For More Predators, Apply the 3-Stand Rule

The best way to avoid repetitive and non-productive calling in the realm of predator calling is to change things while hunting. Knowing exactly why, when and how to change your calling can be a systematic and calculated event.

For More Predators, Apply the 3-Stand Rule

Hunters often have trouble getting out of their comfort zone when it comes to changing calling tactics. But making a switch often works. (Photo: Andrew Lewand)

I recently caught up with a hunting buddy to share tales of our latest adventures. He told me his early season calling success was great, but then his favorite sequences quit working for him. He said he had so much confidence in his sound sequences that he was sticking by them even though responses had dropped dramatically. We agreed he had to alter his calling tactics so he could enjoy his time afield.

When predator hunters find a particular sound or tactic that leads to success, they tend to continue using it on subsequent stands. It makes proper sense. “Go with what works,” certainly applies to predator calling. The problem is these same hunters continue using the same sounds and tactics when predators stop responding. According to noted scientist Albert Einstein, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result could be defined as crazy.” Well, we don’t want to be crazy … we want to be productive!

The best way to avoid repetitive and non-productive calling in the realm of predator calling is to change things while hunting. Knowing exactly why, when and how to change your calling can be a systematic and calculated event.

Why Change?

Using the same calling tactics may not be in the best interest of hunters; however, one cannot help to think about the relationship of predator response to the sounds we make. If wild animals such as fox and coyotes act on instinct, wouldn’t they respond to a hunter’s calling efforts in a consistent manner? Apparently not, otherwise all hunters would have a truck load of fur every time they went hunting.

Predators have proved to be finicky in recent years and hunters need to stay flexible in their efforts to hunt them. When asked about predator calling in the present day versus 20 or 30 years ago, veteran callers are quick to point out that it is more difficult to be consistently successful these days. The difference is usually attributed to an increase in hunting pressure and the fact that predators are being inundated with hunters’ sounds so often. That being said, hunters can certainly be successful while calling. We simply need to allow our calling skill sets to evolve. 

Predators can be finicky. Some days, predators will charge in to any sound we make and the next day, that same sound may not draw in anything. The change may not even take that long. Predator response rates may change by the hour instead of days or months. Just like a spring gobbler that suddenly goes quiet and ignores our best yelps and clucks, a coyote may ignore the most alluring of prey distress sounds we pitch.

When that happens, the hunter has three basic choices. One is to continue to hunting using the same tactics that have been thus far fruitless. Another is to pack it in and stop hunting for the day or night. A third option is to employ new tactics to bolster response. The question arises, when do you know precisely when to change things?

When your favorite sound is not producing, the first logical step is to try a different sound. (Photo: Andrew Lewand)
When your favorite sound is not producing, the first logical step is to try a different sound. (Photo: Andrew Lewand)

The 3-Stand Rule

Knowing when to implement change can be another useful tactic in your box of predator calling tricks. Straying from tried and true strategies too soon may be wasting opportunities at great calling locations. However, using those strategies on too many unproductive consecutive stands may also be viewed as a waste of opportunity and hunting time. Years ago, I heard about something called the “3-Stand Rule” and I believe that it addresses this quandary perfectly.

Les Johnson, from Predator Quest fame, was the first hunter to coin the phrase. The rule states that hunters should change their calling strategy every time they experience three consecutive dry stands. Why three stands, you ask? It seems to be the perfect number in terms of not jumping to conclusions while afield and not wasting too much time using unproductive calling tactics.

A person can understand not seeing a predator after one or two setups, even in prime territory. However, if we experience four or more consecutive empty stands, something should change. Hunters must realize that predators can respond differently every time we are afield and it’s helpful to have some sort of standard that guides us in our calling efforts. The “3-Stand Rule” is that standard!

How to Change?

