New Age Coyote Hunting Tips & Tactics

Electronic and mouth calls, high-tech camouflage, 3-D coyote decoys, too many attractor decoy options to mention, ultra flat-shooting rifles, shooting rests, high performance ammunition — these are the tools employed by just about every New Age coyote hunter.

Well into the 21st century, hunters have entered a new age; a time when technology and information can be used to increase efficiency in the field. With the coyote population explosion, producers and wildlife managers alike are scratching their heads. No solution seems obvious. Coyote numbers remain excessively high and hunting appears to be the only viable management option. Great news for today’s sporting varmint hunter; the out-of-control population creates unlimited shooting opportunities. Add in the wealth of tools at our disposal and this genre of predator hunting fast becomes not only attractive but accessible as well.

Fur markets traditionally dictate the number of hunters harvesting coyotes each winter. In search of prime pelts that bring top dollar, times have changed as the markets continue to weaken. Consistent with the decreasing number of meat hunters, so too have the number of predator hunters dwindled. Unfortunately this translates to a thriving and in fact growing coyote population, particularly in agricultural regions. Dairy, poultry and pig farms especially, tend to attract coyotes. Chickens are often easy targets for hungry coyotes and, likewise carcasses are periodically left out creating an easy meal for wandering predators. In turn, coyotes thrive throughout Western Canada’s agricultural belt. Therein lies the problem. While numbers skyrocket, hunter numbers continue to go down. While fur markets once kept coyote numbers at least at bay, today coyotes face considerably less persecution by hunters. While sparse demand continues, by in large the vast majority of coyote hunting is done by sport hunters; those seeking to practice off-season shooting skills while contributing to coyote management. Yes, there is still a demand for coyote hides albeit perceptibly diminishing as time goes on. This is, at least in part, the New Age coyote hunting paradigm shift.

New Age Calling & Decoying

On the bright side, today’s coyote hunters are becoming more academic. Like other hunting pursuits, contemporary predator hunters understand more about coyotes; where they live, what motivates them, how to set up, how to call, and how to create shot opportunities.

As a rule, whenever I think about setting up for a calling session, I consider possible shot opportunities, wind direction and severity, whether or not I know of any den sites, and overall visibility. Coyotes respond to sound but they really key in on visuals. If I sound like one of their peers or prey-in-distress, I can generally get their attention. Whether or not they will commit to approaching is an entirely different thing. If you hunt coyotes, you know that not every dog will commit. If they are in earshot, most will stop, look, and listen, but only some will respond further. This is where combining familiar vocalizations with visual enticements enters the equation. An assortment of decoys can add the finishing touch to most set-ups.

Predator hunting decoys are many and varied. One such decoy that has revolutionized my own coyote hunting is Flambeau’s Lone Howler full-body decoy. Coyotes are generally sociable but during the breeding season, males are constantly on the lookout for a breeding partner. This little beauty can be just the ticket for bringing one in close for a shot opportunity. On many occasions I’ve had reluctant coyotes commit as soon as they lay eyes on it. Emulate the sounds of a female in heat or a young pup, in the right situation, and this combination of calling and visual attractor can be deadly.

Since electronic calls have been legalized in my home province of Alberta, I’ve taken to using a Johnny Stewart call. With interchangeable sound cards, I now have access to a wide assortment of prey-in-distress and coyote calls, all at the touch of a button. As a New Age coyote hunter, this electronic advantage has opened up a world of opportunity. Through trial and error I’ve learned that the e-call is indeed productive but it is never a full guarantee. Likewise, I’ve also learned that in some situations, nothing beats my tried and true howler and dying rabbit mouth calls.

