Yotin' Across the USA

Coyotes are coyotes no matter where they live and respond the same to calls and fall for the same hunting strategies regardless of their zip code — or do they?

Yotin' Across the USA

“If everybody had coyotes — across the U.S.A. Then everybody’d be huntin’ — like Californi-a.” OK, I tweaked the lyrics of this classic Beach Boys song, but it was done with good intention. Just as legions of Americans can relate to sun, surf and muscle cars, sportsmen across the country pursue coyotes because the thrill of calling them in ranks high among the most exciting hunts available. The good news for these hunters is that coyotes can be found across the entire continental United States, and they are literally waiting to be called!      

This prompts the question: Can coyotes be hunted in every region of the country using the same tactics? Or do different strategies need to be applied when traveling to different areas? At the heart of every coyote hunting discussion is the topic of sounds. This makes perfect sense because the sounds we use to call in coyotes are truly the essence of our sport. And for every coyote shot, there’s a buddy who asks, “What sound did it come to?” So, the topic of sounds as they relate to calling coyotes across the country is a good place to begin this discussion. Are certain sounds best used in specific regions, or can certain sounds be used successfully across the country? To find some answers to these questions, I spoke with four highly successful predator hunters who routinely travel the country in pursuit of song dogs.

 

Meet the Traveling Pros

Virginia based hunters Kyle Crickenberger and Benton Bowman are no strangers to traveling cross-country to target coyotes, and they find that certain prey-in-distress sounds are effective when used in any region of the country. For example, Crickenberger says that rabbit distress calls are effective anywhere, as are coyote pup distress calls. Bowman agrees that there are sounds that have universal appeal, but in the end, hunters need to experiment until they trigger a reaction with any sound that works.      

Al Morris, pro staff at Foxpro Game Calls, chimes in on the subject. “Cottontail rabbits are pretty much the same across the country,” he said. “A good cottontail sound in California works just fine in Vermont.” But Morris also believes that distress calls work better in some regions than others. He explains: “Seasonal dependency on small ground-dwelling critters will benefit callers using rabbit distress calls. In regions where food availability is high, distress sounds are not always reliable.”      

I asked the hunters if their use of coyote vocalizations differed in various regions. Abner Druckenmiller, director of sales at Foxpro Game Calls, replied: “I believe Eastern coyotes are more family oriented and more vocal. I typically [use more vocalizations] in areas where coyotes tend to be more vocal to help initiate a response.” According to Crickenberger and Bowman, Midwestern and Western coyotes are more vocal than their Virginian coyotes. However, they use coyote vocalizations more in the East than out West. “We use them to break coyotes out from the timber,” Benton said. “We also use them to locate coyotes in the East. Hunting in the Midwest and West doesn’t require as much locating so long as tradition scouting tactics have been used prior to hunting.”      

Al Morris offered his insight on the topic: “Coyotes vocalize the same throughout the country,” he said. “However, some coyotes are louder and more vocal than coyotes in other regions. I use the same vocalizations from East to West, but Midwestern coyotes, say from Oklahoma and Kansas, are the heart of vocal coyotes. Dense populations of coyotes that are highly vocal, such as those in the Midwest, are fun coyotes to hunt.”      

Druckenmiller uses a sequence of sounds from the Foxpro sound library for targeting coyotes that has proven to be effective for him in all regions. He explained: “I’ve called in and killed coyotes with this same sequence in the East, North, South and West. I like to start with “Coyote Pair,” then pause and wait for a response. Then I play “Lils Cottontail” after the response from coyotes has subsided. If I don’t get one rolling in, I play a variety of other prey-in-distress sounds to help trigger a response. At the 10-minute mark, I’ll play “Yipping Coyotes” for 45 seconds at full volume. To finish the sequence, I play “Pup Distress #3” for five minutes at full volume.”

Foxpro’s Abner Druckenmiller finds success while working the graveyard shift in his home state of Pennsylvania, illustrating that predators often respond better at night out East.
Foxpro’s Abner Druckenmiller finds success while working the graveyard shift in his home state of Pennsylvania, illustrating that predators often respond better at night out East.

Setting Up Coast to Coast             Despite that terrain varies greatly across the country, these hunters do not drastically change their setup tactics to accommodate this. Instead, they rely on proven strategies that can be applied when hunting in any area of the country. Both Druckenmiller and Morris say they look for elevation at every setup. “I always look for elevation first anywhere I hunt,” Morris said. “Then I go for open shooting areas, or lanes or field edges. If none of those landscape features is present, I set up in thick areas close to the Foxpro [e-caller] and use my shotgun.” Druckenmiller adds that he prefers to have the wind blowing in his face at each setup. During nighttime hunts, he always sits side by side with his hunting partner. During daytime hunts, they separate by 50 yards to cover any blind spots.      

Crickenberger and Bowman sit for 12 minutes per stand when hunting in the Midwest and West. When hunting in the East, they spend an additional 12 minutes and adjust the stand length in all regions accordingly if they get a vocal response. The hunters play their sounds non-stop on high volume in all regions.


Coyote Response Rates                                                     

In terms of response rates and percentage of dry stands, Crickenberger says coyote response is often affected by the time of year and how much pressure they’ve been exposed to. “Many uneducated coyotes, often found early in the season and in rarely hunted areas, charge into the call in all regions,” he said. “The secret to success is finding areas that do not receive a lot of hunting pressure.”

