Eastern Coyote Myths — And How to Bust ’Em!

Shattering these eight popular fur taker fallacies will put you on course to drop the hammer on more Eastern coyotes.

Eastern Coyote Myths — And How to Bust ’Em!

Ask 10 different predator hunters a question about Eastern coyotes and you are likely to get 10 different answers. In fact, Eastern coyotes might be the least understood of all the animals that roam the North American landscape. Confusion surrounding them has spawned myriads of myths about not only their biology and ecology but how to successfully hunt them. This article examines several misconceptions regarding Eastern coyotes and explains how hunters can bust these myths. 

So, let’s get started. 

Myth No. 1: Coyotes Can’t See Red Lights

Before the days of night vision and thermal optics, the best option for night hunters was to use various styles of spotlights for handling both scanning and shooting duties. Today, many hunters still use lights for their night hunts. I will venture to say that red is the most common light used — which leads us to our first myth: Coyotes can’t see red lights, so they don’t spook. Not true. Coyotes see red as a dingy shade of yellow — they see the light, but they just don’t know what it is.

Even though Eastern coyotes are prone to spook when hunters use lights, success can still be achieved. The intensity of the light is an important factor to consider. A dim light is more apt to spook coyotes less than a very bright light. Lights that have a rheostat knob can be adjusted according to how the predator is reacting to the light as it approaches. Avoid lighting up the area in front of the coyote, which can reduce the likelihood of spooking it. To accomplish this, keep the coyote’s illuminated eyes in the bottom edge of the light halo so most of the light beam is cast over and behind the coyote. 

A similar myth involves the use of night vision gear. Hunters invest in these devices under the pretense that they will go unnoticed by coyotes. My experience has shown that this simply is not true. While the infrared beam might not be visible to coyotes, they can see the red glow of the IR light itself. Hunters can alleviate this problem by paying attention to which type of IR illuminator they purchase. After a little research, I discovered that a 940nm model is preferred over an 850nm model for predator hunting. The red glow at the source is far less visible on a 940nm light, hence the smaller chance of spooking predators. The drawback of the 940nm lights is that the illumination range is reported to be 30 percent less than an 850nm light.


Myth No. 2: Challenge Howls Mean the Hunt is Over

One of the most reported coyote hunting scenarios involves coyotes that bark and howl at hunters, but seldom approach. Hunters in the know recognize these as challenge vocalizations. The common conception is that hearing them is an indication that the coyote is onto the hunter and the jig is up. Many hunters view this situation as hopeless, pack up and venture to new territories to find more cooperative coyotes. Not so fast! 

There are a couple of calling tactics that can be applied here, and neither involves howling back at the coyotes. The first thing I do is answer the coyote’s challenge barks with Foxpro’s “Female Coyote Challenge Barks” — No. C 23 in the Foxpro library. If you don’t use a Foxpro, substitute a similar sound. In recent years, this has been effective at getting challenge barking coyotes to approach for a shot. It is often difficult to differentiate between males and females from the sound of their howls, but this sound can be used regardless of whether you’re dealing with an alpha male coyote or any other type of coyote. In any event, it has been proven effective at bringing both males and females to the setup.                                                                                                         

The other technique I use is to simply bark back at them when they’re issuing challenge howls. Although realistic barks can be made with a mouth-blown call, I normally rely upon my e-caller to handle the task. The sound I most prefer is named Coyote Barks (No. 180 in the Foxpro library). The best results occur when barking sporadically. As when using other coyote vocalizations, the best results come when applying a “less is more” attitude.                    

The bottom line is this: Don’t give up on challenge howling/barking coyotes. Although you might not win every battle, you will win some.


Myth No. 3: Eastern Coyotes Won’t Cross Open Fields

Eastern hunters often say, “The coyotes were right inside the woods, but they wouldn’t cross the open field to get to us.” While this is a frequent occurrence, it is still a myth because Eastern coyotes will cross open fields.

The timing of the hunt is an important factor, here. Nighttime offers better odds because coyotes use the cover of darkness as their ally. The lowest-light minutes of dusk and dawn are the second-best times to get coyotes to commit to open spaces. Even during these preferred time slots, hunters need to make certain strategical adjustments. The key is to make coyotes feel secure as they approach. This might involve setting up so they can follow landscape features such as ditches and slight ridges in fields. Becoming familiar with the landscape you hunt will reveal exactly how coyotes will approach the calling setup.

Don’t be afraid to use sounds that are alien to where you are hunting. They might be just what pressured coyotes need to hear to come to the call.
Don’t be afraid to use sounds that are alien to where you are hunting. They might be just what pressured coyotes need to hear to come to the call.

