The author’s father and son celebrating success on a three generation coyote hunt.
It was a beautiful January day as we traveled the back roads of Montana. I was feeling somewhat nostalgic hunting with my 75-year-old father and my son who would turn 9 the following day. My folks were in town for my boy’s birthday and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than a day of calling coyotes. It was a historic three generation coyote hunt. The snow was piled high, which made hiking to our stands difficult. Our goal was to see my son Braxton kill his first coyote.
We quietly approached our third stand for the morning and positioned ourselves carefully. I sat beside my son to offer assistance and coaching. Dad sat about 50 yards down-wind and watched another direction. I decided an electronic caller would be best on this stand. It would keep the sound and hopefully the coyote’s attention away from us so Braxton could get positioned for a shot.
I pressed the magic button on the remote and a female interrogation howl broke through the silent morning air. Within just a few seconds a group of coyotes responded. Braxton looked at me with excitement as we knew they weren’t far off. After a few minutes of silence the electronic caller was playing bird sounds mixed with soft distress squalls. After several minutes of intermittent calling, three coyotes appeared on a ridge in front of us. They slowly moved down the hillside and stopped at 250 yards. They were looking for the source of the sound. They were acting very cautious and I knew they wouldn’t come any closer. Braxton carefully steadied his gun on the bi-pod. I softly reminded him to pick a spot and squeeze the trigger. The gun fired and the first coyote went down. He did it! He killed his first coyote. We exchanged hugs and high fives as his grandpa gave him the thumbs up. It was a proud moment as I watched him drag the coyote back to the truck. He was all grins as we took pictures and celebrated the hunt.
To be honest I was amazed at the poise Braxton showed during the moment of truth. I remember the first coyote I called and killed like it was yesterday. I’ll never forget the rush of adrenaline I felt. It seemed almost impossible to hold the cross-hairs still. After two decades of calling coyotes I still get excited every time I see one coming. If it wasn’t an adrenaline rush every single time I’d quit calling. What must we do in order to remain calm and make the shot count? Here are some things that I’ve learned over the years to help get the job done.
There are lots of people that can go to the range and shoot a perfect score, but when you put a critter in front of them they can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Perhaps the most exhilarating part of being successful in the field is the self mastery required to make accurate shots. It doesn’t matter what animal you’re hunting, you must learn to keep your nerves under control in order to consistently execute kill shots. The very best hunters in the world feel the same level of excitement we do. But, they’ve learned to control it when it counts.
There is a significant amount of scientific explanation for the benefits of taking a deep breath. The bottom line for me is it calms my nerves and helps me to think clearly. When I see a coyote approaching my stand and I feel my excitement level rising, I remind myself to take several deep breaths. It’s been said that if you can control your breathing then you can control your mind.
I believe having a pre-shot routine is vital. First, it helps you establish consistency. Consider a basketball player shooting free throws or a golfer lining up a putt. They do it the same way every single time. This ritualistic behavior creates consistency as well as confidence. My pre-shot routine consists of two verbal reminders to myself. First, “pick a spot.” This is my reminder to pick a small spot on the animal where I want to place the bullet. If I aim at the whole animal I’m likely to miss. However, if I pick a tiny spot to focus on, odds are my bullet will hit its mark. Second, “make a good squeeze.” This is my reminder to squeeze the trigger gently until the gun fires. It doesn’t matter how accurate my rifle is if I jerk the trigger. These two reminders are keys for me. They remind me of good fundamentals and give my mind something to focus on. This really helps get rid of the jitters.
Of course, there is no substitute for experience. The more opportunities you have to practice the better you’re going to be. I get just as excited today as I did when I was learning to call coyotes. However, I’ve found that using this type of routine, along with the confidence that comes from experience, has helped me to become a better hunter. Get out in the field and put these to the test. I’m confident they’ll improve your success.
Dustin has been calling predators for nearly 20 years. He has competed in coyote calling contests around the Western U.S. for more than a dozen years and has consistently excelled including many wins and top finishes. He enjoys sharing his knowledge of predator hunting with others through calling seminars and magazine articles. To learn more about Dustin or the equipment he uses visit www.predatordown.com.