If conditions are right; for example visibility is good, I’ll bring out the full arsenal. This includes a stuffed rabbit with a motion magnet inside to give it movement and the 3D coyote decoy placed maybe 20 metres away from the rabbit. Both will generally be positioned 40 metres from wherever I take a stand. Hillsides can provide great cover for the shooter, but in most situations, wearing suitable camouflage and sitting on the ground against a tree can offer sufficient concealment. I’ll often start each session by howling. If no response is evident, I’ll initiate a prey-in-distress call and continue with this for up to 20 minutes. The shrill cries of a squealing rabbit can be heard for great distances, particularly on calm frigid mid-winter days. Keeping a watchful eye out for any movement in or along tree lines, across wetlands and in any open areas will hopefully allow you to see an incoming coyote before it sees you. Remember, they have phenomenal eyesight and can detect even the slightest movements at great distances. If they are hungry and convinced that an easy meal can be had, let alone that there is another coyote already capitalizing, the calls can often be too enticing to ignore. On many occasions I’ve seen coyotes race in and even speed up when they see the rabbit decoy.

If you’re hunting tight quarters and feel that decoys are not an option, don’t despair. I’ve had many successful coyote hunts where I’ve set up in the bottom, or on top, of a drainage with limited visibility. In fact, these situations often present the most excitement as coyotes barrel in with reckless abandon. If game trails are apparent, consider setting up with your rifle facing directly down a heavy trail in the direction you anticipate the coyote to come from. On many occasions this strategy has worked great as the coyotes come trotting down the trail and directly into my line of fire.

One of the advantages of hunting coyotes in the New Age is again the luxury of choice. Given the high density of coyotes, I will often drive around until I locate what I consider to be a high odds opportunity. For instance, if snow conditions are deep and crusty, covering ground on foot can incredibly taxing. Regardless of the situation, walking out to do a set-up is imminent, but carefully choosing your stands can save a lot of energy.

Two winters ago the snow was nearly thigh deep; walking across full quarter sections simply wasn’t an option. My partner and I scoured the landscape, passing up several opportunities before finding one that screamed of shot opportunity. The wind was right, the woodlot was just big enough to conceal our downwind approach, and two dogs were lingering close to the tree line. Sneaking across the backside of the trees to a pinch point, we sat down against two big poplars. I proceeded to blow on a mouth call and within minutes we could see both coyotes scurrying across the snow, making their way toward us. In short order one sprinted right at us and didn’t stop. Clearly the coyote had its mind set on an easy meal and wasn’t about to pass it up! As I continued calling I have no doubt the coyote would have pounced on me. Thankfully my partner made a snap decision to swing, lay his .243 Win across my lap and shoot. The coyote rolled on the spot just five paces from us! That one was attributed to academics and interpretation of an ideal situation.

Technological Advantages

Coyote hunting in this New Age means capitalizing on various advanced technology as well. Venerable calibres like the .22-250 and .243 are great options and I use them extensively myself, but many contemporary coyote hunters are leaning toward more sexy calibres like the .223 and .204 Ruger. With the coyote game, the flatter a rifle shoots, the better. New Age coyote hunting is really all about gearing up for long range shots and the rifle is just the starting point.

High-powered optics make long range shooting possible. From long-range laser rangefinders to riflescopes, these are requisite tools for the New Age coyote hunter. Topping today’s long range varmint rifles with strong optics is a priority. Ballistic reticles with hash marks facilitate shots past 200 metres. Most of today’s optics manufacturers are delivering a solid product and I’ve got several different makes and models on my various varmint rifles, but if you’re looking to specialize, you can’t go wrong with something like a 5-20×50 mm Vortex Razor HD with an EBR-2B ranging reticle. This riflescope uses sub-tension lines for ranging, holdover, and windage corrections. While it may have been designed for more tactical applications, a tool like this can be a great asset for the academic coyote hunter. I also really like Bushnell’s Elite 8-32×40 mm riflescope for long range shooting. This biggest challenge with shooting at the highest magnifications is that it is virtually impossible to shoot without a bipod.

Rest assured, New Age coyote hunters have much to learn, a lot to consider, and plenty of opportunity. If we equip ourselves with the right gear and a little know-how, we are sure to put some fur on the ground. Coyote hunting today means we get to practice our hunting and shooting skills in the off-season while doing our part to manage coyote populations at the same time.

Join Us On Facebook!

Do You Like What You’re Reading? Subscribe To Western Sportsman Print Edition Today!



This entry was posted in Articles, Hunting, Predator and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.