There is a tremendous amount of interest in calling coyotes right now. But if the number of e-mails, letters and phone calls I get from frustrated callers is any indication, most hunters are not having much luck in bringing coyotes to the gun. Here are some key points that will help.
- When the snow is deep and soft, coyotes spend most of their time hunting in the woods where they can easily travel on deer trails. This is where you want to be doing most of your calling. I use a shotgun instead of a rifle when calling in the timber.
- Once the snow is crusted, coyotes can travel wherever they please. Now you can switch over to calling in more open areas, but don't try to call from wide-open, snow covered fields. Coyotes are smart. They know that going across a wide-open, snow covered field is big-time trouble. You will call in far more coyotes if you hunt some type of cover, such as a picked cornfield, CRP, the edge of a slough or an alfalfa field with a smattering of round bales (one of my favorites).
First Check For Tracks
- Don't waste your time calling where there are no coyotes. Look for tracks, talk to farmers to see if they have been hearing or seeing coyotes or use howling to locate coyotes, but don't just hike into a section and start calling without first confirming that there are definitely coyotes in the area.
Coyotes are very pressure sensitive. Trying to call a coyote, which has been subjected to intense hunting pressure, is not worth the effort in my book. I would rather take the time to locate coyotes, which have not been hunted hard. That is why I often hunt what might be considered "fringe country." Here is what I mean.
I live in the little town in southeast Minnesota. South and west of it is predominately agricultural area with lots of open fields and limited cover. There are some coyotes calling this area home, but not a lot of them. But if you go east and south of it, the terrain is much more rugged and coyotes are much more numerous. This is where most hunters from this area go when they are hunting for coyotes.
In this same area there are a few groups of hunters who spend a lot of time hunting coyotes each winter. These guys work hard at their hunting and they are very successful. I know of one group, which always takes over 100 coyotes each winter. I say good for them, because it is up to us hunters to control coyote numbers. But these are the last places I go to call. My odds are much better on the fringe where there are fewer coyotes, but very little hunting pressure.
- For the same reason, I avoid hunting sections with snowmobile trails or where snowmobilers have been running around the fields. Coyotes are paranoid critters and as far as old Wily E. is concerned every one of those whining sleds is after his hide.
Call At Prime Time
- Call at prime time. Sure I've called in coyotes at mid-day, but I've called in far more at dawn, dusk and on moonlit nights.
- Get as far off the road as you can. Coyotes that hang close to roads either get killed or become extremely road shy. Either way, they don't come to the call.
- Set realistic expectations. When calling anywhere east of the Mississippi, my average is one response for every eight sets. In the West, where coyotes are generally more numerous, you can expect to average one for every three or four sets.
Most hunters spend way too much time worrying about, which call they should use. When it comes to calls, there are lots of excellent predator calls on the market and all of them work. In mouth blown calls, I usually carry a fawn bleat call, a rabbit in distress closed reed call, and the same call in an open reed. A closed reed call is easier to blow, but an open reed is capable of producing more volume.
If you use a mouth blown call, get an instructional tape and practice until you are proficient with it, which by the way, does not take much time when compared to learning to call waterfowl, turkeys or elk. Basically, if you sound like something a coyote might like to eat, which covers just about anything which walks, crawls, slithers or flies, you are in business.
I've used an ICOtec GC300 Predator Call for many years and have probably called in half of my coyotes with this unit. The advantages to an electronic call are that you never run out of wind, you have infinite control over the volume, you can place the speaker away from your position so that an incoming critter homes in on the speaker and not on you. And also you can play dozens of different tunes, so that no matter where you hunt, you can bet that you can give that coyote something he has not heard before. My favorite tapes for coyotes are Whitetail Fawn Cries, Squealing Bird, Baby Woodpecker, Grown Cottontail Distress, and Baby Cottontail Distress.
Proper Set-Up Is Critical
Set-up is the most critical aspect of calling and the biggest bugaboo for most hunters. Set-up in the wrong place, or let coyotes see, hear or smell you before you get set up, and you won't be calling any critters. I like to sneak into the area as if I was stalking a deer, keeping the wind in my face and not making any noise.
When you choose a spot to call from look for background cover and height advantage. A tree, blowdown brush, or haybale should be at your back to break up your outline and help to mask any movements you make. Wear good camouflage or whites when there is snow on the ground, and you wont' need cover in front of you. To gain some height advantage I like to call from just below the crest of a hill. I've also called from tree stands, from on top of old machinery, windmills and abandoned buildings. A coyote coming to the call is much easier to see if you are above him.