While I was still in middle school, I experienced the thrill of calling and killing my first coyote, which fetched a handsome sum of $55 at the local fur buyer. This event sparked my interest in coyote-calling, and I soon found myself relying on fur to make a living as I struggled to establish my outfitting business after high school. Through persistent trial and error, I learned the art of coyote-calling, eventually winning frequent contests.
Today, although my livelihood no longer depends on the fur market, I still feel the rush of adrenaline every time a coyote responds to my calls. Communicating with another species is always fascinating, but nothing responds more eagerly than a hungry winter coyote. Even a mountain dog, recently full from a winter-killed elk, responded voraciously to the cries of a suffering rabbit, proving that coyotes don’t need to be starving to react to a varmint call.
Whether for fun, profit, or winning contests, I have compiled ten tips to help you make the most of your coyote-calling efforts this season.
Get Away from Civilization for Better Coyote Hunting Results
Hunting coyotes with calls requires strategic planning and careful execution. One key factor to consider is hunting pressure. With less hunting pressure, coyotes become easier prey, making it more likely for you to have a successful hunt.
When I was first starting out, I was limited to farms and pastureland within walking distance from my suburban home. However, these coyotes had already heard and seen it all, making them less likely to respond to my calls. Since then, my most fruitful coyote hunting expeditions have been into the wilderness – lonely sage deserts, deep mountain habitats, and remote plains.
Coyotes are quick learners, and even minimal calling can make them wary. By traveling farther from civilization, you increase your chances of encountering more naive coyotes. Remember that successful coyote hunting is all about finding the right balance between hunting pressure and available prey.
Always Pay Attention to Wind Direction When Calling Coyotes
Regardless of the location, it’s crucial to consider wind direction when setting up for coyote calls. Even on calm days, human scent can travel far on thermals and light breezes. To minimize scent, some hunters use scent-free soap and clothing and store them in scent-free containers. There are two approaches to dealing with the wind: selecting topography that makes it hard for coyotes to approach downwind or setting up to cover downwind sectors with long-range rifles. If a coyote approaches from downwind and hesitates, take the shot, even if it’s far away.
One solution is to occupy high points such as mesas or steep terrain overlooking flatter ground, with the wind blowing up the face. Alternatively, on still mornings, occupy sharp bottoms like arroyos or washes, where cool air carries thermals down the cut while you monitor surrounding hillsides. When dealing with moderate breezes, occupy knolls or points where the wind carries scent well above the surrounding landscape while monitoring lower ground.
The placement of remote electronic calls also affects coyote approaches based on the prevailing winds. A successful coyote hunter is always mindful of wind direction and thermals and adapts their setup accordingly.
Overlooked Calling Spots
While it’s true that traveling far from civilization can increase your chances of success when calling coyotes, it’s also worth exploring overlooked areas close to home. For example, try parking at a city landfill and walking a short distance away. One of my most productive calling spots was behind a busy dairy, where the noise of the operation didn’t seem to deter coyotes from responding to my calls.
During calling contests, I’ve found success by parking off major highways and walking just a few hundred yards away. Pavement makes it easy to quickly reach new calling spots without the time-consuming hassle of navigating rough ranch roads.
Coyotes are often unfazed by nearby traffic noise, so it’s worth setting up near an interstate highway. Look for a roadside cut to conceal your vehicle, then walk a short distance away to start calling. With a bit of creativity and a willingness to explore, you might discover productive calling spots closer to home than you ever imagined.
Change calls until something rattles its cage
As a devoted coyote hunter, I often venture into unfamiliar territory to call in predators. What I’ve learned is that the calls that work best in one region may not work in another. For instance, high-pitched cottontail calls are my go-to in New Mexico and West Texas, where I’ve had great success, but in Idaho, where deer are more common, a raspy fawn-in-distress call is more effective.
While it’s important to have a solid understanding of the local prey species, sometimes it pays to switch things up even in familiar areas. Electronic calls offer an even greater range of options, such as wounded woodpecker or fighting raccoon sounds. When the standard rabbit calls fail, trying out these less conventional sounds can sometimes get the job done.
Learn and be willing to take running shots
Coyotes can be difficult to hunt as they often respond while on the move, never stopping to provide a clear shot. When I first started calling coyotes, I made the mistake of waiting for them to stop, attempting to whistle to get them to pause, which usually resulted in them speeding up and getting away.
Additionally, it’s not uncommon to attract multiple coyotes during a single calling session, where the first coyote presents a standing shot, and the rest scatter. Being able to effectively make running shots increases your chances of success.
For hunters in the East, practicing running shots can be a challenge due to the lack of opportunities. However, as a Western hunter, I’ve honed my shooting skills by targeting jackrabbits, which are often plentiful in certain habitats. In areas where jackrabbits are in abundance, they make for an excellent source of practice, and can also be a way to help out cattle ranchers during times of drought, as five jackrabbits can consume the same amount of food as a cow in a year.
