E-caller Graduate Course

Fur hunters skilled in the use of electronic callers have a distinct advantage when the chips are down and versatility becomes a game changer.

E-caller Graduate Course

In the Summer issue of Predator Xtreme, I wrote about the basics of using electronic callers for hunting fur — citing a host of reasons why they are great calling tools for the beginner. E-callers boost confidence and effectiveness in novice callers by producing the actual recorded sounds of prey animals in distress. They make instant “experts” out of newbies to the sport — those who might possess adequate hunting skills but are not proficient with mouth-blown predator calls. I also pointed out that they can serve as a teaching aid. My advice was to keep it simple.

But that’s only half the story when it comes to the use of electronic game callers. These machines, used to their full potential and in the hands of more advanced fur hunters, add a level of proficiency to calling furred critters that cannot be realized by using only mouth-blown calls. And applied at a more sophisticated level, they are guaranteed to increase productivity in the field, which should translate to more fur in the bed of the truck at the end of the day.

First off, let me say that I love calling critters using only mouth calls. I gain satisfaction knowing I can produce the sounds to fool critters that make a living avoiding such trickery. I think a lot of other veteran fur hunters feel the same way. There is no doubt that in the accomplished hands of a seasoned hunter, mouth calls can be very effective. Having said that, hunters — seasoned or otherwise — who rely solely on mouth calls are effectively hunting with one hand behind their back.

Electronic callers, and the wide array of recorded sounds they provide, add versatility and flexibility to hunting predators that is unachievable when using mouth calls alone. The following are a few examples of how a change of tactics and the implementation of e-caller techniques at the graduate level can remedy many of the problems fur hunters encounter in the field.

Problem: Limited Amount of Ground to Hunt

Most predator hunters are limited by the amount of real estate they have available, and in many cases share these places with other hunters. It might be a string of small public parcels or a handful of local ranches or farms where permission to hunt has been secured. The issue here, of course, is that these properties get pounded — and in the process, predators become educated and call shy. The key reason is that hunters go back to the same honey holes time and time again — many of them hunting from the exact same stands and using the exact same mouth-blown calls. Coyotes constantly exposed to the “Dying Rabbit Blues” every time a property is hunted will quickly associate these sounds with danger, especially if they’ve had a run with the source of those sounds. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

Solution: Change It Up

It’s important to be able to go back to previously hunted areas and remain productive. The solution, of course, is to change setup locations and the sounds used. While other hunters pound away on the same old mouth call—using the same old rabbit-in-distress cries—the savvy (e-caller equipped) hunter is changing up locations, seeking out the most remote areas on the property and using the wide variety of sounds to stay in the game. I promise you, use the same stand locations every time you visit a property, and the resident predators will eventually learn to associate them with human intrusion. The key is to seek out remote areas other hunters might avoid, and use them sparingly.

Same with sounds. Hunters who continue to use the same mouth calls every time they visit a property—no matter how well it’s worked in the past—will soon wear out their welcome. E-callers and the wide variety of sounds they are capable of producing will help avoid educating predators and keep the hunter productive.

If, for example, prey distress sounds are no longer effective, switch to social sounds such as canine fights, canine pups in distress, raccoon fights or maybe even aggressive territorial howling. Odds are good that one of these will eventually work. Electronic callers provide that flexibility. One of my standbys is a gray fox pup in distress (even when I’m hunting areas where there are few if any gray foxes) when prey distress screams have worn out their welcome.

Used in combination, an e-caller and mouth call can add more realism to any setup.
Used in combination, an e-caller and mouth call can add more realism to any setup.

Problem: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

While land access can be a problem for many predator hunters, sometimes it’s a case of having too much property at hand—especially if it’s land never hunted before. This is particularly true in the West and Southwest, whether hunting vast public grounds—BLM properties, national forests, huge wildlife management areas and such—or large, private ranches. The challenge, of course, is to find the most productive areas within these large land holdings and aggressively hunt those rich fur pockets.  

Solution: Use Locator Calls

E-callers come loaded with social/territorial sounds as well as food source sounds. Coyotes, in particular, are very social animals and communicate through a variety of vocalizations. Recorded barks, whines and howls send the signal that other coyotes are in the area. Resident coyotes will often respond with friendly, inquisitive howls or aggressive territorial barks and howls and fur hunters can use this tendency to their advantage—to identify how many coyotes are on the property and where they spend most of their time.