Changing calling tactics is really an exercise in altering the factors of calling. The hardest part for hunters is doing something that they are not used to doing. It is perhaps asking hunters to use calling tactics that they are unfamiliar with, or not confident in doing. Fear not, with time afield even new calling tactics will become second nature.

When your favorite sound is not producing, the first logical step is to try a different sound. Perhaps you or other hunters in the area have played cottontail distress so much that the resident predators have grown immune to hearing it. It’s time to try new sounds. A solid tip is to save a few sounds during the season and play them only as the season progresses. By consciously “saving sounds” you will keep things fresh for the predator’s ears.

Here is another great tip for hunters who use certain models calls; change the pitch of your favorite sound to keep it sounding fresh. For years, my “go to” sound was “Baybee Cottontail,” then I noticed during the 2019 calling season that the sound wasn’t as productive as it was in years prior or as it was at the start of the season. Instead of completely giving up on the sound, I altered the pitch of the sound. Through the remote, I could easily raise or lower the pitch of the sound making it sound different to the predators. When pitch was altered, the “Baybee Cottontail” once again became a productive sound.

Call volume is another variable to alter. As a rule, hunters play their sounds too loudly. What is a good barometer to tell you if your sounds are too loud? Well, if you hear the sound echoing through the trees or other structure in nearby woods, the volume is probably too loud. Vary your sound levels and see if predators respond better. Instead of playing sounds at a set level throughout the stand, vary it. An effective volume sequence is to start on low volume for the first two minutes, increase volume for the next three minutes and then lower volume for the next three minutes. The cadence can be repeated throughout the stand.

Call frequency is a variable that is probably most often ignored. Most hunters press a button and let the sound play continuously and many hunters have great success doing just that! However, in times of needed change, switching to intermittent calling is a great tactic. The ratio of “sound to silence” needs to be figured out on the stand. Determining just how much silence to allow is the key. Start with two minutes of sound followed by two minutes of silence and repeat. If results are not favorable, expand the silence to three minutes. There is no right or wrong answer. Just find out what is working at the time you are presently hunting. It could change tomorrow. It could change within the hour. Just remember, if what you are doing doesn’t produce after three stands, try something else!

Speaking of doing something different, try calling in concert with hand calls and e-calls. By using hand calls in conjunction with an e-call, the hunter produces sound scenarios that are truly unique and enticing to wary predators. A hand call that produces rabbit distress blown simultaneously with an e-call that emits rabbit sounds make sounding like a covey of rabbits a breeze.

The benefits are not limited to prey distress sounds. For example, howling with a hand call is beneficial because such a wide variety of howls can be produced from a single call. Here is a great tip to use when employing both types of calls together: As a predator approaches, stop using the hand call and let the remotely placed e-call continue to play. That draws the predator’s attention to the sound source and away from the waiting hunter. The effect is magnified with a motion decoy is added to the mix. Predators will likely maneuver toward the call or decoy and not notice the hunter, even if slight motions are required to prepare for the shot.

Setup location is something that many hunters take for granted. We tend to walk out to the first available spot that gives us a good view of the area and start calling. Many hunters make setups at their favorite hunting spots from the same location on each visit. The rationale is likely that they have had success there before. That is all well and good, however, when calling from that certain spot stops being productive, move to a new setup location.

We can easily employ the “3-Stand Rule” to setups on a more long-term basis. Try a new setup location after three visits that result in dry stands. By doing so, and perhaps using a different sound, you are presenting new scenarios to the resident predators in the area. By switching setup locations, you are further reducing the chance of conditioning the predators to your calling efforts.


Predator hunters, like all hunters, are creatures of habit. Just like a whitetail deer hunter who has his favorite stand on opening day, we all have favorite tactics we rely on during our quest for fur. Unfortunately, those tactics will not produce all the time. Knowing when and how to alter tactics should be as much of a strategy as anything else you do while afield.

The next time your day or night of calling is not going as planned, try the “3-Stand Rule” and see if your results are more favorable!


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