For most coyote hunters, wind is the worst four-letter word in the English language.
The mere hint of a strong wind forecast the night before a hunt is usually good enough reason for most to pull the plug. When the wind kicks up midmorning, even the most seasoned coyote-hunting veterans can be tempted into cashing it in early and heading to the house. If you’ve ever tossed around a theory or scientific explanation explaining why your latest hunt didn’t turn out as successful as you were hoping it to be, there’s a good chance something wind-related will be at the top of that list. Too much wind, the coyote winded us, the coyotes just turned off when the wind picked up, my call wasn’t carrying far enough into the wind, I couldn’t tell the difference between the tumbleweeds blowing past me on the stand and the coyotes coming into the call, and the list goes on and on. Even though some of these reasons flirt with being considered an excuse rather than a fact-based theory, there is merit to the challenges added to coyote hunting when stronger winds are prevalent. There’s a direct correlation between hunting success and wind speed. As wind speed increases, hunting success decreases. How much that success decreases is dependent upon a variety of factors like hunting experience, wind speed and coyote densities. Throughout this article we’ll explore some wind-based tactics that will give you the best possible chances of being successful when faced with unfavorable calling conditions.
For starters, it’s extremely important to understand how coyotes deal with high winds. For clarification, we’ll consider anything over 20 mph high. Believe it or not, coyotes are not magical creatures that vanish from the face of the earth when tumbleweeds start rolling across the pasture! First and foremost, they will always be opportunistic omnivores. When presented with the right temptation, they’ll respond, whether the winds are strong or not. During windy conditions, a coyote’s comfort zone or how far they are willing to respond to the call is contracted. For example, a coyote might be able to hear your call from 600 yards away, but its comfort zone for responding might only be 300 yards. Thus, the coyote will stay bedded.
As the wind increases, coyotes move into rougher terrain and/or thicker cover to escape the wind’s brutality. The upwind side of canyons, draws and washes, as well as overgrown tree rows and drainage bottoms that contain the thickest vegetation, are all examples of terrain coyotes retreat to. Across terrain that is consistently the same, it might be difficult to distinguish these bedding areas from any other part of the countryside. Keep in mind that a bedded coyote sticks up no more than 12 inches, so it doesn’t take much cover to provide a wind break. Subtle deviations in the landscape or pockets of vegetation that might be thicker than the rest provide just enough cover. In many cases, higher winds are associated with the middle part of the day. Coyotes are already transitioning to their bedding areas during this time, so in many cases, the wind doesn’t necessarily change their routine. It might, however, send them to cover earlier and hold them there later.
Coyotes have phenomenal hearing, and most hunters underestimate just how far a coyote can hear in the wind. Coyotes have an upper frequency limit of hearing of 80 kHz. Domestic dogs are somewhere in the ballpark of 60, and depending on how religiously you’ve used earplugs over the years, you’re somewhere around 20. Simply put, coyotes hear four times better than us!
Benefits Of Wind
I’m sure your eyebrows might rise a bit when you read this, but there are benefits to calling in wind. The biggest benefit is that it makes coyotes more predictable as to where you’ll find them and where they’ll end up. In conditions with little or no wind, coyotes could virtually be anywhere on a given tract of land. Granted, time of day and other weather conditions might help with making your educated guess as to where to make stands. But in order to effectively hunt that area, stands need to be made covering it 100 percent. In high wind conditions, you can rule out many areas simply because they don’t provide the cover and protection the coyotes are looking for. This narrows down your search for stand locations that will increase your proficiency and effectiveness. More time spent calling in coyote-rich areas yields more coyotes coming to the call.
In addition to helping narrow down your search for coyotes, wind makes coyotes more predictable as to where they will end up on the stand. In conditions with very little or no wind, coyotes will generally approach the sound of the call in straight lines. This can cause problems because coyotes can approach the call from nearly any direction. In most cases it’s very difficult to have 360 degrees of coverage on a stand due to terrain features and vegetation. Positioning yourself where you have the highest probability of getting a shot is usually a guess in this situation. In windy conditions, coyotes understand how scent travels, and the fastest way to find the dying rabbit is to pick up the scent trail. This generally leads to more of a curved-line approach to the downwind side of the sound. The area starting at the call and fanning out directly downwind now has the highest probability of where the coyote will end up and present you with a shot opportunity.
