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Playing The Wind

by Randy Buker

Playing the wind is one of the most important parts of being a successful predatorhunter!

          Two winters ago I traveled out of state to hunt coyotes in a state known to hold great numbers of them. While there, I hunted with a friend who almost exclusively uses an electronic caller. It was our first hunt together and it was a learning experience.

          His theory was that while calling with an electronic caller, the coyotes were exposed to an almost constant distress sound and would, therefore, use their ears almost the entire way in and come in on a straight line to the sound. He went on to theorize that when I called on a mouth call with pauses between series, the pauses caused the coyote to have to work harder to find the source of the sound. When they did, he said, they would go downwind so they could use their noses to pin-point the source of the sound.

          Well, that theory sounds good and might even work that way some of the time. But, we have an advantage over my friend down south and that advantage is snow. When hunting in the snow, we are able to read signs in the snow of what happened during our calling session. And, let me tell you that the number of predators that come to the call and blind side you somehow is fairly significant.

          I can think of many times when we get done with an unsuccessful stand and are walking out and discover fox or coyote tracks that weren't there before we started calling.

          My brother-in-law, Paul Stine, summed it up best when we were down there calling coyotes. He said, "God put that shiny black thing on the end of those critters' faces and then he taught them how to use them." Of course he was talking about their noses.

          In Minnesota, we hunt mostly open farm fields and frozen lakes. We can generally see those critters coming from a long ways off. Even those that begin their approach directly to us, most of them get to a certain point and begin to swing down wind for a better look. This is even when we stay on the call steadily.

          Sure there are those animals that will burn directly into your stand without any apparent concern for trying to wind you, but, those few are the exception. I believe that my friend down south is shooting those animals and that he is getting burned more often than not by smarter coyotes that swung down wind to attempt to let their noses tell them the rest of the story.

          Our setups ALWAYS play the wind. On occasion when we are in an area and the wind isn't perfect for the way we want to set up we will sometimes skimp on what we know and make the call anyway. We've had too many critters come in wrong, wind us and high-tail it for the next county. It just doesn't pay.

So, just how do we play the wind?

          I almost always hunt with a partner. In those cases, we attempt to call across any wind that is blowing. So, lets say we are going to be calling to a small woodlot bordered on the south by a cattail swamp. The wind is blowing from the north. We will walk in from the east so that our scent is not being carried to the wood lot or the swamp. We set up on a fence line or some other cover (if it's available) to the east of the cover where we expect a fox or coyote to be.

          If I'm going to be doing the calling, I'll go upwind, or north of my partner anywhere from fifty to a hundred or more yards. In this case, my scent is blowing directly toward my partner and both of our scents are blowing straight south.

          I'll begin to call and when a predator responds, it will likely come across the open field in front of us for at least a ways. When it feels it's getting close to where we are, it usually begins it's swing down wind. In the vast majority of cases, the critter will end up either coming directly in to my partner or in it's attempt to swing down wind, will try to get to the south of him. Of course, my partner knows his job and that is the direction he is watching.

          Nine times out of ten, that critter will come in almost to his lap. By that time, he has a good, clear shot. The nice part of splitting up like this is that the predator's attention is firmly riveted on my location and is paying no attention to where my partner is. This gives him ample opportunity to shift positions if needed for a good shot.

          In the case where you are forced to call directly into the wind, you can still make good use of a partner and you must still set up for the expected approach of the predator. In the same case as above, if the wind were blowing from the west, we would set up very similar to the above with the main exception being we would put the shooter either north or south of the caller depending on what kind of cover is available for the critter to use to get to us.

          For example, if there was a grassy finger coming out of the cattail swamp, I'd place the shooter in front of that and I would go further north to call from in front of the wood lot. When they can, they will always use the cover in their approach.

          Sometimes you don't get the pleasure of calling with a partner. When alone, you must still play the wind. In either case mentioned above, you would likely set up more in the position of the shooter and then primarily pay attention to the direction of downwind.

          Wind makes a huge difference. I believe it makes you more successful if you pay strict attention to this one detail.

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