Expert Tactics for Open-Country Coyotes
July 23, 2019
Summer is prime time to get after aggressive coyotes. Try these tactics for consistent success.
“Dang, I didn’t mean to hit that button,” whispered my hunting buddy, Cory Lundberg. Rather than panicking and stopping the electronic call, he let it play for another 20 seconds, then turned it off.
“We’ll let it calm down and I’ll throw out a…Oh, right there, coming right at us!” Lundberg’s tone changed as an approaching coyote caught his attention.”
In seconds the sprinting coyote closed the 300-yard gap, and Lundberg connected on the shot. “Man, I wanted to start with a rabbit sound, but he didn’t seem to mind the kiyi call, did he?” Lundberg smiled.
We were hunting late spring coyotes, and while the kiyi call (which mimics the sound of a coyote in distress) wasn’t what Lundberg wanted to start off with, it worked. We went on to have a couple good days of coyote hunting, and I learned a lot from Lundberg, who is a passionate coyote hunter and has been offering guided coyote hunts in many western states for over 20 years.
In order to kill coyotes with consistent success this time of year, you need to understand their behavior. “In June the pups are coming out of the den, the females are staying tight to them, and the males are out hunting,” Lundberg noted. “Nine times out of 10, it’s a lone male you’re going to call in this time of year.”
Coyotes are territorial, their home range being determined by water, cover and food availability. That range might be a half-mile, or 2 miles, but one thing is for certain, males won’t stray too far from the den, as they’re continually on the hunt.
“If you can locate a den prior to calling, you greatly increase the odds of bringing in a coyote,” notes Lundberg. “Listen for the high-pitched chatter, yapping and carrying on of pups around a den. Often the mom will shut them up, but when you hear the excited yapping of the pups, you’ll know exactly what it is, and where to start calling.”
As the pups begin to venture outside the den walls, exploring their immediate surroundings, adult coyotes become very protective of their litters. This activity greatly enhances alertness of the adults, especially the male, who is often away from the den, but tuned in to every sound in the valley.
“If you can’t find a den during the day — which can be tough in hot conditions — then scout at night,” Lundberg suggested. “Nighttime scouting is very efficient as the coyotes are more active and you can move under the cover of darkness. Howling and using a siren is the best way to get a family group talking at night. Once you locate a den, mark it on a GPS or map, find out if there’s a way to get closer, then come back at first light to start calling.”
Locating multiple calling sights through nighttime scouting can pay off. Due to the extreme heat that can begin coming in June, calling early and late in the day are the most productive. Lundberg likes scouting at night — and hunting at night in states that allow it. He hunts early in the morning, takes a nap in the heat of the day, then gets back to hunting in the closing hours of daylight, once temperatures have cooled.
When calling open-country coyotes throughout the West, finding a prime place to set up is key. Be sure to gain elevation so you can see more ground in front of you. Also, make certain the wind is in your face or there’s a crosswind; winds typically stabilize prior to sunup on warm days.
“I like looking for low points in the land, where coyotes will be this time of year,” said Lundberg. “These lower elevation habitats are cooler, and males spend a lot of time hunting in and around them. The whole idea is to set up so you can spot a coyote before he sees you. If you can make that happen, your chance of killing him increases tenfold.”
Lundberg is constantly glassing for coyotes, even when he’s calling. He always glasses an area prior to calling, hoping to locate a prowling coyote. If you are hunting with a partner, having one glass for hidden movement while the other keeps a wide field of view with the naked eye, is a great combination.
“What I’m looking for is a lone male coyote that’s mousing,” points out Lundberg. “If he’s mousing, I’ll start off with subtle prey sounds, usually a rabbit. I’ll start so low the coyote can’t hear me. As the sound plays I’ll slightly increase the volume until the coyote hears it. Then I’ll stop. As the coyote approaches and gets closer, I’ll switch to low volume rodent sounds, and that usually sucks ’em right in.”
Lundberg is the best coyote hunter I’ve had the honor hunting with. One of his strong suits is he does not overthink things. I know a lot of hunters question offering different sounds during a sequence, or sounds of animals that aren’t in the area being hunted, but not Lindberg. “Think about it, all these coyotes really care about is getting food, almost constantly; they don’t care what it is, they just want to eat it,” Lundberg smiled.
That said, Lundberg does have his go-to sounds when it comes to calling coyotes this time of year. “Pup distress calls are best right now. Start off with these on every single set (unless you see a mousing coyote), as this is a natural distress sound that adults will react to. The adults are very territorial this time of year, too. They don’t want their pups getting harmed, and they won’t tolerate other coyotes in their territory.”
After offering a few series of pup distress calls, Lundberg goes with kiyi sounds. The kiyi is an adult coyote distress sound, and makes sense to use following the pup distress sounds.
“This is a time of year when coyote sounds actually work better than prey sounds,” Lundberg continues. “Coyotes have to eat, year-round, so don’t be afraid to use a range of prey sounds, as they always work. Just don’t limit your sounds to one or two things. Mix up using electronic calls with hand held calls.”
As for decoys, Lundberg isn’t a huge fan of them for hunting coyotes. “I like decoys when fox hunting, but when it comes to coyotes, I’ve had my best success using a simple turkey feather that’s tied to a stick a few feet off the ground. I’ll put it about 50 yards out, with my electronic call, and let the wind move it ever so slightly. I like the feather because it doesn’t spook a wary coyote, and often stops it so I can get a good shot.
Coyotes can approach fast and furious this time of year. In addition to having your predator rifle, toting a shotgun is a wise choice where legal. If you see a coyote quickly closing the distance and you can’t get a shot with your rifle, don’t panic. Simply set down the rifle when the coyote is out of sight, then pick up the shotgun. An extra full choke firing specialized coyote loads can be the perfect medicine to close the deal on a coyote in close quarters.
When setting up, using the aid of a shooting stick will greatly increase your shot accuracy. A tripod is nice for shooting in open, flat country, but if a coyote has the potential of moving in close, through thick cover, a bipod is a bit easier to maneuver.
“Before commencing any calling sequence, get comfortable,” Lundberg concludes. “This time of year, if coyotes are talking, I’ll stay in one place for an hour. If I can hear them, it usually means they’re coming, I just have to find them.” I like Lundberg’s optimism, which is a big part of his success.
Editor’s Note: Scott Haugen is a full-time author and host of “The Hunt” on Amazon Prime. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and at www.scotthaugen.com.