Hunting coyotes in the early fall is much easier than in late winter. This is because the hunter can deal with the young of the year. Sure, they are fully grown physically, but they lack the keen wisdom and experience of a coyote that has survived three or four winters and has been shot at a couple of times. Many of the young ones literally bite the bullet the first fall or winter, but those that answer the call and escape now own a Master’s Degree in Humanology.
The Hardwood Approach
Coyote hunters in the east are severely handicapped because of the lack of open terrain. Pressured coyotes in the west are known to stop half a mile away and either give a warning bark or at least smirk at the hunter. Because of our dense timber country and limited open terrain, we don’t even see these educated coyotes.
Coyotes that bust us undetected are on their way to Graduate School. I believe that once duped, some will not respond again for weeks or even months. If they do respond, eastern terrain can often allow them to get away unseen and unheard.
Moonlight Is A Coyote Asset
Calling eastern coyotes at night is not very effective, but the moon phase does have a bearing on your daylight calling. I have heard it said that a coyote is always hungry. This is not true. A coyote is basically nocturnal. One that has hunted successfully at night and bedded down after daylight with a full belly is not as likely to answer the call as one that failed all night to catch his dinner.
While they see well on a dark night, they see far better on a moonlit night. My records show a higher rate of success if my daylight hunt followed a dark night. I believe this phenomenon is caused by coyotes being more successful at hunting during bright moonlit nights.
It is believed that coyotes do not possess the ability to see colors as humans do. Knowing that, one might think that camouflage pattern does not matter. I disagree to the point that I had a colorblind friend give me his opinions on camouflage. He immediately assured me that patterns of camouflage that do not blend with the natural woods background stand out like a sore thumb, even to one who can not discern color very well. For that reason, I try to choose camouflage patterns that blend with the terrain behind where I am sitting. If you have more than one pattern, you can easily determine which is better by simply draping one of each over a bush and then walking off 50 yards and observing. Even jungle green will work, despite the color, if the pattern itself compliments the background. My colorblind friend also tells me that a hunter is better concealed if the pants are a different pattern from the jacket.
Even more important is the covering of hands and face. A coyote has unbelievable eyesight. Leave off your facemask and gloves and a pressured coyote will bust you at 200 yards, even if you are dead still.
A coyote that has had a bad experience with a predator caller will almost always circle the area from which the calling sound is coming, using his best defense, his nose. Don’t kid yourself or believe all the hype about products that claim to eliminate all human scent. Absolutely nothing you can do, including using the clothing that is supposed to lock in human scent, will completely do the job. Conversely, I still advise the use of such clothing, along with careful personal hygiene and the use of scent blocker sprays and cover scents. Some callers don’t use any of this stuff because they believe the coyote is going to scent them anyway. They are likely right, but by giving yourself every edge, you can often confuse the coyote’s nose long enough to get a shot.
I am convinced that both cover scents and attractants help the hunter, so I am a proponent of fox, rabbit and coyote scent. My wife is not. While she hunts with me frequently, she will not allow me to put that “stinky stuff” on her. She still kills coyotes but she doesn’t wear perfume when she hunts either.
Mum’s The Word
The sound of a truck stopping, doors closing, human voices, clunking of an auto-loader being fed a shell and the sounds of careless hunters stepping on dry limbs are all a dead giveaway.
I have hunted early season young coyotes by stopping my truck, walking 75 yards, starting the calling sequence and had a naïve youngster (or two) run all over me, begging to get shot. Seasoned coyotes don’t make this mistake.
In January, February and March, I often walk very quietly into the wind for half a mile before I make a setup at the predetermined place. I’m a senior citizen and although I’m in pretty good shape, my legs get weary, but stealth is necessary to kill an eastern coyote that possesses hunter savvy.
I often use an electric “tricked-out” golf cart to save my legs. Even with this machine, I still walk the last 200 yards to the setup very quietly. Some makers of these electric vehicles advertise them as “absolutely silent.” They are not. They come with quite a few squeaks and rattles. I learned to make one reasonably silent with some tightening of bolts, WD-40, foam padding and a lot of work, but don’t expect them to come from the factory that way.
It’s bad enough to miss an early season coyote when you are able to call more than one critter during a day’s hunt, but to miss a late season coyote after 15 prior set-ups with no (detected) response is downright exasperating. Make sure your gun is sighted correctly, clean and in good working condition.
I don’t miss many coyotes; never missed but one that was standing still. I’m still embarrassed about that one. A coyote popped out of the brush and turned broadside at 75 yards. This was the first time I had hunted coyotes in three months and the critter came on the first set-up. Feeling cocky, since my rifle will shoot minute-of-angle, I decided to shoot it in the head. Resting the gun on a monopod, I settled the crosshairs and squeezed. The coyote ran into the brush before I could work the bolt. I had not sighted in my .22-250 since my last hunt and later found it to be three inches off at 75 yards. Unforgivable. Ed Sceery, a well known mouth call maker once said, “You should shoot a lot more ammunition at paper than at coyotes.” Good advice.
If you use e-callers, check the batteries and carry spares. Even mouth callers foul up and I never leave home without three in my pocket and one around my neck.
Early season coyotes get about a 15-second squall from me, and then a couple of minutes of silence. It works well and I continue to use this technique until I begin to notice that either I’m getting dumber or the ‘yotes are getting smarter, or both. Then it’s time to change methods. This is also a good time to keep even more accurate records in my little notebook.
Going to a place where I know there is a smart, old, late winter coyote, I just might take out a mouth call and submit a rather loud distress call with blood dripping from every note. I make every effort to put real feeling into the sound. One of my favorites is to try to imitate the death cry of a half-grown deer. After 20 seconds of that agonizing sound, I cease all calling. I forget about my 20-minute time limit for a coyote-calling setup. I might sit there, motionless if I can, for 45 minutes. Sure, it gets boring, but memories of the few coyotes that have come sneaking through the hardwoods after 45 minutes, in bobcat fashion, keep me there.
On another setup, I might get comfortable, wait 10 minutes for the woodland creatures to come alive again and give an interrogation howl. Then I shut up again and wait 45 minutes.
These are low percentage efforts, but they beat going home with no shots fired. To keep my pride and ego intact, I might even try some more unorthodox tricks—anything to keep from going home and leaving a smiling, flea-bitten piece of fur out there who, at least for today, is smarter then I am.