More eager coyotes. Far fewer hunters. Smart predator hunters start early to reap some game-changing advantages.
Starting in October most coyotes begin to beef up their fur to help them overcome winter’s wrath ahead. A fully furred coyote is referred to as prime, and by November and especially December coyotes across the country are ready for the fur shed. Coincidently, this is also a great period to begin your coyote hunting. Prime furs, fewer coyote hunters and uneducated pups all add up to a great time to target these cunning predators found coast to coast.
If you’ve wrapped up your other hunting seasons, but don’t want to leave the field, consider a coyote hunt before Christmas to challenge your skills. The following tips could help you make this time period even more successful.
HIT YOUR HOTSPOTS. You undoubtedly have a few good areas in mind from past, successful hunts. Savvy HuntStand users mark these on their hunting app for quick referral, as wind and environmental conditions change, to point them to ideal calling areas. You can also mark the locations of past denning activity, or where landowners have noted numerous sightings of coyotes. Heavily-used cattle pastures, riparian zones and carcass pits from unfortunate farm animal tragedies all attract coyotes—and warrant additional notations on your app. Revisit these locations first.
Coyotes roam and range, but they also know a good thing when they find it. If an area provides them with good hunting and sanctuary, you can expect coyotes to continue to occupy the site. A handful of pups will also stay near their summer den site, as they test their newfound freedom. You can always “freelance” new hunting areas later, but for now stick to the tried and true—looking for the easy coyotes.
CALL WITH WIDE-RANGING SOUNDS. One of the best things about hunting this period is that you can “throw the kitchen sink” at coyotes and expect success. In brief, you don’t have to outthink your quarry. Almost any prey-in-distress call will work in this period. Why? Most young coyotes have not yet been targeted with calling. Hunters have been busy pursuing big and small game leaving coyotes alone, or to be shot at randomly in “drive-by” situations. Even so, young coyotes are not stupid.
Nonthreatening calls are your best option, so focus on easy prey that pups will be attracted to for a quick meal. An obvious call is the rabbit in distress, but rodent squeaking, songbird distress and chicken squawks also will attract juvenile coyotes.
You don’t have to worry about the cadence or length of the call, either. Squeal a distress message for a minute or two, and then wait for five before repeating. This sounds natural, and remember that you are calling to animals that have likely never heard a call—unlike the paranoid coyotes you typically encounter in February.
DON’T FORGET THE HOWL. Young coyotes tend to be sociable in nature. They may be traveling with siblings or looking for some companionship. This means howls can also be effective before New Year’s Eve. Keep it simple and use a lone howl as your announcement. Any coyote may respond to see who’s visiting (or invading) their homeland. They may arrive like a puppy looking for a playmate, or in a more-aggressive mood ready to drive the invaders from the region. Short, sweet and nonaggressive is the best when using coyote vocalizations during this period. Leave aggressive calls for a later date during breeding and denning season.
There is one primary difference when using coyote vocalizations versus standard prey-distress sounds. You need to wait longer. Young coyotes, in particular, may take more time to approach in an effort to avoid a butt whipping. Sit tight for up to an hour, and scan the horizon slowly with your binocular for the sight of a coyote slinking downwind—to confirm who’s making the ruckus.
BRING ALONG SCATTERGUN BACKUP. Be ready for eager action from adolescent coyotes and use your shotgun as backup on early-season setups that could unfold right in your face. It’s not uncommon to call in a pack of pups, two or more per setup, as the young coyotes compete for calories. By utilize rolling terrain, thick cover, or dense timber the coyotes may show up close enough for you to use your shotgun first—and then follow up with your centerfire.
Forget the birdshot; instead look to customized coyote loads like Hornady’s Heavy Magnum Coyote. It’s a 3-inch load with 1 ½ ounces of nickel-plated lead shot in BB, directed with their Versatite Wad. For close shots you can wallop them in the noggin, but for shots reaching out to 30 yards the neck is a better aiming option. A solid hit could drop a coyote on the spot and stray pellets could hit the head or lung region. Keep your shotgun use inside of 50 yards and set it aside for your centerfire when distances extend beyond.
DISTRACTION IS DEADLY. It’s always wise to make those young incoming coyotes look in another direction besides your location. This is easy if you use one of the newer, remote-controlled callers. By placing the speaker and sound downrange of your location, which should be upwind, you focus the attention of the coyote to a spot away from you, your scent and your movement. When a coyote arrives you will then have the opportunity to shift, swivel or adjust your aim without it looking in your general direction. They’ll be focused on the location of the sound many yards away from you.
You can also turn the caller on and off, increase the volume and switch calls in the middle of a stand with the simple, unnoticed push of a button—to hopefully turn a reluctant coyote into a go-getter if it appears to have hit the “pause” mode.
Also, as a coyote swings downwind it could pass over your entrance trail. Practice scent control by spraying down your boots and equipment with useful products like Wildlife Research Center’s Scent Killer.
MIX IT UP A BIT. Remember, you’re basically dealing with a batch of inexperienced coyotes. If one sound isn’t working in the first five to 10 minutes, there’s no reason not to try another. Starting out with a dying rabbit and then switching to a piglet in distress doesn’t alert an inexperienced coyote to danger. In fact, it could actually boost their response time and prompt them into a foot race with their hungry hunting counterparts.
Professional callers commonly switch between two or more calls during setups with positive results. The changing of calls also can be used to alert your hunting partner that a coyote is on the way—and you should be prepared for action soon.
Coyote hunting has become more difficult in recent years due to the tremendous interest in this challenging, exciting sport. To add a few more coyotes, or even several, to your final winter tally consider starting before the big holiday season hits.