The sun was just below the horizon as I crept the pickup to a stop. A cold front had moved through, keeping just about every critter in the area hunkered down. My hope was to capitalize on the break in the weather now that it was calm and cold.
I eased the pickup door open as I was going through my mental checklist: rifle, shotgun, shooting sticks, ammo, hand call…everything I needed. The plan today was to make a series of stands by walking in a giant loop.
Staying below the horizon, I eased over a saddle in the hill on a southward direction. Starting from the Northeast of the property, I’ll make my first call stand 300 yards north of a spring-fed creek bottom that runs from west to east. A few cottonwoods sprinkle the bottom of the sandy banks along the semi-dry creek. The trees and the creek bottom create a great transition to the south, from the thick sagebrush hill I’ll be calling from.
My vantage point gave me clear shooting lanes for more than 180 degrees. Hidden in cover, I use an interrogation howl to locate any coyotes in the area. A few moments later the creek bottom lit up! After glassing the area, I spotted six coyotes working their way down the creek from the west. They raced to the bottom and I lost sight of them. After a few minutes of trying every distress call I could think of, a single coyote cautiously stepped up the south bank of the creek bottom. I eased my breathing and touched off the trigger of my .22-250 Rem. bolt-action rifle and the coyote dropped! The sunlight, which had only been up for about 2 minutes, illuminated the fur floating to the ground where the coyote fell.
As I approached my destination, the coyote was nowhere to be seen. The fur was on the ground, near a small chunk of flesh where the coyote was supposed to be laying. My guess was that I hit the coyote high, possibly the neck or back. I glassed the area using my binoculars, working from near to far. I noticed the coyote moving175 yards away. I set my shooting sticks down, took aim, and made a better shot. The coyote was a 30-pound male, on to the next call stand.
I made my way to the southwest, up the large hill thick with sagebrush. A half mile later, I turned to walk south along a fence line packed tight with brown tumbleweeds, nearly blocking out all of the sunlight. On the west side of the fence was a wide, dark shadow the tumbleweeds had made, that extended over a small ridge and reappeared in the distance. Stretching to the west was a grass field flat. Getting to a high point along the fence, with the breeze from north to south (right to left), I sat in the shade of my tumbleweed backdrop.
I had already used a howl to locate, so I opted to start right into a series of soft rabbit-distress calls. Shotgun at my feet, rifle in my lap and a field of view that extended a mile and a half to the west, I realized that I hadn’t ejected the spent casing from the finishing shot on the first coyote. I took off my gloves and tossed them onto the ground to my left, opened the bolt and quietly ejected the brass case. With my attention intently focused on quietly closing the bolt again, I failed to notice an end of the string securing the open-reed call to my right hand had fallen under the action of the rifle. As I attempted to close the action, I look up and see a coyote coming in on a string 250 yards out. The rifle’s action began to stick and the coyote was now 200 yards away. Not yet in a panic, I try to use more force to close the bolt of my rifle, figuring that I’d deal with a difficult-to-open bolt later—it gets stuck!
Still not panicking, I figure I’ll pull the bolt open. It doesn’t open. The coyote’s at 125 yards…now at 100 yards—my rifle is jammed! I think, just pick up the shotgun loaded with 00 Buckshot and wait for the coyote to continue to close the distance. I can’t reach it! The coyote is still 75 yards away and hasn’t noticed me. I lean and scoot now. The scraping sound on the frozen ground causes the coyote to stop and look. The sun is still not very high in the sky and is directly at my back. I can see the coyote squinting and straining to battle the sunlight. He can’t see me! I slowly lean to my left and use my right foot to trap the stock of my shotgun, gently pulling it with my heel. It’s closer now, but so is the coyote! I can now lean forward and reach the shotgun with my right hand. Hand on the shotgun, the coyote stops at 35 yards. He stares through me for about 10 seconds. Then the coyote comes at me on full trot. I let out a WOOF! He stops at 15 yards. The 00 buckshot slams the coyote to the ground faster than the blink of an eye. I let out my breath. Must have been holding it for a short time.
I made two more call stands, which produced another large male coyote with the shotgun at 40 yards and a young male coyote weighing just around 24 lbs.
I made it back to my pickup by 10:30 a.m. and drove into the pastures to pickup my trophies and forever etch this day into my memory.
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