They Call it Puppy Love

Here’s a detailed look at coyote pup vocals — and how effective they can be.

They Call it Puppy Love

Anyone who has seen close to 60 years of sunsets, as I have, will probably be familiar with the AM radio hit, “Puppy Love,” by Donny Osmond.  If you don’t fall into that demographic, the educator in me implores you to check out the song on your favorite music streaming platform. Why, you ask?  How could this be important to coyote calling? It’s important because coyote pups have a wonderful assortment of vocalizations, and knowledgeable hunters have long used coyote pup howls, fights and distress sounds with great success when targeting territorial adult coyotes. 

Let’s closely examine the use of pup vocalizations — when these sounds are most effective as well as when to use them on stand. Let’s also examine several factors of calling that relate to their use and take a look at some proven pup vocalization sounds from various recorded sound libraries. To help us out, I have included the viewpoints of three notable predator hunters. So, turn down the volume of your newly acquired Donny Osmond playlist and let’s get at it.

When is the best time of the year to use pup vocals? Human logic would tell us when pups are pups and that means spring and summer. As we will see, that is a great time to employ the sounds. However, we’ll also learn from our experts that there might be other times of the year to use these sounds effectively.

This mature female responded aggressively to the second pup distress sound in the trio of three that the author was prepared to offer.
This mature female responded aggressively to the second pup distress sound in the trio of three that the author was prepared to offer.

Meet the Experts

Torry Cook, from MFK Game Callsin Arkansas, believes that pup distress sounds are most effective from late spring to late summer. He uses them heavily during April and May and onward. Cook says that pup distress sounds are still effective, and may peak, in August and September when coyote families are still together. 

How about using pup sounds beyond the spring and summer months? Cook believes pup sounds will work to some degree year-round by altering the presentation. Cook offers some advice for hunting into the early fall months, which is a time when family units have broken up and the pups have spread out but haven’t fully dispersed. “When using pup distress sounds into October, always add a variation to elicit a response,” he said. “For example, throw in some pup howls or pup fight sounds, and even some prey distress sounds, into the sequence to initiate a response.” Cook says mixing these sounds into his sequences provides a trigger for coyotes to respond when they might not otherwise do so.

Tony Tebbe, a well-known caller, guide and decoy dogging master from New Mexico, shares Cook’s viewpoint. “Pup vocals will work all year,” he said. “If you’re not playing them on every stand, you are missing out.” Tebbe says pup distress sounds can be effective even during the winter months, especially when conventional prey distress sounds stop bringing the desired results. “Hunters should realize that coyotes investigate pup vocals for different reasons,” he said. “Some coyotes respond for maternal/paternal reasons, and some respond to the sounds for prey distress reasons.” Therefore, according to Tebbe, hunters should be confident that their pup vocals can work at any point in the season.

Knowing that pup sounds can be effective no matter when they’re employed, the next question is: How should I use these sounds? Jon Collins, a highly effective Kentucky-based predator caller who can be seen on Foxpro’s Hunting TV, relies heavily on pup vocals and uses them uniquely depending upon the time of the season. During the spring, he will first use a young coyote howl. After a short break, he plays various other pup distress sounds. Collins plays three or four different pup distress sounds for approximately two minutes each. His rationale for toggling these sounds is that he believes a certain sound might “trigger” a coyote into responding whereas other sounds, due to frequency, cadence or prior experience, might not elicit a response.

Moving toward late summer, Collins alters his approach to include pup howls and social pup sounds (such as fight and sparring sounds) and then plays pup distress sounds. By fall, he follows his pup howls with two minutes of rabbit distress, then goes into pup distress. For his wintertime hunting, Collins says that pup distress sounds get pushed back until the end of the sequence.

Other Important Factors

I asked our experts for their viewpoints on other factors that might impact the effectiveness of using pup vocals. I found it interesting that even though each hunter hails from a completely different geographic area of the country their tactics are very similar. 

When asked about volume, there was a definite consensus — play the sounds loud! Each hunter plays his pup sounds just under the maximum volume level. Of course, this will vary according to which brand and model of e-caller is being used. Collins states that while using his Foxpro X24 he typically uses 80 percent of the maximum volume. Tebbe also plays his pup sounds “a touch below the maximum setting” when calling in his home state of New Mexico. Cook offered an interesting fact that supports the use of high volume when using all coyote vocalizations. He compared the response of live coyotes to howling volumes and found that playing howls loudly from an e-caller drew far better vocal response than lower sound level howling. 

When asked about calling duration, none of the hunters indicated that they simply choose their favorite pup sound and let it rip. Instead, they employ specific tactics regarding how long to play the sounds while on stand. The consensus is to play each sound for two minutes, sometimes interject silence of 20 to 30 seconds, and then play another sound to trigger a response. Cook points out that the sounds in the MFK library are recorded as they occur so any silence in the recording is the silence provided by the coyotes. He plays his sounds in their entirety and does not manually pause the sound file. Each hunter mentioned that he plays at least two or three pup distress sounds until he gets a response or until he moves on to another type of sound altogether. 

