Hunting Post Big-Game Season Predators

The largest bobcat the author ever called up was taken in Colorado a few days after the big-game season was over when he spotted ravens and magpies flitting around a brushy section of creek-bottom a half-mile off a main road. Here's how to cash in on late-season predators.

Hunting Post Big-Game Season Predators

Savvy predator hunters cash in on prime fur once big-game seasons expire. (Photo: Courtesy of Mossberg)

I was actually more excited about the potential of the coming day’s predator hunt following the close of the deer season than I had been the last few days of the deer season. Every day the other hunters in camp and I had watched numerous coyotes, bobcats and gray foxes from our blinds as they enjoyed the 100,000-acre ranch’s “NO SHOOTUM!” policy for hunters during the big-game season. 

Daylight found the ranch manager and me firmly nested under some dense mesquite brush with an electronic caller set 50 yards in front of us at the edge of a large expanse of open brush country surrounded by heavy thickets of impenetrable whitebrush, prickly pear and other South Texas stickerbushes. Deer hunters sitting in tower blinds overlooking travelways and feeders all reported seeing coyotes and even a bobcat or two while hunting. 

It was foggy with nary a breath of breeze, so I started the Foxpro on low-volume jackrabbit squalls. Within two minutes a pair of eager coyotes were kicking their last within a few yards of the caller. My compadre and I stayed situated in that spot for the next hour, and when we finally decided we had about vanquished any coyote within hearing distance, we loaded seven coyotes in the pickup. By dark that evening we had added another five coyotes, a bobcat and a gray fox to the total. Predator calling doesn’t get better than that, and that single day after deer season hunt still remains the most successful of many post big-game season predator hunts I’ve participated in. I would venture a guess that this time of year predator hunting is vastly overlooked by many predator pursuing aficionados.

Several years back, I had a similar experience in Alberta where I was doing some consultant work for an outfitter and stayed through the big-game season. Alberta landowners can’t charge for hunting on their property so most are pretty persnickety about what you can hunt and when, and akin to Texas landowners didn’t want predators shot during the big-game season. However, the three days after the big-game season expired the outfitter and I averaged five prime, heavy-furred, pale Alberta coyotes a day and scored some major brownie points with several new ranchers for the following year’s big-game season. I showed several cattle raisers where they should place dead critters to ambush coyotes easily to help control those that were ravaging their calving grounds — good predator public relations that will work anywhere farmers and ranchers are raising livestock, from chickens and ducks to sheep and cattle. 

Immediately after the big-game season, landowners, hunters, outfitters, gun shop owners and sporting goods dealers, USFS personnel and especially game and fish personnel are still tuned in on the past season and all can be great sources of information regarding predator whereabouts and even the source of kill site gut piles and roadkills, etc. that are prime predator attractors and excellent places to set up for calling.

Many predator hunters might believe that immediately after a big-game season predators are liable to be super leery and cautious. Nothing could be further from the truth! In many areas of Alaska, the humongous brown and grizzly bears have actually learned that a gunshot can be the summons to a “free meal,” and respond hungrily much to the dismay of hunters who find themselves facing one at close range. A number of hunters have been attacked and mauled and many driven off their kills by the huge voracious predators attracted solely by the sound of their gunshots.

I have seen coyotes and foxes suddenly appear near a recently killed big-game critter, and on a number of occasions after shooting prairie dogs on one of South Dakota’s huge towns I’ve returned several hours later for another go around and ran coyotes and foxes off the area littered with pieces of deceased prairie dogs. They were obviously attracted by the barrage of rifle shots and wary enough to stay back until things quieted down before moving in to enjoy the deceased rodents.

Another key element to keep in mind when predator hunting post big-game season is the importance scavenger birds such as crows, ravens, magpies, eagles and vultures play when it comes to attracting predators to a “free lunch” critter or gut pile. These same birds can also lead a savvy predator hunter to a good calling or ambush location.

 The largest bobcat I ever called up was taken in Colorado a few days after big-game season was over when I spotted ravens and magpies flitting around a brushy section of creek-bottom, a half-mile off a main road. I cautiously snowshoed to where I could glass the area and located the carcass of a cow elk that had been wounded during season and not recovered. The fresh tracks indicated a large bobcat was the only predator working the carcass. That evening I sneaked into a good calling location a hundred yards downwind and a half-hour later shot a 43-pound tom. 

This learned behavior to take advantage of the bounty offered AFTER hunting seasons makes today’s predators from foxes in pheasant country to coyotes in deer and elk habitat, prime post hunting season adversaries. 

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