Summer Predators: Tap Into Some Of The Year’s Hottest Hunting

Here’s how to beat the summertime blues and keep your hunting skills sharp—while doing your part to reduce the local fawn and turkey poult mortality rate.   

by Gary Sefton


Here’s how to beat the summertime blues and keep your hunting skills sharpwhile doing your part to reduce the local fawn and turkey poult mortality rate.   

SeftonCoyote1 900If you are into using calls to attract and manipulate wildlife, you are most likely a spring turkey hunter. And you will probably soon be suffering from a case of post-hunting-season depression that starts kicking in about the end of May, or the first week in June. Those mean and ornery blues like to strike a week or two after the local turkey season closes, and this nasty case of depression can last until sometime in late August or early September—when the first bow seasons begin.

My advice? Do not despair and don’t store your hunting boots and camo clothing away just yet. I don’t have a cure but I am prepared—as the psychiatrist told the winsome nymphomaniac— “…to offer you some temporary relief.” We are talking about coyote hunting here. In the summertime! And what’s not to like? You get to camo-up, sneak into the woods in the early a.m., pick a spot with favorable wind conditions checked on your HuntStand app, then set up and call. Sound familiar? It should. My favorite strategy for summer predator control is as close to turkey hunting as you can get without a gobble, the only real exception being you’re dealing with some highly advanced noses. But once you see a big song dog bounding across a field, making a beeline for your calling stand, I’m betting you will be cutting back on your time at the beach this summer.

SeftonFawn 900Summer Is Prime-Time For Duping Predators. It just so happens that a coyotes’ nutritional demands are greatest from April through September, due to the extra burden of bearing and raising pups. Prey species like deer and turkeys are more vulnerable in the summer months, especially during nesting and fawning time, and you can be sure your local coyotes are taking advantage of this situation.

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You might get some verbal grief from fur hunters and trappers who might want you to wait until winter to call your local dogs, but waiting until the pelts are prime will most certainly increase the mortality rate of the prey species you want to tie your tags on this fall.

SeftonPoults2 900In spite of increased hunting pressure and loss of habitat, coyotes are robust survivors. They are extremely over-populated in many areas, so most states hunt them year-round and impose no limits. But there can be restrictions so be sure to check your local regs before making a plan. For whatever reason, New York and New Jersey don’t allow summer coyote hunting. Michigan requires written land owner permission that is easily obtained, but most of the rest of the country is wide open. Again, be sure to check your local game laws before you go.

Coyotes are extremely territorial during the summer months when they are feeding and raising their pups. Their quick, hostile response to interlopers and their increased nutritional demands make them as responsive to calling as they will be all year. And if you like calling game animals as much as I do, it’s a match made in game-calling heaven. SeftonCalls 900In May and June when female coyotes are giving birth, I start my calling sequences with distressed coyote vocalizations (yips, short howls, and coyote pup and canine pup distress squeals) to try to stir up their parental instincts. I have had great success with the pup yips and shrill squeals. I like to make regular use of an open-reed predator call, but the coyote pup distress calls on my Johnny Stewart Preymaster digital call are more consistent and much easier to make. If I get no response to my “pups in pain” calls I’ll typically lay on some rabbit and/or rodent distress cries. The photo above contains some of my favorite predator calls. Left to right are: Knight & Hale Howler, Knight & Hale Fawn Bleat, Knight & Hale Screaming Cottontail, and Primos pinch reed call (actually a crow call but by pinching the reed I can make very convincing mouse squeaks) and finally, a 2-reed diaphragm call for hands-free coaxing with squeaks and squeals.   

In late July and August, the local pups are more mature and their appetite rules their behavior. I might start my calling sequences with a short howl or two to get their attention, but my real emphasis is on my prey-in-distress calls. If I could use only one call during this time period, it would most certainly be a cottontail distress call, which I consider the universal predator call. Still, I like to travel with a whole pocketful of squealers and squeakers, plus my Preymaster Digital call filled with a full range of distress calls, so I can pick and choose as I see fit.

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If the wind is blowing, coyotes have a tendency to circle down wind to scent check the caller. However, In the early morning calm, they usually come straight to the call so that is when I do most of my hunting. I’ll typically start calling 30 minutes after first light and continue until it gets too hot for me and/or the coyotes. Typically, I’ll call for 45 seconds to a minute and a half  non-stop with a remote caller, with shorter sequences when using manual calls for obvious reasons, then wait and watch for two or three minutes. If I am in an open place that looks good and I am comfortable, I’ll continue to call at those intervals and stay put for 30 minutes or more.  If I am in the woods where the leaves keep the sound from carrying well, I’ll move every 10 or 15 minutes to cover more ground.

SeftonTurkeyNest900Finding productive coyote hunting locations shouldn’t be a problem for you in the spring and summer months. I like to hit the local roads and look for fresh-cut hay fields, the fresher the better. The hay-cutting and gathering equipment turns those hay fields into smorgasbords full of easy meals for hungry coyotes, by stirring up (and often skinning up) the rabbits and mice and birds that live and nest in the tall grass. The fields in my area are usually cut and baled twice a year; in late spring and early fall, so you should have numerous opportunities to exploit these coyote magnets. And even better, you shouldn’t have any problem obtaining hunting permission. It would be most unusual for a farmer to ask you not to hunt coyotes on his place, and as a bonus, you just might develop a relationship that allows you to also help him control his deer and turkey populations. Simply put, effective predator control opens doors and opportunities.

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Again, my gear is reminiscent of turkey season. I “camo-up” from head to toe complete with gloves and face mask, the same outfit I would wear chasing the wariest of toms. I prefer to check my HuntStand app and choose days when slight or no wind is forecasted, but if conditions are breezy and my chosen ambush spot offers 360 degrees of visibility, I will set up cross wind, double-checking my precise setup with the HuntStand app ScentCone. When I am hunting around hay fields in the daylight I like to set up in the woods, 10 to 20 yards from the edge. I know the coyotes don’t mind hitting the open fields to look for mouse and rabbit nests, but they seem to be more relaxed and respond to calling better in cover where they are less exposed.

SeftonHenPoults 900Wherever you set up be sure you have adequate concealment with maximum visibility, preferably with some type of obstruction to cover your back. I do most all of my predator hunting in the southeast so I don’t have the advantage of the wide-open spaces found out west. To compensate I try to get as concealed as possible in my setups, and try to stay alert as possible. I know from experience that things can happen very quickly in such close quarters.

Setting up in the woods also favors my choice of weapons. Most mornings I’ll be carrying my trusty 870 Remington (3½-inch 12-gauge magnum) stuffed full of No. 4 or 5 shot. Rifles seem to have more “sex appeal” with today’s predator hunting crowd but in the field and forest country where I hunt, things can happen fast and I want to be ready. The shotgun is fast and final. If I set up right, most of my shots will be inside of 40 yards and the 3½-inch loads pushed through an extra-full turkey choke are lethal at such ranges. When I am working on predator control, I’m not taking any prisoners. SeftonYote2 900I know coyotes have to make a living, but they are prolific breeders with few natural enemies, and their numbers must be controlled to maintain a healthy balance. Your local hunting efforts won’t place coyotes on the endangered species list but every one you take out of circulation means one less consumer of huntable wildlife roaming the woods. And of course, in the process you’re out there hunting and having a ball. Bored? Downtrodden? Take this feature as a wake-up call to get over feeling sorry for yourself just because spring turkey hunting seasons are winding down or over. It’s time to camo-up, get out there with them, and “Run ‘em Hard!”



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