Many readers from the northeast will remember that last winter dished out severely harsh conditions for predator hunting. Sustained single-digit temperatures and persistent knee-deep snow all but ruined the second half of the calling season. These miserable conditions continued right into the month of March. This was particularly upsetting for many hunters as March is normally a productive month to call coyotes. With the passing of fox season, March is a time to target coyotes. This is no easy task, however. Coyotes have been inundated with a plethora of sounds for five long months and getting them to commit to the call is a definite challenge.
Hunters should realize that playing standard distress sounds — the ones that brought fox and younger coyotes in on a string in the earlier months — might not bring the seasoned coyotes into firearm range. Instead, a calling sequence should be developed that has the ability to be effective. That is just what I did last February when I couldn’t get out and hunt due to the horrible spell cast upon me by Mother Nature.
The sequence I came up with took into account several variables such as why coyotes would want to come to the call, how much calling I should actually be doing and how much time I should allow for coyotes to respond. By mid-March I was finally able to field test my sequence and was quite happy with the results.
The sequence begins with a lone male coyote howl. This is done to simply announce the presence of a coyote in the area. Whether the hunter is playing the part of a rogue coyote or a pack member it makes no difference. Howl once and wait. The wait can be as long as five minutes. That is a long time to sit in silence for hunters who are accustomed to playing sounds non-stop. Readers will notice this sequence is based upon the notion that hunters should “call less and wait more” when hunting the late season. Whether hunting day or night, hunters should continue to scan the terrain for coyotes that might appear to this initial howl. Coyotes might not act kindly toward other coyotes on their turf and this single howl will start to get their blood boiling. They sometimes show up after the first howl, but from my experience, it typically took more calling to lure them in.
After five minutes, I go to the second sound of the sequence and that is a female howl. Specifically, I use FOXPRO’s Female Yodel Howl (C28 in the FOXPRO library). I play a short burst of these howls and once again sit in silence. Now, we are telling the coyotes that a female is in the area and any unpaired males are allowed to come in looking for late season love. As before, carefully watch the terrain for incoming coyotes. In my experience, proximate coyotes do not howl back — they just show up. The howling I hear is usually from coyotes off in the distance. If I can pinpoint their location — and if I have permission to hunt there — I try to call them on the next stand.
By emitting the male and female lone howls, we have told the resident coyotes that a coyote is present. I feel, at this point, that no more howling is necessary. Hunters should resist the temptation to over-call the situation. Any coyote within earshot will have heard the howls. Give them time to respond, usually five to ten minutes. If they don’t respond it’s time to move to the next sound.
By now we have the coyote’s attention and it appears we have to do more calling to lure them in. Since hunger is almost always an issue, appeal to their stomach with prey-distress sounds. I choose an “odd ball” rabbit-distress sound in this role. I use something that I haven’t played in the five months prior. To keep things really different, I like to play the sound on “auto volume,” which is a feature on several FOXPRO e-calls. Hunters without these calls, or hunters using mouth calls, can manually adjust their volume. Play the sound for three to five minutes and wait and watch. This time, expand the waiting to ten minutes. While this might seem boring to many hunters, the wait time is essential to the success of the sequence. If nothing shows up to the prey-distress sound don’t give up hope. In fact, we have now reached my favorite portion of the sequence.
Coup de Grace
Just as a Fourth of July fireworks show ends with a grand finale, so does our late season calling sequence. The sound to end the sequence is coyote-pup distress (specifically, FOXPRO’s Pup Distress #3). You should use this sound with confidence. I do not believe coyotes check their calendars as they wander around. They simply hear a sound and react one way or another. No matter what time of year, pup distress is super effective at luring in coyotes.
As far as duration is concerned, I play this sound non-stop for five minutes. I also play it at a uniform volume suitable for the conditions. As with the other sounds, I wait in silence at the end of calling to allow any extra cautious coyotes the opportunity to show themselves. If nothing shows up after the pup distress and follow-up silence, it’s a safe bet that hunters can move along to the next calling location.
Got late-season coyotes? If so, try this sequence on your next hunt. For me, the silent portions of the repertoire are the most telling. After a long season of intense calling efforts, it’s nice to let the silence work in your favor. It’s a time to reflect on past hunts and plan for the future. Stay alert, though, you never know which of these sounds will bring a coyote into sight!
Editor’s Note: Andrew Lewand kept a journal of his last-season efforts to see how well his new calling sequence works. Read his journal here.