Hunting Predators: Going It Alone

While it might not always be more productive, hunting solo can add a Zen-like feeling to tackling predators one-on-one.

Hunting Predators: Going It Alone

How can you drive all that way all by yourself — don’t you get bored? I get that a lot. The truth is I enjoy long road trips, when I am the sole occupant of the truck. I can listen to the music I like, at the volume I like; stop whenever I feel like, for as long as I like; and just get lost in my thoughts as the miles drift by. Same goes for predator hunting — at least to a degree. While I enjoy sharing the experience with a best buddy, there are those times when I’d rather go it alone.

A good friend once told me that while hunting predators is not a spectator sport, adding a partner to the equation can boost enjoyment and add efficiency to the experience. And I agree with him — to a point. The enjoyment comes from sharing those “did you see that?” moments and the nuances of the hunt. The efficiency comes with those attributes of buddy hunting that can add up to more fur in the truck — the ability to cover multiple shooting lanes and wind directions; the two-gun approach (shotgun and rifle); another set of eyes; being able to guard the back door; positioning the shooter downwind of the caller, etc. Having a good partner can also lead to more fur on the ground through a sharing of knowledge and experience. All of these things can make tandem hunting more effective than hunting alone. 

Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy the camaraderie of hunting with a partner for all of the above reasons. But sometimes it’s just more satisfying and relaxing to hunt solo. Maybe it’s a latent man vs. beast gene that motivates the hunter to match wits — one on one — with other predators. Maybe it’s the lack of pressure and competition that sometimes accompanies a tandem hunt. Let’s take a look at some of those attributes that make hunting alone effective and enjoyable.

Hunting alone means less disturbance at the setup — less scent, less sound and less movement.
Hunting alone means less disturbance at the setup — less scent, less sound and less movement.

Plenty of patience — When hunting solo I have a lot more patience to sit longer, because I’m not wondering if my partner is bored or thinks it’s a lousy setup and wants to pack it up and move on. And I don’t feel as compelled to move when things are slow to try to make things happen. I’m more apt to take it as it comes, rather than try to force it, and enjoy the experience — good or bad. When hunting with a partner, I rarely stay at a stand longer than 20 minutes — even though I’ve shot a lot of coyotes beyond the 30-minute mark when hunting alone. I think it’s the pressure to produce that keeps me moving with hopes the grass is greener in the next pasture. Success is riding on my decisions and my decisions alone, but I don’t have to answer to anyone should things go wrong or I have an unproductive. But this motivates me to hunt as hard as I can and to try things I probably wouldn’t if I had a partner in tow. 

Less disturbance — Hunting alone has other merits, such as a reduced chance of spooking game — less scent, sound and movement at each stand. And I always get those partners who believe it’s OK to talk going to and from the setup, or slam the truck door. More people on stand means the more chances something will go wrong. When hunting alone, I am much better at taking my time getting to and returning from the stand — slipping in as quietly as possible. 

My good buddy, Mark Kayser once told me that making decisions on the spot is easier when hunting alone. “Although there is something to be said about having two minds to work out a situation, oftentimes your gut feeling, the first feeling, is the right choice,” he said. “Every predator setup site presents challenges on where your scent will flow and how much ground you can view depending on your position. Too much debating can muddy the waters. When I hunt solo I make a decision quickly and live with it.” 

But Kayser is quick to point out that there are those times when a partner provides an advantage. “The top reason is to cover all entrance points, upwind and downwind,” he said. “Having two sets of eyes watching two different directions gives you nearly 360 degrees of coverage to spot incoming predators. When you hunt solo you always give up your backside unless you have eyes on the back of your head. Another reason a partner is a good reason is economics. You and your partner can split fuel costs, alternate truck usage, jointly own an expensive electronic caller and even split the cost of donuts.”

No peer pressure — I deal with defeat much better when hunting alone, and don’t feel pressed as much to succeed. While hunting with a partner shouldn’t be viewed as a competition, I feel that when I’m calling the shots — picking the locations and the sounds we’re using — there’s inherent pressure to succeed when hunting with a buddy. On the flip side, if my hunting partner is calling the shots, I might go along with his decisions even though I don’t agree with them. Coyote hunting should be fun. If you’re too worried about making a bad sound or sequence and you hurry up or get frustrated, chances are pretty good you’re leaving fur behind.

Best of both worlds — Can you have your cake and eat it, too? Sure. Hunt alone — with a buddy. Hunting with a partner often carries with it a bit of redundancy, considering that a lot of the time you will both be targeting the same called critter. It’s a lot like putting all of your eggs in one basket. So why not pair up, but then go your separate ways? One example is to hunt with a buddy, but split up at the truck and go in different directions to cover a lot more territory — or hunt together but alone by using two trucks. Hunters can park at opposite ends of a large ranch or public hunting ground, and then hunt back to each other’s vehicle — working across the wind and stopping every quarter-mile or so to call. If the property lies north to south, one hunter can swing to the east while the other swings to the west so that they are covering different territory.

The author often enjoys hunting alone because of the lack of pressure and competition that sometimes accompanies a tandem hunt.
The author often enjoys hunting alone because of the lack of pressure and competition that sometimes accompanies a tandem hunt.

Thinking outside the box — I’m more apt to experiment when hunting alone. I might try different sounds, different locations and different tactics with little concern about whether they are going to work. When hunting with a buddy, I’m more apt to keep it vanilla — using the same old, same old, strategies and tactics — and then move on to the next stand.  

Going it alone … sort of — Some enterprising coyote callers have found a way to hunt alone while enjoying the company of a friend — man’s best friend, in fact. The practice of using of a decoy — or tolling — dog, is gaining popularity because of its effectiveness and a fun factor that’s way off the charts. 

A few years back, I hunted with Utah predator hunter Cory Lundberg and his canine hunting partner, a catahoola/cur cross named Duke. I got quite an education on how effective using a decoy dog can be. He says that a dog can be a valuable asset when going it alone because of the additional eyes, ears and, most importantly, nose they add to the equation. The use of decoy dogs exploits the territorial tendencies of coyotes, especially during the spring when they’ve got pups on the ground. “During this time, the alpha males are extremely territorial,” he said. “And the best way to get some action is by primarily using challenge howls, barks and yips, or mimicking the sounds of a family of pups and females with an electronic caller.” It’s also the best time, he says, to employ a decoy dog to further exploit those defensive tendencies. 

So, while it’s true that predator hunting is not a spectator sport, there are times and situations when hunting with a partner can take the game to the next level of fun and efficiency. But don’t feel that it’s anti-social to want to hunt alone. Going solo can add a whole different dimension to predator hunting that trumps the social aspect of hunting with a partner.


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