Hunting Cold Weather Predators

Extremely cold temps mean even the wariest critters lose their inhibitions in their search for food. Here’s how you can use this to your advantage to put more winter-prime fur on your stretchers.

Hunting Cold Weather Predators

Scavengers such as ravens, crows and magpies alert coyotes and other predators to the possibility that a free and easy meal is close at hand.

The temperature had dropped to a frigid -25° F, and I could not wait to get outside, knowing that ear-numbing mercury readings mean an extreme calorie deficit for coyotes, foxes, wolves and all sorts of other furbearers. I knew that even those that were reluctant to come to the call during milder times would respond to cold-induced hunger pains. 

The snow scrunched under my felt-lined pack boots as I followed a fence line to where it intersected a point of trees adjacent to a slough bottom and some big timber that provided a good bedding area for coyotes. I set up my electronic caller in the open field with a feather attractor positioned to dance in the breeze, tucked into the trees and switched the caller on. 

About three minutes into the stand, the first ’yote came prancing out of the willows, showing no signs of hesitation as it trotted in at a deliberate pace. At 60 yards, I used a sharp bark to stop the canine in its tracks — quickly followed by the report from my rifle. I immediately increased the caller’s volume and switched to a new distress sound, knowing full well that a single gunshot doesn’t mean more critters won’t come to the call. Less than five minutes later, another hungry coyote loped into view, head down and extremely focussed. 

What occurred at that stand is not uncommon — especially in cold weather. Just consider how far sound travels in the cold and how far animals might have to travel to get to your location and it becomes crystal clear. Cold days are productive days — so sit tight after the shot and call for multiple kills. The pair of ’yotes was a great start to the morning, but I had plenty of other spots to hit before heading in for a warmup.

Predators not only key in on distress sounds, they are attracted to movement as well —especially cats. A feather on a string is like eye candy to approaching critters — often enticing them to forget their fears.
Predators not only key in on distress sounds, they are attracted to movement as well —especially cats. A feather on a string is like eye candy to approaching critters — often enticing them to forget their fears.

Dress for Success

Dressing for success means wearing garments that keep you warm and comfortable. Unnecessary movement can hamper your efforts, and frostbite can cause severe injury. Proper layers are critical, starting with a base layer that will wick moisture from the body while hiking to a hunting location. Use a thermal pad for sitting on to prevent the cold ground from transmitting directly into your body. Gloves with removable liners are great for keeping hands toasty warm and maintaining the dexterity to shoot. Handwarmers tucked into the storm cuffs of a jacket will keep warm blood flowing to your fingers. Keep your head covered because you can lose tremendous body heat through your noggin. Winter boots with good insulation and traction will keep your feet happy. 

Cold weather can also mean snow — lots of it — and snowshoes will ensure your boots and clothing are dry by keeping you on top of the snow rather than buried in it. Accessing areas where you would have to break trails or trudge through deep snow requires less effort, and snowshoes can be used to sit on or provide a rifle rest that will naturally screen your body.


Key Wildlife Movement

Humans are programmed to eat three meals a day at regular intervals. Wildlife do not feed on a set schedule, but moon phases can significantly affect critter movement, and the twilight or shoulder hours of the day always seem to be best. Once you start paying attention to the moon phase, you will be surprised how it helps predict predator movement. 

There are several mobile apps with moon phase information and how it correlates to major and minor wildlife movement periods. It is interesting how the moon’s gravitational pull affects all living creatures and their daily movements. The HuntStand app offers several features useful for predator hunting. You can log information, sightings and trap markers within the Predator setting, and moon phase and peak game movement data is invaluable for ensuring you are in the field when predator movement is the highest. The app also provides weather details and forecasts, and wind direction can be checked before leaving home so you can plan your stand strategy. HuntStand is a free download that offers in-app purchases for land ownership overlays. For more information, visit

Cold weather also means it’s the coyote breeding season in the North. During this time of year, decoys are great for attracting dominant breeding predators or creating competition for food as it becomes scarcer. Coyotes have incredible eyesight and generating a visual response can turn a quiet day into a successful one. The more senses you can appeal to the better, so the combination of sound and sight will often work in your favor. 

