Hunting Bobcats with a Scattergun

For close encounters of the lethal kind, calling for felines means getting into the thick of things.

Hunting Bobcats with a Scattergun

This pump-action bobcat double was taken only 20 minutes from the author's house.

The path into the shotgun stand was easy to follow because I had been there two days earlier to mark the way. The crude trail ended at a 3-foot by 3-foot flat, dirt patch, marked with an X from the heel of my boot. I quietly unfolded my hunting chair and placed it on the mark. Before I started calling, I sat down and made sure my shooting lanes were clear and visibility was good. This was my third trip to the spot, but the first time I’d be calling it. To me, the place just screamed bobcats.

I had spotted this area from the main road a few months earlier and knew I had to check it out. The thick brush, punctuated with open areas looked perfect for calling predators close. The first trip in was to check for sign and did not disappoint. Gray fox and bobcat prints and scat littered the creek bed below, and I found two clear pathways that they used for stalking prey in the thick brush. This was their hunting grounds, and my plan was to sneak into their living room and ring the dinner bell.

The second trip there was to locate a perfect calling spot. I needed a handful of open shooting lanes, a bit of elevation and an open place to sit. I opted to call during late afternoon, knowing the sun would be hidden behind the hills of the canyon by the time I got set up. The wind seemed to always be in my face and perfect. Finding such a spot, I made sure I could quietly make my way to my calling location by marking the trail in. 

The First Time’s a Charm

Looking over my shooting lanes, I set the e-caller 15 feet in front of me, on my side of a thick bush. That way, anything coming from out front would have to circle the bush to find the source of the sound. That would be the last thing it did. I sat down, favoring the right side and shouldered my shotgun, resting my support hand grasping the forend of the shotgun on my left knee. If I spotted any movement, all I needed to do was raise the shotgun and point. It was time to call.

Using a high-pitched bird-in-distress call, I started off with low volume. Applying back pressure with my left support hand on the shotgun, I kept it shouldered while working the remote, which was attached to a lanyard, with my right hand. After a minute, I ramped up the volume and stayed alert. In thick cover, cats are often slow and methodical to respond, and at times they just seem to appear out of nowhere. 

Five minutes later, I spotted just the head of a bobcat peeking over a dirt mound 30 feet in front of me. It was focused on the call but in line with my position so it would easily spot any sudden movement I made. I slowly brought my right hand up to grasp the shotgun. Without taking my eyes off the bobcat, I slowly raised the firearm and once the bead covered its neck, squeezed off a shot. 

I quickly made my way down the shooting lane and peeked over the mound. The bobcat had flipped over backward and was lying on its back, dead. I smiled and felt the pride of knowing that correctly studying the area had put this cat in front of me and within range. As far as hunting excitement goes, nothing beats calling bobcats into shotgun range.

Paying attention to open areas in thick cover means spotting approaching bobcats before they see you.
Paying attention to open areas in thick cover means spotting approaching bobcats before they see you.

Hunting the Thick Stuff

I’ve always enjoyed the simplicity of calling predators. You pick your spots, take a seat and wait in anticipation of what might come to the call. When I started sneaking into the thick brush with a shotgun, I discovered a whole new passion. Most predators feel comfortable in thick cover and the last thing they expect is to get fooled. This is their hunting grounds, and when they hear any prey in distress, they assume it’s dinner time. Studying a spot and sneaking in will put you in close contact with critters that don’t expect you to be there. Set up correctly, and you’ll put more fur on the stretcher.

When I pick a rifle stand, I check the wind and look for an elevated calling area. I want to see any approaching predators before they see me. I refine this technique even further when picking a shotgun stand. I don’t just sit down in thick cover and start calling. I want to tip the odds in my favor by identifying open shooting corridors that I can use when something approaches. I try to find three good lanes of approach and then look for a place to set up.

If I can locate a place to sit that gives me a little elevation, that’s a plus. I’ll even take the time to do a little brush removal if I find a good spot to sit. For this type of hunting, I always bring a small hunting chair, and to stay comfortable the spot needs to be flat. Again, if I need to excavate a little dirt to make it work, I’ll do it. Staying still starts with being comfortable, and I like to make sure my chair is level and free of surrounding debris. I’ll do all this seat location maintenance during a scouting trip to avoid detection.

