We Coyote hunters spend a lot of time ringing the dog’s dinner bell when we call. But we are overlooking a key element of coyote social behavior. Consider challenging their dominance instead, appeal to their need to procreate, or simply call to pique their curiosity.
LEARN THEIR LANGUAGE
Coyote vocalizations are extraordinarily complex, and biologists have spent years trying to decipher their collective yips, howls, barks and whines. So if you think there’s a simple call that works every time, you’re wrong. For years the challenge call, or threat howl, or threat bark-howl, or whatever it happens to be called in the literature you’re reading, has been the go-to coyote call. But this is an aggressive call. Rather than drawing coyotes, it can send them running. Ultimately, aggressive calling is one of the reasons that many hunters never bring a dog to the call. This aggression might work when there are pups in the den and dogs are less likely to run, but nomadic coyotes that don’t have an established pack, subordinate dogs and the young are likely to shut up and move out if you lay down the gauntlet with too much vocal bravado.
Instead, try a mix of less threatening, more inviting vocalizations. The various lone howls, greeting howls, lost howls, and other relatively friendly vocalizations will elicit a response from coyotes of all ages, genders and ranks. You can even add in a few whines and yips in your call sequence, and this mix of vocalizations might just be the trick to get a dog to show itself — even for a split second. Remember, these howls don’t go on and on, so keep things short and sweet.
FOCUS ON TRAVEL ROUTES
Coyotes tend to utilize the same trails frequently. You want your setup to draw dogs into areas where they would likely be anyway, and you shouldn’t try to pull them across open ground because they probably won’t forsake cover.
Calling along travel corridors seems to put dogs at ease since these are the most likely places to encounter other transient coyotes moving through the area — the exact type of coyote that you’re trying to mimic. By finding coyote highways, you’re selling the notion to the dogs that you’re the new guy in town. Other nomadic dogs may venture to the edge of cover to see what you’re about and since you aren’t using that brash hate talk, resident coyotes may come in a hurry to investigate and perhaps to push out the intruder. Once you have the area mapped and the travel corridors marked, follow these trails as you call. Coyotes are far more likely to show themselves when they’re on familiar ground, regardless if their intention is to fight, to mate, to simply say hello or to chase you away.
Coyotes are a very vocal bunch when it comes to communication, so make your call setup a give-and-take. For instance, let’s say you offer up a greeting howl — subdued, relatively short and clean. As the last note dies off you hear a response, such as a yip. Maybe you’ve startled a dog, or maybe it simply is announcing its presence.
Now’s the time to keep things simple, and this is why I use a mouth call in addition to electronics. I can respond, in tune, directly back to the coyote with a short yip or bark. Since coyotes are such keen vocalists, I don’t want to show my hand and instead I mimic whatever the real, live coyote does. If it howls, I’ll howl. If it barks, I bark. If I hear a yip, I echo it. But — and here’s the key — I always keep my response shorter and softer than the real coyote’s call. In my experience, that approach has proven to be more effective, and less likely to reveal any flaws in your response.