Myth No. 4: Always Set Up with the Wind in Your Face

Strategies that relate to beating a coyote’s nose are plentiful. However, one such method that can be considered a myth is to always position yourself with the wind in your face. The idea behind this thought process is that when the wind is constantly blowing toward you approaching coyotes will not be able to pick up your scent. This idea makes perfect sense, on the surface. It sure makes more sense than setting up and calling with the wind at your back — a tactic that would seemingly increase the likelihood of coyotes smelling you before shot opportunities arise.                                                                                                                

The potential problem with always setting up with the wind in your face is that coyotes might “back door” you while approaching. This is more probable when hunting in tight cover or thick terrain. Coyotes that circle downwind, as many do, often detect human scent and vacate the scene before the hunter is aware of their presence. Hunters, who regularly employ this type of setup, but never see any coyotes, might be calling them in and then falling victim to their own setup strategy.                                                                                                                  

Hunters who use mouth-blown calls might be especially doomed when using the wind-in-your-face setup because coyotes often circle the sound source. On the other hand, a hunter who is using a remotely placed electronic caller can set it up at a desired distance and dictate how coyotes approach the scene. Even so, there will be coyotes that circle wide and that might translate to lost opportunities.                                                                                                  

 While the wind-in-your-face setup has merit, it might not be the best tactic. Many experienced hunters set up with a crosswind, which greatly reduces the likelihood of being back-doored by approaching coyotes.

The distance at which an e-caller is placed can make the difference between success and a botched hunt.
The distance at which an e-caller is placed can make the difference between success and a botched hunt.

Myth No. 5: The E-Caller Must be Placed Nearby While Night Hunting

Common advice for night hunters is: “When hunting at night, place your e-caller right in front of you. Otherwise, you won’t see the eyes of an approaching coyote.” This advice often suggests e-callers should be placed no more than 20 yards in front of the hunter. This statement might sound good in theory but lacks substance in actual field experience. I say this because during my 35 years of night hunting I have never failed to notice the eyes of a predator approaching my call. Indeed, the close placement of an e-caller being an advantage is a myth.                                                                            

No matter what type of spotlighting device is used, the eyes always show up from distances of multiple hundreds of yards away to only a few feet. When coyotes make their approach, and the caller is positioned upwind, you will see the eyes and of course the entire body once they come within rifle range.                                                                     

To be successful, hunters must utilize the effectiveness of their remotely placed e-caller to the maximum. That is why they place it far enough away so that they dictate the approach path of the coyote. This, in turn, will allow the most manageable shot. Hunters can make adjustments without getting noticed when the caller is set far away from their setup position. Perhaps the only time the e-caller should be placed nearby is when hunting with a shotgun or when hunting a “tight” location.


Myth No. 6: Hunters Must Sit Silently Before Calling

I am sure you have read how it is preferable to sit still for a specified amount of time before you start calling to coyotes. Five to 10 minutes seems to be the most recommended wait time. The idea behind this tactic is to allow the environment to “calm down” to its natural state before calling. While this idea has merit in certain circumstances, I am still going to call it a myth.                                                                          

I rarely wait before I start calling. To do so makes me a guy just sitting there in the dark! I typically start calling right away, figuring that if I have used a proper and quiet approach to my stand the environment should be very close to normal. In this case, it makes no sense to sit idle for 10 minutes.                                                                                                                      

One of the only times you should wait before calling is when you know you have made extraneous noise on the way to the stand. In this case, sitting in silence for a few minutes to give the impression that the threat of danger has passed is valid.

How long should a hunter wait before calling? The author says, “No time at all,” so long as a stealth-like approach has been made.
How long should a hunter wait before calling? The author says, “No time at all,” so long as a stealth-like approach has been made.

Myth No. 7: Howls Work Only During the Mating Season

This is another myth that is contrived through human reasoning rather than field experience. The notion is to use coyote invitation howls only during the mating season. Actually, coyotes howl to each other for a myriad of other reasons throughout the year. The bottom line is that coyote vocalizations are complex and fully understanding them is unrealistic.                                                                                                                             

Hunters who use howling at other times of the year — not just during the mating months — achieve success while doing so. Smart hunters interject howls into their calling sequences when prey species sounds alone are not bringing the desired results.           


Myth No. 8: Only Food from the Regular Menu Works

You might have been told that while scouting prospective hunting grounds you should take note of what types of prey species inhabit the land and call accordingly. For example, if you encounter rabbits, use rabbit distress sounds because they are natural to the coyote. If coyotes are spotted lurking around ponds, try duck or goose distress sounds. Seems reasonable, but it might not always be the best plan of action. The premise that you must use these sounds to achieve the best results is a myth. The problem arises when these resident sounds stop producing the desired result.                                                                         

Instead, offer up non-indigenous prey sounds to bolster calling success. In their quest for food, coyotes do not systematically analyze what they are hearing before responding. They simply hear prey in distress and respond. If your area is home to cottontail rabbits, don’t assume using jackrabbit sounds will be unproductive. Quite the opposite might be true. If your sounds are not working, be adventuresome and scroll past your favorites on the remote and try some odd-ball sounds.



As I penned this article, I realized I had only scratched the surface of the number of myths that circulate in our sport. The best advice is to be a sponge and absorb as much information as you can. Then, sift through the information and see what works best for you in your neck of the woods. An eclectic and evolving skillset might be the best way to deal with Eastern coyotes.


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