A good strategy is to drive the back roads or perimeter of a property an hour or two before first light, stopping every half-mile or so to howl (most e-callers have a “Coyote Locator” selection). Responses will provide an estimation of how many coyotes are on the property and where they might be hunting and hanging out.  Some hunters go out during the middle of the night to do this, but I advise against it. While it might provide an indicator of how many coyotes are on a property, any coyotes located during this late-night recon might be miles away by first light. If I get a response an hour or two before dawn, I’m reasonably sure that those coyotes will be within calling distance when I return to set up.

The presence of other coyotes—real or faux—in the area will often trigger a territorial response, as mated pairs of coyotes patrol their territorial boundaries against intrusion, particularly during the breeding and pup rearing seasons of late winter and early spring. Many will respond to recorded howls by barking and howling and sometimes rushing in to confront the intruder.  For this reason, I spend just enough time at each stop to get a response, take the coyote’s attitudinal temperature and then quickly move on. I don’t want coyotes associating my howls with human intrusion, which will quickly put them on guard. If I get an aggressive territorial response at a location, I will likely try some aggressive howls or canine fight sounds when I come back to hunt, rather than begin with food-source sounds. Once again, an e-caller will provide the versatility to create the illusion of canine interaction.

In the hands of a seasoned predator hunter, e-callers are sure to increase productivity in the field because of the variety of sounds they are capable of producing.
In the hands of a seasoned predator hunter, e-callers are sure to increase productivity in the field because of the variety of sounds they are capable of producing.

Problem: Productivity Has Decreased

OK, there are those times when, for whatever reasons, productivity drops off and consistent calling success becomes elusive. Maybe predator populations are low. Maybe food sources are abundant. Maybe competition for scarce food sources has predators on edge—especially those smaller predators that might become collateral damage should they carelessly arrive on the kill of a larger predator. The bottom line is that hunting has become difficult and predators unresponsive.  

Solution: Mix and Match

It’s time to get creative — to craft scenarios that appeal to a predator’s curiosity as well as its creature needs such as food, security and territorial dominance. If the hunter can sell auditory imagery that something interesting is going on in the neighborhood, predators that might turn a deaf ear to more mundane calling, often respond.  I find it helpful to conjure a mental image of what might be occurring at the kill site and create a combination of sounds to paint a picture and then sell it with a combination of sounds. This might include prey distress sounds, canine fights, crow calls and coyote barks and aggressive howls. 

Most modern e-callers allow the user to play multiple sounds simultaneously, creating what amounts to an audio tooth, beak and claw bar brawl. And wireless remotes allow hunters to position themselves away from the ruckus, ideally in an elevated position, where they can watch for predators sneaking in for a look or circling the setup. So, while I might begin a calling sequence with a prey species in distress, I can add the sounds of crows or fighting canines to the mix to add realism. I’m convinced predators learn from past experiences, for instance, and know that avian predators and scavengers often arrive at the scene of a kill with their raucous vocalizations. They have also likely witnessed fights among predators as they vie for the rights to the kill. E-callers provide the means to simulate these scenarios. 

Sometimes I’ll also use my e-caller and mouth calls in tandem to create a multiple sound scenario. I might produce prey-in-distress sounds on the e-caller and crow calls or coyote calls on my mouth calls. The key is to mix and match sounds until the predators respond.

By creatively using an e-caller, I’ve been able to resurrect success on some properties where productivity had dropped off the charts. Being able to mix it up and throw out a lot of different sounds and scenarios can provide a huge edge when the same old, same old isn’t working anymore. And that’s where e-callers give the predator hunter a huge edge. Not only can the hunter use a wide array of sounds such as rabbit, bird, rodent and coyote vocalizations — finally hitting the right combination of sounds — he or she can mix and match those sounds to create more realism. 

Obviously, the key is variety and versatility — which these high-tech machines and their myriad of recorded animal sounds provide in abundance. They give hunters the flexibility to go beyond rudimentary calling and take the fur hunting game to an advanced-degree level — limited only by the hunter’s skill and imagination.


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