Story and Photos by: Jared Bloomgren
It is never the wrong time of year to be thinking about predator hunting.
Late season and into the first of the New Year is a great time to get out after some critters that have a bad rap with most hunters. But they are not all that bad! Really! This is a bare bones approach to hunting coyotes that will give you plenty of fun in a time of year when the hunting may have slowed down a bit.
Coyotes eat an unknown number of big game, small game and more importantly, rancher’s livestock each year. That doesn't help my argument that they are good does it!? I do not like the statistic about predators, but they do have to survive just like any other animal out there. The thing I do like is by hunting them, you can help pass the time when many of us are done hunting after the fall season. Not only that, but it can bring in extra money for you too! If you want to keep hunting, you need to take advantage of hunting coyotes if you already don't. I am no expert on coyote calling but I have a fair amount of success year after year with calling and enjoy my time doing so.
If you are like me and are out deer hunting, you usually see plenty of coyote. Usually, you likely do not take the shots at them because you don't want to scare the deer away. If the conditions are right and I know I won't spook deer in the area, I will always give attention to a coyote who has presented an opportunity. The problem then is that my deer rifle usually leaves too much of a mark to allow the coyote fur to become profitable - still, it is always great fun!
For me, I usually start hunting coyotes in December when the big game hunting has mostly come to an end - unless I still have an archery tag still in my pocket or was lucky enough to draw a late season muzzleloader tag!
This is when my more fur friendly projectile launcher comes out to play. The 55 gr. bullets my .223 launches are much friendlier on coyote furs which may allow for money in my pocket - which is another plus! The price of the fur varies from year to year but regardless of price, coyote hunting is a fun and sporting hunt to be had! Some years, the prices are higher than others making it even more worthwhile. It is easy to find a fur buyer in your area by asking around or calling the GF&P.
There are many who take coyote calling very serious. There are calling contests or tournaments many enter each year that do have big pay outs to the winner(s). Many of these are two-man teams. I know several individuals who get very involved in these tournaments and do great in them. I like to take part when I can but after a long big game hunting season, I only think it’s fair I devote much of my available time back to my family (they may have been a bit neglected during the big game seasons that primarily started in the middle of August!) But this is also a great time to get your family involved with coyote hunting as well!
So what is the best way to hunt coyotes you might ask?
That will always come back to becoming proficient with learning their talk. If you can talk the talk, you can learn the walk! Sure you can just walk around and try to run across them like during deer season, but why not bring them to you?! Sounds of distress work really well and there are a great deal of sounds out there! You can also add in coyote sounds as well to lure them in. There are many companies out there that produce predator calls that work great. There are both hand calls and electronic calls that will do the job. The electronic calls are simple to use as most are preloaded with several sounds that allow you to make sounds of nearly anything a coyote may like to have for a snack. But a well used and knowledgeable hand caller can be hard to beat as you can get very unique sounds. Hand callers often have sounds rarely duplicated that wary old coyotes can't as easily figure out.
As I mentioned, obvious sounds to use while calling are distress sounds such as rabbits, deer, elk and various birds. Using these calls any time of year can work great. Tailoring the calls to your area is a good idea but not always needed. Both adult and pup coyote sounds can come in handy as well. When the breeding season is underway in January through March, using a lone howl can be very productive. I have also had good luck with using a lone howl or barks before using a distress sound.
It is exhilarating watching a coyote key in on your position and come running or sneaking in for a "snack." There will be days when I may have six stands before getting a coyote to come in. Other days it seems the coyotes just flock to my calls! It can vary a great deal and cause frustration but that is always outweighed when the calling is hot!
There is another challenge of finding coyotes who are not call shy. Many easy-to-access hunting areas contain well educated coyotes as they have been educated by various coyote hunters due to their frequently visited hunting areas. Much like big game hunting, finding those areas that are not pressured will yield great success!
What are they best areas to find coyotes?
Much like other game, coyotes prefer cover and food much the same. Pay attention to areas that offer both. Ranchers have had problems with coyotes for years as the coyotes prefer to be close to livestock for obvious reasons, especially during calving or lambing season. It's easy lunch for coyotes as they can feed on the afterbirth or even prey on the newborns very easily. Areas to focus on are rougher country that offers ample cover for the coyotes to sneak about. Wooded draws, thick over-grown fence-lines, river/creek bottoms, wooded lots, etc...just name it. They can be about anywhere that allows them to sneak about. Pair those areas with livestock and you have a good chance of calling one into range.
There are things to keep in mind about the area in which you set up.
Coyotes are not dumb, they will almost always keep the wind in their favor when they come into your calling set-up. Making sure you set up in a way that will give you a shot at that critter before it cuts your wind is very necessary.
Getting a shot off at them before they circle your position is a must! A coyote's nose never lies to it and gosh darn do they work well! Using good cover to hide yourself will help you when the coyote is coming in as well. They can pick off the slightest movement that will send them running if they are unsure of what is happening. Never silhouette yourself on the skyline if you can help it. Find areas to cross that won't give away your position. Using saddles, draws, etc. or anything else to cross will help keep you hidden.
Along with a good shooting position goes good camouflage to help keep you blended with your surroundings. I like to use a Camo pattern that blends well with my surroundings. When it snows, you can bet I will be covered from head to toe in snow Camo.
Setting up where you can see a great distance will also help you. Coyotes can come running from miles away if they hear your call and will likely use terrain to their advantage. Having a perch that gives you a great vantage point so a coyote can't sneak in on you is very helpful.
Having a good camo pattern that blends you into your surroundings is also a must. That is why the Kryptek Overwhites get my vote when the snow has begun to accumulate. Otherwise, the Highlander pattern does a very good job if there isn’t snow on the ground due to the abundance of browns in the terrain this time of year. Having a good backdrop will also help hide your movement from the predator’s eyes.
What are you waiting for? If you haven't taken part in predator calling up to this point, you don't know what you are missing! It is a great time and very exhilarating to say the least. There are many types and styles of calling that can be addressed in other articles. Sticking to the basics will get you started and you will learn and adjust your techniques from there. You just may find yourself a new time consuming and very rewarding hobby.