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Hunting Coyotes in the Breeding Season

There's no reason to lose sleep during the coyote breeding season. Locate them at night, then return in the morning to close the deal.

Hunting Coyotes in the Breeding Season

After-hours scouting is invaluable for getting cunning coyotes in your crosshairs on a consistent basis. (Shutterstock image)

Several years ago, in an effort to get off the couch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I took up the challenge of getting in good enough shape to run a 5K in five weeks’ time. Most of my nightly runs occurred at my small hometown’s youth baseball field, which sits at the edge of town and has a quarter-mile track around it.

On several occasions, a pack of coyotes would yip and howl in the bordering fields and small patches of timber. Since I was trying to clear my head from the daily distractions, I didn’t give much thought to the howling coyotes until after Christmas, when I had passed my running goals. I started the new year by continuing to run regularly during the evening hours, but more for maintenance.

While running during the first week of February, I was intrigued by the increase and the variety of coyote vocalizations I heard. Each night, I heard yips, whines, barks, howls and some sounds that I had never heard in the previous years while predator hunting. Finally, I got up the nerve to ask the landowner near the running track if he would allow me to hunt the coyotes. After a warm welcome and an invitation to hunt, I returned the following morning with my rifle and electronic predator call in hand. Because I heard the coyotes each night, I knew exactly where I needed to ease my way in and try to call. After the first 20 minutes, I had two coyotes on the ground. If only they were all that easy to locate and hunt, I thought to myself. In reality, they could be.

A few years later, I hunted in western Oklahoma in mid-February. While talking to my wife on the phone one night, I walked outside the lodge to get away from the guys. As we talked, my wife asked what the sound in the background was. It was the whimpering, yipping and howling of breeding coyotes nearby. The next morning, we took off toward the area where the coyotes had been making a racket the night before. Sure enough, on the first stand of the day, we had our first coyote down.

Since that hunt, some eight years ago, I have had numerous successful hunts by locating breeding-season coyotes that make a more comprehensive range of vocalizations, getting some sleep and then hunting them first thing in the morning. The locate-sleep-hunt method is effective year-round, but never more so than during the breeding season.

LANGUAGE OF LOVE

Coyotes communicate through barks, yips and howls almost every day of their lives. However, from January through the first two weeks of March, a coyote’s vocabulary expands to include a broader range of vocalizations for breeding purposes, like whimpers and whines from a female when she is close to being in heat. Males whimper, too, when in pursuit of a female that’s ready to breed. Another sound commonly heard during the breeding season is the invitation howl, which a female will make to invite a male to join her. Different howls and barks are used to display dominance among males and females.

Coyote howling
Coyotes incorporate a broad range of vocalizations during their breeding season, which typically runs from January through mid-March. (Gary Kramer photo)

Because coyotes are more vocal during the winter breeding season, I often spend late evenings howling to locate them. In my home state, hunting after daylight hours is prohibited, so I adapted to only locating coyotes at night and returning early the next morning to hunt.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Approximately a year ago, a good friend from church told me his son was getting into coyote hunting and seeking advice. With a little guidance from myself, the young man learned the value of spending more time locating and scouting coyotes than hunting them. In a short time, his Instagram feed was filled with pictures of successful coyote hunts.

As a sheriff’s deputy, he would end his shift each night and then travel to his next hunting destination to locate nearby coyotes. Once he struck a ’yote, he would make a mental note of the location, go home to sleep for a few hours, return before sunrise, ease into the area and begin calling at first light. Ninety percent of the time, he was successful on the first or second stand attempt.

When making a calling stand, many hunters find an area that looks good, then set up and start calling. If no coyotes respond, they move on. That style of calling is often called “blind calling.” When hunting located coyotes, on the other hand, the hunter knows coyotes are in the general area and can hunt with more confidence that a coyote will respond to their calling.

In the past few years, GPS-based hunting apps have gained popularity with many hunters. Although primarily used for deer hunting, apps like HuntStand and onX allow coyote hunters to scout and locate animals, then have the saved data in their hands when they are ready to hunt. On many occasions, I have used an open-reed howler or a diaphragm call at sunset or later to locate coyotes. When one answers, I drop a pin on my HuntStand app. When I return to the area the next morning, I check the wind direction, set up accordingly and begin calling on my electronic caller.

WHERE TO LOCATE

Now that you know why and how the locate-sleep-hunt tactic works, the next step is figuring out where to go when locating coyotes. The same tactics a spring turkey hunter uses to locate a gobbler come into play.

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I often drive backroads, smaller logging trails and farm roads to reach my desired destination. Then, like when locating spring turkeys, I try to reach a higher elevation to gain better hearing distance and for my howls to carry farther.

Whether pulling off the side of the road, pulling close to a gate or staying along the edge of a well-traveled path, staying close to the vehicle is often the most desired method of locating. Once I have shut off my vehicle’s engine, I stay quiet for a few minutes, then use a diaphragm, open-reed or electronic call to mimic the lone howl of a coyote. Some hunters use loud noises, such as a siren, to strike nearby coyotes into howling. I prefer to use only coyote vocals to gain a more accurate response. After coyotes have been located, I quickly leave the area to ensure I do not disturb them.

If you are tired of spending countless attempts at calling coyotes only to come home empty-handed, consider the locate-sleep-hunt method. Your confidence and success rate will soar.

GO-TO GEAR

FoxPro Smokin’ Gun Howler: A diaphragm call with a two-reed design allows the hunter to imitate the howls, barks and distress sounds commonly used when predator hunting. When locating coyotes the night before hunting, a diaphragm call is easy to use and transport and makes realistic howls that often create a response from nearby coyotes. ($14.95; gofoxpro.com)

Wildlife Research Center Coyote Urine: After a coyote has been located during the night hours of the winter breeding season, there will likely be more than one coyote when you return to hunt the next day. Because coyotes are seeking mates during this time, using a coyote urine scent can help complete the setup when the hunter uses coyote vocals to entice them to come to check them out. ($14.05; wildlife.com)

ALPS OutdoorZ Enforcer Vest: When predator hunting or locating coyotes, an organized system is essential to keep calls, scents, binoculars and other needed gear ready to go. Add the bonus of having a cushioned seat and back support that can be used to sit up, even in the wide open, and it is easy to see why the ALPS Enforcer made the list. ($199.99; alpsoutdoorz.com)

Blocker Outdoors Shield Series Drencher: When hunting coyotes during their winter breeding season, it’s safe to assume it’ll be cold outside. Having an insulated jacket, such as the Blocker Drencher, is necessary to stay comfortable and ready to make the shot when the time comes. The Drencher features 180-gram insulation to keep you warm and has a waterproof construction to keep you dry in the harshest conditions. ($69.99; blockeroutdoors.com)

Hunt Stand App: GPS mapping technology is an excellent tool when scouting for coyotes. When locating coyotes, hunters can use pinpoints to map where they heard or saw coyotes accurately before they hunt, then use the app to return when they are ready. They also have the option to use wind graphics to help determine the best setups when hunting. ($29.99-$69.99/year; huntstand.com)




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