There are many hunters who think a coyote is a coyote and that there’s not much difference between the eastern and western predators. Having hunted coyotes from Maine to Montana, and all the way south through Texas, I can say with certainty that there is a big difference in how these animals respond to the call.
A lifetime of calling and Murray Burnham’s (one of the famous Burnham Brothers who pioneered the use of calls for coyotes, foxes and other predators) sage counsel have led me to create 10 tips for calling coyotes anywhere east of the Mississippi.
1) Dress for Success: Whenever a coyote shows up I get the same feeling I did when my high school math teacher looked me in the eye and called me to the front of the class. When I was ill prepared she seemed to know it, sensed it and could pick me out of the crowd from halfway across the classroom. The same goes for coyotes. If you’re not fully covered in camouflage (includes face mask and gloves) all of your efforts to bring him into range will be for naught because as soon as he stops to look at you he’ll see you—and be gone. Wear camo clothing that matches the surroundings you intend to hunt and cover yourself from head to toe. Every time.
2) Set Up Ready to Shoot: Some Eastern hunters will start calling before they set up thinking that a little pre-squalling will give distant coyotes time to cover some ground. This may work well in the wide-open West, but in the east the “distant” coyote may literally be right around the corner. He will be in your lap before you have a chance to shoot, and then you’re busted! Never utter a call (or make any noise, including talking) until you are sitting comfortably with your back to a tree, rock or log just as you would while calling spring turkeys. Use a cushion or low seat if you must, but get comfortable, knees up, firearm or bow in hand and ready to shoot. You must be able to sit still, not moving, for the next 45 minutes. Take care of the rocks, twigs and sticks that are under you. Don’t sit on your legs or lean on your elbows because 20 minutes into the hunt they’ll be screaming for relief. Sit down, relax, aim downwind and always assume that a coyote is going to respond to your call.
3) Call Sparingly: As Murray Burnham told me, hunting in the East means calling in relatively confined spaces, with hills, mountains and thick woods all around. Even the loudest of calls can only carry a few hundred yards due to the density of the surrounding habitat, so there is no need to call loudly, repeatedly and continuously. I raised rabbits for meat and lived in the deep, dark woods of Maine for 12 years during my homesteading days and was quite familiar with the sound of a dying rabbit. One or two loud, piteous squalls or a few squeaks are the norm for a rodent that is being attacked by a predator. Call too much and the incomers will become even more suspicious than usual because continuous wailing and screeching is not how “real” prey species respond when being attacked.
I start out with a couple of short-range squeaks just in case a coyote is just inside the woods or just over the next hill. If not, I’ll follow up with one or two loud blasts on a long-range call—but no more. A hungry coyote will know exactly where you are from the first squawk. When he clears the brush and you first see him he will be staring directly at you.
4) Sit Tight for 45 Minutes: Patience is the eastern coyote hunter’s most valuable asset. Once you are set up and calling you must trust your skills and the senses of the coyote. He will find you—in fact, he already has your location pinpointed in his mind—and he will show up as the cover, conditions and his own suspicious nature allow. Some coyotes come in on the run and show up in five minutes; others will skirt every bit of available cover and creep in slowly, full of doubt, anxiety and uncertainty. All you have to do is sit still, ready to shoot, and let the coyote do all the worrying. His hunger will override his fears if you give him time to work on it.
Plan to sit still for 45 minutes, but then sit another five or 10 minutes just in case. And, when it’s apparent that no coyote has heard your call, scan the perimeter carefully and stand up ready to shoot because there’s always that one coyote that will show up unexpectedly at the very last instant, offering a quick shot for the hunter who’s ready for it. This has happened to me everywhere I’ve hunted. Expect it and prepare for it. Sooner or later it will happen to you, too!
5) Study The Wind: Once you have let loose with your call you have done all you can to lure a coyote into range. Now it’s a matter of patience and the wind. Always set up facing downwind or, in hilly country, quartering downwind. Coyotes and other predators will make a wide swing around you and come in with the wind in their faces as they look, listen and sniff the breeze. A predator is as cautious an animal as exists, far more suspicious than deer, elk or even bears. The least whiff of danger will send them running for cover even if everything else looks or sounds good.
Be sure to check out Part II next…