by John Leslie
Got back late Friday evening from my predator calling trip to the Kiowa/Rita Blanca National Grasslands of New Mexico/Texas panhandle. I hunted 3 and a half days and drove for 2 and a half days. That trip across northern Texas gets worse every time I drive it, but this year's trip was highlighted by a damn close call with a serious wreck on I-35W in Fort Worth. Doing about 70 mph in the middle of 3 lanes, I see brake lights and burning rubber from the car in front of me as he avoids a small pickup stopped dead still in the interstate. The car in front of me dodges right, and I dodge left. Thankfully the driver of a full size pickup pulling a boat on my left sees what's happening and he's stomped on the brakes to let me over. I check my rearview mirror just in time to see the stalled pickup get smashed from the rear by a really big car with no place to go.
Back to predator calling. It didn't take much scouting to figure out that the shortgrass prairie of this area would be a hard place to hunt. In most places there's no place to hide your vehicle, and you can see for a thousand yards in any direction. My first stand Monday morning was at a 5-acre Quail Unlimited project site. With a 20 mph southwest wind I went to the north side of the stand and called crosswind. Temperature was about 15 degrees. Twelve minutes into the call, here comes three coyotes from directly north. Two of them stop at 400 yards to scope things out, but the third one continues circling until he's 300 yards downwind. I can tell he's not coming closer, so when he stops I shoot.
I've been kneeling behind a big corner fence post with my rifle (a Rem 700 VSF in .220 Swift) supported on the fence wire, so the crosshairs are steady. Even at 14X a 300 yard coyote is a small target, but the horizontal crosshair goes right along the top of his back, I feel the recoil, see the coyote fall, and hear the bullet strike. Yessss! I try the wounded coyote squall, but the other two aren't buying it, and they disappear in an instant. I continue calling for another 10 minutes, but nothing else shows. Two more stands that morning produce nothing. Monday afternoon, the heatwave hits, with afternoon highs in the low 70's, and nighttime lows in the mid to high 30's, with bright sunny days, clear nights, and 20 to 30 mph winds. That weather ruins the calling for the next two days, and the only coyote I kill is one that I spot with my binoculars sunning and asleep on a mound of dirt in the middle of the prairie. I sneak to within 150 yards of it, and shoot it with my .17 Remington.
By Wednesday afternoon I've seen a pair of coyotes in the same place for three days. They're on private property across a highway from the National Grasslands, keeping watch over a dead cow carcass. I walk about a mile across the Grasslands with the sun at my back and get within about 500 yards of them. Maybe I can call them across the road onto public land. I'm watching them through my binoculars when I start calling, and danged if they don't get up and run 200 yards further away and lay back down. Fifteen minutes later I've called up about 40 Black Angus on my side of the fence that are starting to get frisky so I make an escape under the fence to the highway.
Finally Wednesday night, some clouds roll in and the wind lays. I've scouted a good location around a cattle feed lot with 6' wooden board fences where I can hide my truck. It overlooks a dry creek bed (every creek out there is dry) at least three quarters of a mile wide. Thursday morning I'm there well before daylight. I sit in an eroded cow path, so only my head, shoulders, and rifle are visible. I start calling and 5 minutes into the call, I see a coyote that has already managed to sneak across the creek bed and is now southeast of me about 200 yards away but already almost directly downwind. He disappears down into a small wash, and the next time I see him he has reversed direction and is hauling butt back to the south. Winded me!! I continue with the rabbit squall and hear coyotes barking southwest of me, so I give them a couple challenge howls with the Lohman howler. Ten minutes later, I see them coming on the opposite side of the creek bed. They disappear into the creek bottom, but come boiling out of it after I blow a short series of rabbit squalls.
These two aren't sneaking, and they're coming fast straight at me. When they get about 150 yards away, I bark at them with the howler. This usually stops a coyote for a look, but it only makes these two come harder. Finally, at a hundred yards, one of them runs up on a small mound and stops to look. The Swift is on her, and a perfect head-on chest shot drops her on the mound. I never saw her partner again, but for the next 30 minutes while I'm taking pictures coyotes bark at me constantly from the southeast. I suspect these two were the resident pair of this territory, and were coming to kick butt after the challenge howl I gave them.
All in all, a good trip that could have been a great trip if the weather had been better. But I can't complain, because these were my first ever triples. And its always hard to scout new territory, and hunt it for the first time. I also believe this is one habitat where an ATV would have helped. One with a grassland camo cover would have made a good spot to call from, and would have given access to miles of open ground. And I thank God I missed having a serious wreck in Fort Worth. Driving 2300 miles on a week-long hunting trip without any serious problems is always a blessing.