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Coyote Hunting

by Quinton Wagoner

The sun was just cresting the horizon as my first series of screams flooded the brush-chocked valley below. About three minutes had passed when I noticed a white dot appear on the far ridge. The early morning rays bouncing off the coyote’s chest made him stick out like a beacon. I watched him through the scope for a few minutes as he intently scanned the valley floor, searching for the free meal he was promised. I gave him one more hint as to my location with a few squeaks on my Pee Wee call and that was all he needed. Now fixed on my position, he headed down the ridge on a steady trot. I followed him with my scope as he picked his way through the heavy brush to a small clearing in front of me. The coyote was well within range at this point, so I stopped him with a short high pitched bark, settled the crosshairs, and squeezed. The crack of the rifle was immediately followed by the reassuring “whump” that the bullet found its mark. The stand was over almost as quickly as it started, but that was fine with me. It was a perfect start for the first day of the fur season.

Despite the gusty northwest winds, I managed to take seven more coyotes that day. Needless to say, I was very pleased. It’s not every day you go eight for eight on coyotes. Especially after coming off a nine-month layoff from last season. It usually takes me a week or so to get back into the swing of things.

Although I was fortunate, the hunt was not without careful planning. Preseason scouting is a must for a serious predator hunter. You should start at least a week or two prior to the season. I usually start by driving the back roads through and around my hunting areas just after sunset, howling every two or three miles or so. Once I locate a coyote or a group of coyotes, I note the location and drive on. The next day, I will return to these areas and locate the best available cover because that is probably where the coyotes will be found during the day. After the likely bedding areas are located, you need to make a hunting plan for each area, keeping in mind the sun and prevailing wind directions. Another helpful aid is a plat map of the county or counties that you will be hunting. I highlight all the sections where I have permission to hunt and write in how many coyotes I believe to be in each one.

EQUIPMENT

Coyote hunters go through a lot of equipment before finding out what works best for them. It usually starts with the rifle. What is the best rifle to use for coyote hunting? Well, if you ask a hundred different callers that question, you would likely get a hundred different answers. There has been a lot of debate over what is the best gun to use on coyotes. Rather than getting caught up in all that, I would just suggest that you let the geography of your hunting areas dictate your choice of firearms. For example, I live in the Midwest, where most of my hunting is done in relatively wide open country and shots at 300 yards are not uncommon. Although I’ve made shots at well over that range, 300 yards is about as far as I like to shoot under normal hunting conditions. With that in mind, I began my search for the flattest shooting cartridge I could find that would reach out to that distance without making a real mess out of the coyotes. Barring all wildcats, the choice was simple. The .220 Swift was obviously the best suited offering for my needs. My current setup is a Remington 700VS with a 28” SF Krieger match grade barrel topped with a 3-12x56 Swarovski scope, Harris’s medium pivoting bipod, and a Butler Creek Sling fitted with Spark’s Accu-Rest. My favorite coyote load is a moly coated 55-grain Nosler BT pushed by 39.2 grains of RL 15. That load chronographs at about $4,000 fps and is the maximum in my gun. Strong caution is advised while working up this load. Many guns are not capable of safely producing this kind of velocity and should be approached carefully, starting at least 10 percent below maximum.

One last word of advice in choosing your coyote rifle; it’s better to be overgunned than undergunned. Coyotes are very tough animals and possess a tremendous will to survive, so don’t handicap yourself by choosing a caliber of questionable capabilities just to save “a few stitches” or a couple of bucks from the local fur buyer. I’ve shot coyotes with everything from a .22 LR to a .50 BMG and have come to the conclusion that the best suited rounds lay between the .222 and the 6mm Remington. More important, whatever gun and load you decide on, stick with it. You’ve heard the phrase, “Beware of the one-gun man.” Well, the same holds true with coyote hunters. You will find most serious coyote callers are one-gun men. I believe in this aspect wholeheartedly, because the more you shoot a particular gun and load, the better you will become with it, and with that comes confidence. This is one of the most crucial ingredients to any hunter’s success.

