by Rick Cronk
It was a calm December morning and three inches of fresh snow covered the landscape. As I walked past the old barn, I noticed fresh raccoon tracks in the snow and rabbit tracks were everywhere. I knew that the coyotes would be back in the thick stuff looking for a fresh rabbit breakfast, and I intended to collect the hide of a coyote or two that morning.
When I reached the fenceline that bordered the timber, I carefully crossed the barbwire as quietly as possible. I had hunted here before, and I knew that there could well be a coyote close by. I also knew that these coyotes had been called before, and fooling one with a regular predator call would be pretty tough.
I found an opening in the cedar thicket where I could see fifty yards or so, placed my cushion up close to an old cedar tree and parked my overweight butt on the cushion. Did I say "cushion?" Dang right! I always carry a cushion while calling, and it sure makes the sit a lot more comfy. I checked the chamber on the Browning to make sure I had not forgotten to fill it up with coyote medicine, and then compressed my lips into the now-familiar position and sucked air through them. The high-pitched squeals cut through the silence, sounding very much like a young cottontail rabbit that had just gotten his privates caught in a briar patch.
I hadn't made but five or six of those enticing squeals when I saw a nice silver-bellied coyote coming through the brush. She didn't circle, nor did she act even one bit nervous about the situation. This old Momma coyote was completely fooled as she trotted steadily closer to my location. I could tell that she was begging for the rabbit, so I gave it to her. The load of copper plated BB's took her full in the chest at twenty yards, and her hide, with it's beautiful silver belly, now graces the back of my couch.
The lip squeak is a sound that almost every caller around today has heard about. Some call it the "kiss of death," and some call it a "handsqueak" because they make the sound by sucking on the back of their hand. A lot of guys are hesitant to even try making the sound because they are afraid that they will hit a sour note and spook the coyotes. Every time that I look at that silver-bellied coyote rug with the BB holes in it's leather, I can't help remembering the lip squeak that fooled it's donor. I also remember the man who taught me how to make that sound. I consider him to be the greatest caller of them all; a man who is a living legend in the predator calling community; the one and only Murry Burnham, of Marble Falls, TX.
I first met Murry at the Burnham Brothers store in Marble Falls, and he promptly led me back to his office for a long visit. I presented Murry with one of my first deer antler predator calls, and he gave me an old Burnham Brothers fox call. I still have that old fox call, and I'm betting that Murry still has that little deer horn predator call. I remember him saying that the little call sounded just like a snowshoe hare. It was during that first meeting with Murry that he demonstrated the lip squeak, and taught me how to make that sound.
"First you gotta swallow all of your spit," said Murry, "And make your mouth as dry as you can. Then press your lips tight together, and find a place where the air can make it through them."
I sat there and contorted my lips every which way, while Murry calmly coaxed me to keep trying, until I finally managed to produce a slight squeak. It was a mighty weak sound, for certain, but Murry assured me that with practice I could master the sound.
"Practice, practice, practice," said Murry.
And practice I did. I practiced until my lips got blisters on 'em, and then I practiced some more. Even today, I don't really think that I have the sound mastered, and I'm still trying to get more volume out of it. I've used the sound many times, though, and it has called a lot of critters for me.
I don't remember how many coyotes have come to my lip squeak, but it's been a heck of a lot of them, and maybe even more then that. Hawks, owls, raccoons, and cats, both domestic and feral, have been fooled by that sound. The lip squeak is one call that you can't forget or leave laying on a table or hanging on a lanyard by the door; it's always with you and ready to use. It's not nearly as loud as a tube call, but on a calm day a coyote will hear it for quite some distance.
Most callers use the lip squeak as a coaxer. They start out with a regular predator call for long-range calling, and if a coyote begins to respond, and hangs up, they employ the lip squeak to coax the critter closer. I use the sound that way too; but there are times when I use the lip squeak as my primary call. In areas where coyotes have been pressured by callers, the lip squeak is one way that you can still fool 'em. The sound doesn't carry all that far back into the brush, though, so you will have to plan your calling stands accordingly.
When using only the lip squeak, I only stay on a calling stand for five minutes or so before moving 300-400 yards and setting up again. In hilly country the sound won't travel over the next ridge into the next valley, so many times you can call one side of a hill, walk over the ridge, and call into the next valley. If you can't generate enough volume with the lip squeak, there is another alternative; you can purchase a tape recording of the lip squeak and play it over your electronic caller. That way the sound is amplified many times and will reach much further. You can also record the sound of your own lip squeak and play that on your electronic caller.
Those of you who have experienced the thrill of actually calling a coyote in close know the feeling of satisfaction that it give you. Just imagine how you will feel when you begin to call predators with just your lips! You can do it, too; all you need to do is heed the advice of Murry Burnham and "Practice, practice, practice."