Predator calling is the perfect sport to pass the winter doldrums or even cut down on spring depredation on deer and pronghorn fawns or turkeys in your hunting area. There are typically minimal regulations, plenty of targets available, and gaining hunting permission on even tightly-controlled private land is normally much easier than gaining trespass for big-game or bird hunting. In fact, predator hunting can sometimes open the door to previously off-limits lands, helping a landowner with his coyote problem while also demonstrating that you’re a reliable, polite individual he can trust during deer or quail seasons. Plus, bobcats, foxes and coyotes make gorgeous and sporty targets. More recently another alluring factor to varmint hunting has evolved: Raw fur prices are on the upswing once more, meaning varmint hunting can now pay for itself with a little luck and proper preparation of hides. My most recent batch of fur brought a $247 average for bobcats; up to $35 apiece for better coyotes; $24 for grey fox. That’s money that puts fuel in the tank while enjoying fun sport — hunting that can actually pay for itself.
CALLING ALL VARMINTS!
Unlike many forms of hunting, varmint calling involves fairly basic gear: Calls, camouflage and weapon. The basic mouth-blown is still a viable choice for any predator-hunting outing, with quality options available from every player in the game-call dodge, including Primos Hunting Calls, Knight & Hale, Hunter’s Specialties, Flextone, Johnny Stewart Wildlife Calls and Wood Wise’s, just to name a few. When making call purchases, choose a variety of call pitches — higher-pitched (cottontail) or raspy (jackrabbit or fawn) calls — until you determine what varmints in your area like best. A coyote howler (like Woods Wise’s Super Howler or Primos’ Mini Mag Howler) locator call is also a good investment, saving wasted time calling over vacant habitat, coaxing coyotes to yodel and reveal their presence before investing in a set-up.
Predator calling with mouths calls is pretty easy, as there certainly isn’t any set pitch or rhythm necessary, only the ability to create morbid cries imitating a rabbit or other prey species being ripped limb from limb. The basic procedure is to go at the call enthusiastically for a few minutes, normally until you run out of breath if you’re going about it with the required animation, taking a break to catch your breath and watch before going at it again. When approaching predators are spotted, put the call away and make the varmint come to you, producing only subtle squeaks if they seem to need additional coaxing. Calling too much when game is in sight can end in them spotting you and turning tail.
THE TECHNOLOGICAL EDGE
Today’s electronic calls make getting started easier. They save your lungs and keep hands free for quick or unexpected shots. They can also encourage you to hunt harder and longer, as blowing a mouth call for an entire day can eventually come to seem like work. Included computer cards also produce calls as varied as screaming rabbits, distressed woodpeckers or whining coyote pups. This provides variety unavailable with mouth calls, variety that often proves more productive. They are available in highly-affordable hand-held units the size of a walkie-talkie, to more elaborate systems with remote speakers that pull attention away from your position — some even operating on a remote control for added versatility.
More recently varmint-hunting motion decoys have added another level of realism to predator calling. These can be just the ticket in bringing those wary varmints who hang up just out of range, providing a visual focal point that adds the finishing touch and makes it more likely you’ll go undetected. Some of the best are offered by Primos Hunting (Sit N Spin Crazy Critter or Wobblin’ Whabbit, for example) or Flambeau’s Rigor Rabbit or Predator Rabbit with Stake. If your predator hunting takes you into remote areas where lightness is at a premium, consider Montana Decoy’s 7-ounce Miss Hoptober spring-action, cloth-covered folding decoy. Many predator decoys are wired to create squeaks and squawks of their own, such as decoys from Edge by Expedite (All Call or Hare Bawl Screamer Combo with remote, as examples).
Another interesting facet of predator decoying, especially when targeting game-eating coyotes, are spotted whitetail fawn decoys — available from Flambeau (Foam Fawn), Primos (Frantic Fawn with motion), Edge by Expedite (Fawn Decoy), and Montana Decoy (Fawnzy). Finally, coyote decoys are offered to act as confidence decoys that bring wary predators closer, or spark greed during leaner times. Look to Edge (Yote’ Coyote Decoy; they also offer a red fox decoy), Flambeau (Master Series Flocked and un-flocked Lone Howler — the only full hardbody coyote decoys in the business) and Montana Decoy.