Hunting Late-Season Bobcats

Increase your odds for success — and prime pelts — by hunting these secretive felines during the winter months.

Hunting Late-Season Bobcats

Savvy predator hunters wait until the snow flies — when bobcat pelts are fully prime — before pursuing these beautiful and valuable felines. (Photo: www.istockphoto.com/Gerald Corsi)

Late season is the perfect time for bobcats. They don’t fully prime up till late December and January and stay prime through January and February. A perfect time or not, bobcat hunting is never easy as these pulchritudinous predators are stealthy, secretive, individualistic hunters whose very nature is to be an invisible part of their surroundings. Bobcats hunt slowly and precisely, stalking their prey until the odds of a successful stalk is well in their favor before launching an attack. These attributes make it almost impossible to hunt successfully by methods other than calling unless you opt for a pack of well-trained cat hounds.

The prime prerequisite for successfully calling bobcats is calling from a location where a bobcat has a chance of hearing your call. A superb caller can’t call up critters that aren’t within hearing distance. Even neophyte callers can be moderately successful if they are calling in areas of high predator concentrations. Bobcats are not pack animals. The only time you are likely to find more than one hunting an area is when a female is accompanied by young or during the breeding season when a female is closely pursued by a tom.

Bobcats prefer much thicker types of cover than canine predators. Deep brushy canyons and draws, cedar thickets, swamps and rocky outcropping and ledges are ideal locations for bobcats. In areas with high coyote populations, calling a bobcat across or into an open area is almost impossible.

Cats are much easier to call in the sticker bush and cactus country of the southern United States because there is dense cover to protect them and a lot more rodents available. Without a doubt, the top late-season bobcat calling state would be Texas, AFTER the big game seasons are over. 

The prime prerequisite for successful bobcat calling is patience. A bobcat normally responds to a predator call the same way it hunts, slowly and cautiously — especially in coyote country. I can count on one hand the number of times a mountain or northern bobcat has responded to my calling efforts by charging in to the call. This response is more common in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The cats feel protected by the heavy escape cover around them and are more aggressive hunters. 

Calling setups specifically for bobcats, even in heavy cover, should last an hour to give the “pussyfooting” felines time to respond. In country covered by deep snow, the time should be extended a bit more. Bobcats have an uncanny way of getting up close and personal without being seen. During my years of predator calling, I’ve gotten up from a stand and caught the sudden movement of a cat that had sneaked within a few yards entirely unobserved. In several instances I was able to shoot the cat as it walked nonchalantly away. In most cases, however, all I caught was the flicker of movement as the contrary cats disappeared into the thick brush from whence they came. In such cases, I recommend getting back into position and calling softly for another half-hour, preferably with a different call sound. This tactic doesn’t work all the time but often enough to make it a worthwhile venture. 

Even in the most prime bobcat habitat across the country, there is a lot of country per cat. Narrowing down your calling to only the primo locations can increase the chances of success immeasurably. Fresh snow can make this phase of the hunt much easier. By finding fresh cat tracks in the snow and following them until you locate the most likely area for a cat to hole up or a calling location that will allow the sound of your call to drift over the best cat cover in the area, you’ve narrowed the odds considerably. Ravens, crows, magpies, eagles and buzzards are indispensable keys to help in locating kills and carcasses bobcats might be feeding on. Where legal and feasible, putting out bait or a road killed critter to draw in a bobcat will also help get you within calling distance. 

Where there are square mile or larger sections, you can cruise the backroads, looking for fresh tracks and circling sections until you pinpoint the cat’s location within as small an area as possible before setting up to move in and call.   In my estimation, hunting bobcats any way, shape or form is the epitome of predator hunting. The time spent pursuing these cautious and cunning critters is one of the best ways to learn about predators — how they travel and hunt. In the process, you’ll likely become a more knowledgeable and effective predator yourself. 

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