Keeping things simple is great advice for most any outdoor pursuit. When calling pressured coyotes, it means the difference between success and failure.
Much like a smartphone, the remote controller of a modern digital predator call lets your imagination flow. Sometimes, a bit too much. Coyote-talk cadences, the wails of prey misery, the capacity to control a furry (or feathered) decoy’s movement from afar—can sometimes get the better of us. I was reminded of that as I sat 100 yards away from my calling partner in charge of the remote. The initial sounds of a wounded rabbit advertised an inviting free lunch and my confidence was high, especially watching the decoy swivel every 15 seconds or so. After a few minutes of no coyotes appearing, my partner switched to coyote vocalizations that went from casual to crazy—with every word a coyote might try to get into a 5-minute conversation. The decoy on the caller was now spinning like Michael Jackson in a 1980s MTV video.
After 30 minutes my partner powered down the electronic show before the dazzling disco lights could make an appearance. The coyotes did not appear, either. Early in the season you can fool young coyotes with glitz and gore, but after the first of the year, a simple message to coyotes is often the safest route to fur.Speak Softly. You do not have to necessarily abandon prey in distress, but a toned-down approach could play better with a coyote that may have heard screaming, nonstop death—but smelled a rat before committing. It is rare to hear a wild animal in peril, but the agony typically does not go on forever. After a few screams the panic-stricken frenzy seems to wear them out, and they wait for the Grim Reaper to arrive. On several occasions I have found gutted fawns hanging from barb wire. Some were there for hours and others for minutes, but only once did I hear one screaming like a digital caller.
Also remember that small lungs make a smaller sound. Squalls quickly subside to squeaks and whimpers. Fortunately, coyotes have the hearing of a dog, or even better. Research indicates that dogs can hear frequencies nearly twice what you can distinguish—and they can detect noise at a distance four times greater than you.
That gives you options whether hunting the wide open or timbered settings with shooting alleys. On calm days consider rodent squeakers, high-pitched whimpers, soft bawls and other sounds that do not replicate the start of a Metallica concert. Will they work? I have watched coyotes react from 500 yards away, and farther, to a hand-operated rodent squeak that I could not hear across my backyard. A good hand call, like the Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls new Cartridge Call series (shown above), provides you with the lightweight, easy-packing ability to reach high pitches of screeching to pique any coyote’s curiosity—without hitting 100 percent on volume.
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Finally, it can be wise to cap off your calling with a Simon and Garfunkel classic, “The Sound of Silence.” One way to grip a coyote into a mind-bender on what just happened is to suddenly go quiet. It just may intrigue them to creep forward to see why. Even if you follow the 15-minute rule of setup time (that I wholeheartedly disagree with), why not wait another 15 to 30 minutes, to test a coyote’s will power not to investigate? An old war dog might not run to the calls, but it could walk in slowly and show up at the 45-minute mark—just in time for a Hornady V-Max finale. Speak The Language. As coyotes experience more run-ins with human presence in their homelands, a sound alternative to distress sounds are simple coyote vocalizations. The libraries of electronic callers contain a Babbel-like course on how to babble like a coyote. The good news is that you have plenty options. The bad news is that too many of you are tempted to use those options—and sometimes all at once. If howling is your thing and you want to minimize gear, consider the Rocky Mountain Calls Stealth Dirty Dog Caller. It gives you exact lip positioning and flute-like control to change pitch. You can even go old school by using a comfortable diaphragm call—and howl through a megaphone to create realistic coyote howls.
Again, simple is safe. A comforting series of long, drawn-out howls can go a long way in coyote country. Late in the fur season coyotes have several dynamics that can cause a howl to instigate a showing. In many areas breeding season peaks in February and leading up, and out of the breeding period, coyotes are looking for mates. After pairing up and establishing a new territory they become somewhat sensitive to other coyotes showing up in their homeland as well.