Headwind Vs. Crosswind
When calling in windy conditions, you essentially have three options for making stands: calling with the wind in your face, calling into a crosswind, or calling with the wind to your back. Although I have resorted to calling with the wind to my back on rare occasions, I discourage you from doing so unless all other options have failed and the wind is at least 40 mph. In most cases, the terrain and multiple access points into an area allow you the benefit of getting the wind in a favorable direction before you approach the stand. First, let’s look at calling into a headwind.
For most coyote hunters, this is an ideal scenario. If you’ve played your cards right, the wind has been in your face from the second you got out of the vehicle and continues to be in your face until you reach the stand location. This helps muffle the sound of your vehicle as well as your approach walking into the stand. It also ensures that your scent is not blowing into the area you intend to call. However, calling into a headwind does have its disadvantages. First, calling directly into the wind muffles the sound of your call so it doesn’t travel as far. Second, it might be difficult to cover the area directly downwind on the stand. More than likely, that is where the vehicle is hidden, and generally there will be some sort of obstacle between your calling position and it. If the coyote decides to make a big circle to get the wind favorable, chances are good you’ll lose visibility of that coyote behind that obstacle before you get a shot off. Third, coyotes prefer bedding areas that give them visibility of the downwind area. In hilly or canyon terrain with not much vegetation, coyotes will be bedded on the downslopes out of the wind. This affords them the pleasure of covering the upwind area with their nose and the downwind area with their eyes. If you approach this area with the wind directly in your face, chances are good the bedded coyote will see you before you get to the stand location and be in the next zip code long before you fire up the call.
Next, let’s look at calling into a crosswind. This is my preferred wind direction while on stand, because you still maintain all the advantages you get with calling into a headwind but the disadvantages are minimized. First, the sound of the call is not muffled as badly, which allows it to carry farther out into the calling area. Second, the downwind side of the call is now off to your right or left, not behind you. This makes it easier to keep coyotes from slipping into the areas between you and the vehicle where coverage is limited. Last, approaching the stand with a crosswind gives you a slight advantage over the bedded coyote. Although they generally have the advantage directly upwind and downwind, blind spots are sometimes created off to each side. Move into the stand while traversing the same downslope where you’re anticipating the coyote to be bedded. The curvature of the side hill will mask your movement, plus you’ll be out of the wind.
Swinging The Odds
The last piece of the pie for gaining the biggest advantage during windy conditions involves utilizing an e-caller with remote. When using hand calls or an e-caller directly from your position, it’s important to realize several factors. The coyote is hunting the sound, and your scent trail is going directly downwind of the sound. If you are unable to get a shot before the coyote reaches that downwind area, game over!
This is where using an e-caller with remote comes into play. For this scenario, let’s assume we’re calling into a crosswind going from left to right. The entire calling area is a circle with your position directly in the center. The 180 degrees behind you is out of play because you just drove through part of it, parked the vehicle and walked into the stand. This still leaves 180 degrees of undisturbed calling area out in front of you. Of this remaining piece, you have the upwind 90 degrees to left and the downwind 90 degrees to the right. In virtually any situation, regardless of what calling instrument you are using, coyotes responding from the upwind 90-degree area are the easiest to kill. This is due to the increased distance the coyote has to travel in front of your position before it reaches the downwind scent trail. It’s the coyotes that respond from the downwind 90 degrees that pose the biggest challenge.
Swing the odds and give yourself more time by placing the e-caller out in front of your position. Distance varies based on terrain, vegetation and exact angle of the wind, but 20 to 40 yards is a good benchmark. Now, draw an imaginary line from your position to the e-caller. It should be perpendicular to the imaginary line of the wind direction. This makes the scent trail coming from your position parallel to the imaginary scent trail coming from the e-caller the coyote is now hunting. When the circling coyote reaches the point directly downwind of the sound, it will change course and start making its way into the wind, trying to locate the imaginary scent trail. This is a huge advantage, because the coyote never has reason to continue circling past that point and reach the real scent trail coming from your position. That gives you more time to get off a higher percentage shot!
The recipe for success while battling adverse wind conditions is something even the most seasoned coyote hunters struggle with perfecting. Understanding where to find coyotes, calling with the appropriate wind direction, and utilizing an e-caller with remote are all great tactics that will deliver positive results. Combine them with a healthy dose of persistence and you’ll be dragging coyotes back to the truck while everyone else is home on the couch!