The gray light of dawn had just illuminated the woods, and I had just stopped my second sequence of calls when I heard him trotting on the dry hardwood leaves. I shouldered the gun, immediately, while I had a chance. A short minute later he came into view. I settled the crosshairs on his shoulder, pulled the trigger, and the first coyote of the day was down. By 10 a.m. we had taken two more.
Twenty years ago, coyotes were practically unheard of in my part of Oglethorpe/Madison counties. Now they are everywhere and showing up in substantial numbers. Sometimes while coon hunting I will hear ’yotes howling in six or seven locations. Most coyotes are killed incidentally to deer hunting. I killed three this year during bow season. There are not many serious predator hunters around my neck of woods.
This year in particular we have noticed an alarming number of deer hunters reporting shooting does that were not lactating. This means their fawns were probably killed by predators or by vehicles on the roads. University of Georgia (UGA) deer-research biologist Dr. Karl Miller, who hunts on a neighboring farm, and I witnessed coyotes taking fawns down on different occasions. One time in particular, I was checking my food plots in June. A deer started blowing from across my property line in the direction of my neighbor’s deer feeder. In minutes I heard a fawn bleating in distress, then all was silent.
By evidence found later, a coyote had predated the young deer.
Y’all think about this — in areas heavily inhabited by coyotes, deer feeders, when placed in locations that are advantageous to a predator sneaking up, are a “hot-lunch program” for coyotes. Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and are certainly aware that feeders congregate deer. If you have deer feeders, I would suggest that you try to locate them in open areas where the deer could see a predator coming and have enough time to make an escape.
The UGA biologists currently have studies under way to determine the impact that coyotes may be having on Georgia’s deer herd.
Coyote hunting does a great service to the deer and small-game populations, and you will have loads of fun while you are at it. And once the ’yotes have experienced a little hunting pres- sure, hunting them becomes very challenging.
What factors affect your coyote hunting? About the same details that affect turkey hunting, except that ’yotes can use their sniffers.
Here are some tips about how to go about hunting Georgia’s newest predator:
In my opinion, this is the most important component, and wherever you set up, you will have a much better chance of success hunting with a buddy. Hunt where the prey is. When using a distressed rabbit call, I try to set up in a bunny-rich area such as an over- grown clearcut or beaver swamp (cane-cutter territory). It makes things much easier if the ’yotes are hunting there naturally.
Use your woodsmanship skills, and approach the calling location as quietly as possible. Make darn sure the wind direction is correct for your set- up and is not blowing toward where you think the coyotes may already be. Try to set up where you have a good view downwind from your calling site. When hunting with a buddy, I would call from inside the thicket or swamp and have your friend downwind where he could see a predator coming for a ways. It also helps to set up in a location where you can hear a ’yote approaching, such as over dry leaves or near shallow water in a swamp. One of my best hunting locations is a large, old beaver swamp. I set up in the middle and have a friend in a deer stand down- wind and very high in a tree. I usually don’t know the animal is coming until I hear the shot.
Once you are set up, don’t move anything but your eyes, and if you turn your head, turn it very slowly. Remember, as in turkey hunting or hunting deer with rattling antlers, the animal is looking for you.
There are several different types of calls that will pull a coyote in, including dying rabbit, mouse squeakers, injured bird, or fox or coyote pup calls. Because most of the lands I hunt are filled with rabbits, I use a rabbit distress mouth call, and do a mouse squeak by kissing the back of my hand.
Always start out calling softly. If you start out blowing a call like Gabriel’s trumpet, any ’yote that might be just 50 yards from you will have issues.
I usually call for a minute or a minute and a half, wait 15 minutes, and do it again, getting progressively loud- er each time I call. Four sequences, and you move to another location if nothing shows up. You are trying to imitate a rabbit in the throes of misery — so put your heart into it! You want to sound like you just found out your wife or girlfriend — one you really like — is leaving you for your best friend. Or your best dog just died. Wail away.
If a coyote comes in, then gets antsy and leaves, continue to call. The coyote might come back, depending on its hunger level. Also, if you shoot a coyote, keep calling for a sequence, for there may very well be others in the area. If you miss a shot, or the ’yote busts you, he is not coming back any- time soon, at least not to that particular call. The next trip to the property, switch from a rabbit call to a distressed-bird call, and you might get the ’yote to come in again.
Don’t hunt a particular spot more than twice a month, as too much pres- sure on ’yotes is counterproductive.
Best Times To Hunt
Everyone has different ideas on the best time of day. I have had my best success from first light until about 10 a.m. Why? Say you are a very hungry coyote, and you have been hunting all night and haven’t caught a darn thing for dinner. You hear a rabbit squealing and think it has just become your lucky day. The more hungry the predator, the easier it is to lure it in. This is also why I enjoy hunting them in the dead of winter in January and February and on extremely cold days. Food is scarce, all the easy prey has been taken, and the coyotes are burning calories to stay warm.
My second favorite time would be late May or early June when most fawns are dropping in Oglethorpe County. Wailing on a fawn bleat call is a deadly technique in early summer.
Because coyotes have excellent vision, blending into the background is a definite advantage. Any pattern that blends in well to the area you are hunting will work well. Setting up in rock piles or blowdowns will also aid in your concealment.
Because coyotes are considered unprotected nongame, there are no caliber restrictions. For a person calling by themselves, especially in thick brush, you can’t beat a full-choke 12- or 10-gauge magnum shotgun loaded with BBs or No. 4 buckshot.
In open areas, a .17, .222, or .22- .250 are excellent options. However, I can’t afford an arsenal of guns, so I use my deer rifle. It works just fine and gives me more shooting time and practice with it. In the areas I hunt, most shots are less than 100 yards in open woods and fields, and less than 40 yards in the thickets.
There are a few other important details. Please identify your target before shooting. This is a greater concern after dark, but in developed areas people’s pets may respond to your calling. When you can only see eyes in an amber or red light, you could whack some little boy or little girl’s pet. Too, while you can shoot coyotes year- round, foxes and bobcats may be hunted only during a specified hunting sea- son and only with small-game weapons.
Be sure you have permission to be on the land you are hunting. Permission is usually easy to obtain, especially if folks know you. Not many folks like having coyotes around, but most will ask that you do not hunt during deer or turkey season. I have heard of a few incidents where low-lifes have obtained permission to hunt coyotes and then shot deer on people’s leases at night. This, of course, hurts everyone.
Coyotes can be located by howling at night, or by blowing a siren. They will respond to it on most occasions.
Give coyote hunting a try! Mid- winter coyote pelts make nice throw rugs for a sportsman’s den — and if you are lucky, you might even get a black one.