As far as the calls are concerned, other than the electronic models, there are basically two styles – the open reeds and the closed reeds. Most often, the advice given to beginners is to opt for one of the closed reed models, but not because the dealer believes that beginners are too incompetent to use the open reed style. It is probably because most closed reeds come pre-tuned and automatically give the beginner the desired screams and cries. The open reed models, on the other hand, do take more practice to learn, but once mastered, you can make a wide variety of sounds, which is often desired in more pressured areas. My personal choice in predator calls are Major Boddicker’s line of Crit’r Calls. They are the open style of call with four different offerings: the Pee Wee, Standard, Magnum and his newest addition, The Song Dog. Although I have all four models, the Pee Wee and the Magnum get the most use. There are more calls on the market today than ever before, so finding a good one of either style shouldn’t be a problem.

CALLING

Before I get into the how-tos of calling, I’d like to go over a few common mistakes you need to try to avoid while in the field. Now everybody makes mistakes; even the best guys out there foul up more times than they would like to admit. Unfortunately, successful coyote hunting allows for very few mistakes and even one small one could send you home empty handed.

While in the field, you should go extra lengths to be cautious, because everything you do after leaving the vehicle will have a direct bearing on your success. Pay special attention to the way you approach your stand. Always sneak in using available cover and low spots. Skylining yourself is always bad news, but occasionally you have to in order to get into position. When topping a hill, remember to go very slowly, taking a couple of steps at a time and looking. This often pays off y your spotting a sleeping or mousing coyote before he sees you.

Often in the field, you will spook non-target animals such as pheasants, grouse, deer, and even cattle. When this happens, sit or lie down immediately and keep your eyes open. Any coyote in the area will be at full lookout, wondering what spooked them. On many occasions, I’ve spotted sleeping coyotes that have been awakened from the excitement.

Once you’ve reached your stand and have sat or laid down, take a couple of minutes to rest, because you usually don’t realize how out of breath you are until you start blowing on your call. Your resting time should be spent scanning the surrounding area, making sure no coyote or coyotes watched your approach. In the event one did see you come in, do not attempt to call: that will only educate the coyote. If you can make the shot, do it. If not, try to put the sneak on him or just move on to the next stand. He might no get so lucky your next time through the area.

There has been a lot written about what to do after you have called in and shot or shot at a coyote. Some say to keep calling. Others say to use the coyote distress sound. I’ve tried both with mixed results, but given a choice, I would go with the coyote in distress call for a couple of reasons. First off, if you’re like me and have a lot of competition from other callers or road hunters, the coyotes in your area are going to know what a gunshot is, and continue calling with a rabbit in distress call will probably just reinforce the coyote’s association of distress calls to man, furthering his education and making him that much harder to trick the next time. Coyotes are very intelligent animals and if you spook one too badly, you might not get another chance at him until the following season.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Becoming an effective coyote hunter doesn’t happen overnight. All the books, articles, videos you study can never take the place of experience. It usually takes a few seasons to become proficient at it, but once you learn the tricks of the trade, you will find few other hunts more rewarding.

Coyote hunters have never gotten much respect from the mainstream hunting crowd. This is probably because most hunters shoot their first coyote while pheasant hunting or from their tree stand and think it’s no big deal. Only a fellow coyote hunter can truly appreciate your accomplishments. I believe coyote hunters among the best all-around hunters and marksmen you will find anywhere simply because of the high demands that sport requires of you. A coyote hunter must bring to the field with him many different skills to be proficient. Among these are tracking, stalking, spotting, and calling, not to mention a basic understanding of coyote vocalization and, most important of all, the individual’s ability to shoot. No animal will humble a hunter faster than a coyote. So whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, you can count on one thing. The coyote will always prove to be a worthy adversary.

Should you have a concern regarding the health of your Beagle(s), you should contact your veterinarian. All information on this site is presented solely for educational and informational purposes and should not, at any time, be considered a substitute for seeking or receiving veterinary care for your Beagle(s).