Setting Up for Successful Predator Calling

Perfecting your calling stands can be an exercise in trials and tribulations — but the end result might just tip the odds in your favor.

Setting Up for Successful Predator Calling

Back in 1997, around the time I started calling predators, I made a setup that to this day still stands out for all the wrong reasons. I was positioned at the edge of a dry creek bed with the sun rising just off to my right. During an earlier scouting trip, I had noticed a substantial amount of coyote and bobcat prints in the sand there. I figured sneaking in and setting up on the bank in the early morning would be ideal. 

I had just finished a series on my Lohman mouth call when a coyote trotted in to my right and stopped about 60 yards out. My rifle was resting on my shooting sticks and pointed directly in front of me, which put me out of position. I needed to move to the right if I wanted a chance at a shot. 

As the coyote searched for the source of the sound, I slowly panned my rifle and sticks to the right to get him in the scope. Instantly, I started to feel stretched and uncomfortable, as I tried moving the rifle into position and then contorting my body behind it. That wasn’t working. It was clear I needed to rotate my entire body to get comfortable and get a shot. The rustle of dry leaves at my feet gave me away. The coyote took one quick look my way and was gone in an instant. I felt sick. 

I was now rotated and positioned correctly, in line with where the coyote had been standing less than a minute earlier. There was no way the coyote would’ve stayed put with the amount of movement and positioning I needed to make to get him in the scope. Additionally, since he had come in on the right, the same side where the sun was now breaking the horizon, I was now peering through the scope at a severe glare, making it almost impossible to make out any useable sight picture. The last straw was the realization that my once shaded hiding spot was now bathed in a blast of early morning sunlight. Frustrated, I kicked at the dry leaves that had given me away.


The Evolution of a Predator Caller

When I first started calling predators, failure was common. However, I made sure that after every failed attempt I dissected what had happened and learned from it. During those early years, it was clear that the animals were telling me that some subtle adjustments were needed if I were to become a more successful predator hunter. I began to realize that much like honing my shooting skills, there were other aspects of calling predators I could refine and improve upon. 

As hunters gain experience, they begin to realize what works and what doesn’t. They perfect their craft and hone each part of the activity until it leads to more success. It starts with the equipment — suitable camo, guns and optics, effective calls, etc. — until they develop that “go-to” setup. But to increase success on the predator stand, hunters need to extend this development to include how they sit down and set up before the calling starts. 

There are three things that determine where I sit to call predators: elevation, the position of the sun and wind direction. First, I want to see as much of the terrain as possible and that’s why elevation is so important. Finding a shady spot with an elevation advantage will tip the odds in your favor. 

Next, I always note of the position of the sun and adjust accordingly — keeping it at my back for an added layer of concealment. If it looks like a good morning stand, where the sun will be behind me, I add it to the morning stand rotation. You can’t see much of anything staring into the sun and it’s no different for coyotes. Keep the sun behind you as much as you can and let them stare into it, not you. 

Finally, I try to use varied wind directions to my advantage. If the wind is at my back and moving directly out in front of me, I’ll find another time to call the area. My preferred wind is subtle and in my face. Left or right wind movement will simply dictate where I place the remote caller and where I focus my attention should an interested coyote try to circle downwind.

Placing the e-caller in the right spot will pay dividends when the action starts.
Placing the e-caller in the right spot will pay dividends when the action starts.

Positioning the E-caller

If you’re using an e-caller, placement goes a long way toward being successful. Despite the insane remote ranges now available on some models, I rarely set my caller more than 50 to 75 yards away from where I’m set up. I understand that every step I take is moving my scent across my calling area and I like to minimize this as much as possible. 

Once I find where I want to place the caller, I check the wind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked the wind direction where I’m set up, only to have it different down at the caller. Frequently, wind directions can shift at different elevations, even if these elevations are slight. I like to place the caller favoring the upwind side, giving me lots of room out front should an animal circle downwind of the call. 

While I’m at the caller, I take a quick second and glance back to my setup. I do this to make sure I’m hidden and to assure that nothing out of the ordinary can be spotted by an approaching predator. Make sure you and your hunting partner blend into your surroundings before you make a sound. 


