If you hunt predators, coyote calling tips are probably at the top of your research list. Calling them close is what many of us hope to do every time we take to the woods and fields with "song dogs" on the agenda.
You're going to hear from three veteran hunters about calling coyotes. Two make custom mouth calls for predators and have hunted coyotes for many years. The other is widely known to hunters across North America. Les Johnson hosts the popular "Predator Quest" show on The Sportsman Channel.
So ... why did I choose Rudy Calderone (Stone Coyote Calls) and Brian Meyer (Turkey River Calls) to speak on this subject? They hunt the same kinds of country you do. And they enjoy and prefer calling coyotes close. Johnson hunts 'yotes all over the country while employing a variety of techniques. And he uses electronic calls, so can speak to that tactic for those who lean in that direction.
With apologies to Johnson '¦ let's get to callin' 'em close!
"For me, the best time to go is when the weather is soooo bad. Coyotes are hungry then. I don't even think about hunting them at night this time of year.
"I keep things as simple as possible when I go. Let me be clear — electronic callers and decoys are effective, but I like to travel light, which helps me to be as quiet as possible. I'll take a portable seat, my gun, and a few calls — an open reed with a backup open reed, a closed reed for close-in work and a howler. Being quiet is the most important element; I want to sneak in, set up with as little noise as possible, and call.
"Close, the way I hunt, means inside of 30 yards. I carry loads of No. 4 buckshot in my shotgun, and use an extra-tight turkey choke.
"One of my favorite setups in the agricultural areas I hunt is to find a 'tree island' near the edge of a field. I set up in those trees and aim to call coyotes to the edges of the woods that ring many of the fields.
"I generally hunt alone, but will hunt sometimes with one other person. I like to come in, set up, wait 10 to 15 minutes and then start calling at normal volume. I prefer to move a little way — or a long way — to calling with a lot of volume. I come out of the gate with a call that makes the coyotes think they're hearing a rabbit getting jumped by a fox. Believe me, if there are coyotes within a few hundred yards, you will get their attention. I've even seen coyotes lying down asleep jump straight up at full attention from the first sounds of my call.
"The more you move, the more noise and visual evidence you're providing. I don't use cover scents, either. If coyotes get in position to smell that scent, they're gonna smell me too.
"Another thing: People using mouth calls are going to have to recover their breathing and breath control. I usually make my first sequence 3 to 5 minutes, then take a break. When I'm about to stop, I make things sound really hectic for a few seconds, then bring it back down to nothing as I stop.
"In December and January, I give each setup 30 to 45 minutes. If nothing happens, I'll move a quarter-mile into the wind. If I'm hunting in fairly open country, I'll drive a mile or so before making another stand.
"I like to call coyotes to 30 yards or less. When a hunter does that, there is no chance of escape. I also have days when I may kill three or four coyotes, and then go two weeks without anything. This is not like duck hunting.
"It's easier — not necessarily easy, but easier — to have good success early in the season. By December and January, there have been a ton of hunters in the woods. Thanksgiving weekend is a perfect example of times when you see all kinds of people getting out hunting.
"By December and January, coyotes have been messed with — no matter where you're hunting them. You have to get away from the easy setups — and especially get away from roads. I'm 6-1 and only 175 for a reason: I walk a lot when I hunt coyotes.
"I like to set up in the 'coyote security zone;' spots where they feel safe enough to check out the sounds they hear because they are curious about them. I always try to position myself so that the coyotes will perceive a safe travel lane they can use to get downwind of the sound they hear to check it out — and I watch that safe travel lane. They will use the path of least resistance, and they'll often use deer trails, especially in the snow. I want to set up so I practically force that coyote to travel in ways that makes it feel safe as it's getting downwind. I'm watching those travel lanes.
"I sit longer at this time of year, and I'm not calling so much. When a coyote hears the call, he is curious. I try to give him time to check it out at close range. So many times, I'll wait five minutes after my last calling sequence and give some lip squeaks, and coyotes I haven't seen before during that set come in at a run.
"When you're hunting them this time of year, I believe it's critical to give the curious coyotes a chance to check out what they're hearing. And we know by this time in the season they're going to be pressured. Even though they're curious, they are going to be more wary now than early in the season."
"A lot has changed in the past 10 years because coyote hunting has become more popular. Coyotes are a bit more call-shy, and access to some of the best hunting areas is tougher to get. As a result, it's more important than ever to do everything right on every set in order to have success.
"I define 'close' as inside 20 yards. I'm hunting with my SKB shotgun, and if I get them inside 20 yards, I'm going to take them even if they figure out I'm there and turn to run. In more-open-country hunting, I'll carry my D-Tech custom AR and will often take the first good shot I get.
"I carry a decoy, a Game Winner turkey stool, my lanyard, spare gloves and hat. I also carry my outer coat so I don't work up a sweat on the way to the stand. I'll hunt with a partner sometime. He has a shotgun, and I'll have my AR or my shotgun. It depends on the kind of terrain we're hunting.
"I don't really call with a lot of volume. A coyote has tremendous hearing; you don't need a blow-horn to get his attention. And once you do, all you need to do is keep him interested. I also subscribe to the theory that you only call as much as you need to in order to bring them in.
"I also have learned, as simple as it sounds, that you'll increase your success if you don't try to call a coyote in a direction he doesn't want to go. Whenever possible, set up to call them away from farmyards and roads, not toward them.
"I also suggest stretching out each set this time of year. The longer a coyote hears that distress call, the more likely his curiosity is going to get the best of him. He'll come to check it out — hungry or not."
Taken Oct. 28 with bow and arrow at 40 yards in Pine City, N.Y.
— Dan Ward
Kyle Smith killed these two coyotes at 200 yards with his .22-250 last October in Orrville, Ohio.
A little bonus while turkey hunting.
— Randall Orange
Rick and Luke Jester killed this coyote at five yards when they were turkey hunting in southwest Georgia.
I called this big coyote in after 40 minutes of electronic distress calling. Saw him approach from 500 yards out till he was 50 yards from where I was set up. Shot the coyote with a 20-gauge deer slug from my slug rifle. The location was out near Victoria, Ill., and the date was Feb. 9, 2013.
— Stephen M. Cicciarelli