Eastern Coyotes: Kill Them On Their Terms

When hunting coyotes in the eastern half of the United States, vary your strategies in accordance with the time of year and what they are doing throughout the day. These proven tactics should help you call and kill more coyotes on their own terms.

Eastern Coyotes: Kill Them On Their Terms

In mid-morning hours, move to transition areas such as a wood’s edge where coyotes travel from feeding to bedding areas. (Photo: Andrew Lewand)

Newbie and experienced Eastern coyote hunters may notice a trend in coyote calling results: Success comes quickly in the early portion of the calling season, but drops off as the months progress. There are actually a few reasons for that including changing populations and hunting pressure. Despite such roadblocks to success, coyotes will still come to the call in the later stages of the calling season, though hunters may have to modify their calling efforts be successful. That change should not be random, however.        

I firmly believe no hunter should take a haphazard approach to coyote hunting. Instead, hunters should first gain an understanding of what coyotes do in their daily/monthly schedule and make stands accordingly. That approach generates more consistent results than randomly calling at the local farm where a coyote was spotted during deer season.

The Daily Life Of A Coyote

A coyote’s daily job description is pretty simple: eat and survive. That is true for most of the calendar year. In late winter through spring, its role expands to reproduction and raising a family. The Eastern coyote is a master of those tasks. The coyote’s diet is all encompassing as it can survive from ingesting field mice to discarded garbage. 

The survival component is evident in that coyotes are ultra-adaptable and can exist in wide variety of environments ranging from city parks to thick rural woods. The good news for hunters is that you can hunt coyotes using a wide variety of sounds in many different locations. The question remains, though –how to do it? How can we kill coyotes using specific setup tactics that do not rely on pure luck? First, we must realize where, how and why coyotes move (or don’t move) during a typical day.

Coyotes On The Move

I am going to guess that most deer hunters who have their tree stands overlooking fields and open areas spot most of their coyotes in the first and last hour of daylight. Furthermore, deer hunters who have their stands in deep woods will notice extended-hours coyote movement. That is because Eastern coyotes feel more secure moving under the security of cover that woods provide. This basic movement pattern is the first clue as to where and when hunters should call to coyotes. 

The increased frequency of dusk and dawn sightings occur because that is when Eastern coyotes are transitioning to and from feeding areas. The majority of prey species on a coyote’s diet are active at night, and that is when coyotes are out and about searching for food. If foul weather hinders successful night feeding, coyotes will be more mobile in daylight hours.

A common belief is that Eastern coyotes will not cross an open field in the daylight. Hunters who experience several empty sets while calling open fields may concur. That is a myth, as Eastern coyotes certainly maneuver through open fields during the daylight. The key to maximizing opportunity during those times is employing a few setup strategies. 

One is to set up so that you have the greatest field of vision –especially of the downwind area. Using elevation in the terrain is beneficial to improving your field of vision. Here is a very important tip: Set up so coyotes feel secure as they approach your setup. Placing your call so that the wind blows toward areas that allow for secure travel, but still allow for shot opportunity, is an excellent tactic. Ditch lines, hedgerows and wooded points are all examples of secure landscape features. Even with proper set up, coyote sightings in open field settings may dwindle as time progresses. After the first hour of daylight, hunters may wish to alter their setup tactics for success.

Get Inside!

After a long night of hunting, coyotes need to rest. I call the first and last few hours of daylight “transition times” because those hours are when coyotes are traveling from hunting grounds to bedding areas or vice versa. Preferred bedding areas include brushy hillsides and other areas of thick cover such as overgrown fields, hedgerows and cattails. 

Hunters can take advantage of coyotes that are traveling from feeding areas to bedding areas by setting up inside of woodlots. We know that coyotes feel more secure moving under the cover of hardwoods, so it only makes sense to hunt those areas at times when coyotes are moving in them. Late mornings, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., are perfect for such setups. So, after initially calling a field scenario at daybreak, move into the hardwoods for your next setup.

Hunters frequently ask about the efficacy of hunting out of a treestand and moving into the hardwoods in late morning is perfect for doing just that! Depending upon the thickness of the vegetation, place a remote-controlled e-call fifty to seventy-five yards upwind from your position. An approaching coyote should swing downwind and present itself nicely for a shot opportunity.