Bowman adds that day vs. night hunting is an important factor relating to response rates. “When hunting in the East, coyotes respond better at night,” he said. “This changes as you move west — they respond better during the day [than Eastern coyotes]. The number of dry stands is equal for each region under similar conditions. Weather, hunting pressure, time of year all affect response rates.” 

Morris reports similar results. He says that for the most part, his success rate is the same in each region. “Across the nation, I average three successful stands out of 10,” he said. “There are places in the Midwest and West where I achieve 75 to 90 percent success, but these areas are the exception, not the rule.”

I also asked the hunters about how the coyotes physically respond to their calling efforts. Morris says that coyotes are coyotes, and their response is very similar everywhere he hunts them. “Some are cautious while coming to the call and some come with reckless abandonment,” he said. “I think time of year, population dynamics and [hunting] pressure all play into how they come to the call.” Druckenmiller agrees. “I’ve witnessed coyotes all over the country respond very similar most of the time. In areas where there are more coyotes, or a higher density of coyotes, I believe they let their guard down a little more and respond more eagerly.”

Al Morris proudly poses with a Western coyote. Check out the wide-open terrain in the background! Prime calling country.
Al Morris proudly poses with a Western coyote. Check out the wide-open terrain in the background! Prime calling country.

Regional Throw Down

So far, we have discovered that coyotes can be successfully hunted in all regions of the country using similar sounds, tactics and strategies. And our hunters agree that areas with the highest number and densities of coyotes provide the best results, while stressing that any area has the potential to be good if concentrations of coyotes can be located. The secret is to scout diligently and seek out those places where coyote numbers are higher and hunting pressure is lower. 

Crickenberger says Eastern hunters can tally impressive coyote kill numbers, but it might require special equipment to do so. “Hunters will see their numbers elevate quickly when using thermal and night vision gear, while hunting at night,” he said. “Eastern coyotes often shy away from red LED lights. This is especially true in areas that receive a lot of hunting pressure.” 

He adds that hunters who really want to add to their fur take need to look to the Midwest and West. Crickenberger says that when he and Bowman hunt the Midwest, they can kill more coyotes in less time than in any other region — although, they say, the West is good, too! Morris is quick to point out that Western states have the highest numbers of coyotes. And I found research that backs up that claim — with some Western state lands supporting four to six coyotes per square mile.      

When discussing which region is the most difficult in terms of success, all the hunters pointed to the East! Bowman says that only one or two coyotes can be counted on during a daylight hunt in the East, and that lower predator density is the major factor. And Crickenberger points out, “You may have to travel miles to find the next pair of coyotes.” Also, gaining access to land where the coyotes are is often difficult.

 

The Bottom Line

Two major factors that affect calling success are coyote population density and terrain, and Bowman believes population density is the bigger influence of the two. Morris shares his viewpoint. “The single biggest factor for coyote hunting success is the number of coyotes present to hunt,” he said. “It really is a numbers game. If you hunt where coyotes are numerous, you will be more successful than hunting where only a few live.” 

Druckenmiller agrees but adds that hunters who do their homework can be successful in regions with lower overall coyote populations. The trick, he says, is to identify pockets of higher predator/prey concentrations. He is onto something here. I attended a coyote lecture hosted by the New York State Department of Conservation. Their research determined a statewide coyote density of 0.2 coyotes per square kilometer. However, they also identified several “hotspots” where coyote densities were an impressive four to six coyotes per square kilometer. Hunters who have permission within these areas are fortunate. A good strategy would be to contact your state’s wildlife agency to see if any high population zones have been documented.      

The hunters also shared their viewpoints on how terrain might affect calling success. Crickenberger says that in the East they can’t always get land access due to property lines, and this drives their success rate down. Morris views terrain as a non-issue because he says he will hunt wherever coyotes live. Whether the terrain is super thick or wide open, he is going to hunt where he knows coyotes dwell. Druckenmiller agrees and adds, “Each [type of] terrain brings along with it its own challenges. Stick to two rules and you should be successful: Keep the wind in your face as often as possible and [seek out] elevated stand locations so you can see any approaching predators.”

Benton Bowman had a blast using his shotgun on these thick-terrain, hard-charging Texas coyotes!
Benton Bowman had a blast using his shotgun on these thick-terrain, hard-charging Texas coyotes!

Conclusion

The insight provided by these hunters sheds some light on hunting coyotes across our great country. Al Morris sums it up nicely: “Coyotes are amazing animals that have a lot going for them. They can drive seasoned veterans mad when they possess the remarkable ability to avoid all efforts to call them in. Coyotes spend 365 days a year keeping their hide on, we spend a few days a year trying to take it from them! Coyotes win a lot more than they lose. However, when you finally call in an old warrior, it is a very rewarding experience.”

Druckenmiller adds, “The things I’ve always enjoyed about hunting different regions are the experiences and knowledge gained while doing so. You can then apply the experiences to other regions of the country. With all the stands I have done across the country it is comforting to know that the same principles of predator calling still apply, and similar tactics can be used with great success, no matter where I am calling.”

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