Consistent fox and coyote success in thick cover often means a whole new set of tactics. Here are some consistent mid-winter strategies.
Most predator hunting TV shows are filmed in wide-open country, allowing the camera to catch all the action as the predator comes in from a distance. It makes for great TV, but in the real world a lot of predators are taken “up close and personal” by knowledgeable hunters who know how to fool predators in the big woods. If you’re looking to target predators in the dark timber, here are eight tactics that have worked for me.
1) Constantly be alert for baiting opportunities. These may take the form of road kill or deceased domestic animals. If it’s legal, place your own bait. If not, take advantage of what nature provides. For example, a known/popular deer crossing on a busy roadway will provide a steady supply of dead or crippled venison to coyotes hanging out nearby.
2) Call along the man-made “lines” of open space that exist in almost all wooded areas. These include the right-of-ways for pipelines, electricity transmission lines, fencelines and old roadways. Predators use these lines as regular runways and, when responding to a call, will often follow them as the path of least resistance. Find and save these distinct edges before you leave your home using the “Satellite” view on the HuntStand Hunting app.
3) Slowly stalk the game trails that run through timber, stopping to use a mouse squeaker every 100 yards or so. I like to squat down behind a tree adjacent to my chosen trail and call for about five minutes. Then I slowly move up the trail and try again. Try to pick calling spots where the trail straightens—places where you will enjoy as much of a sight line advantage as the local terrain affords. I’ve found the mouse squeaker call to be critical; unlike rabbit distress calls, predators will often come straight in to mouse squeaks, without bothering to circle downwind. And they will often follow the game trails to do it—especially if the snow is deep.
4) At midday on sunny winter days, look for predators in places where they can doze while soaking up a few warming rays. Great examples are hillsides, log piles or even beaver houses. Set up and call these locations or, depending on the circumstances, spot-and-stalk these areas.
5) Look for ponds or lakes and call along the edges. This is where the HuntStand Hunting app again shows its value; using the “Satellite” view can help you pinpoint several remote, isolated lakes or ponds that other hunters might miss. Set up so your scent is blowing across the ice; this way an incoming predator has to reveal itself to catch your scent.
6) When hunting in the dark woods consider using an electronic dot sight or a scope with an illuminated reticle. The sight’s glowing red aiming point makes for impressive accuracy when the light fades. Low-powered scopes like the Vortex 1-6X Strike Eagle are ideal when the action is close and fast.
7) If the snow gets deep, remember that predators have trouble moving around in it too. This is your chance to influence their travel routes and create an effective ambush. Use a snowmobile to pack down a path, and, rest assured, local predators will use it. Give your local coyotes and fox a week to find and begin using your manmade highway; then simply set up on a prime vantage point along the route and call.
8) Always pay attention to the wind, even in thick cover. None of the above tips will work if the wind isn’t working for you. Use apps like HuntStand Hunting to plan your hunt and then hedge your bets by attaching a wind string to the end of your rifle barrel—so you can monitor every single twitch of the breeze while calling.
Piling up fur in the big woods is something you won’t see a lot of on outdoor TV, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Especially, if you modify your techniques accordingly, throw a few tricks into your backpack, and, like always, monitor and use the wind to your advantage.