Cold Weather Coyote Hunting
January 27, 2009
Pound for pound, the Eastern Coyote offers some of the most challenging sport hunting around. He’s wary, cagey, tough as a bag of hammers, and runs fast enough to all but guarantee that you won’t get a second shot if you miss the first one.
The cold weather of January and February fuels the Coyote’s already high metabolism, driving them to hunt for food almost ‘round the clock. Couple this with a couple of good calls, a night hunting permit, a rifle with a good scope, warm clothing, and you’re in store for some fast action.
First and foremost is to find where the dogs are. Talk to farmers, landowners, and your local Game Warden about coyote sign and location. Deer yards, rabbit cover, and field and swamp edges are all likely to hold coyotes this time of year. Be sure to get permission to hunt from landowners beforehand. I always contact the local Game Wardens and inform them if I’m going to be hunting near a deer yard, especially at night. It saves them from having to investigate a potential complaint and it allows me to hunt undisturbed.
My coyote hunting wangan consists first and foremost, of my deer rifle, a Winchester Model 70, .270 sighted in with 150 grain factory ammo for point blank range, and topped off with a Leuopold Vari-X II 3-9 power scope with a 40 MM objective lens.
You don’t need to go out and spend a lot of money for a new supercharged high velocity rifle. Coyotes are tough and your favorite deer rifle will do just fine. Any of the old standby calibers such the 30.06, .308, .280, .243 and .270 are effective coyote medicine. Sighted in for point blank range, they will reach out and touch the dogs at 200-300 yards. The following link provides a good overview of the nuts and bolts of sighting in for point blank range or absolute zero; http://www.huntingmag.com/guns_loads/zero_060205/
A good scope is a necessity, especially for hunting at night. The larger objective lens gather’s more light. The reflection from the snow aids greatly here. My Leopold 3-9 Vari-X II works well in low light situations, as do many of today’s scopes mounted on favorite deer rifles. The advantage here is that you already know the scope and the rifle that you hunt most with. A little fine tuning for longer range shooting and you’re in business.
Good snow camo is important. I have a couple of sets of shells that cost less then a hundred bucks each. These are available at Cabela’s and Dick’s. They have pockets where I can keep extra shells, a couple of calls and a headlamp. I buy them a size larger than I would normally wear so I can wear them over winter clothing, which I layer according to weather conditions. Be sure to cover your face as well. I also cover my rifle with a camouflaged rifle sock. Coyotes can pick up the glare from all exterior parts of a rifle, especially the shimmer from a scope.
Coyotes live by their noses just as whitetails do, and scent control when hunting coyotes is as critical, if not more so for hunting deer. I use deer and coyote urine on an old sock as a cover scent, and as an attractor. I keep my clothing outside in a Rubbermaid container to keep it odor free. I also try to be as odor-free as possible myself by using non-scented bath soap, shampoo and laundry detergent. These can all be found at your local grocery store. Guns smell like gun oil, powder residue and human scent, so be sure to use some cover scent on your rifle as well. I put it on the above mentioned rifle sock which I keep out side with my hunting clothes.
Calling coyotes is an art and opinions vary widely. If you are going to use hand held calls you need to practice with them before you go out. Put some feeling in your calling and always call at low volume to start. Coyotes rarely call loudly and if you call at to high a volume it will spook a dog that may be close by. I increase the volume slightly after about 10-15 minutes of calling. I like to call for 5-10 seconds every minute for 5 minutes, break for 5 and start again. It’s important to be confident in your calling, and this comes from practice. There are a number of good electronic calls on the market. There are dozens of web articles where you can obtain good information about calling techniques and on coyote vocalization.
Don’t always expect coyotes to come charging into the open as soon as you start calling. Some of them will, but many will tend to circle with their nose to the wind when responding to a call. I’ve had them appear long after I’ve stopped calling. For this reason it’s important to stay on stand longer than the 15-20 minutes that is often advised. Coyotes will not always respond vocally. I will stay put for up to 45 minutes just to be sure there isn’t a big old male cautiously sneaking into my location. A key component in calling is to remain motionless. Coyotes are extremely adept at detecting movement.
There are a variety of hand held and electronic predator calls to choose from. Three good predator call companies are Fox Pro at http://www.gofoxpro.com/, Johnny Stewart Wildlife Calls at http://johnnystewart.com/ and Extreme Dimension Game calls at www.phantomcalls.com/, made right here in Hamden, Maine.
I use a combination an electronic caller and hand held calls that include a dying rabbit, a fawn in distress, coyote howls, and coyote pups in distress. All work well in my area, especially the pup in distress call. I also have a life-sized coyote decoy that I put out when I call at the edges of fields, marshes, and backcountry ponds. Sprinkled with a few drops of coyote and deer urine, the decoy reduces fear and entices coyotes with the hopes of a meal. It also serves to antagonize other coyotes by making them think an intruder is on their turf.
When approaching your set-up be sure to stay in the shadows as much as possible, and out of open areas such as fields. Avoid being silhouetted against the sky. Travel as quietly as possible. Once I arrive at a set-up I put out my cover scent and start calling.
I always carry a set of shooting sticks with me and use them if I’m reasonably sure of what direction the
coyote will approach from. Some hunters attach a bi-pod to their rifle. Personally I like the flexibility of the shooting sticks. Different set-ups require different shooting positions and I don’t want to worry about an attached bi-pod getting in the way when I don’t need it.
Coyote hunting is a great way to keep your deer hunting skills sharp, and help protect our deer and other game from these wary predators.
Bob Lane is a Master Maine Guide. He also guides Caribou hunters and fishermen in Southwest Alaska.