Five Ways to Trash a Coyote Hunt

Avoid these five faux pas to achieve better results during your predator pursuits this fall.

Five Ways to Trash a Coyote Hunt

Nobody strives to fail, but through failure hunters can scratch flopped tactics from the list of things that work. As the coyote raced away after an embarrassing miss, I mentally rewound the reason for the failing grade on that coyote stand. It didn’t take much brain power to conclude that I had simply rushed the shot when I sensed the coyote was getting nervous. When, in fact, it was just doing a typical coyote thing — stopping to assess the situation before trotting any closer. 

That failure took place many years ago, as I attended the School of Hard Knocks at Coyote Community University. It is just one of dozens of failures I fess up to, and I’m sure there are dozens more waiting in the wings to boost my higher education in predator hunting. The following include five major failures my hunting partners and I try to avoid. Maybe they can help you dodge a humiliating encounter with one of nature’s finest educators.


Failure No. 1: Being Lackadaisical About the Wind

Warriors live and die by the sword, and coyotes live and die by the wind. An adolescent coyote might rush to a call paying no heed to the wind, but any coyote that has lived through a winter keeps the wind in its face as it approaches the call. Unfortunately, not all coyote country lends itself to favorable setups with the wind in your face and shooting lanes to cover every coyote approach.           

While hunting with a friend in Colorado in country neither of us had set foot on before, we came across an expanse of junipers with scattered openings. Figuring the coyotes would rush an opening, my partner set the caller upwind in an area void of trees. Twenty minutes into the set I glanced hard left and spotted a coyote peeking from under a juniper on the edge of our downwind scent path. My binocular confirmed it as a peeping Wile E., but before I could swing my rifle into position it was swallowed by the juniper jungle.           

The answer to winning the nose game includes advanced lessons in geometry that you probably wish to avoid, but do not skip this course. Being lackadaisical about the wind will lead to missed opportunities you see and many you will not. 

Setting up with the wind in your face automatically forces coyotes to do their own geometry course on wind angles. First, be ultra focused on setting up with ample room around you. Your goal is to pull a coyote from upwind cover, but any interested canine instinctively circles downwind. Placing an electronic caller upwind and prompting a coyote to circle between it and you is one answer. Unfortunately, not all calling sites offer that option, plus, being exposed while setting out the call adds the possibility of giving yourself away to coyotes watching from afar in open country. 

On one midmorning setup, I settled against a large sagebrush clump while my buddy walked the caller 100 yards out front. I happened to look up as I was getting settled in and was shocked to see a coyote running off in the distance. My buddy never saw it and the set was a bust. 

For mouth call aficionados such as myself, using scent out in front or on flanking sides can also prod a coyote to circle to investigate without achieving a full downwind advantage. Wildlife Research Center’s Coyote Juice or Coyote Urine can be dripped on shrubbery or deployed via a wick.           

A final oddball option is to hunt with the wind at your back. This becomes tricky since your entrance route will need to bypass any coyote refuge, so you do not bump them on the way in. Use a proven scent elimination product to reduce boot-track odor and then watch the downwind shooting lanes. Coyotes will typically swing downwind as they approach the source of the sound, and you must get the shot off before they reach a direct downwind whiff of you.

Owning the wind to avoid a coyote fail means knowing the direction it is blowing and how coyotes will use it.
Owning the wind to avoid a coyote fail means knowing the direction it is blowing and how coyotes will use it.

Failure No. 2: Moving When You Shouldn’t

Equipped with keen eyes, coyotes constantly scan the countryside for any signs of danger. Even when they sleep, they routinely lift their head for a quick look around. Although they regularly spot out-of-place objects, it is movement that really sets off their alarm system.           

The coyote was trotting in too fast for a shot, but with every lope it closed the distance for an even surer shot when it stopped. For some reason, the son of a friend who I had invited to join me on a coyote hunt decided this was the time to move. Wrong! The coyote immediately saw the movement and instead of taking a moment to reassess the move, it predictably whirled and dove into a ditch, never to be seen again.           

You can get away with some movement on an incoming coyote if you’re wearing terrain-matching camouflage. There is no excuse for not owning at least two or three outfits to match the variety of cover you routinely hunt. And you do not need an entire outfit. A jacket or shirt to cover the upright portion of your form does the trick and at a fraction of the cost of spendy head-to-toe suits.           

My camouflage wardrobe consists of various Mossy Oak patterns. From its old school Brush pattern to the latest in Elements Terra, I can easily blend into most backgrounds. Take the cloaked approach a step further by backing into shady locations, resting against trees or going prone to minimize your profile. My hunting partner Matt Swanson tucked into an old disk one morning and a Kansas coyote never saw his shape blended with the rusty implement overgrown with grass.           

The next way to get away with bold moves, such as swinging a rifle or shifting to shoot a skirting coyote, is to wait until they are blinded. A solid rule to follow is to never move when a coyote is paused or in the wide open. You can get away with slow movement if a coyote is trotting toward you, especially if its eyes are diverted in another direction. A better option is to wait until a coyote can’t see you. Typically, a coyote will dash behind a tree, a clump of brush, disappear in a depression or get lost in tall grass. When this happens, move swiftly toward the you expect it to reappear and be prepared. A coyote that ducks into a ditch might quickly show up within shotgun range.


