Predator hunting is all the rage these days. When most big game seasons cool down, coyote season heats up. Even though these wild dogs are open for the taking year round in many jurisdictions, hardcore predator hunters acknowledge January and February as prime time. Even still, only the most skilled, savvy, and well-equipped hunters learn to score consistently on these small and cagey fur-bearing targets. With today's advancements, predator fanatics learn to equip themselves with five must-have tools: decoys, calls, camouflage, firearms, and good optics.
A solid shooting rest like a bipod along with snow or other camo, and
good calls are among the most important tools for coyote hunters.
With the technology at our fingertips, today's coyote hunter frequently uses decoys. The introduction of a variety of attractors has revolutionized predator hunting. From full body and even silhouette coyote decoys, to rabbit and other motion decoys, the sky is the limit.
My all-time favorite full-body decoy has become Flambeau's Lone Howler. Coyotes are social; they crave interaction with their peers and the life size Lone Howler provides a visual that is too enticing to pass up. Used at the same time as a howler or even a squealer call, this full-body decoy helps distract attention from the hunter while drawing curious coyotes in for a closer look. During peak breeding periods in particular, a full-body coyote decoy is at the top of my list as a must-have for today's coyote hunter. Fasten a piece of rabbit fur to its mouth and it becomes that much more appealing to incoming coyotes.
Coyotes are social animals. Placing a full-body decoy in a visible location
can draw a coyote in to a desired location for a shot opportunity.
Likewise, motion decoys resembling a prey species like a rabbit or prairie dog can be an enormous asset, particularly during the hard mid-winter months when coyotes find it especially difficult to hunt for food. These active decoys offer an enticing visual suggesting the prospect of an easy meal, another must-have for the coyote hunter. Flambeau's Rigor Rabbit for instance, vibrates adding just enough motion to entice curious coyotes in for an easy meal. Place them 20 yards apart, in a location that will catch the attention of responsive coyotes, sit back and start calling. You'll be amazed with the results. For more information on decoys, visit www.flambeauoutdoors.com .
Most commercial calls work to a greater or lesser degree. Finding the ones that you can use effectively should be your first priority. While a wide range of calls are available on the market, the two most important are a howler and a squealer.
The howler allows you to howl, yip, and yelp like a coyote. Seasoned callers learn when and how to make certain howling sounds to communicate different things, i.e. territorial howls, mating howls, and more to attract males and females alike.
Prey-in-distress calls are the second type of vocalization that experienced coyote hunters use. Arguably, the squealing rabbit is probably the most common. Companies like Lohman (www.flambeauoutdoors.com ), Primos (www.primos.com ), and Les Johnson's Ruffidawg calls (www.predatorquest.com ) are among my top recommendations. When using the calls, your goal is to emulate the natural distress cries of a dying prey animal. If electronic calls are allowed in your state or province, my first recommendation is go with a Foxpro product (www.gofoxpro.com ).
The result of good calling.
Solo hunters have to do both the calling and the shooting. If possible, hunt in pairs; one person calls, so the other can shoot. Some dogs race in, throwing caution to the wind, but more often than not curious dogs are wary, carefully evaluating every detail to determine authenticity of the howl, squeal, or other vocalization. In turn, coyotes often hang up somewhere between 50 and 100 yards out, reluctant to commit that last little bit. Hunting with a partner can alleviate this problem. By placing the shooter 30 to 50 yards downwind of the caller and in the path of the anticipated approach, you maximize your chances of taking some fur home. The same principle holds true with e-calls. By placing the e-call upwind you will invariably put yourself in the zone for a shot opportunity.
Camo & Concealment
Coyotes rely heavily on their eyesight. They can detect the slightest movements from long distances. For this reason using appropriate camouflage clothing and other strategies for concealment can pay big dividends when hunting coyotes. In the northern U.S. and across Canada, winter and snow go hand in hand. Most snow camo patterns will suffice as long as the pattern breaks up your image. That said I'm a big fan of wearing either all-white, predator camo (www.predatorcamo.com ), or King's Snow Shadow (www.shadowcamo.com ). All three of these blend incredibly well with snow covered topography. In areas where the ground is free of snow, almost any other well-matched camo pattern will suffice. The key lies in breaking up your image and blending with the landscape. Beyond camo patterns themselves, a good rule of thumb is to wear gloves and a face mask, and stay as motionless as possible during each set-up.
Curiosity killed this coyote.
Coyote Rifles & Shotguns
As a rule, choose a smaller caliber flat shooting long-range rifle. There are several different, less known, calibers available, but if we're talking popularity, hardcore predator hunters commonly use four main calibers; these include the venerable .22-250, the ever-popular .223, the relatively new .204, and the versatile .243.
