Coyote Hunting East of the Mississippi
If coyote hunting was only as easy as it's portrayed on television. You just set up on a big, open area, turn on the caller, and within minutes coyotes come running from all directions. Heck, the hardest part is deciding which one to shoot! In the real world, however, it seldom works out that way (For me, it NEVER works out that way). What you don't see in those 30 minute shows is all the times that the hunters set up, called, and didn't see anything.
These programs can really set unrealistic expectations for anyone new to predator hunting, especially for those of us east of the Mississippi River. That's because most are filmed out west, in states like Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming, where wide open spaces and long shots are the norm. Techniques that work there, aren't necessarily the same techniques that work best here. Let's take a look at some of the key techniques for taking song dogs and how they can vary for us easterners.
Regardless of which state you live in, scouting is the key to consistently harvesting coyotes. Most of us wouldn't dream of going deer hunting without first putting in some time scouting, but it seems pretty common for those new to predator hunting. I know, because I made the same mistake when I first got started!
Just as with deer hunting, it's important to spend some time figuring out what areas the coyotes are using on a regular basis. There are several ways to get this done, and I always start by talking with the landowner (assuming you are hunting private land). Chances are, they can get you pointed in the right direction by telling you where they have seen and heard the coyotes. If talking with the landowner is not an option, then a good starting point would be to get out in the late evening right at dark and try to elicit some howls by howling yourself with a mouth call or electronic caller. A siren call can be effective, as well.
If you get some response, make a note on the location from which the coyotes are calling. This should give you a general idea of where they are denning, which will be a great starting point for your hunting sets.
Just as important as knowing where the coyotes are, is knowing how you are going to get close enough to set up on them. This is where the terrain differences between east and west can really come into play. For those in the flatter, more open areas you will have to rely on fencerows, woodlots, ditches and creeks to plan your route into your sets. Hunters with more woods and more rugged terrain can use those features to their advantage. Just as you would if you were going after a big whitetail buck, make sure that you pay attention to what wind directions will work for each set. We'll talk a little more about that in just a bit.
This probably goes without saying, but the eyes of a coyote demand just as much respect as that of a wary old tom turkey. It is absolutely necessary to camo yourself from head to toe and remain as motionless as possible when calling coyotes. They may come charging right into your setup, or they may come slipping in from behind, so keep movements to an absolute minimum until you are ready to get up and move to your next location.
CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON
Choosing the right weapon to coyote hunt with has a lot to do with the type of terrain you are hunting, along with some personal preference. Those that hunt flatter, more open terrain are going to need a good, flat-shooting rifle like a .223, 22-250, or a 25-06. That's not to say that you have to run out and buy a new gun just to coyote hunt. Any good deer rifle will do the trick.
If you find yourself in the woods more so than open fields, then you may want to consider a shotgun for an up-close-and-personal experience! Again, deer rifles can still be effective in these areas, too. Just make sure you have your scope dialed down to the lowest setting, or use the open sights.
We've already covered locating coyotes, but I want to touch specifically on where to set up within those general areas. There are a lot of variables to consider when setting up to call coyotes, as well as some decisions to make based on your own personal preference.
One of the first things you have to decide is whether you want to hunt the woods or the fields, providing the property you are hunting has both available. There are plenty of coyote hunters out there that love to hunt open fields and have good success doing so. It seems like in some areas, coyotes are more comfortable entering fields during daylight hours than in others. I prefer to set up just inside the woods with the field to my back.
Always make sure you are well concealed, with either the wind blowing in your face, or with a crosswind. Coyotes have a tendency to circle downwind of the call, so by putting the field to your back with the wind in your face, it forces the "yote" to choose between coming in upwind, or entering the open field. Be sure to keep an eye out on each side just in case one tries to slip in. This technique can really be effective if you have a partner to face the opposite direction and cover the field, just in case one decides to break into the open.
For those hunting large blocks of forested land, it is important to find a good, elevated location, where you can see a good ways, but still maintain your concealment. Just as with hunting more open country, it is important to play the wind. In this situation, I prefer to hunt a crosswind, making sure that your scent isn't being carried in the direction from which you expect the coyotes to come. Again, keep a sharp eye out downwind, looking for any "yotes" that may be trying to scent check your calling. Hunting with a partner can be just as effective in wooded terrain as it is field hunting, so don't overlook bringing a buddy along with you.
CALLING ALL COYOTES
This is one item that will be universal regardless of where you live. The same coyote calls that work in Nebraska will work in Kentucky. Anything that mimics the sound of a rabbit, fawn or pup in distress will get the job done. Always start your calling with a soft sequence of calls. This will keep from blowing a coyote out if one happens to be close by. This is especially important when hunting wooded areas. If you don't get a response after your first calling sequence, you can gradually raise the volume to reach out there as far as possible.
Depending on the mood of the coyote, it may come charging right in, or it may take its time and circle downwind. This is why it is vital to be patient, and keep your eyes peeled in all directions. I like to give each stand about 30 minutes before getting up and moving to my next location.
Whether you hunt the fertile fields of the Illinois or the forested ridges of Virginia, chances are that you're not too far from great coyote hunting. Deer season may be done, but that's no reason to put your camo away. Break out you favorite rifle or shotgun and give these tips a try. You may just find a whole new addiction in predator hunting!
Brian Grossman is a wildlife biologist, freelance writer and avid outdoorsman from Mt. Washington, Kentucky. You can visit his web site at www.PoorBoysOutdoors.com.