If I’m using an e-caller, I never position it farther than 20 to 30 feet from where I’m sitting. Essentially, you want it inside the effective killing range of your shotgun. I look for a large bush and place the caller on my side of it so any approaching cat can see it. Cats are super curious, and they will often get close to the source of the sound. Place the e-caller on your side of the bush so they’ll have to come around it to find the source of the sound, presenting you with a shot.

If the author is hunting with a buddy, he uses mouth calls on bobcat shotgun stands.
If the author is hunting with a buddy, he uses mouth calls on bobcat shotgun stands.

Using the Right Sounds

I like using the fast cadence and high pitch sounds of birds in distress when calling in the brush. Bobcats prey heavily on birds and knowing the bushes are loaded with small songbirds and quail, makes this an easy choice. This doesn’t mean other distress sounds won’t work. I’ve called in plenty of bobcats and foxes using rabbit and other small mammal distress sounds.

Mouth calls also work well in tight cover. But since the sound is coming from your position, it’s important to keep movement to a minimum. I do this by wearing a facemask when I call. By tucking my call under my mask, much of the movement of calling is hidden. I’ll typically call for about 30 seconds and then scan the area for 30 seconds. 

Before I start calling, I look the area over and try of memorize any odd-looking objects and cat-like shapes within view, paying special attention to the shooting lanes. Animals use open pathways just like humans to move through thick cover. Once I’ve identified any anomalies, and when a cat does appear, it’ll be easier to spot.

If you see a cat and it just isn’t presenting a shot, give it a few lip squeaks. Day or night, I can usually shake a cat loose from its perch with a lip squeak, getting it to take that extra step, or to simply lift its head.

Think Small for Big Returns

Another benefit of shotgun stands is that you don’t need a ton of territory. Quite a few of my prime spots are small and only 15 minutes from my house. They’re also perfect for areas that aren’t suited for rifle stands or those that are designated as shotgun-only hunting.

A few years back, I found a perfect spot only 20 minutes from my front door. I had scouted it a few times, and even smoothed out some dirt on a game trail to check for recent activity. I returned to the path two days later to find a dozen fresh cat prints of different sizes.

I sneaked in about an hour before sundown, with the setting sun at my back. I placed the e-caller out front and set the chair on a flat patch in the shade of a large bush, positioning myself favoring the right side, so I could swing more comfortably from right to left, and hit the remote.

The e-caller had been blaring a bird-in-distress sound for a few minutes when I spotted a bobcat stalking in to my right. He was only 15 feet away and trading glances between me and the caller. It took me more than a minute to slowly raise the shotgun and pan it to the right to cover the cat’s neck with the bead. The shot killed the bobcat instantly.

With only about 30 minutes of shooting time left, I decided to stay put and continue calling. I had seen at least three different sized cat tracks in the dirt earlier, so I knew other bobcats used the area. After calling for another 15 minutes, I was just about to give up when I spotted movement 40 feet in front of me. A bobcat had made its way to the edge of my calling area completely undetected. It stared from a distance and then made a move that would end its life.

The cat crouched low and quickly stalked to a large bush 30 feet out front. It stayed there unseen for almost a minute and then made the same quick move to another group of bushes 20 feet from where I sat. The bobcat was now within my killing circle, but I couldn’t see it. Again, it just stayed there, and I was losing light quickly. My shotgun was up and ready, but the bobcat wasn’t moving. 

I sent out a subtle lip squeak that was barely audible above the sound of the e-caller, and the cat peeked at me from around the bush. That was all I needed, and a single shot put it down where it stood. The big tom was larger than the first cat and more cautious in its approach. It had used every bit of available cover to get close but made a single mistake by peeking around the bush.

That was my first shotgun double on bobcats, and I owe every bit of that success to checking the spot out a few times before calling it. I picked a perfect spot to sit and utilized two of the four shooting lanes I had identified to kill these cats. Checking out the prints told me that several bobcats were using the area, giving me the confidence to stay put and continue calling after I shot the first cat. 

I’ve always gotten a charge out of calling predators but sneaking into thick cover and calling bobcats into shotgun range is without a doubt the most exciting hunting I’ve ever done. Studying the area and looking for sign is a big part of the game. And when it all comes together and you find yourself staring into the golden eyes of one of the top predators of the bush, only 15 feet from where you’re sitting, you’ll never forget it.


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