Sometimes coyotes or coyote groups howl back. If the howls are barely audible, mark the estimated location on your HuntStand app for a later rendezvous. In all other cases, stand ready. Sometimes coyotes howl back, but oftentimes a lone coyote may simply show up to investigate without announcing itself. How soon they show up probably depends on two factors. How close they are when they hear the howl, and of course, their mood. That is why a lone howl late may be better than a chorus howl of multiple coyotes. A single coyote likely does not mind meeting another single, but could feel intimidated by a squad of yippers. Typically, I wait 45 minutes to an hour while howling, and have killed more coyotes past the 30-minute mark than before.
Challenge howls up the ante and may spur a territorial coyote to check out the distant ruckus. This howl differs by being short and sweet with an added bark, or two. It sets the tone for a showdown and coyotes may answer, and may not. If a coyote does answer, you can play it safe and stay quiet to egg them on—or simply mimic their response.
Speak With Curiosity. When I see more than one set of boot tracks in the snow on the public lands I hunt, I know it is time to switch quickly to the sounds of “nosey” species keeping tabs on local coyote moves. Scavenger birds across the nation have learned that by following coyotes, they may come across a free meal. And the partnership is mutual. Coyotes watch and listen for aerial commotion and the sounds of excited scavenger birds. Combined with a short howl, the chatter of winged scavengers is another option when coyotes shy from traditional sounds.
A species common in nearly every corner of North America is the American crow. Expect them to show up regardless of the sounds you use—prey or coyote vocalizations. You can even use crow calls alone to lure in a flock and circle your position. Any coyote within earshot or eyesight may trot over to investigate the cawing congregation.Further north and west you are more apt to encounter the common raven. Most of my dawn setups include several ravens circling my position after a burst of howls. Some callers may not have raven sounds in their library, but crow noises lure in the larger scavengers just as easily. Like crows, a gathering of ravens can signal to a coyote that the buffet is now open—despite any Covid-19 restrictions in our world.
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Another Western favorite I include on most of my daytime sets is the black-billed magpie. They show up to all sounds, and a flock of them is a reassuring sight that dinner is on the table to an incoming coyote. When I see magpies responding I sit still and allow them to gather, but I watch underneath. More than once a coyote is tagging below them to arrive in unison.For those who call points east and west, consider adding the sounds of various species of jays. Blue jays, grey (or gray) jays, Steller’s jays and scrub jays cover much of the country—with blues primarily east, and grays, Steller’s and scrubs primarily west. All enjoy eating a varied diet of grains and carrion. Mimicking the sounds of any of these birds alone can lure in a curious coyote. If you attract a flock of the carcass carpetbaggers, it just raises the odds a coyote is watching.
The number of sounds found on most any digital caller can be mind boggling—and as tempting as trying every dish on a cruise ship buffet. My advice? Play it safe and keep it simple—and skip dessert while cruising later.
Critical Calling Gear: A Big Backpack. Compact daypacks serve a purpose for afternoon hunts and grade school kids toting a lunchbox. For most hunts, however, bigger is much better. Hunts that include extended time in remote locations, transporting specialized gear and carrying clothing layers to help battle the environment, require a larger backpack to accommodate it all.
Not only can you stow ample gear, but a larger backpack also crosses over to a multitude of hunts. Whitetail hunting requires rattling antlers, clothing layers, lunch and possibly a spotting scope. Elk hunting demands you bring along raingear, survival gear, meat extraction utensils, elk calls and first aid. Predator hunting, as illustrated above, involves bulky electronic callers, decoys, shooting sticks and insulated layers. Try cramming any of the above into a daypack and you will soon feel the frustration of trying to cram a sleeping bag into a tiny stuff sack.
Selecting a suitable pack offers its own challenges, ranging from size to price. Companies like ALPS OutdoorZ , simplify the selection process with tailored models to fit a variety of hunting duties. A solid option that will handle spike camp hauling or a trip to the treestand is the Commander X + Pack (shown above). It is built around an internal frame designed for hauling meat, but excels since you can attach and detach a 4,000-cubic-inch bag for all your gear and clothing layers. Simply remove the cargo bag when meat-hauling is required, or expand the meat-hauling system and keep the pack bag on the outside—secured with compatible compression straps. Slick and efficient.