February 07, 2020
By Stephen D. Carpenteri
After deer seasons end in Southern states, hunters often turn to predator calling to keep the action going right through the winter months. Although coyotes occupy wooded areas during the midday, they are extremely active in and around open farm fields at night and especially near dawn and dusk. This provides plenty of great opportunities to call in roving coyotes, often from a mile or more away.
FARM FIELD BASICS
Southern farmers manage a wide variety of crops and even wildlife food plots, which attract small birds and mammals, as well as deer, wild hogs, opossums, armadillos and wild turkeys. All of these species are on the coyote’s list of preferred prey, and sounds or decoys imitating them will usually grab a coyote’s attention, even if only for a few seconds—enough time for a seasoned rifleman to dial in and make an effective shot.
When planning a farm-field hunt the most important consideration is wind direction, which can change by the hour and shift several times throughout the day. Generally speaking, the prevailing winds in the South blow from southwest to northeast, but during stormy or unsettled periods, the wind can come from any direction.
Upon arrival at a given farm, the first order of business is determining wind direction. Next, the hunter must decide where to sit so that he is camouflaged by natural cover while at the same time in a position that offers a good view of a field and its edge cover out to the ballistic limits of his rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader or bow. Some fields require the use of “beanfield rifles” that reach out to 500 yards or more; smaller fields are ideal for short-range gear.
The strategy for calling coyotes is simple. Wearing full camo with your gun or bow up and ready to shoot, face downwind (coyotes will approach with the wind in their noses) with a couple of scent pads out to distract incoming coyotes. Fox urine, skunk essence or rabbit scent will suffice. It’s not necessary to bring the predator right in to your boot-tops, but just close enough for a quick, telling shot.
Start with a couple of loud, angst-filled squalls followed by a few low-key squeals and squeaks. The idea is to emulate the sounds of a small animal or bird that has just been attacked. Don’t overdo it: Constant, continuous calling will alert coyotes to the fact that something isn’t right—prey species don’t sit there screeching all day, and coyotes know it.
Expect coyotes to show up at any point and from any direction; mostly they’ll come slinking in, eyes on the prize, directly into the prevailing wind current. So, hunters must sit still and be ready to shoot from the first call. A coyote can be 100 yards or a mile away, but he won’t expose himself till he runs out of cover. Even the hungriest of coyotes remains suspicious and cautious and would rather stay hungry than die. Be ready to shoot quickly and accurately as soon as your target is in range.
Keep in place for at least 30 minutes after calling to give distant coyotes ample time to work their way into range. When in doubt, wait 15 more minutes; then wait another 15 minutes. Coyotes are not on a time schedule and will show up when they are good and ready. Also, when you do decide to stand up and move, come up with your rifle at the ready because there may be a coyote standing just a few yards away that you did not see coming in. If you call coyotes often enough, it will happen.
Move at least one-half mile between calling sites because coyotes on the other side of the farm may not even hear your calls, especially on windy days.
Another productive way to hunt coyotes is over bait. Check local regulations regarding the use and placement of baits in the state you plan to hunt, but, generally speaking, any legally acquired meat, bones or hides can be used for coyote bait, and this includes road kills, farm offal and butcher’s leftovers. Be sure the landowner is aware of your plans. Most farmers don’t care how, when or how many coyotes you take, but they do want to know what’s happening on their property.
Place baits in field corners or, whenever possible, on high spots that are a long distance from nearby woods, brushy cover or hedgerows. Anchor baits using chicken wire or cheap fencing so the coyotes have to work at getting their free meal. Don’t merely dump a pile of meat and bones on the ground because coyotes (and other scavengers) will simply grab a piece and run off with it.
Consider the wind when bait hunting by placing baits as far downwind as possible. Be sure to approach the shooting site so that no scent is carried on the wind toward the bait.
In most cases, coyotes will visit a bait site early and late in the day, but, in winter, they may show up at any time. They rarely pass up a free meal.
Hunters who are intimately familiar with farm fields, abutting woodlands, wetlands and waterways can often sneak up on “working” coyotes that are preoccupied while hunting turkeys, hogs, armadillos, rabbits or other prey.
The most productive technique is moving slowly from field to field using available cover; then, remaining well back in the brush, use binos to scan the field for signs of roving coyotes. If other prey species are in the field, sit, watch and wait. Odds are that a coyote will appear, far downwind, ready to put on a stalk. This is another good opportunity for long-range riflemen, but be alert for other, unseen coyotes (which often travel in packs) working the same targets from different angles.
The keys to successful southern coyote hunting are simple: Be patient, show up early and late in the day and be ready to shoot at all times. The rest will fall into place!