Gerald Stewart likes his coyote hunting up close and personal. And when I say close, I mean really close!
Close enough to where he can see the ticks on the animal's face. Close enough to where he can see the dirt kick up beneath their feet. Close enough to where he can watch the animal's eyes rotate in their sockets!
"There are some guys who want to make a 300-yard shot, but I'm not necessarily that guy," said Stewart, who lives in Waco, Texas. "I like to hunt coyotes with a shotgun, at least most of the time, and that means I want the thrill of calling them in close. When a dog bares his teeth, I want to be able to see the plaque."
Began Hunting At 8 Years Old
Stewart has been learning the wily ways of predators, coyotes in particular, since he was a wee lad. He is the son of legendary call developer Johnny Stewart, who founded Johnny Stewart Wildlife Calls in 1961.
"In the mid- to late-1960s, I traveled with dad during my summer vacations," Gerald said. "In his effort to collect pictures for marketing purposes, I was his primary assistant in calling coyotes while he photographed them. You could say I got my start pretty early. I think I was 8 years old. I have been deeply involved in the company pretty much from day one."
When his father passed away in 1987, Gerald basically took over the company, though he didn't purchase it outright until 1994. In 1999, he sold Johnny Stewart Wildlife Calls to Hunter's Specialties, for whom he now works as a product consultant/developer and pro staffer.
"It has been a very good fit," said Gerald, in reference to his relationship with HS. "Great synergy."
For Gerald, coyote hunting is endlessly fascinating and runs the spectrum of experiences -- "from one of the easiest things you'll ever do to one of the toughest things you'll ever do."
"I think it is the unknown, the variety of experiences you have when you're trying to call in a coyote that makes it so interesting," he continued. "Some dogs are young, inexperienced and will move right in. Then there are the wily dogs that will bark at you at 300 yards. That's when you know you have your work cut out for you."
Coyotes Can Surprise You
He added coyote's can be unpredictable.
"You never know when a coyote is going to pop up," he said. "Sometimes a dog will just show up 30 yards in front of you and you have no idea how he got there. It's a dynamic experience, not to mention exciting beyond belief when everything works out."
Stewart's Hunting Secrets
Here are a few of Gerald's secrets to consider, details to key in on, when you're hunting coyotes and other predators.
Scouting, Stand Selection
They are the two most important "variables" to successful coyote hunting, Gerald said. Find out where they are, where they are moving, and set up accordingly. To locate coyotes, listen for their vocalizations at dusk, when they're typically the most active. That will help you determine coyote densities and where to begin hunting.
Be careful not to call too loudly, at least right away. If you're using an electronic call, keep the volume down to start for close-in coyotes, and then gradually increase it for animals that are farther away. "I think more times than we care to admit, we probably scare predators with high-volume calls, and we'll be more successful at taking them if we use low volume first."
Wear clothing that mimics (in appearance) the natural environment you're hunting in. Always try to keep the sun at your back. Use shadows for additional concealment. Since coyotes are long-nosed animals, they have an acute sense of smell. Be sure, then, to cover up your scent as much as possible. As an aid, try using Hunter's Specialties scent-elimination products. "When an animal reaches a downwind position and doesn't detect the presence of human odor, it's more likely to stick around long enough for you to take a shot."
Since coyotes are artful in how they move across the landscape, Gerald recommends hunting with a buddy and sitting back-to-back. That reduces movement and allows a 360-degree viewing spectrum. "You don't want a dog to slip in on you through the back door."
Also, Gerald recommends using the "high-low technique" when you're hunting areas that have changes in elevation.
"If you're hunting land where the elevation changes, put the person who is calling down low, and let the person who is shooting sit up high," he said. "The hunter who is higher may be in a treestand or may position himself on the side of a hill. Because the shooter is remote enough from the caller, the animal's attention will be focused on the person doing the calling. It's a very effective way to hunt coyotes."
For more information about Johnny Stewart Wildlife Calls, see www.johnnystewart.com or www.hunterspec.com.
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Editor's Note: Babe has shared his love of the outdoors with TV viewers for more than 25 years. Babe will share his tips and outdoor adventures weekly on sportsmansguide.com. In 1984, Babe's "Good Fishing" program debuted and later his "Outdoor Secrets" show became popular with hunting enthusiasts. Babe's programs appear on the Outdoor Life Network, WGN, Fox Sports Net, Fox College Sports, The Men's Channel, Sportsman's Channel, Great American Country, WILD TV, and Comcast. Babe also writes hunting, fishing and conservation columns that are carried by up to 350 newspapers each week. Winkelman sponsors include Chevrolet, Miller High Life, Johnsonville Brats, Crestliner Boats, St. Croix Rods, Browning, Hunter's Specialties, Nikon, Minn Kota, Optima Batteries, Mathews, Honda, and many more.