6) Use Cover Scent: This is one of the major differences in coyote hunting east to west. On my many trips beyond the Mississippi I have noticed that few open-country callers use cover scents, but the reason is simple enough. In the wide-open spaces of the prairie country shots at coyotes are usually taken at anywhere from 100 to 500 yards or more—there really is no need to bother with scent because you’ll see (and shoot) your coyotes long before they ever catch your wind.
In the east, however, shots at incoming coyotes are often under 100 yards, sometimes much less. This means predators following the scent trail will more than likely catch your odor if you haven’t put out a cover scent that puts them at ease as they move closer. I carry a plastic aspirin bottle filled with cotton balls scented with fox or rabbit urine, skunk essence, beaver castor or some other strong-smelling attractant and simply hang one cotton ball on a bush or tree five yards to my left and right and about 10 yards downwind of my position. I give the scent pads about 15 minutes to catch the wind, which gives me ample time to get comfortably set up before calling.
7) Move At Least a Half Mile Between Sites: This is one of the primary bits of advice Murray Burnham offered when I complained that his calls were not working. “You need to move at least one-half mile between calling sites, especially in the east, because predator populations are lower and it’s possible that they are not hearing your calls,” Burnham said. Smart guy!
While hunters like to think that coyotes in the east are so abundant that they are “everywhere,” the truth is that they are not. “Abundant” is a relative term when it comes to predators. My home pack, for example, shows up about every fourth night, howling and yipping for all they are worth (usually at 3:00 a.m.!) but they are long gone the rest of the week. I have discovered this to be true elsewhere in the east, where small family packs may be here today, gone tomorrow as they forage within their home range, which may extend over several miles. Coyotes are movers, traveling constantly over many miles in their search for food. Do the same while calling and you will have more success.
8) Hunt Over Bait: Another non-western approach that works well with coyotes is the use of bait, which can be used to call predators into range or simply keep them in the area longer and make them more likely to respond to your calls. When calling set up well away from the bait site or you risk teaching coyotes that bait + calling = trouble.
Good baits for coyotes include beaver carcasses, dead farm animals, road-killed animals (including raccoons, skunks, porcupines and deer) or meat and bone scraps garnered from the local meat cutter. Baiting requires a lot of work and planning, and if you don’t anchor your baits to the site coyotes and other predators will simply carry off the meat and bones, negating your efforts. Baits of opportunity, such as deer, moose, cows, sheep, etc., that have died naturally make excellent short-term baits. When I find one of these I plan to return and call from a nearby position with a plan to lure the coyotes into range along their normal approach route to the bait site.
9) Use Waterways to Your Advantage: There are innumerable lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, beaver flowages, swamps and bogs in the east that are unheard of throughout most of the arid west. All of these waterways provide coyotes with convenient travel lanes, even in winter, making the caller’s job much easier. Set up in a place where you have a good view of the shoreline brush. Use the wind to your advantage and expect incomers to show up in close proximity to the water.
Few coyotes will bother to swim a river, pond or beaver flowage to investigate your call, so allow extra time for the animals to negotiate wetlands, swamps and other standing water as they come in. Sit tight for an hour or more to give them time to work their way through the maze of obstacles along their route.
10) Never Underestimate your Quarry: The No. 1 mistake of coyote hunters is thinking that each hunt will go as smoothly as a TV hunt. Keep in mind that many hours of hunting goes into the production of those movies, and that the kill scenes are often recorded days or even weeks prior to the promos and “how-to” segments. Coyotes are smart, suspicious, alert and reactive— make any mistake and they are gone. Conduct each hunt under the assumption that there is a coyote out there that will respond to your calls and always presume that there is a coyote just over the horizon. Walk quietly and whisper if you must talk at all. Ditch the cell phones, stay put as long as you can stand it, then give yourself 10 more minutes, and take your best shot as soon as it is presented.
I have often tried to call coyotes in closer just for the fun of it, but friends, the coyote isn’t one for playing games. They are experts at their craft and will make a fool of you at every opportunity. Take an eastern coyote up close and on his own terms and you will come away with a whole new respect for these challenging predators.