The West is big country with landscapes larger than any Hollywood theatre screen can depict. The best way to avoid tripping any coyote alarm system is to stay out of sight. That means staying low. All open country animals watch the skyline for silhouettes. Whenever you have to access a location by crossing the skyline, you put yourself in jeopardy of having a sharp-eyed coyote spot you. The best way to avoid being spotted on a skyline is to stay off the skyline. Granted there will be a few times where you need to cross over the skyline, but you can avoid the skyline the majority of the time with the following tactics.
First, instead of topping out to get to the other side, sneak slowly around a hill. Many times this will put you in the same high location for a calling setup without placing yourself against a high backdrop of sky. If the hill is too large or the slope too vertical for travel, crawl over the top. This might sound like a lot of work, but it definitely keeps you below the skyline and if you use boulders and brush to hide your movements, you can easily sneak into position without setting off an alarm. Regardless of your route, make all movement slow and deliberate. Coyotes are on the lookout for quick, dashing action and often miss your slow, deliberate movements, especially if they have mouse chores on their mind. Be sure to dress head to toe in background-matching camouflage.
Some of the West doesn’t have broken topography for skyline opportunities. It’s a flat environment. In these instances, darkness is your best friend for access. Morning setups work well using darkness to slip into your stand. Keep downwind of your intended calling site and arrive well before daylight. Even though coyotes have some night-vision capabilities, like most animals, they don’t have military night-style vision.
A fog also works well, but be ready. An incoming coyote may run right over you in low visibility as it hastily tries to get to your call. A pal of mine and I once set up on an open knob using fog to gain access above prime coyote bedding country. Barely two minutes into the setup, two coyotes boiled out of the fog on a dead run. They would have blew by us had I not barked to stop them. I centered the right coyote and tipped him over, and swung to back up my partner who for some reason wasn’t shooting. Unfortunately, the crafty coyote used the fog for a fast disappearing act. I later learned my partner was so surprised by their foggy entrance, he simply watched them without taking aim.
Unarguably, the best cover entrance will come from terrain features, both natural and manmade. While scouting out calling locations, look for gullies, creeks, hills and even fences choked with tumbleweeds. All of these can hide your form and gain access to prime calling sites where coyotes may be traveling or bedded on surveillance lookouts. Forty years of coyote hunting and owning Burnham Brothers Game Calls has shown Gary Roberson the importance of getting into position without alarming a coyote.
“The number one tool I use to make an invisible entrance is to keep the sun behind me, especially when it’s low in the horizon. It goes without saying, but you should never skyline yourself either. Use any available terrain features to hide your form. Duck behind hills, use gorges and hike creek bottoms to hide your approach. You’ll never call a coyote that’s seen you sneaking into its home,” stresses Roberson.
Being invisible also means noiseless. Roberson is still amazed at how much noise many so-called expert hunters make beginning at the truck. I’ve seen it as well. It astounds me how much noise most hunters make when gathering their hunting gear and of course, most slam the car door with no thought of the alarm it’s sending to nearby coyotes. To separate vehicle noise from the calling setup, Roberson recommends parking at least a quarter mile or more from the calling site and hiking the final distance
My screw-up in the opening of the article was the direct result of not using a binocular to scan the terrain for any sign of coyotes, bedded or traveling. Today a binocular receives as high a priority as my calls and I use it to scan for coyotes from the beginning to the end of the hunt. In open country 10X binoculars provide superb magnification to scan terrain details. For outstanding dawn and dusk light transmission, shop for a binocular in the 42mm objective class.
I recall one setup in early December when I left my office early to get on stand before sunset. The area was one of my favorites, but it does receive some calling pressure so I opted to use howls for attraction. Before going in, I used my binocular to glass the entire valley for any early coyote movement. With nothing watching me, I moved into calling position and began a series of lone howls.
Thirty minutes later, I hadn’t seen any action and was preparing to leave, but decided to glass the valley one last time. To my surprise, nearly a mile away, a lone coyote was following a cattle trail to my location, in no obvious hurry. Like my own slow and low approach, the coyote was following a similar route. Easing into shooting position, I waited another 15 minutes for the coyote to break the 100-yard barrier where I helped him avoid the hard, cold winter ahead.
Keep in mind that quality names like Swarovski, Kahles and Nikon give you precise detail when studying landscapes, but cost more. Since most open-country glassing situations call for much long distance searching, the price will be worth the headache savings after spending hours behind your optics. Depending on your optic needs and hunting topography, research binoculars in the 8 to 10X range with 30 to 50mm objectives. Several manufacturers also make variable power binoculars if you like the zoom advantage.
Open-country differs greatly over wooded settings in color so pick a camouflage pattern that matches your backdrop. Cabela’s Seclusion 3-D Open Country or Advantage’s new Max-1 HD provide the color and features to blend well and melt into the terrain. A darker pattern will make you stand out more and allow coyotes to pick up your movement quicker, regardless of how slow you move.