By now your local predators have likely felt some hunting pressure. Use these proven tactics for some welcome late-winter success.
When it comes to predator hunting, and especially wily coyotes, hunting early versus late in the season can be as different as day and night, or maybe more appropriately, success and failure. Early on the most-aggressive adults and local young-of-the-year yotes can make a capable hunter feel like an all-star; but soon enough, along comes the late season when many of the yodel dogs still running are either more scarce, or more-educated to man’s intrusion. And then, you’ve also got to factor in severe weather challenges that can seriously alter or even wipe out what had been a hot pattern.
But hey, what predator hunter doesn’t like a serious challenge? And isn’t that a good part of the sport’s allure? It certainly is for Idaho’s Pat Meitin, 53, author of the recently published Predator & Varmint Hunter’s Guidebook. Meitin began his predator-chasing career trapping and hunting coyotes, bobcats and gray foxes while still in high school in New Mexico back in the early ‘80s, during the fur price boom. These days he continues to hunt coyotes with both shotguns and rifles because it’s in his blood, and is effective therapy for navigating the long snowy Idaho winters. And he continues to keep an eye on fur prices, although he isn’t expecting a great return on his time invested.
3 Ways To Bag More Predators (And Hogs) This Winter
“Right now I’m hearing different reports; some are saying the top-grade stuff is selling for $50 to $60 a pelt, while the low-grade stuff, most buyers don’t even want it,” Meitin said in early February. “A bonus is that we have really good coyotes up here in Idaho, I’m hearing a few guys are getting $50 to $55 per for pelts still on the carcass, simply handing them over to the fur buyer whole. Many of coyotes up here are the light, silvery colors preferred by the trade; the darker they are, and they can get almost black in some areas, there is not much of a market for those.”
So what are Meitin’s favorite late-season coyote tactics to help put more fur on the stretchers? These six stand out:
Enter Calling Areas Cautiously. “You have to be more careful than normal during the late season,” Meitin advises. “Don’t slam doors, or stand around the vehicle and talk, and don’t ever skyline yourself. You also need to be very aware of which way the wind is blowing—I’m always checking my HuntStand app—and make sure you’re not sending your scent into a known bedding area. A lot of it is using some common sense. You might have to walk a fairly good distance out of the way to remain as stealthy as possible, but the results are well worth the effort. It’s the same mindset as getting into a treestand for deer: ‘How do I get in there without spooking animals?’Learn To Manipulate A Coyote’s Approach. “When using decoys and callers, lots of times if you have a crosswind, coyotes will bust hunters who sit too tightly to their callers. Always place your electronic caller a good distance away from you because late-season coyotes are going to swing downwind; they’ve been hunted for several months, and if you have them set away from you, you can better manipulate where those animals will break from cover. How far away should your caller or decoy be? Depending on the cover, in open areas it could be 100 yards, in a tighter spot, it could be 50 yards. If you’re in a tight meadow in a wooded area, you might be more constricted to what you can do. In the west, it’s pretty typical to use 100 yards; it might be 200 yards if my remote will reach that far. Again, it’s kind of like you’re hunting a mature whitetail; late in the season you can count on an approaching big buck, or a coyote, swinging down wind; there’s no way around it.”
Use HuntStand Game Activity Forecasts To Make The Most Of Every Hunt
Watch The Weather Closely. “Lots of times I hunt when I can but to ensure consistent success, I prefer to get out before a big storm is approaching,” Meitin says. “Usually you’ll have much greedier, aggressive responses; the local coyotes want to get some food in their bellies before the big storm hits. I have had 7- to 10-coyote days hunting before a storm rolls in. Usually, when calling I hunt all day; I might make 25 sets. Animals can feel the drop in the barometer, they know what’s coming, and daylight action can be surprisingly consistent. For accurate forecasts, the ScoutLook Hunting app is really all I use anymore, and the app also lets me check out aerial views and roads of my hunting area, so I can plan my day’s hunt in the most-efficient way possible.”
Seek Out Remote Public Or Untouched Private Tracts. “Late-season animals have been called to a lot,” Meitin says. “So you need to secure some better private lands, or jump in the truck and drive a little farther to more-isolated public tracts. Get away from places that are more likely to be hunted. And while you’re at it, knock on some doors and find private parcels that might not have been hunted at all. Gaining permission to hunt predators is a whole lot easier than asking to hunt deer. But you’ve got to drive away from cities and major population centers. Once a coyote has been called in and escapes, they get pretty tough.”
Carry A Two-Pronged Arsenal. “When hunting late I like to carry both a shotgun and rifle,” Meitin advises. “The reasoning is, especially in the west, this time of year coyotes seem to assemble and respond to calling in packs. I’ve killed six or seven in one sitting, but you’ve got to be ready to capitalize. Initially, typically, I’m holding the shotgun, and when a pack appears, when you run out of shells, you toss it aside and grab the rifle to target the survivors. My favorite loads are 3- to 3.5-inch lead BBs. End of list. In my experience, buckshot is not nearly as good. I’ve had good luck shooting out to 50 yards with BBs; Hevi-Shot makes a T shot, which is pretty close and another good option. I’ve used both autoloaders and pumps, but usually a Mossberg 835 pump because that’s what I own, and it shoots 3.5-inch shells, which are my first choice. For rifles it depends on the situation but my first choice is a .223, which is hard to beat. For most of the calling I do now I use an AR, because a semi-auto makes running shots a lot easier than with a bolt. You just keep swinging and pulling the trigger until you hit them. I like a medium contour 20-inch barrel, something capable of decent accuracy. Other good calibers include the .204 Ruger, and good choices for more-open areas include the .22-250 and 220 Swift. Half of your shots are going to be running, and so I tend to like the faster cartridges.”Be Prepared For Severe Conditions. “In general, for the late season your vehicle needs to be in good working order, and you need to be extra careful while driving. Right now [early February], here in Idaho, there are places I can’t even get to; in many areas, you’ve got to keep in mind that if you get stuck, no one’s coming along to rescue you any time soon. You have to use more common sense driving and hunting the backcountry. Be sure to take a good arsenal of survival gear, including a good sleeping bag; even a candle in a truck cab can generate life-saving heat. Be sure to let someone know where you’re going, and your significant other knows the number of your buddy with the nice 4WD vehicle—so they can come rescue you if needed.”