What Dictates The Time Element?
Terrain controls much of how long you should wait. Dense cover not only limits the distance a call can reach, but might slow a paranoid predator’s approach, whereas open-country calling can lure animals from miles away, which also slows response time. The biggest factor rides with the predator itself and its mood when the call reaches its eardrum. Did the predator just eat? Has the predator been called before? Did the predator hear something unusual just prior to the call? Is the predator a juvenile or an adult? Is the predator simply lackadaisical?
Finally, if you only have small areas to hunt, why rush through with 15-minute setups? Take your time and milk the opportunity. Al Morris, a world-champion predator caller and member of FOXPRO’s pro staff, is confident that some locations are just too good to rush. He knows this from experience.
“I have a stand in Nevada where eight coyotes raced in the first time I called. The next year, I called the same site and five coyotes came in. That location almost always produces, so if I don’t call something in during the first 15 minutes, I extend my stay another 15 minutes just because I know it’s a great stand. Even on a slow day, a 30-minute sit there can produce a single for me.”
Honestly, Morris has a difficult time sitting any longer than 15 minutes because his notes tell him his success rate decreases dramatically, on average after 10 minutes. 75 percent of his kills come between seven and 10 minutes. Calling in contests, including the World Coyote Calling Championship, honed Morris’ calling routine to a 15-minute setup that accommodates anywhere from 18 to 22 stands a day. But, when he’s not calling in contests, Morris extends his setups to take advantage of every opportunity.
“In the World Championship, we make at least 20 stands a day, but most people don’t have that option due to personal commitments and lack of hunting property. If you don’t have a reason to be in a rush, such as in a calling contest, extend setups from 20 to 30 minutes and maximize your calling potential,” stresses Morris.
The Terrain Factor
Terrain particularly influences the time it takes for a predator to reach your hunting site. Friends of mine from Texas routinely employ the 15-minute setup because the thick brush they hunt restricts the distance their calls extend, and any predator within hearing range should theoretically respond within 15 minutes, if willing. That might be all well and true, but thick cover also means a predator can slow its advance using the cover to inch into pouncing position.
“Thick terrain, trees and brush swallow sound, so my theory for thick brush is that you can call and call, but the sound is only going to penetrate so far, especially if you have a stiff wind knocking down the sound,” says Morris. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay longer, especially if you know through scouting you are in one of those locations that predators frequent.”
Prairie and Western hunters have good reason to lengthen their stands. Nothing restricts the distance their sounds carry except a stiff wind. A coyote might hear the sound of a call a mile or more away on a still morning and, depending on the exuberance of the animal, make it by the 15-minute mark — but maybe not. Since extending my setups in central South Dakota’s rolling grasslands and river breaks I’ve averaged more coyotes after 15 minutes than before.
My logic is twofold. First, it just takes longer for coyotes to travel from afar, especially those coyotes hearing a call from a mile away or farther. Secondly, many of my properties receive calling pressure from others, so I mix up calls to avoid using something another hunter might have already used. My favorite calls are coyote vocalizations and my experiences show coyotes generally take longer to respond to a coyote vocalization than to a prey-in-distress call. Morris agrees, and also extends his stands, particularly late in the winter when he includes more coyote vocalizations to lure in breeding coyotes.
The Predator Frame Of Mind
Finally, the predator’s disposition itself determines how fast action can occur. Predators, like people, have different characteristics. Some bobcats run into a setup like a hungry coyote and some coyotes creep into a setup like a crafty cat. By nature, bobcats and mountain lions take longer coming to a call. Hunters after bobcats routinely sit 30 minutes and lion hunters spend 45 minutes to an hour on each stand.
Pat Feldt, a veteran outfitter from southeast Arizona, operates an outfitting business, Arizona Guided Hunts, which specializes in predators, including mountain lions. Feldt has called in a half-dozen mountain lions, but he truthfully admits he rarely sets out to call one in. “Calling mountain lions is tough. If you’re lucky, you might get one in out of 100 stands, and that’s only if you are lucky. Instead, we go out with coyotes or bobcats as our main focus. If we find fresh sign or a situation presents itself, then we focus on mountain lions,” explains Feldt.
After locating an area with fresh lion sign such as scratchings or a fresh kill, Feldt sets up and calls at least 45 minutes to an hour before abandoning the spot. The reason he waits so long is that cats tend to sneak in, not lope in like a coyote. Bobcats have a similar character and rarely rush to a call. When Morris finds himself in a bobcat-rich region, he lets time tick by.
“If you find yourself in an area with both coyotes and cats, it’s reason enough to wait longer on your stands,” says Morris. “If I know there is a potential for bobcats or even fox, I’ll double my time on stand and wait 30 minutes or so for greater dividends. One good 30-pound spotted cat will make it more than worthwhile.”
If you don’t have cats front and center in your mind, you still need to consider a predator’s predilections, especially if you notice signs of other hunters mixed with predator sign. All predators can become call-shy through the simple association of smelling hunters near the sound of a predator call or because they got shot at after responding to what they assumed was prey in distress.
“Every once in a while you find a red-hot travel corridor and you should take advantage of it, says Morris. “I know there are many places where you can set up near trails and saddles that coyotes use routinely to get from one valley to another. These locations are prime. Who knows how many coyotes you could kill just by being more patient?”