Many hunters wonder if they should be playing their sounds continuously or intermittently. Tebbe says he doesn’t think it matters if the sounds are played non-stop or sporadically. He explains: “I typically play my sounds continuously. It is a personal preference. There is no right or wrong way to do it, just do what you are confident in.” Collins agrees and says that while he usually calls continuously, he does add silence in 20- to 30-second doses. Cook concurs on the issue of silence saying that he likes to “use little gaps of silence — 30 seconds to a minute — in-between sounds.

Recommended Pup Vocalizations

If you find the prospect of using pup vocals intriguing, you will have to obtain the sounds. While realistic pup vocals can be produced with mouth diaphragm and hand calls, many hunters opt to go the electronic route. The good news is that there are many choices and sources available. But selecting among them can be a daunting task for a person new to the world of using these calls. I asked our experts to list their top three recommendations.

Jon Collins didn’t hesitate. His No. 1 choice is Foxpro’s Coyote Pup Distress No. 3. His second choice is MFK’s Lil B 11-Week Pup, a squalling sound from an 11-week-old female pup. His third choice is MFK’s Poundtown. Although this sound file (a mixture of adult and sub-adult fight sounds) is a new kid on the block, it has been proven to be so effective that will soon stand beside Pup Distress No. 3 as a must-play sound.

Torry Cook looks no further than the MFK library while making his choices. Up first is Bougie Whiney Pup Howls. This unique lone howl sound comes from a 16-week-old pup that got separated from the pack. His second choice is Submissive Beggar. Cook says this sound, which is a small submissive female begging for food, is terrific to play when coyotes come back together during fall “bust up” excursions. Cook offers a pup fight sound as his third top favorite, Den Vicious No. 2.

Tony Tebbe recommends Fresh Pup No. 3 for early summer calling. His second choice is Ganged Pup. This is a sound of a single pup getting beat up. Tony’s third choice is his famous Den Raid. This sound took over the calling world a few years back. See the sidebar for more details on this killer sound.

Early season calling means that multiple coyotes can appear at once. Don’t  jump up after one coyote is shot. Instead, switch to a pup distress sound and  wait for others to approach.
Early season calling means that multiple coyotes can appear at once. Don’t jump up after one coyote is shot. Instead, switch to a pup distress sound and wait for others to approach.

Pup Vocal-Only Sequences

Is there a time to use only pup vocals on stand? Is a pup vocal-only sequence plausible? The answer to both questions is, yes! Here is such a sequence that’s effective during any month of the calling season, comprised of specific pup vocals. It starts with a young coyote howl. Quality choices would be Foxpro’s Young Coyote Howls (No. C5 in the Foxpro library) or MFK’s Bam Pup Howl 11 Week. Play one series of howls at high volume and follow up with two minutes of silence. This howl is non-threatening to resident coyotes and draws upon their instinct to investigate the scene.

The second portion of the sequence is comprised of three different pup distress sounds in succession. I will leave it up to each hunter to choose his/her favorite to use at this stage. If you are looking for a recommendation, try Foxpro’s Frantic Coyote Pup (No. C70 in the Foxpro library). I discovered the effectiveness of this sound while hunting in South Dakota. Then, I tried it on the coyotes in New York with the same results. When played non-stop, it seems to be effective by appealing to the curious nature of coyotes. Of course, there are many pup-distress sounds available to hunters. The fun part of using this sequence is experimenting with different sound files and using them in the sequence that you customize to your liking. No matter which pup-distress sound you select, play it for two minutes before switching to the next sound. 

The third segment of the sequence calls for the use of den invasion sounds. If we were being somewhat subtle in our sequence up to this point, it all changes now. These sounds, comprised of utter pup terror and adult snarls and growls, are highly effective at bringing coyotes on the run. Tebbes’ Den Raid, Foxpro’s Den Heist and MFK’s Den Vicious are all excellent choices. Play this sound non-stop for two to four minutes at medium to high volume.

The fourth and final sound in this pup sound sequence is MFK’s Poundtown. This sound, which creates sheer panic with its mix of pup distress and adult coyote growls, is the most intense of the sequence. Play it non-stop for two to four minutes and watch intently as coyotes run in to investigate.


I am hopeful that you are feeling the “Puppy Love” after reading this article. The fact that Collins, Cook and Tebbe use pup distress sounds successfully throughout the year, tells us that we, too, should feel confident in using them. I would like to thank the fellas for sharing their insight on the subject, and I urge you to employ this information on your next hunt. You just might find yourself humming Donny Osmond’s famous song as you drag your next coyote to the truck.


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