Prey species distress sounds will attract transition zone coyotes. Coyotes are plenty susceptible to prey sounds if they come off a night of tough hunting. Morning hunts following an especially windy night always seem to be productive. Keep a keen eye, because coyotes seem to magically appear in hardwoods.

Mid-Day Success?

Mid-day hours are times of rest for Eastern coyotes. Unless affected by severe weather conditions or human interference, coyotes are sleeping. Can coyotes be successfully called during that time slot? Yes. However, sitting and overlooking a cut bean field may not get the job done. The hunter needs to concentrate not only on hunting hardwoods, but also must get close to actual bedding areas. 

Hunters should sneak up to known bedding areas and present sounds that make it worthwhile for coyotes to get up and investigate. A solid bet is to call from just outside of the bedding area — don’t get inside of it. Think of a brushy hillside. You may not want to walk into the middle of the terrain and call, but if you can set up on the downwind edge of the hill, or on top of it, you may be able to draw out coyotes without bumping them from the area.

When selecting a sound to lure the coyotes, use one you are confident with. Every hunter will discover their favorites. I have always had good results from any of the woodpecker distress sounds. When calling at mid-day, I always try to pick a different sound than I use in my nighttime calling sequences. 

Transition To Darkness

Late afternoon and dusk time slots offer great promise. Coyotes have been resting all day — unless bothered — and are soon up and moving as they prepare for an evening of hunting. The tactics used in late afternoon actually mirror those used in morning hours. Hunters who venture out early enough can make a daylight setup inside the woods to catch coyotes transitioning to feeding areas. For a dusk hunt, it may be best to overlook fields to make a calling stand during the magic hour.

Into The Night

I have always maintained that “nighttime is the right time” for calling in Eastern coyotes. That is the time when coyotes are moving with one thing in mind: Feeding! 

A common question arises: what is the best time of night to call? I conducted an online survey on nighttime hunting and, out of 381 respondents, 97 hunters reported that between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. was the best time. Another 173 hunters reported that between 9 p.m. and Midnight was their best time. Eighty-seven hunters responded that between midnight and 3 a.m. was the best time and, finally, 24 hunters indicated that between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. was the best time.

Read into those results what you may. The 9 p.m. to Midnight time slot received the most votes. That time is also most convenient for hunters. They can eat dinner with family, put young children to bed, head afield to enjoy some hunting and still be able to get up for work the next morning! Many of those hunters also choose to hunt and then allow the hunting areas to settle down. That means road traffic slowed, residents and pets were usually inside and coyotes moved freely in the undisturbed tranquility of the night.

Coyotes are definitely willing to cross open fields at night. Hence, calling sessions over open fields are productive. Familiarize yourself with the terrain during the daytime and determine the best spot to set up at night. If possible, use elevation to your advantage so that you can track the coyote’s progress as it maneuvers through fields that may contain knolls, ditches and other obstructions to your nocturnal vision. 

Sound choices for night calling are entirely up to each individual hunter. Since we know coyotes move at night in an attempt to eat, prey distress sounds produce at all times of the year. Each hunter finds productive sounds and those sounds should be used. When those sounds fail to produce, do not be afraid to change things up and offer new sounds that may entice coyotes. Remember, with proper scouting you can assume coyotes are in the vicinity. You need to find the right sound to bring them in!

The Fall Hunt

For many hunters, the fall hunt is the most exciting and enjoyable. The coyote population is at its peak as pups have not been subjected to hunting pressure. Warmer air temperatures also make for comfortable conditions to be out calling day or night. 

In September, coyote packs are still together. The Alpha male and female are often accompanied by what is left of their spring litter. Despite high pup mortality (80 percent death rate in the first year) two to four pups will make it through the summer months. The pack stays together as the young are taught valuable lessons on hunting and surviving.

The premise of early season calling is pretty simple — make sounds and draw coyotes to your location. It should be easy as packs of eager and uneducated coyotes cruise the land for their next meal. Well, sometimes success comes quickly and sometimes it doesn’t. Even early season coyotes can humble hunters quickly. Fall is the time to discover prey distress sounds that may prove productive all season long. 

It is not uncommon to draw in multiple coyotes on early season stands. My personal record is eight coyotes approaching at once. Three of those were killed and a fourth got a pass as it stood in line with a farmhouse in the background. Those coyotes appeared instantly and willingly crossed and open field under the cover of darkness. Clearly, they were on a mission for food and my continuously played rabbit distress sounds were enough to do the job. 