Fine-Tuning the Setup

In my opinion, this is the most important step. Many predator hunters probably give little thought to how they’re set up before they start calling. I’ve watched it happen countless times in the field and on just about every predator hunting show on the Outdoor Channel. Hunters walk to the edge of their stand and plop down wherever they can, with little concern for maintaining a comfortable position and being able to adjust to any situation with minimal movement. 

Being a right-handed shooter, it is more comfortable for me to swing my firearm from right to left. Moving from left to right, like I explained in the opening scenario, is uncomfortable and not a quality shooting platform for me. If you need an example, try this. Sit on the floor with your back against the couch, legs perpendicular to the sofa. Now pretend you’re shouldering your rifle. Slowly rotate left and right. Depending on your dominant hand, you’ll feel far more comfortable moving one way than the other. And let’s be honest, when you’re comfortable, you shoot better. 

On absolutely every stand, without fail, I set up facing as far to the right as I can, giving me almost 180 degrees of comfortable movement from right to left. I like to sit in the shadows, so I place my right shoulder up close to whatever is casting that shadow. It almost looks like I am favoring the right side over the left while calling. In reality, I am setting up so that if anything approaches in front of me, left or right, I can quickly and comfortably rotate my gear and put the crosshairs on fur. 

Instead of rotating my upper body to move into position when a predator approaches, I maintain a rigid connection with my rifle and sticks and use my rear end as the pivot point. Kind of like the turret on a tank, turning all at once to get on target quickly. If I stay in essentially the same position behind the rifle when I move on a coyote, I can acquire my target faster because my overall position is repeatable and changes very little. 

Once I pick my setup spot, I take a few seconds to clear out the area where I’m sitting — pushing away leaf litter, removing sticks and rocks, and making sure any movement I might make to adjust to an approaching predator will not be impeded by any obstacle. This is a huge advantage in escaping detection. I also quietly move my sticks and rifle from right to left, and then back again, making sure the area is clear and I can move freely without making any noise. Adding a seating pad or small chair should keep you relatively comfortable and still during the duration of the stand.


Preparing for the Shot

Once your e-caller is placed and you’re set up comfortably, the true fun begins. You need to be ready the instant you turn on the machine. Before you get started, check your scope setting and make a mental note of all available shooting corridors. Most predators like to use paths or openings in terrain just like we do. Find these pathways and pay attention to them during the calling sequence. You should be ready and on edge the entire time. 

Early in my calling career, I had a coyote show up three seconds after I started calling. He raced in, grabbed the top to my decoy and started for cover. I mounted the rifle and couldn’t see anything. My variable scope was dialed all the way up and the coyote escaped unharmed. Ready I was not.

We’ve all heard that it’s a good practice to quietly leave your calling area undetected after you’re done calling to avoid educating predators that might be nearby. I like to take this a step further. Once the calling is finished, I get into a crouched position and slowly rotate 360 degrees, looking for any animals that might have been hung up during my calling sequence. I’m a firm believer that once humans stand up, coyotes and bobcats understand the danger and leave quickly. If you stay low and relatively unthreatening, you might be surprised at the extra opportunities you’ll be presented with.

The author (L) and Ed Davis pose with the results of making subtle adjustments to their calling setup.
The author (L) and Ed Davis pose with the results of making subtle adjustments to their calling setup.

Gearing Up for Success

I hunt exclusively off a set of adjustable shooting sticks. I like the versatility of being able to quickly adjust the height to fit each situation before I start calling. When it comes to a rifle rest, I don’t like anything to be connected to the rifle. That’s just my personal preference. I want shooting sticks that I can drop out of the way quickly in case I need to take an off-hand shot. 

Almost as important as my shooting rest, is my sitting pad. I carry a 2-inch-thick pad that keeps me comfortable and still the entire time I’m calling. I would strongly suggest finding some sort of pad or chair to sit on to keep your rear warm and dry.

  These small adjustments might seem insignificant, but when combined, they provide me with a repeatable, comfortable and steady shooting position, as well as confidence in my setup. As hunters, we strive for repeatability and good shot placement. Incorporating these techniques into my calling sequence allows me to acquire targets quicker and gives me the confidence to make good shots and kill more predators. If you take a few moments to adjust your calling setup so you’re comfortable and favoring your dominant hand, you’ll be able to maximize your potential for success and make better shots.


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