Weather Awareness

Coyote hunters can increase their success in the field by understanding and taking advantage of weather events that affect animal — predator and prey — behavior.

Weather Awareness

Having lived in the North for more than a half century, I have learned to always consider the weather with analytical precision before departing on a coyote pursuit. Name a weather phenomenon and I have ventured out in it in search of fur, from sweltering 100-degree heat to minus 60 wind chills — from blizzards and downpours to high winds and heavy fog.  

As a younger lad, I foolishly jumped into my 1972 International Scout and routinely hunted predators in blizzards accompanied by sub-zero wind chills. Why? Only my past adolescent self knows that answer. Today I look for kinder, gentler weather events to improve my chances of anchoring coyotes without gambling life and limbs. And as I look ahead to the next fur season, I keep abreast of weather conditions — those that either help or hinder my chances at success.

Trust me, I do my share of coyote hunting when the sky is as blue as a male mountain bluebird. Hunting during blue-sky days means I don’t have to fight drifting snow or muddy trails — or pack my rain gear to avoid a good soaking. And it tends to be a bit warmer, even on winter days where single digit temps kick off the morning (give or take 10 degrees either direction). On calm, clear mornings your sounds carry farther, which can be a positive or negative. In the negative column, it might mean sitting longer waiting for a long-distance coyote arrival. That might not be an issue in South Texas or the desert country of Arizona, but clear mornings in my ZIP code equate to plummeting temperatures at sunrise, making for a long, cold sit. In the positive column, you are calling to more country, thus increasing the odds that more coyotes will hear your message. 

Those issues aside, one of the less helpful aspects of a bright sun is illumination. Regardless of your camouflage preference, your body movements reflect more when bathed in sunlight than when under the cloak of cloudiness. Crossing over saddles, ridgetops and across any open areas on your way in and out of a hunting area might reveal your presence to a half aware coyote napping on a distant hillside if it sees the flash of your movement. 

The same concept applies when you plop down for a calling session. That bright sunshine could draw attention to your form and equipment. Despite your best efforts to camouflage yourself and your gear, even camouflaged e-callers have a sheen, not to mention parts of your rifle and your boots. Even your decoys might not look quite real in bright sunshine. 

Finally, depending again on your regional location, too much sunshine might lead to warmer temperatures. Furred-up winter coyotes might not appreciate the radiant heat during warm spells and hole up earlier and longer than normal. If they do not have a rumbly in their tummy, ignoring any suspicious calls is easy while napping in the warmth of the sun. 

That Dang Wind Actually Helps

Everyone curses high winds while coyote hunting, and it’s justified. Blustery conditions decrease the coverage of your calls as they muffle sound and limit the distance sound carries. And if you vocalize to coyotes, winds limit what you can hear if coyotes do respond, especially if you have a snug watch cap pulled down over your ears. High winds, when combined with frigid temperatures, enhance wind chills that might decrease the amount of time you might want to sit. In brief, gusty winds do little for a coyote hunt, but wait.

Wind, when not blowing with the force of a Florida hurricane, can offer some benefits. A light wind — say under 20 mph — rustles leaves, makes branches clash together and swooshes through grass. This creates cover noise that allows you to slip into tight honey holes that would normally be off limits to your ingress due to noise. Coyotes can easily hear the squeak of a rodent coaxer or even the click of a rifle safety on calm days from considerable distance. A bit of wind diminishes their sense of hearing, allowing you to stalk into position and even get away with some noise while readjusting for a shot. 

Here’s another breezy bonus. On calm days, coyotes might appear from almost any direction. But when you have steady or stiff wind, adults will circle downwind and that is where you should be aiming your barrel. Veteran coyotes understand they must circle downwind to confirm if the sound affair is real or a ruse. That helps you locate the best ambush location for a coyote meet-and-greet. 

