Calling coyotes not only provides the opportunity to keep predator numbers in check, it also offers exciting and unforgettable experiences.
Few predator hunters will forget the moment they called in their very first coyote. I will never forget mine. My boys were young but I took them along anyway—knowing all the while I’d just reduced my chances of seeing anything by at least 50%. Sitting still was not on their agenda, but if I could pull off a successful coyote hunt with three boys in tow, it would be the ultimate challenge.
The grain hopper of an abandoned combine made for an ideal stand. The wind was perfect, I could see close to 400-yards in any direction and the outside ledge of the harvester’s hopper allowed a solid rest for my bipod.
Leaving my three munchkins tucked beside the rear tire of the combine, they were somewhat hidden. And as long as the coyote remained outside of 50-yards, my boys would be out of sight.
Taking my cottontail in distress mouth call I proceeded to sound like a tortured rabbit in the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus rex. While I was impressed at my novice calling ability, I was also hearing laughter from three ornery boys as they mocked my horrid sounds.
Six Simple Tips For Calling Coyotes
What those three boys didn’t know was a beautiful male coyote was running straight for them—all it heard was a dinner bell.
At 80-yards the 52-grain .22 caliber bullet found its mark, and dad got the last laugh. For at the sound of the shot those three boys jumped out of their skin. No, I did not warn them beforehand—on purpose.
After all these years my boys and I still talk about the memories we made on our very first coyote hunt together, and of course that coyote hide is among the ‘trophies’ scattered throughout our home.
Tip 1: Don’t Overthink It
So how can a novice go out with a mouth call and call in a coyote his very fist time? It’s because the coyote didn’t know it was my first time, neither did it know I didn’t have years of experience under my belt.
The opportunistic coyote I called in had heard something that sounded as if it was dying and decided to see if whatever was making the racket might make-do for dinner.
When calling coyotes don’t get hung up on what you don’t know. There are no set rules when it comes to calling coyotes with a distress call. Simply do your best to fluctuate the tones and pitches along with putting plenty of emotion into the call.
Some guys prefer to call for 10 minutes and then pause. Their logic is based upon the thought that a rabbit does not die for 30-minutes, so they attempt to make it sound ‘real.’ The only problem is, a coyote doesn’t have human logic—it lives on instinct.
2. Change It Up
Personally, I call for a solid 30-minutes at each set, sometimes longer depending on the circumstances. But I will change the sound as I am calling. When I primarily used mouth calls, I would simply vary the tone, pitch and length of air burst over the duration of the calling sequence. Now that I predominately use an e-caller, I will vary the sounds every 10 to 15 minutes.
For example, if I start out with a cottontail in distress I may change to a baby cottontail after 10 minutes, then to a jackrabbit, and then a mouse. A coyote doesn’t care what you place on the dinner plate, they just have to be in the mood for what ever sound you offer.
Sometimes a cottontail in distress will work, other times coyotes may prefer what seems like an odd choice of sounds, such as a red squirrel in distress. One day a coyote may come to a higher pitch sound, other days to a lower. You can’t predict what sound will peak their interest, so just be ready to offer plenty of options on the menu.
The one thing I always do is end my calling sequence with the sound of a pup in distress. If there is a coyote hung up just out of sight, the pup in distress will usually bring them in close enough that I can get a shot.
Sound variation is one of the reasons I like to use an electronic caller. An e-caller provides a variety of sounds at your disposal and allows you to change the sounds at the touch of a button.
3. Be Flexible
Coyotes can’t tell time. They don’t care if you call for 10, 12, 14 or 20 minutes before changing to a different sound. What they can tell is if that sound sets off their territorial, paternal, reproductive or survival instincts.
When calling coyotes don’t get stuck on exact times and set sounds. Just because I call for 10 minutes before changing the sound doesn’t mean you have to. Feel free to experiment and see what works for you.
Remaining flexible will make predator hunting much more enjoyable and allow you to be yourself. Yes, there are patterns you can follow, but few rules. Coyotes are a wild animal and will always remain unpredictable—and there’s no reason a hunter can’t mimic that behavioral trait.
Once on stand I simply follow my gut instinct when in a calling sequence. If I get a ‘wild hair’ to change up and add a female howl in the middle of a distress sequence, I do it.
As long as I am staying within the boundaries of speaking to a coyote’s territorial, paternal, reproductive or survival instincts—I consider the sound fair game.
4. Learn Non-Threatening Howls
Coyotes have a definite language, and if wanting to increase your chances of killing more coyotes, learning how to mimic coyote vocalizations will dramatically increase your odds.
Both male and female vocalizations are unique. Both sexes offer distinct sounds that communicate a vast amount of information. So much so, that some biologists claim man will never decipher the intricate details contained in the coyote’s howl.
From mid-January through mid-March I like to use a significant amount of non-threatening female vocalizations during a calling sequence. Not only am I hoping a love-crazed male will come in to check out what lonely lady might be nearby, but by combining a distress and coyote howl, I hope to also give an open dinner invitation to nearby coyotes of any gender.
Rarely will I use a threatening howl, such as the ‘challenge howl,’ when on stand. Because coyotes are territorial in nature, the last thing I want to do is intimidate when the idea of my calling is to invite.
While an in-depth look at coyote vocalizations will be addressed in an upcoming article, you can learn a lot by simply searching the Internet and listening to the various coyote vocalizations. Coyote howls will work, are not hard to learn, and should be in your repertoire.
5. Give it Time
There are a handful of really patient people in the world. Some can sit for hours and be content in the process—I’m not one of them. So, I have to make myself stay on stand and call for at least 30-minutes.
When I first started calling coyotes if something didn’t show up within 15-minutes I was packing up and heading down the road. In time I’ve learned that 30-minutes isn’t that long. Besides, would I rather be doing something else?
When calling coyotes, I can’t overstress the importance of being patient. Whatever mind games you have to play in order to sit still and keep your eyes peeled, do it. Remember, coyotes can show up any second and out of nowhere.
If you know there are coyotes in the area, such as if you had a visual or saw fresh tracks, don’t give up after 30-minutes. I’ve heard of hunters staying put for 45-minutes to an hour before a coyote finally responded.
They say patience is a virtue, but it’s also a quality that makes for a good coyote caller—I’m still working on it.
6. Let It Rest
How long before you should go back and hunt the same stand again? It depends. Did you get in and out without leaving an abundance of human scent? Did you miss the shot and educate the coyote(s) in that area?
There are many variables when it comes to how much time has to expire before you can return to a particular area. One thing is for sure, letting a stand rest for a few weeks will only prolong its hunting quality.
When you do go back into an area, try to use a different call and calling sequence. Change the pitch of your call and even the sound(s). If you previously used a cottontail in distress, try a woodpecker. Or don’t use a distress at all and just use non-threatening howls.
By being careful not over pressure your hunting areas, your coyote hunting can remain both fun and productive.
The subject of calling coyotes can never be exhausted, so please feel free to share your tips and suggestions with us. I don’t know it all and am always learning from other predator hunters. If you have additional tips for calling coyotes, please share them with us in the comments below and good luck calling!
For more coyote hunting tips be sure and check out Coyote Hunting: How To Set Up.