Fox vs. Coyote: Proven Calling Setups

Suddenly a flash of orange on the far side of an old weathered fence caught my eye. An instant later a red fox ducked neatly under the fence—and stared right at me.

by Al Voth

HuntStand Contributor MORE FROM Al

Not sure how to find a killer calling site? Start with these two simple, widespread scenarios to bag more foxes and coyotes this season.

FoxVSLead600A welcome late-afternoon sun warmed my back nicely as I sat against a pile of rotting logs, doing my best to sound like an injured rabbit. My setup was at the edge of an ancient farmyard abandoned so long ago, not even memories remained. But the coyotes stayed, and apparently, were thriving. I’d never hunted this spot without seeing at least one. However, today was the exception. After a solid 15 minutes of calling, nothing showed.

Suddenly a flash of orange on the far side of an old weathered fence caught my eye. An instant later a red fox ducked neatly under the fence—and stared right at me. When I’d recovered from the surprise, my .223 Remington barked and anchored Old Reynard in his tracks. And I had my first fox of the season.

Taking that fox was a shock, as the location had always been a hotspot for coyotes. And typically, you won’t find many foxes in an area with a large coyote population. After collecting my fox, I scouted the area, and the coyote sign was minimal. It looked like the yotes had moved out, and the foxes had moved in. I’m still trying to figure out the reason. But the situation demonstrated a basic rule of nature; big dogs eat little dogs. Yes, coyotes kill foxes, and wolves return the favor on coyotes. It’s one of the key things to remember when targeting foxes. If there’s an abundance of coyote sign in a particular area, your chances of finding a fox are reduced.

The aforementioned hunt also reinforced my findings, that one of the best places to hunt foxes is an abandoned farmyard. And if you live in farming and ranching country, as I do, the growth of big industrial farms means there is no shortage of empty homesteads. My best guess as to why foxes hang around these areas is the food source they provide. The old buildings, woodpiles, and overgrown tree lots are a natural home for mice and birds, a staple of every fox’s diet. Just about every fox I’ve ever taken has been within a few hundred yards of an abandoned farmyard or building of some type. Haunting such structures is my “go-to” plan when targeting Mr. Red.

Another key to my plan, is using calling sounds matching the fox’s chief prey. This means primarily mouse squeaks and/or bird sounds. Foxes are small, so when targeting them, use the sounds of smaller prey. This is no time for the bawls of a moose calf that has lost its mother. Think small and weak, and you won’t go wrong with foxes.

FoxVSCow600Herds of cattle are virtual grocery stores for area coyotes, which are much more aggressive scavengers than foxes.

Coyotes are another matter. When I’m looking for coyotes, I look for cattle. Find cattle and you’ve found coyotes. Last week, sunrise found me sitting on a hillside in an attempt to ambush some coyotes. That part of the plan didn’t work, but when the fog lifted I got to watch a pack of six coyotes working the edges of a distant herd of cows. I watched them move into their daytime cover and then quickly called two friends for help. We set up a combined calling/ambush operation, focusing on the trees where I’d seen the yotes disappear. Once we executed the plan we quickly put three of them on the ground. In another week I’ll be back for the rest.

Coyotes will happily respond to the sounds of prey animals much larger than a fox would consider. But finding the favored haunts of the wily predators is still the key to success.

Small-prey sounds work well on coyotes too, but so do fawn-in-distress and big noisy jackrabbit cries. Coyotes will happily respond to the sounds of prey animals much larger than a fox would consider. But finding the favored haunts of the wily predators is still the key to success. In my part of the world, cattle are that key. In other areas it may be sheep, pigs, or chickens, but that previously mentioned industrial-sized farming can attract industrial-sized packs of coyotes. The reason coyotes hang around cattle is not because they plan on taking down a cow and eating it; they leave that to wolves. Coyotes are there to scavenge, something they do much more aggressively than foxes. Maybe it’s the size thing again.

Alcoyote600The author with a prime winter coyote, taken after careful consideration of the wind and calling location.

In any case, that scavenging personality is a good way to arrange a coyote’s demise. Start a calling session with a non-aggressive howl, or throw a mix of raucous crow sounds into the ruse, as a way of making a coyote think his personal grocery cupboard is being raided. Coyotes have no problems chasing off some other critter in the process of collecting a meal, especially a meal they interpret as being on their home turf. A yote’s more-aggressive, scavenging personality is why farmers and ranchers hate them, but it’s something we can use against them to help out these landowners.

Are you seeing the similarity between calling foxes and calling coyotes? Success at both is much like success in the real estate market. It’s all about location, location, location. You need to lock your prey’s suspected location into your “targeting computer” before deciding where or when to call. Once you’ve got your local canines’ living quarters figured out, and you know the sounds you want to use, it’s time to slip in for the kill.

Wise use of the wind is another key consideration in calling both foxes and coyotes. All predators live by their noses, and will try to get downwind of that tempting sound you’re broadcasting. This means whenever possible, set yourself up so the prevailing breeze is blowing your scent into an open field, or maybe, across a frozen lake or pond. Never give a canine the opportunity to get downwind without being seen. If he does, he’s gone. This is just one way in which the HuntStand Hunting app can help you plan your hunting day. Get in the habit of constantly checking HuntStand’s ScentCone Wind Map in the days before you go hunting. Then, modify where and how you plan to hunt—even where you will park and the smartest access routes—according to the current wind direction.

Pay attention to the details that really matter, and when your calling lures in that next predator—whether it be red, gray, brown or mottled—you’ll know you did things right. Then all you’ll have to do is shoot straight, and it’ll be time to get out your favorite skinning knife and an empty stretching board.



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