December 27, 2019
By Matthew J. Breuer
Many factors contribute to make predator hunting difficult in the Midwest. However, knowing the habits of predators, how they enter open spaces, the land’s layout and how wind affects a set are most of the puzzle. Good calling tactics and a confident trigger squeeze are final pieces. If you follow some simple rules when making sets, you’ll be more successful.
KNOW YOUR QUARRY
The biggest pre-setup consideration is knowing your quarry. Are predators in the area? Do they have specific travel routes?
Scout and get intel before blindly setting up. Only make a set where you’ve seen a track at the very least. Word from locals or trail cam photos are also key indicators. If predators are around, scout well ahead of actually hunting the spot.Look for tracks, scat or any sign of their habits. Once sure the area is active and aware of how animals are traveling, set up when conditions are right.
KNOW THE TERRAIN
If you can’t walk the area or don’t have permission on adjoining pieces, but want to view terrain, download an app like OnX Hunt. It’s helped me more than anything. Seeing property boundaries and ownership and viewing overlays with elevation info are great.
Look for possible travel routes, such as old trails or slashings. Waterways and dense forests near open, grassy areas or fields are also great places to scope out.
Search for high spots near cover from which you can call. Higher elevation permits farther viewing, allows call sounds to travel farther and offers an effective, safe shot angle.
PLAY THE WIND
Predators have incredible noses. They can smell human scent from a few hundred yards away. Common sense suggests setting up downwind from where we think our quarry will approach. That’s not always the case. And, it’s not as easy as setting up facing the wind.
Wind direction and speed isn’t just about playing against the predator’s sense of smell. It can affect how well sound from your call travels if muffled or echoed by nearby trees, how you approach the set location and how comfortable you’ll be while sitting. Nobody wants to face a 25-mph north wind all day. Crosswinds can be effective and offer relief from a wind-burnt face.
Predators always try approaching prey from downwind, unless it leaves them exposed. If you’re hunting with a crosswind, or must do so because of terrain, keep open ground or some type of blocker on your downwind side. Never approach a set where you feel a predator might come in from. Keep your scent trail away from their travel route. Always keep the wind in the back of your mind the moment you exit your vehicle.
CALL AND DECOY PLACEMENT
Many simply get downwind from where they feel a predator will enter and throw their call and decoy 50 yards in front of them. This can work, but it isn’t ideal.
Set the call and decoy in an open area visible from a distance, like a high spot in a field or in a small chunk of brush. Having the decoy slightly angled away from the line between you and the wind direction can hide movements. If a coyote comes straight at the call and you move in the line of sight in the background, they’re likely to spot you and spook.
Be aware of the direction you’re pushing sounds from the call. Face the speaker toward where you believe the animals are. Again, consider wind and the direction sound will carry as well. Make volume adjustments based on wind speeds. If it’s really windy, maybe move the call up off the ground, and then sit a little longer with the volume really cranked up.
PRACTICE MAKES PRETTY GOOD
Locate predators, learn the lay of the land, set up with the wind in your favor and have your call and/or decoy placed correctly. You’ll connect eventually. It may take many sets to succeed. Learn from each set. Keep a log of wind direction and speed, and where predators pop up. It’ll help you down the road.