Again, while standard weight barrels and even lightweight barrels are sufficient, when pinpoint accuracy is required on longer range small targets, many hunters choose to go with a heavy barrel. Heavy barrels add stability making aiming easier thus improving downrange accuracy. Many predator guns are designed with this very specific application in mind. Take my T/C Precision Hunter for example. Built for long-range pin-point accuracy, it is a medium-action varmint and predator rifle certified to deliver sub-minute of angle accuracy, in other words it is guaranteed to shoot three shots in a less than one-inch group right out of the box. Bullet choice is usually a personal choice but one that minimizes damage to the hide is normally a top choice. When I'm shooting my Winchester .22-250 Rem. for instance, I favor an economical but highly effective 55-grain Winchester Super X Pointed Soft Point (PSP) bullet for coyote hunting (www.winchester.com ).
Many coyote hunters like to use a 12-gauge shotgun for close-range shooting. In fact some even carry both a rifle and shotgun in the field, opting to use one or the other depending on how close the coyote approaches. Most smooth bore shotguns will suffice, but a semi-automatic that facilitates multiple quick shots, is most desirable. As far as shotgun ammunition is concerned, again shot size preferences vary. For my own use, I favor a 3-inch Winchester Supreme shot shell (15 oz.) in 00 buckshot.
Due to their close range application, shotguns are shot off-hand, but centerfire rifles should be shot from a rest if at all possible. My T/C .243 Precision Hunter rifle (www.tcarms.com ) is equipped with a Harris bipod (www.harrisbipods.com ) as is my Winchester .22-250. With a kill zone scarcely more than six inches in diameter, coyotes make for a small target, so there's little room for error. I'm a big fan of Harris products because they're durable and simple to use; but there others available as well. Aside from bipods, monopods and tripod shooting sticks are a great option. Predator Sniper Styx (www.predatorsniperstyx.com ) are a viable option if you really like portability, but Bog Pod products (www.boggear.com ) are durable and solid, certainly my personal preference when it comes to shooting sticks.
Coyotes are small. Finding them requires a keen eye. A good binocular and a suitable riflescope are absolute musts in the coyote-hunting game. Well-camouflaged to their surroundings, coyotes typically blend well with both the ground and available cover. Good optics allow you to scan and more easily pick up distant movement.
The key with a binocular is to keep it small enough that it's not a burden to carry afield. Likewise, it must be powerful enough to do the job. After considerable research, I finally settled on a pair of Swarovski SLC in 10x42 (www.swarovskioptik.com ). I've been using these for several years now and have never looked back. They are built to last and their optical quality is second to none; in short, they're ideal for not only coyote hunting but big game hunting as well.
As important as a high quality binocular is, a variable long-range riflescope is invaluable. I know many coyote hunters who use their deer guns armed with standard 3-9x scopes and in a pinch, they can certainly do the trick. But if the opportunity to upgrade to a specialized predator scope presents itself, every one of those same hunters will jump on it, and for good reason. With long-range shooting, variable magnification can mean the difference between hitting a small target and missing by mere inches. Mounted on my .243 is a Swarovski Z5 5-25x52 scope. Utilizing cutting edge technology, this scope is designed specifically for long-range shooting in that it has a ballistic turret allowing the shooter to pre-set distances, e.g., 200, 300, or 400 yards. This eliminates the need to guess elevation to compensate for bullet drop thereby facilitating accuracy. Variable magnification is an enormous asset with coyote hunting. In some situations coyotes are called in close, e.g., 10 or 20 yards and at other times, you're dealing with ranges further than 200 or 300 yards. Mounted on my .22-250 I have a Bushnell Elite 4200 8-32x40 riflescope (www.bushnell.com ). This scope offers extreme magnification, but when you're dealing with powerful optics of this nature, a solid shooting rest is a must.
Beyond the Tools
Beyond the tools, knowing how best to use them and when will help close the deal. Coyote hunting offers an outstanding opportunity to practice the mechanics of aiming and shooting, not to mention spotting, stalking, calling and so many more aspects of the hunt. By utilizing these five tools, you'll become that much more proficient.
Kevin Wilson is a freelance outdoors writer and professional big game & waterfowl guide/outfitter from Alberta, Canada. Confessing an obsession for big whitetails and bighorn sheep, he has hunted most North American big game species with either bow, muzzleloader, rifle or shotgun. Specializing in archery, freshwater fishing, waterfowl and big game hunting, his articles can be found in several well known outdoor publications across the U.S. and Canada. For more information on his outfitting services, visit www.venturenorthoutfitting.com .
Member of OWAA & OWC.