To this day, if a coyote is running across open terrain within 250 yards, and I have an appropriate rifle, I will take the shot.
Use rifle cartridges appropriate to cover and conditions
Selecting the right rifle cartridge for hunting coyotes is essential to ensure successful and humane kills. The .22 Hornet cartridge is a preferred choice for hunting in areas with livestock, farm machinery, and outbuildings. Its minimal pelt damage and quiet nature make it a useful tool in broken cover where shot distances do not exceed 250 yards.
On the other hand, for open terrains, where shots can extend beyond 250 yards, and especially for running shots, a more powerful cartridge like the .220 Swift or .22-250 Remington is more appropriate. These cartridges offer a flat trajectory and increased energy that provide more reach and error leeway on marginal hits.
Additionally, a 6mm cartridge like the .243 Winchester can be useful in windy conditions, while the .223 Remington represents an ideal compromise for varmint-caller restricted to a single rifle. It’s crucial to select a cartridge that is appropriate for the cover and conditions to ensure a successful and humane hunt.
Carry a shotgun
Shotguns are a great choice for coyote hunting, especially during full-moon nighttime calling on flat terrain where hiding is difficult. During these hunts, I always carry a 12-gauge shotgun (or 10-gauge if available) with 3- or 3½-inch shells and a full or extra-full choke. I prefer using lead BBs or 2s as buckshot loads often result in wounded coyotes escaping.
When I go on calling contests, I bring both a rifle and a shotgun and address anything within 60 yards with the scattergun while keeping the rifle nearby for longer shots or clean up if multiple coyotes show up. There are many shot shells available in various buckshot configurations, but it’s important to choose wisely to ensure a humane kill.
To enhance your chances of attracting wary coyotes, consider incorporating decoys into your calling strategy. Decoys can trigger a coyote’s instinct to search for an easy meal and provide a distraction for the animal, diverting its attention from you.
Motion decoys are particularly effective, with spinning or vibrating rabbits or other small animals capturing a coyote’s interest and competitive drive. Additionally, using a coyote decoy can further fuel their competitive instincts. It’s important to check local regulations before using battery-operated decoys to ensure they comply with the law.
Purchase an electronic call with remote
Electronic calls are a modern addition to coyote hunting that have revolutionized the way hunters call in these elusive animals. These calls offer several advantages over traditional mouth calls, including the ability to save your lungs from exhaustion after a long day in the field. Blowing a mouth call with passion for hours on end can prove to be a tiring experience, and as you become tired, your calls can become inconsistent or lack the urgency that brings coyotes running.
The best electronic calls, while not exactly cheap, are ultimately worth the investment. They come equipped with remote controls that allow you to operate them from up to 200 yards away. This feature is particularly useful when a coyote is detected approaching your location. You can manipulate the volume or calls to coax them that last few yards for a shot. You can even quickly switch to a squeaking mouse to pique their curiosity and bring them in closer.
Another advantage of electronic calls is that they provide a nearly endless variety of calls. On those tough days when coyotes just aren’t responding to standard screaming bunny or lost fawn calls, you can quickly turn the tables with something completely off the wall. This variety can come in handy and turn a slow day of hunting into a successful one.
Electronic calls also allow you to set them up to better play the wind and take advantage of coyotes that have an irritating habit of swinging downwind of calls and receiving your scent. This feature gives you a significant advantage when hunting in areas where the wind is unpredictable, and coyotes can easily pick up on your scent.
Taking Varmint-Calling Seriously Pays Off
When it comes to varmint-calling, treating it as a job rather than a casual hobby can make all the difference. As the author recalls his lean days right out of high school, he learned the importance of being venal, forever conscious of the balance between fuel-burned fur and fur put on stretchers. This competitive mindset served him well in calling contests, where he entered to win and treated the activity as a job, rather than a mere sport.
This approach is essential for anyone who wants to enjoy consistent results in varmint-calling. While the primary goal may be to get outside and have fun, success requires investing time and energy into the process. Even on slow days, it’s important to push harder, cover more ground, and treat every setup seriously. Letting down your guard or approaching a stand without complete confidence and belief that something will happen can lead to missed opportunities.
So, what does it mean to treat varmint-calling as a job? It means setting clear goals, planning and preparing thoroughly, and being disciplined in your approach. This may involve investing in quality gear, such as electronic calls with remote controls, decoys, and shotguns that are optimized for coyote hunting. It also means developing a deep understanding of your quarry and their habits, studying maps and scouting areas to identify the best locations for setups.
Furthermore, taking varmint-calling seriously means being willing to learn from your mistakes and constantly striving to improve. This may involve seeking out expert advice, attending calling seminars or workshops, and practicing regularly to hone your skills. With this level of dedication and commitment, you can turn varmint-calling into a rewarding and profitable endeavor.
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