Western Coyotes: Focus on Behavior, Scouting, Approach
July 05, 2018
Sweat equity, perseverance and boot leather will help you slay elusive coyotes.
With sweat running down my cheeks, I wasn't sure how much longer I could last. It was my third set of the mid-August morning, and I'd yet to see a coyote. Giving it one more try, I positioned the electronic call and sat against a line of pine trees, overlooking multiple openings. No sooner had the distressed jack-rabbit sounds blared, a coyote instantly emerged. The shot was easy.
Temperatures neared the century mark, but knowing what was happening in the coyote woods, the stage was set for a great day of hunting. Focusing on coyote behavior is just one key to success when hunting them in the West's vast habitat.
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Though it's hot this time of year, maturing coyote pups are hunting on their own and aggressively responding to calls. It's an ideal time for predator management, and a great time for young hunters, and beginning predator hunters, to head afield. As pups break away and establish their own territories, they want food, water and shelter, which means they readily respond to calls.
Coyotes have to eat, so hunters will want to focus calling efforts on food sources from August through December. Using decoys can add realism to a set. Rabbit and bird decoys, even wings and feathers, especially moving ones, can be very effective. Using coyote decoys can be good when offering coyote sounds as it interjects a direct threat, which can bring aggressive coyotes in.
"In January, coyotes start fighting for breeding rights," says professional coyote hunter, Cory Lundberg (CodaHunts.com). "As coyotes start pairing, switching to mating calls can be effective, but don't overlook the value of predator calls, as coyotes have big appetites â€” always."
Serious coyote hunters devote time to scouting, especially contest hunters who rely on a high volume of success.
"When out hunting for turkey, bear, deer, elk or anything else, look for coyote sign," Lundberg suggests. "Look for tracks and droppings, and when you find them, study them. See which direction the tracks are moving and decipher how many coyotes there are. Look at the scat to see what's in it, like bones, hair, and feathers. Are the bones small, from rodents, or do they consist of larger fragments that may have come from deer? These pieces of information will reveal what food sources are in the area, thus what calling approaches you may want to use."
Trail cameras are a great tool for coyote scouting, as they are your eyes in the woods. Since a large majority of coyote movement takes place at night, cameras are great gauges for accurately determining how many coyotes are in an area.
Lundberg says the more angles from which a coyote can approach your calling set up, the better. "You want to see them before they see you. I set up in very open areas, for this reason, and it works. Don't overthink things when it comes to setting up. Put yourself in the best position to see and start calling. Western habitats are vast. You don't want to get yourself in a hole that limits visibility. If you can't see approaching predators, you can't get a shot."
If the land you're hunting is barren, use any "rolling" topography to break up your body outline and stay still. If hunting in timber, set up amid the tallest trees that offer the most open ground. When hunting in the brush, use it for concealment in front of and behind you, but don't let the foreground brush inhibit potential shot opportunities.
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Lundberg encourages coyote hunters to take both a rifle and shotgun, afield. "You want to be ready for anything, at all times. Put both on a sling, and if coyotes are coming in hard, grab the shotgun; if they hold up, grab the rifle. With today's coyote loads, shotguns reach out farther than they used to."