recruitment. So if you want to preserve the life of a few whitetail fawns, you can do so by coyote hunting.
A Beginner’s Guide To Coyote Hunting
So what does coyote hunting require? Do you need an electronic call or a mouth call? Should you use a motion decoy? How long should I call at each stand? Hopefully we can help answer these and other questions by providing some tips and strategies over the next few weeks. For now let’s look at the basics when pursuing Mr. Coyote.
Keep It Simple
For the beginner who wanders into the big-box sporting goods store in search of the perfect predator call, he or she can expect to be overwhelmed. The shelves will be lined with a variety of calls in different brands, styles and sounds. But before you get lost in the number of calls on the shelves, let me offer a suggestion—keep coyote hunting as simple as possible.
In reality you only need a few calls to effectively call coyotes. Over the years I’ve experimented with several different calls and usually end up using three. That’s right—just three—a howler, a pup in distress and a cottontail in distress.
Calls such as the Micro Cottontail Distress or Adjustable Coyote/Distress by Duel Game Calls are easy to use and can cover a broad range of sounds. If money is an issue, choose a call maker such as Duel, that offers a single call that can make multiple sounds—there’s nothing wrong with saving yourself some dough.
When choosing between a closed reed or open reed coyote call, the beginner may find a closed reed call easier to use. Whatever coyote call allows you to call effectively at your current skill level, use it.
If you have the extra money to spend, I would strongly suggest investing in an electronic caller. I personally use a FoxPro electronic caller and would highly recommend FoxPro products. I would also suggest when buying an electronic call to look for one that features dual amplified speakers. This feature will provide a wider range of volume resulting in additional opportunities when hunting on windy days or in more open terrain.
One of the biggest advantages of using an electronic call is it can be controlled remotely, therefore the call can be set up some distance from the shooter. The distance between the electronic call and the shooter allows the coyote to come to the call rather than you the caller. This diversion gives the shooter a greater advantage due to the coyote being focused on the location of the call and not on the location of the caller/shooter. An electronic call will also offer a variety of animal sounds, which can be changed instantly by a simple press of a button.
Hunt Where They Are
Did you have any coyotes on your trail cameras last year? Did you see any coyote tracks while shed hunting? What about those tracks you saw in the fresh snow, were they coyote tracks? What about the scat you saw while walking to your treestand? Paying attention to these small details will help you know where to set up to call coyotes.
Not every farm we deer hunt on has an abundance of coyotes—others do. If I’ve never heard or seen any sign of a coyote on a given piece of property, I probably won’t waste my time setting up there.
Another way to locate coyotes is to ask farmers and ranchers. Even if a farmer or rancher won’t let you deer hunt, they will most likely allow you to shoot coyotes. Knocking on doors isn’t always easy, but it is one sure way to find new and non-pressured locations to hunt predators.
Serious whitetail hunters understand how important it is to hunt the correct wind. So it is when coyote hunting. Besides their tendency to avoid human scent, coyotes will normally approach a call from a downwind vantage point—this is crucial to remember when making a stand.
Before you set up to call, be sure you’re not making a stand where a coyote could possible catch a whiff of your scent. The importance of making sure you remain downwind of an approaching coyote or can get a shot off before it gets directly downwind of your stand cannot be overemphasized.
Coyotes will often hang around field edges while looking for rabbits and mice. Always take this into consideration when heading into an area to call. I even try to park my vehicle a considerable distance from where I walk into an area. The point is to avoid making your presence known in any way. A coyote has an acute sense of hearing and could be just about anywhere, so try not to educate them.
I also try to think about how I’m leaving a scent trail when approaching a stand site. If a coyote crosses my scent trail, it most likely will not come to my call. This might mean a longer walk to make a stand, but I guarantee the attention to detail will pay off. Plus, being careful how you enter and exit the area you hunt, may allow multiple opportunities to coyote hunt that same area.
One of the strategies I have used repeatedly is to work from the outside in. In other words, if I have a prime spot I want to make a stand, and know it has a high chance of yielding a coyote kill, I may initially set up 200-300 yards away from the ideal stand site. After a calling sequence I will move the 200-300 yards to the prime calling location. This strategy allows the sound of my first stand to reach the peripheral of the area I want to hunt and insures I’m not blowing a coyote out of the area before reaching where I want to make my ideal set. Obviously some areas do not allow for a ‘double-stand’ option, but if the area is large enough, working from the outside in will insure you have covered the entire area with the sound of your call.
Watch Your Back
For the most part, the age-old adage, “Keep the wind in your face and the sun at your back,” directly applies when setting up to call coyotes. If you follow this rule of thumb, you’re can up your score in the predator hunting game.
When setting up to call be sure you blend in with the surroundings. A heavily shadowed or dark background is best and will help break up your silhouette. Avoid setting up where you will be sky-lined or be left sitting in direct sunlight. On early morning hunts remember how fast the light can change, be sure to consider how your backdrop will be lit at the end of your calling sequence and not just how it looks at the time of set up.
Make It Real
When using a mouth call, put plenty of emotion into your calling sequence. If you were a rabbit and about to become a predator’s dinner, you’d no doubt be a little emotional. Fluctuating between the sounds of fighting for your life, being mortally wounded and almost dead, will add realism.
Personally, I like to use a FoxPro Black Jack decoy when calling. By using a motion decoy you not only add realism to the set, but also provide further distraction from the shooter. Remember when using any type of decoy to position it to where you have a clear shot on its downwind side.
I also like to use a full size coyote decoy when calling coyotes. By placing a motion decoy a couple feet in front of the full-bodied coyote decoy, you are creating a real life scenario. Knock on wood, but I’ve never had a coyote spook or be hesitant to come in to the call when using the coyote decoy and motion decoy combination.
When using an electronic caller or motion decoy I always cover any plastic with corn stubble, leaves or grass so it does not glare in the sunlight. Again, all these details might not be necessary, but they have worked for me so I’m simply passing on the information.
With that said, you don’t need decoys to kill coyotes. I’ve killed coyotes by using a closed reed cottontail in distress—that was it. But the decoys have helped bring wary coyotes into shooting distance that would not have come in otherwise. To use or not to use a decoy is personal preference.
Having hunted coyotes in both the West and Midwest, my personal opinion is coyotes in the Midwest are much slower to respond to a call. In the West there have been many times a coyote would show up within 5-minutes of beginning a calling sequence. Here in the Midwest it’s not unusual to wait 30-minutes before a coyote shows up.
While the temptation may be to move on after 10-minutes of calling—don’t. Sit tight and have faith in your stand. Some callers make it a practice to end their calling sequence with a howl and wait an additional 10-minutes before moving. This type of tactic insures the caller that he or she has given plenty of time for a slowpoke yote to show up.
If a coyote is approaching your setup don’t rush it. You may be tempted to shoot while it’s still coming, but be patient. Once it’s in shooting range and offers a shot, then take it.
Over the next few weeks we will be sharing additional coyote hunting tips and strategies with you. While there will always be a learning curve when beginning to hunt any animal, don’t stress about what you don’t know. For now, focus on the basics and learn as you go. There is no substitute for experience—so go have fun.