Atmospheric pressure affects people’s health and is often used to predict the weather. A rising barometer indicates increasing air pressure, and a falling barometer indicates decreasing air pressure. The barometer can be a stable tool for determining the best days to hunt predators. 

Days with stable or dropping barometric pressure are the best for calling predators. High or rising barometric pressure creates challenging conditions, reducing sound travel. Keep track of the barometric pressure in your hunting area log and watch for patterns that allow you to forecast your best hunting days. Understanding that sound travels better and farther on low-pressure days can be easily tracked by your success.


Scents and Bait

The more senses you trigger, the more likely you’ll get a response when you set up and start calling — and that’s why using scents, baits and decoys can deliver a one-two-three punch. Combine a caller and attractor with scent to cover human odor and make the hunting spot smell like a meal. Pieces of liver or heart have naturally attractive qualities, even in the cold. Predator hunters who also hunt deer, rabbits or other game can soak rags with the blood from these animals and place them at a calling site. Some hunters use bedded deer decoys with rags soaked in blood to target predators. 

Bait can be used to draw predators to a specific area before the cold settles in and then hunted over when fur becomes prime. Keep the area stocked and active leading up to prime hunting periods and the critters will be there when you start setting up to hunt. Continue to bait during the cold to ensure predators continue to visit the site. Farmers often have “dead pits” where they dump their dead livestock. These are huge predator magnets and calling in the vicinity of these areas can be highly productive.

Baiting is a popular way to hunt wolves in the North. Anyone who has hunted them can tell you there are lots of uneventful days spent watching and waiting, but when an animal shows up, it is with intent. Cold provides an advantage for hunters who are hoping to catch these apex predators traveling or feeding during daylight hours. 

There are a variety of commercial motion decoys and spinners available to predator callers. However, anyone who enjoys waterfowl hunting can save the wing tips from birds to use as natural attractors. A slight breeze will make the feathers dance when hanging from a string, and predators lock onto the movement from long distances. I pin a fishing swivel to the feather quills to ensure they spin without tangling on an attached line. Big honkers have a dark profile, while snow goose wing tips look like a wounded rabbit or hare. A mallard’s wing tip is dark on one side and light on the other and this contrast really catches a predator’s attention. 

To gain a scent-free advantage, develop a regimen for washing winter hunting clothes to reduce human odor. Personal hygiene without using scented soap and shampoo can be huge. Shave before you shower to wash away any shaving cream odor. Products such as the Scent Killer Gold lineup from Wildlife Research Center will reduce your scent from head to toe. The more vigilant you are about scent control, the more it will work to your advantage.

Hunters can prepare for the cold, which can create a disadvantage or weakness for predators.
Hunters can prepare for the cold, which can create a disadvantage or weakness for predators.

Firearm Care

When the thermometer drops to a bone-chilling minus 35°F, it’s common for a rifle to misfire due to a slow firing pin, delayed by freezing oil or grease in the bolt. The “click” no hunter wants to hear results in a dented primer but no powder ignition. Cold weather predator hunters can prepare their rifles for extreme cold by not using any lubricant. 

Clean the bolt by removing it from the firearm and spraying it with brake cleaning fluid until it is dripping. Rotate the bolt and ensure the cleaning fluid gets into all moving parts. Wait a few seconds, then repeat. The brake fluid will cut and remove grease, oil and dirt build-up. Brake cleaner dries fast and without residue, making it a good choice for use in cold conditions. When the cold predator hunting season is over, a thin coating of lubricant on the rifle and all working parts ensures protection against corrosion.


Keeping a Positive Mindset

Hunting in extreme cold can be challenging, but the rewards are often worth the long, cold sits. With high-tech clothing and electronic hand and toe warmers, frigid temperatures should only impact predators, not hunters. Hunters can prepare for the cold, which creates a disadvantage or weakness for predators. Hunters who embrace the cold with a positive mindset can overcome obstacles, which are often their brains. 

Calorie deficiencies and harsh conditions that make predators desperate for food weigh in favor of the hunter. Strategize for hunts by watching the weather, barometric pressure and moon phase to ensure you are in the field during the best possible times. Keep a log to confirm what works and which factors have the most significant control or impact on wildlife. 

If you live in cold country, find ways to embrace it and get it to work in your favor when hunting predators. It will help generate new appreciation for where you live and winter as a special season for hunting fur.


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