Tips for tricking wary predators
Most hunting lessons are the result of making mistakes. This is especially true of predator hunting. Have you ever had a fox swing downwind and hightail it for cover after catching your scent? What about a coyote that hangs up at the edge of the woods? Did it catch you moving? Or did you over-call? Lessons like these are the best teachers, and they're free every time you hunt.The exasperating part is, predators rarely react the same way twice. It's what makes hunting them so exciting.
My area is typical farmland: rolling hills, plenty of crop fields, woodlots, and creek bottoms. I dabbled with predator calling for four years, with mixed success. I had spectacular encounters with coyotes, once luring in three together that ran within 15 yards(14 m)of me before I managed to bag two. More often than not, though, I drew a blank. Unsatisfied, I decided to get serious about predator hunting.
The first order of business was to upgrade equipment. As in other sports, top-of-the-line gear moves the odds in your favour. This premise provided the justification for buying a new rifle. Isn't it funny how that works? A Remington Varmint Synthetic in 22-250, topped with a Bausch and Lomb 6 X 24 scope, fit the bill nicely. Since I already owned an electronic game caller, I purchased a few more tapes and several different mouth-blown calls.
I analysed my successes and mistakes and adjusted tactics accordingly. One big problem with calling eastern coyotes was getting them to emerge from the woods for a shot opportunity. Many times they stopped inside the forest edge and howled like crazy. My luck started to change when I chose calling spots that gave them just enough protective cover to feel comfortable stepping out. I soon discovered that places such as pipelines and power right-of-ways were good locations. Coyotes venture unhesitantly into these brushy openings. So far, I've developed six guidelines that improve success.
The first, as mentioned, is to always call coyotes to a spot that they'll feel comfortable coming out to. Next is to call near bedding areas. Finding them might take a bit of scouting. Brush-choked valleys holding thick cedars are primary bedding sites in my area. Those with a lot of open fields around them tend to concentrate coyotes. Calling near these areas in the evening usually produces coyotes within minutes.
Don't overcall, especially to coyotes. I've learned through experience and comparing notes with other hunters that certain styles of calling produce different results. I used to play an electronic caller for 5 to 8 minutes, followed by silent breaks of 5 to 10 minutes. I started to pick up a lot more foxes. My buddy, Al, uses a mouth call sparingly, with 1 minute of calling, followed by 15 minutes of silence. He gets an incredible number of coyotes, but no foxes. My theory about this is that the longer you call, chances increase of a wary coyote pin-pointing you or entering the area undetected and, finding no real rabbit in distress, departing unseen.
Have lots of places to call. Sometimes you get to fool coyotes only once. Whether one comes in and detects you, or even if you make a kill, the rest of the pack has been educated. I wait a minimum of two weeks before hunting such an area again. Changing calling tapes helps. If I bagged a coyote using a dying-rabbit call, the next time I use another type, such as canine puppies. Getting permisssion to hunt coyotes is easy, and lining up 15 to 20 spots is within reason. It's a great way to establish a relationship with farmers, which could blossom into other hunting opportunities.
Practise shooting from positions you'll use when hunting. Sighting in your gun off the bench is essential for ensuring it hits where aimed, but shooting from a sitting position, especially with a high-powered scope, is an entirely different matter. A typical set-up has the hunter, with knees drawn up close to serve as a rest, sitting against a tree. From this position there is a 120-degree shooting radius. Practising from this stance is critical for accuracy and in order to know your limits. Ranges beyond 150 yards(183 m) call for a bi-pod. Shoot when the animal is standing still. Be patient. Use a lip squeak or other sound to get it to stop.
Most predator hunters already know that total camouflage is a must. I believe that many times a coyote comes in and, from concealment, checks out the situation, sees something it doesn't like, and disappears undetected. To be successful, predator hunters need everything in their favour. Try to be invisible.
Be conscious of wind direction. Your success depends on it. I hunt in two ways. If I'm calling a wood's edge from open fields, I want the wind coming from the woods to me. Coyotes usually come to the edge, where I can get a clean shot. They don't venture too far from cover, so they can't get downwind. When calling in an abandoned pasture or meadow, I sit upwind and watch downwind.This means I often have to do some fast shooting before the quarry hits my scent line. It's a situation where predators feel most comfortable showing themselves. A bit of cover scent, such as fox urine or skunk, helps.
I've come by these guidelines the hard way. Learn by your mistakes, too, and be open-minded about trying new techniques. It will make you more successful at the most challenging hunting anywhere.