Most hunters fall into the category of the common man. As with any statistical population, there will always be those individuals who fall in the 10 percent category on either side of the bell curve that represents the 80 percent of the norm. Our modern-day deer-hunting adventures may also be described the same way. Chances are better than good that if you are a hunting-club member, your club has a variety of named or numbered elevated box stands that overlook food plots or some other agricultural area.
During the last decade or so of the restructuring of our deer-hunting habits, a stealthy, smart and shy critter with an insatiable appetite has slowly made its way into our hunting grounds and has altered our prey’s behavior in and around our stand sites and agricultural areas. A fact that is most important to us—the common man who works for a living and only gets to hunt one day a week—is the way that coyotes have made our resident deer skittish about being in the open.
“Open” is where we are overlooking from our elevated hides. “Open” is where we are looking to make our shot of a lifetime. “Open” is where we have poured our sweat and dollars into for the benefit our deer herd’s health.
In the open is where we want to enjoy seeing our deer at our and their leisure.
In the open is also where Mr. Coyote goes to look for his next meal, and he is there every day and every night, not just on Saturdays. Do you wonder why you are not seeing deer in your food plots during daylight hours while you are on stand? The answer could be that your deer have learned and have been conditioned by this ever-present predator. Learned that being in the open could lead to a certain, ugly death, or at minimum, an exhausting and potentially crippling chase.
Late spring is here, and so is one of the best times of the year for calling coyotes to meet their death. Their secretive breeding cycle, which makes coyotes mostly unresponsive to calls, is over for the year. Their dens are filling with young, hungry pups. The adults’ maternal instincts for feeding their young are getting into high gear.
Also, our fawn crop is about to start hitting the ground, which makes the coyote vulnerable to the fawn distress call.
Trout fishermen call it “matching the hatch.”
For coyotes hunters, this is “the killing season.”
Before I get to the how-to, it is important for you to do an ego assessment. I see it as managing one’s expectations. Your coyote hunting here in the southeastern United States isn’t going to be like what you see on The Outdoor Channel or on his DVDs. We cannot see for miles like they can where most predator-hunting hsows are made. Our calls’ volume cannot reach for miles. We don’t have perfect pitch, either. No, as common men, we are more likely NOT to see the coyote than to get a bullet through him simply because of vegetation densities. Your hunt for Mr. Coyote is going to be challenging… like our deer hunting used to be.
The infantryman skills you learned in your youth are required: You must shoot, move and communicate, but not necessarily in that order. You will need to be more mindful of the wind than you have ever been. Sun angle will be important, because you will want to remain in the shadows and shade. Your approach to the predetermined call site must be made in stealth mode. Hunting coyotes requires far more deliberate skill than deer hunting in our modern times. You will not see a coyote at every set. So, set your jaw and prepare yourself for a challenging experience. The only immediate reward is the personal satisfaction from accomplishing a difficult task. A positive motivation for me has always been the thought that for every large predator that I remove from a tract of land, I make 10 more deer there to hunt in the fall.
With all that said, let’s look at the tools we have versus the tools we may need. The first tool, though not necessary, surely makes the hunt more interesting, fun and difficult, is a trusted hunting buddy. The “high plains pro” refers to the partner as “the down-winder.” The down-winder, who may or may not be visible from your concealed calling position, has the responsibility of guarding the downwind approach path. A hunting buddy makes the hunt more difficult as there are two, possibly more, people who must be quiet and extremely scent aware. The positive side of the equation is that the down-winder is more likely to get the shot.
The second tool is your favorite deer rifle or shotgun. There is no statute that requires a coyote rifle to be a certain caliber or to shoot .250 MOA group at any range. The rifle that you tucked in the corner of the hall closet behind the overcoat that never gets worn after the Thanksgiving weekend will work just fine. It’s just got to shoot where you point it!
Besides, the common man is saving for his children’s college funds, not an $8,000 tiny-hole puncher with a $2,000 piece of glass perched on top. Minute of coyote from center mass is about 5 inches at a hundred yards. Likewise, the shotgun that you take on your coyote hunt should be the shotgun that you turkey hunted with last month. Use the same loads. Magnum 4s, 5s, or 6s shot through a tight choke work great and will smoke a coyote out to about 70 yards, which is perfect for the well-concealed caller who is close to the decoy.