Mask Yourself with Snow and Mist 

Pay attention to weather advisories, watches and warnings, especially when it involves moisture. Snow and black ice conditions could raise havoc with your hunts and even threaten your life. When the authorities issue these weather alerts, do not ignore them. But pay close attention to moisture in the forecast that does not include a life-threatening event. 

Heavy snow or rain can quickly ruin a hunt, because coyotes typically hunker down. But light snow and mist create a haze across the landscape and most animals move about and continue their daily routines. That haze might be irritating because you cannot put your binocular to good use for long-range sleuthing, but it provides the best cloaking on the planet to make you the invisible man. 

Do you have locations that require a long jaunt across vast open areas? Do you hunt areas where coyotes routinely bed down on a vantage point where they can watch their domain? In situations such as these and more, use the cloaking power of mist or snow to gain access into areas where the likelihood of bumping coyotes is high. One hunting area I wrestled with was a sidehill above a feedlot. Coyotes regularly used brush pockets on the hillside to bed as they made scheduled visits to a pit where dead cattle were deposited. Whenever a curtain of snow appeared in the forecast, I made plans to hunt that area, knowing the snow would obscure my advance to reach a great calling position. 

Another major benefit of rain and snow is it washes scent away. And do not forget that small weather events often signal a change in the weather marked by a change in barometric pressure. If you are a believer in that natural force, read on. 

Frigid Temps Equal Nonstop Furnace Fueling 

Despite that coyotes wear the best weather protector known to man, their fluffy pelt, they still understand that a severe change to colder weather should be met with a full fuel tank, not one registering the big “E,” at least in my humble, Northland opinion. Call them what you wish, a cold front, an Arctic plunge, a bomb cyclone or a polar vortex, these strong and sometimes deep waves of Arctic air prod coyotes to think hard about keeping the home furnace fueled. 

These swings in weather bring changes in the barometer pressure. You and I cannot sense these subtle changes, but animals appear to easily perceive them. Rising barometric pressure typically brings clearing skies combined with diminishing winds, while dropping pressure signals possible moisture and higher winds. 

A Mississippi whitetail study I read showed no convincing evidence that changes in the barometer affected deer movement. Of course, whitetails are a prey species. An older study out of North Dakota focused on predators and indicated that red foxes had a higher call response rate with shifting barometric pressures, while coyotes responded higher when the barometer stabilized. 

Most of my hunting peers agree that subtle shifts and incoming fronts rarely stimulate increased wildlife movement, prey or predator. Animals need to continue their daily existence regardless. That changes as pressure announces major incoming weather. In instances when storms might last days, not hours, the hours before the event could provide ideal calling as coyotes prepare for the worst like hurricane alley inhabitants visiting a grocery store before the storm. And when skies clear, expect another round of movement as hunger pains strike again. 

Fog for the Win 

I noted earlier that snow and mist cloaks coyote country invasions. Fog does the same, but takes it a huge step further by boosting coyote boldness. Coyote confidence grows after dark and the hours surrounding dawn and dusk. That’s why I time many of my hunts for dawn and dusk. It is when they begin to move on to a hunt or retreat to refuge like Dracula as dawn nears. 

Fog, in moderation, also gives them a confidence boost. It forms when vapor condenses or freezes into small droplets. Clouds form at higher altitudes in a similar fashion, but fog forms near the ground at much lower altitudes. Modern forecasters can foresee this event, so when they predict fog, get out there and hunt until it disperses. 

One of my most memorable coyote setups took place on a foggy winter morning. I set up to call on a small knoll and started with fawn distress sounds. A brief time later, a herd of mule deer charged out of the fog in what I believed to be a rescue attempt for the fawn I was imitating. That may well have been the situation, but in tow were two coyotes determined to find the weakest of the herd. 

I snapped a bark and the nearest coyote skidded to a halt, and I quickly dispatched it. Swinging to the next coyote was foiled as it disappeared behind the frantically bounding mule deer. Regardless, the fog bolstered these coyotes into a point blank trap where one could not escape. Thank you, weather!


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