”Cat!” was all I heard. Trying to keep my excitement at bay, I methodically started picking apart the brush line a mere 25 yards in front of us. Staring hard, I focused my attention on the shadows, hoping to spot the elusive predator. “About 40 yards down the edge to the right,” I heard the whispering voice say. My eyes continued to scan impatiently, picking apart every detail. “How can I not see this thing; it’s right in front of me?” I thought. I slowly brought the scope to my eye and continued scanning the edge. It only took a few seconds to finally spot the bobcat, but it felt like an eternity. On the edge of the brush about 45 yards to our right, the gray ghost sat in the grass staring at us between two hardwood saplings. After a deep breath to calm myself and a slow adjustment to my shooting position, I centered the crosshairs on the spotted chest of the cat. The 53-grain V-Max found its mark, and my first-ever called-in bobcat tipped over backwards as if in a slow-motion highlight reel.
It was the third morning of a three-day hunt with Rick Paillet of Verminator Calls and Lucky Duck Premium Decoys. A late November cold snap made for ideal calling conditions across the rolling terrain and thick creek bottoms of north-central Kansas. Although we’d managed to put nine coyotes in the back of the truck up to this point, the spotted trophy had eluded us. Persistence finally paid off, and three minutes in to our 20th stand specifically targeting bobcats, we struck pay dirt!
Rick has been calling bobcats for more than three decades, and his Verminator DVD series has featured some of the best cat footage in the business. Over the course of the three-day hunt, our conversations covered everything from the new decoys and e-callers we were field-testing from Lucky Duck Premium Decoys to countless hunting stories. But scattered among the talk of new products and fond memories, the Verminator managed to share some of his vast bobcat knowledge.
Q: What are the two most important things you look for when specifically making a stand for bobcats?
A: First is finding the heaviest, thickest, nastiest cover I can. I love to call around brush piles. If they aren’t living in them, it’s a prime area for bobcats to hunt around because of the mice, rats and rabbits that do live in the brush piles. Second most important is scouting. I spend a lot of time looking for cat tracks and sign. When I do find an area with lots of sign and call in a cat, I mark it in my memory bank, because it will usually be a good place to call cats for a long time.
Q: What is your go-to method for drawing them out for a shot?
A: Like I just mentioned, switching sounds can be effective for drawing them out. When I find an area that looks promising, I try to figure out how I can pull that cat out to the edge of the cover. I don’t like climbing into the middle of it, but I look for a spot where I can get well hidden, backed up into some cover. Sitting out in the open like you can do with coyotes doesn’t seem to work. Bobcats are too slick for that. Once I find that spot, I prefer to use some sort of decoy that will hold the attention of the cat and keep its focus off me. The erratic movement of the decoy can play a huge role in drawing a cat out into the open.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about calling bobcats that you’ve encountered?
A: Probably the biggest misconception is that bobcats are tougher than coyotes to call in. Every winter I talk to multiple guys that seem to be doing everything right when trying to call in a bobcat, but for whatever reason they’re just not seeing the cat before the cat sees them. That’s the thing with bobcats; they don’t just come bouncing in like a coyote does. They come to the edge of the cover, slowly stalking, peeking behind what I call a curtain. A coyote will usually come flying through the curtain and a bobcat will usually sit back in the shadows and play peek-a-boo. I have called in some cats that come in like coyotes, but 99 percent of the time they don’t. If a bobcat is there, it will come to the call, but more times than not the hunters never see them.
Q: If you could only use one sound to call bobcats, what would it be and why?
A: If I had to pick one sound, I would definitely go with a high-pitched, shrill-sounding call. But switching up the sound every three to five minutes seems to be the ticket. Over the years I’ve found that by switching up the sounds after every couple of series, your chances of drawing that cat out of the cover are better. It’s almost like they get right to the curtain and become bored with the one sound. As soon as you switch to another, they creep forward a little more each time. Eventually the cat is far enough in the open for you to spot it.
Q: When making stands specifically for bobcats, what is a typical ratio of dry stands to stands where you call in a cat? What factors influence that ratio?
A: One in 20 would be a good ratio. The main factor that influences that ratio would be the density of bobcats in the area, which you can try to determine through scouting. The more cats in an area, the better your ratio will be. Obviously, time of year and weather can influence that ratio as well.
Q: What is your preferred amount of time to sit on a stand when specifically targeting a bobcat?
A: I’m a numbers guy with not a lot of patience! When I’m specifically trying to call a bobcat, I don’t stay much more than 20 minutes. I’m trying to knock out a lot of stands and cover a lot of ground. My theory is that I can make 10 stands at 20 to 30 minutes apiece where someone else making 40- to 50-minute stands will only get in five. A big key to the shorter time is getting in as close as you can to where you think they are. I’m not trying to call them in from 300-plus yards. Each setup is different, but it’s not uncommon for me to set up less than 50 yards from the edge of the cover or the “curtain.” I try to slip in quietly, because when you are that close, you are virtually setting up right in their bedroom. That’s why the 20-minute stand works for me.
Q: Over the past couple of years you’ve been working closely with Lucky Duck Premium Decoys developing decoys, e-callers and a sound library. What kinds of new products can we expect from them in the future?
A: We have a bunch of great new things we are currently working on. I’m extremely excited about the new premium e-caller that will be filled with exclusive sounds I’ve been recording for the past three years. We are also working on some advanced decoys with integrated sounds. Lots of great stuff in the works, so stay tuned!