Stands can be made quickly during the early season. Fifteen to twenty minutes is usually enough to lure in any proximate coyotes. If nothing appears in that time frame, assume that there are no coyotes in the vicinity and move on.

The Prime Winter Hunt

Late November through the end of January is when coyote fur thickens and becomes prime. Hunters who handle fur often wait until then to commence their coyote hunting for that very reason.

Most of the young-of-the-year coyotes have split from their families and dispersed for lands to call their own. Prime habitat may be hard to find for coyotes and they quickly fill voids left by deceased coyotes. That is why hunters have honey holes that always seem to produce! 

How do calling efforts change during this time of year? Quite frankly, they may not have to! If you have locations that have high populations of coyotes and you are successful using the same calling sounds and strategies that worked in the fall, then do not change a thing! However, if coyotes no longer race to your calls like they did earlier in the season, a change may be necessary. 

Coyotes are always hungry, so if you are hunting during prime coyote travel times, prey distress sounds can be your first sound choice. I believe hunger is the most conservative way to appeal to a coyote. Because of increased hunting pressure, your sound presentation may want to be tweaked. Aside from selecting completely new sounds, interjecting periods of silence along with your calling can be helpful. Eager coyotes that ran into five minutes of non-stop cottontail distress may be hanging on someone’s wall by now and you may be calling to a wiser critter that only responds to altered sound presentations.

Some transient coyotes are still searching for suitable habitat. That makes them more mobile than resident coyotes and the likelihood of them being spotted increases. Those coyotes are susceptible to prey distress calling efforts as well as spot and stalk hunting tactics. Hunters can also pretend to be a rogue coyote to lure in resident coyotes. Use caution while attempting to do that because, as general rule, transient coyotes do not go around howling like crazy because they are not looking for a fight on another coyote’s turf.

Instead, hunters should use howling sparingly and wisely.  It is best to use a lone howl imitating a subordinate male or female coyote. As far as a sequence is concerned, one or two lone howls followed by several minutes of silence are best. Let the inquisitive nature of resident coyotes take over. They may appear to check out the “coyote” that is invading their turf. 

Patience is also your friend as the season progresses. Coyotes may take longer to approach, so lengthen your time on stand. Instead of making a twenty-minute stand, extend it to thirty minutes. Here is another tip: After making your last sound, sit in absolute silence for five minutes to allow any extra cautious coyotes time to respond.

Late Season 

The late season is February through March. In Northeastern states, mating season may still be underway in February and that has calling implications. March is a time of den preparation and usage and that also affects how hunters call to coyotes. Late season is a season of change as far as calling tactics are concerned. The biggest change is to use coyote vocalizations exclusively, and knowing which coyote howls to use is often tricky. 

Hunters need to gain an understanding of the basic meanings of various howls. In my experience, a hunter can’t go wrong with sparse lone howls. Over-howling seldom proves effective. I believe that it is better to pique the coyote’s interest and let its curiosity take over. Some effective howls to use in late stage breeding season are female invitational howls. The idea is to sound like a female coyote that is available for mating purpose.

In this late season, patience becomes even more important. Slow down your stands and let time work in your favor. Stand lengths of thirty-five minutes or more are often productive as the calling season winds down.

By March, much of the breeding is done and coyote pairs have selected and prepared denning sites. Early breed females may be tending to new born pups by March and that leaves the males out hunting for food. A prey distress is still productive and is recommended to start a calling stand. The males are also doing something else that is vital to the security of the pack. Males cruise the vicinity attempting to keep all other male coyotes out of the area. 

Protecting their territory is never more important than it is during the denning time. Hunters can cash in on that knowledge by using more aggressive coyote sounds. Single male howls are effective in this situation, though calling can go beyond single howls. For example, a coyote fight is effective because another male will not tolerate other coyotes near the den site.  The sound of a coyote altercation is surely enough to bring the rooming male in for a look. Barks, growls, sore howls and Ki-Yi’s are all productive when it comes time to replicating a coyote fight. Of course, allow for ample minutes of silence following the auditory turmoil you create.


Do not keep repeating set up tactics that do not produce. That sounds like a simple statement, but it happens all the time. Following the mantra “that something has to show up sometime” leads to discouragement. Vary your hunting strategies in accordance with what coyotes are doing throughout the day and time of year, and you call kill coyotes on their own terms.


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