Quiet Calling = Big Results

When predators are reluctant to close the distance, savvy hunters reach for a coaxer call to seal the deal.

Quiet Calling = Big Results

My favorite destination for hunting predators lies 50 miles from the nearest paved road, in a vast, Western desert time has forgotten. Today, it looks exactly as it did when the first pioneers’ oxen-drawn wagons rattled through it more than 150 years ago. Man’s heavy hand has not marked it, save deep wagon ruts worn into solid stone. 

If ever there was a land where coyotes, bobcats and foxes have never heard the sound of a predator call, this is it. In the decades I’ve hunted there, I’ve never run into another predator caller. So, calling to unsophisticated predators such as these should be a slam dunk, right? Believe me, it isn’t. 

I was hunkered down in full camo, a .243 Winchester bolt gun in my lap, stoked with 100-grain spitzer bullets, trying to coax a male coyote to come in closer. He’d showed up at a dead run, stopping only 60 yards out, but screened behind low sagebrush — refusing to take one step closer. Regardless of how I tried to mute my long-range call, he wouldn’t budge. I tried one more time and that did it. The coyote swapped ends and took off down a ravine and out of sight. Obviously, he didn’t like what he’d heard. 

Where did I go wrong? Did I use the wrong call? The big, long-range boomer had pulled the animal in from well out, but when it came to bringing him in that last 60 yards, it was no soap. Here’s a simple fact: Standard, long-range predator calls are just that. They’re designed for the maximum volume needed for long-range work. But often these days, with tens of thousands of new predator hunters out there calling, it takes a specialized call to bring suspicious predators all the way in for a close, clean shot. This means a call designed exclusively for short-range situations. I call them “quiet convincers.” And they can be deadly when correctly applied. These small calls deliver muted sounds big calls cannot match. They produce squawks, cries, bleats, moans, squeaks, chirps, squeals and the sounds of young predators in distress. 

Calling Coyotes Close

Coyotes are the most widely distributed furbearing predator in North America, and they’re numbers only grow as their range expands. They can be hunted year-round, often without limit — both day and night — in most locations. Regardless of your choice of long-range calls, when Mr. Coyote hangs up, reach for one of these specialized coaxer calls to break the stalemate. 

Burnham Brothers was in on the ground floor of manufacturing commercial predator calls going way back to the late 1940s and ’50s, and its S-2 Close Range predator call is a perfect match for close and personal calling. This unique little call is blown by placing the flat, plastic top and bottom that forms the call between your lips. Biting down on the split reed between the plastic, produces a low-volume, high-pitched squeal — the harder you bite, the higher the pitch. Another big advantage of this call is that it can be blown hands free. That can be an important edge in close-range situations because it eliminates hand movement that might spook coyotes. The reed emits a pitiful series of distress cries of crying pups, baby cottontails and small rodents. When a coyote slams on the brakes and won’t come closer, give it a dose of this and see what happens.

Savvy predator hunters have learned that coyotes are often found in close proximity to deer, whether it’s whitetails, mule deer or blacktails, especially during spring when they drop their fawns. A close-range call mimicking fawn bleats, especially when using a fawn decoy, is an irresistible combination coyotes cannot resist.  Scotch Game Calls has the perfect answer with its double reed Fawn Bleat call. It’s compact and easy to use, controlled by a pair of extended plastic tips with a single metal reed between them. Place the tips in your mouth to deliver the perfect sounding cry of an alarmed fawn. Volume is controlled by the amount of air forced through the wooden barrel of the call, and by opening and closing your hand. Biting down compresses the tips and raises the pitch.  

Here are seven, dandy "quiet calls," designed for coyotes, fox and bobcat.
Here are seven, dandy "quiet calls," designed for coyotes, fox and bobcat.

Calling Foxes Close

Foxes prey on a wide variety of small game animals and birds, but because of their diminutive size, they are often less aggressive when coming all the way in to a caller. They possess the keen hearing and the good eyesight of coyotes, but often take their sweet time — looking over the area before moving in for the kill. This is the perfect situation for using close-range calls. 

I was recently calling in a high, brushy canyon above a large river system a half-mile downhill. It was the perfect setup for bobcats, so I decided to stay on stand longer to give any feline within earshot time to reach me. After 17 minutes, I reached for a short-range call on my neck lanyard and began blowing it. Four minutes later, one of the largest and most beautiful red fox I’ve ever called in stepped out of the cover across a narrow ravine not more than 25 yards away. I was transfixed by his long, flowing tail that was the length of his entire body. He’d made no sound whatsoever — no bark, no rustle of leaves or brush. I suspect he’d been standing still in the brush for some time until the quiet call pulled him out.  

When calling in open country where you can see foxes coming in, Burnham Brothers’ S-4 Mini squeal call is a great option. It has a strained, super high-pitched sound that emits pitiful squeals and desperate distress cries that imitate those of small prey animals such as rodents and birds. Like the S-2 model, sound level and pitch are controlled by biting down and compressing the reed. Another good option for close-in work is Crit’R Calls’ Standard model. This small, compact call delivers the cries of baby mice, young rabbits in distress and even fawn bleats. It works well because these are helpless prey animals that foxes can easily overpower without creating any threat to themselves.  

I’ve also done a lot of fox hunting at night. Even when using a powerful light, it’s easy to lose sight of a fox moving in thick cover, or when they stop to think things over before coming closer. When they hang up, these quieter calls can coax them to move closer and offer a clear shot. Blowing a loud call at night often runs foxes off. You want to use a soft touch in these situations.  

Calling Bobcats Close

Bobcats are special predators in so many ways, and to my way of thinking they require more care when setting up to target them. Like foxes, a cat’s main concern is the preservation of its own thin hide and lightly built body. During my many years of calling predators, I’ve never had a cat come in at a run, like coyotes and foxes often do. Cats are dedicated sneakers and peekers that use a slow, steady, cautious approach — doing so largely out of sight until the last possible moment when they spring on their prey. More than once while calling in thick cover, I’ve stopped to take a break, twisting around to check behind me — only to find a bobcat sitting patiently, staring at me. It always makes the hair on the back of my neck tingle with electricity. 

One specialized call for cats, Crit-R Calls’ Pee Wee, produces high-pitched squalls, squeaks and thin whistles that mimic fox pup and baby bird cries and mouse-in-distress sounds. Another is the Primos Still Mouse squeaker. This call is held with one hand around the end of the barrel, with the soft rubber tip of the other end in your mouth, to deliver various levels of air pressure to change the pitch. Opening and closing your fingers produces the high, wavering sounds of distressed mice. This call can also be used hands free, holding the rubber end in the side of the mouth. 

With rare exception, bobcats prefer the thickest cover possible. That means making long, patient stands that give them time to reach you, even though I believe most cats respond from less than a couple hundred yards away at best. Because heavy cover means cats can hold up at the closest distances, it’s a good idea to use a decoy to focus their attention away from you. Two good bobcat decoys are the MOJO Woodpecker and the Whirling Woodpecker by Sportsman’s Guide. Either should be placed on a branch at the cat’s eye level.

While long-range calls work great to get a predator’s attention and bring it in for a closer look, when it’s time coax it in to hand-shaking distance, quiet calls = big rewards.   


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