If you are hunting with a buddy, the caller carries the shotgun. The down-winder is the rifle bearer who can handle the ones that hang up at a distance.
The decoy, the third tool, may very well be the best $35 you have ever spent on hunting. Those guys over in West Point, Miss. make a great one that has a wobble feature. Yes, that little wobble motor does make a slight noise, but have no fear; the coyote will be long dead before it gets close enough to hear it. Its life-like colors, non-reflective covering, light weight, and tail that waves about from the slightest wind make it irresistible to those searching eyes. When responding to the fawn distress sound, the coyote is searching for a certain look. Position the decoy prominently so that it can be easily seen from all possible approach angles, but especially from downwind.
Your call or calls should be few and inexpensive. Any fawn bleat works great, but I prefer the tone of the antelope bleat. Blow it to sound like the most distressed infant in a restaurant you can imagine. Be dynamic. Make it wail. Add quiver by rapidly moving the end of the call up and down or with your hand baffling the discharging air. If DFACS gets called to investigate your hunting area, you know you are making the right sounds.
A howl is a wonderful addition to your call lanyard. If you are hunting with a buddy or two, everyone can howl at the same time and make for a great serenade, which says to the coyote world, “Hey, we are over here. Do come visit us.”
Use of a female invitation howl, a short young coyote challenge howl and the serenade may get you a shot opportunity before you ever get to the distress call. Be patient. Use the various howls for 10 to 15 minutes intermittently with two to three minutes between each call before going to the distress. Coyotes coming into a howl may approach more causally than those coming to a distress. After all, the distress call tells the coyote that something has already gotten the fawn in trouble. The coyote must move quickly if he wants to steal a meal. He will more likely be coming in from downwind using his keen sense of smell to zero in on his target long before he can see it. Once he sees your decoy, it is game on, and here he comes! Be ready.
If your checking-account balance allows for it, there are electronic calling options for every budget. If you must have one, save your money and buy the best you can afford. Going cheap will reward you with disappointment.
Camouflage only needs a few comments. Any camo pattern will work. No need to buy a mission-specific pattern. Being still is far more critical. Mr. Coyote may be color blind, but he is coming in looking for motion. Don’t let him see you move, or the hunt will be over before you want it to be. Make sure your shiny face, hands and watch are well concealed, just like when you turkey hunt.
In advance of your hunt, know the sun angle and wind direction. If possible, approach quietly from the crosswind, and call into the crosswind.
The Midwestern coyote maestro that conducts coyote-calling seminars around the country stresses that the setup is the most important aspect of a successful hunt. Be concealed. Use a weapon support of some type. A Boy Scout trick is to lash two 28-inch carbon arrows together with strong cord, at the 20-inch point. They provide an almost weightless-to-carry shooting-stick type of support that can be spread to accommodate many shooting heights while you are in the sitting position. Choose your calling sites carefully. Pick those that maximize visibility while providing maximum concealment of your potential movements.
Elevated box blinds may work for a recessed shooter using an electronic calling system, but not for the hand caller. You can damage your ears using hand calls in an enclosed space. No waving gun barrels out the windows, either. I prefer a slight rise, hillside, against a tree, or tucked neatly under overhanging brush at a field’s edge.
I encourage you to be an active coyote hunter. Assemble a large amount of coyote-country permission slips. Make four to five one-hour sets, at least a half-a-mile apart, before lunch. Now that warmer weather is here, save two calling sites for evening hunts. If you hunt as a team, pre-brief the mission before deploying to the hunting site, so everyone knows their assigned sector of visibility, responsibility and fire. Have faith in your calling. If you are where there is a lot of fresh sign, and others have reported hearing coyotes often, you should get a shot. If you are not, critique your setup, the wind and your approach, but not your calling. The coyote comes in looking for a reason to leave. It doesn’t take much to make him hang up or turn away, but the call’s tone is not one of them.
One of my secret weapons is a 4-oz. jar of skunk essence. Once set up, I open the jar and place it on my downwind side. It smells like sweet victory when I get to touch the trigger.
Go get ’em. Have fun and re-experience the joy of active, smart hunting. You will be a better deer hunter for it. You’ll also save a fawn or two—or lots more. And finally, you might just kill a coyote and win a new gun or another great prize in GON’s Coyote Cull. See page 16 for details.