Calling Hayfield Coyotes

Odds are, when Mike Dick hits his predator call over a freshly cut hayfield, a coyote will be on the way.

Mike saw the coyote while bowhunting last September between some planted pines and a hayfield. The coyote, slipping along the edge of the field, never came into bow range. The next day, Mike was back in the stand, but he had traded his bow for his .223 and a fawn-bleat call.

Twenty minutes later he spotted the coyote standing alert at the edge of the field trying to pinpoint what sounded like an easy venison breakfast. Mike already had the crosshairs centered, and another Jasper County coyote bit the dust.

Over the past five years, Mike Dick of Monticello has killed 92 coyotes on one farm in Jasper County. Many of the coyotes have been shot while he was baling hay or repairing fences, but the remainder have been called in with predator calls.

“Deer hunting is a tradition,” he said. “Turkey hunting is an addiction, but coyote hunting is something even more special.”

The first coyote Mike ever shot he killed on a dove field in 1997. The overly-ambitious coyote slipped up to the edge of the field attempting to retrieve doves for its own dinner. The masquerade as a self-employed dove retriever didn’t work, and Mike has been hooked on coyote hunting ever since. He bought a Knight & Hale predator-calling video to learn the basics, and he has been learning more with each hunt.

Part of the appeal is that predator calling is unpredictable, and each hunt is different. Rarely they will come running in, but most of the time they ghost in silently.

“You almost never hear them coming,” said Mike. “They just seem to appear out of nowhere.”

To this point, all of Mike’s coyote hunting has been during the day.

“The problem you have when you hunt at night is that all you can see is eyeballs, and if you aren’t careful you don’t know what you are shooting at. You could be looking at a fox or a bobcat or a deer.”

Being able to see a long distance is crucial to coyote hunting, and the number one place Mike hunts is hayfields. A just-cut hayfield with the bales of hay still in it is ideal. The hay bales make ideal blinds, and from the field Mike can watch a long section of field edge. A coyote will also use round bales of hay, too, says Mike, who has seen coyotes sitting atop a hay bale apparently using the vantage to watch for mice.

The first hour of daylight is the prime time to be set up behind a hay bale in full camos with your predator calls watching the edge of a hayfield.

The calls Mike uses vary with the season. He occasionally uses an electronic caller — a battery-operated tape player with a speaker — but most often he uses mouth calls. A rabbit squealer is standard equipment for coyote calling, and the distress calls of a rabbit will attract attention year round. So will a coyote howler. And Mike always has a mouse squeaker with him.

During the summer, a fawn bleat call is very effective — for both coyotes and deer.

“I have had does just about run over me coming to check out a fawn-bleat call,” he said. “And if a deer comes in, watch it to see if a coyote is coming. The deer will see the coyote first every time.”

Whichever predator call Mike uses, the key is to make the sound as distressful as possible.

“You want to make the wailing sound like a rabbit or fawn is taking its last breath, and there is an easy meal waiting for the coyote,” he said.

Mike says he always starts calling quietly, in case there is a coyote close by, then gradually builds up the volume. Both the rabbit squealer and the fawn-bleat call sound a lot like a baby in real distress screaming — “Waaaah, Waaaa, Waaaa, Waaa,” — it’s a nerve-jangling call and you can imagine why a coyote or a doe would come running to investigate what’s getting eaten.

Mike works on a large cattle farm, and he says that coyotes rarely take a calf.

“If the cow and the calf are both healthy the coyotes usually don’t bother them,” he said. But he thinks that coyotes take a good number of fawns. “The coyotes know when the fawns are being dropped, and they concentrate on them.”

Once a coyote appears, but doesn’t offer a shot, Mike immediately tones the volume down. He will usually switch to soft calls on a mouse squeaker to entice the coyote into range. A turkey diaphragm call can be used to make high-pitched squeaks, or you can make mouse-squeaking sounds by kissing the back of your hand. Another “home-made” squeaker can be make by pulling the metal squeaker out of a plastic kids’ squeeze toy. The small squeaker can be used as a mouth call, leaving your hands free.

“Normally, a coyote isn’t going to run right in,” said Mike. “Usually they will get to where they can see and smell to check the place out.”

Mike sometimes employs other tricks to pull a suspicious coyote in. “It helps if you use some kind of decoy to pull their attention away from you,” he said. “Sometimes all I do is hang a little strip of white toilet paper on a stick to blow in the breeze.”

He also has a battery-operated toy pig that walks and grunts and makes an effective decoy. Too, when you have been to the Buckarama or to a toy store you may have seen a “Weasel Ball,” a battery-operated ball with a furry tail attached that rolls, flipping the tail in the air. It may be a toy, but it is a deadly coyote-hunting decoy, said Mike.

Paying strict attention to wind direction is critical, because one thing you can count on is for coyotes to be cautious.

“When a coyote comes to a call, you can bet that it is going to try to work its way downwind to check you out,” he said. “And once he smells you, it’s all over.”

Most often, Mike calls in lone coyotes, but occasionally a pair will come in. After he shoots the first coyote, he says he can sometimes stop the second coyote long enough for a shot by barking at it, either with a howler call or with his voice.

Mike hunts coyotes with a bull-barreled .223 with a bi-pod attached and equipped with a 6×24 scope. He said he will shoot out to about 200 yards, but that most of his shots are in the 75- to 100-yard range. He aims for the chest, just like he was shooting at a deer.

Mike usually spends no more than 20 minutes at any calling location. If a coyote doesn’t show up in that length of time, it’s time to move. He says he will at least see a coyote about 80 percent of the time he goes calling, but his odds are higher than most callers, because he is often able to pattern coyotes while he works on the farm.

For numbers of coyotes, Mike picks September and October as the best months. The juveniles have just been run off by the adults. They are having to hunt on their own for the first time, and they tend to be less experienced and less call-shy.

A howler call is effective in the fall, he said. The call sounds like coyotes calling — two or three barks ending with a high-pitched howl. The howler also works well in December and January leading up to the coyote breeding season.

Over the five years that Mike has been shooting coyotes in Jasper County, he says he has seen the number of rabbits increase, and the gray fox population, a coyote competitor, has rebounded. But Mike says he doesn’t want to kill all the coyotes in the area. When he talks coyote hunting, Mike sounds like someone who thinks coyotes are more than just “varmints.” He respects the animal for its resourcefulness, and at night he still loves to hear the yipping and barking and yowling of coyotes songs near his Jasper County home.

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