Failure No. 3: Using the Same Old, Same Old Sounds

Although the answer to whether we are alone in the universe still has not been answered, the question of whether you have enough sounds to fool a coyote into a close encounter has been soundly answered. Advancements in modern electronic predator callers and the libraries of sounds that rival the depths of literature in any local library mean you should never want for a different sound. Why is it then so many predator callers keep going back to the sounds they used when mullets were in high fashion?              

“I’m going to use the rabbit-in-distress sound,” my buddy whispered as he prepared to call. Why he would use a sound that every other predator hunter in the county likely tried was beyond me. Nevertheless, it was his farm and I was a guest on the hunt so I kept my opinion to myself. It was late in the winter and the result was predictable — no coyote appearances, but plenty of sign to indicate our calls did not fall on deaf ears. 

Owners of electronic callers should never want for a unique sound. Rotating between birds in distress, farm animals and the squalls of big-game young provide plenty of variations. Take it a step further and move into the realm of coyote vocalizations. Coyote sounds alone or mixed with a distress sound stir coyotes to investigate territorial disruptions. 

Whenever I run into reluctant coyotes, I swap my e-caller for mouth calls. Mixing the two even provides a distinct difference in sound as compared to all Energizer-produced noises. Using a coyote and following it up later with bird distress call, resonates authenticity with a clear-cut realism that might not be found via a speaker.

ALPS OutdoorZ new Alps Outdoorz Enforcer pack is designed specifically with predator hunters in mind.
ALPS OutdoorZ new Alps Outdoorz Enforcer pack is designed specifically with predator hunters in mind.

Failure No. 4: Not Having the Patience of Job

One of the hardest lessons for me was having more patience while waiting for a coyote to show up to my calls. All strategies and sound hunting principles do not need to be adhered to just like some of the advice found in the Old Testament of the Bible. One of those I still see people living by is the 15-minute rule. If a coyote does not appear in 15 minutes, they take their game somewhere else. That might be sound advice during the early part of the fur season or even while calling summer coyotes, but after the calendar flips to a new year, I strongly believe that is bad advice, especially for hunters who share lands with other hunters.              

After walking into an incoming coyote years ago that I spooked after not sitting long enough, I routinely began staying 30 minutes to an hour at every setup. The move paid off. Not only did my kill count increase, but I also discovered I shot more coyotes on the 30-minute mark than ever using the 15-minute rule. Stay longer. It takes coyotes longer to arrive in big country and some coyotes are just paranoid and take longer.           

Comfort becomes the biggest factor in staying the course. In cold environments you need the right gear to stay warm for up to an hour. Hiking in without layers on helps avoid sweating. Layer up when you arrive, and the absence of sweat will extend your stay. Using handwarmers, face masks and even battery-operated garments for downhome heat should be considered.        

Lastly, think comfort. At very minimum I carry trash bags to sit or lay on to avoid ground moisture from penetrating my outer layers. ALPS OutdoorZ Enforcer pack is designed specifically with predator hunters in mind. A comfortable, 3-inch-thick memory foam seat folds up into a kickstand frame to create a chair for true all-day comfort. Ample cargo compartments hold calls and decoys while front compartments provide room for other necessities.


Failure No. 5: Picking Poor Calling Sites

The single factor responsible for most of my failures, past and present, is not owning the country. If you cannot see a coyote coming to your calls, it will either surprise you or get by you for a downwind confirmation of danger. In either scenario, a missed opportunity lies ahead. 

A perfect example occurred on a hunt with a buddy of mine. He set up next to some brush overlooking a creek and I was prone, slightly higher, on a knob watching an irrigation ditch. Halfway through the set I looked down at his caller in front of him and there stood a coyote quizzically eyeing the plastic contraption. My buddy was oblivious to the coyote because his position did not provide a look down the steep grade only 50 yards away. By the time I swung to shoot, the coyote realized the plastic gizmo was part of a death ruse and bolted before I could get a shot. 

Seeing ground firsthand gives you the best appraisal of a calling site. You can determine if the location offers enough elevation, openings and control of the predominate wind. On many of the public-land properties I hunt, I routinely return to the same location repeatedly because of the sight picture offered. 

Scouting at home has become as common as high fuel prices and your hunting app offers the benefits for home or on-the-go assessments. The HuntStand hunting app I utilize includes standard topographical overlays, wind graphics and even updated monthly satellite imagery at a lower resolution. With the 3D Map feature I can take a virtual flight through the area and view the hills, habitat and fields for a true sense of where the best setups are. 

This past winter I hiked a mile to reach a stand I had marked on my hunting map app that was favorable for the current winds. A broad opening extended several hundred yards that would offer me a shooting opportunity at any coyote swinging downwind. Sully, my coyote dog, sat patiently for the first 30 minutes of howling and prey distress, but I could see his tolerance waning, so I let him walk around the set.           

A low growl behind me prompted me to look and there was Sully staring down a coyote. The two were in motion to meet so I swung around and whispered for Sully to come. He did and when the dog cleared my sight window, I depressed the trigger on my suppressed Bergara for a V-Max success instead of failure. We owned the wind, Sully offered me cover to move, our calls were varied, we waited for more than 40 minutes and I owned the high ground. There really was no way to fail.


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