Winter Coyote Hunting

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Keep your shooting skills sharp with this thrilling hunt

I could hardly believe my eyes as the coyote came out of the ravine, tearing up the real estate between us, on a dead run towards me. I had only sat down in the snow on the edge of the brush mere minutes earlier and gave one short burst of calls from my faithful mouth call before the action started.

When deer season comes to an end in late November or early December, most hunters reluctantly put away their gear for the year, get back to their honey-do Lists and everything else they’ve been putting off during the fall months.

For me, this is the beginning of a brand new season – calling coyotes is one of my favourite times of the year. Not only is it an incredible way to keep our shooting skills honed in the off season, it helps to keep the predator numbers down. This gives the big game, that we so love to hunt, a fighting chance – our harsh Canadian winters are usually enough of a battle for them, without having to contend with hoards of predators nipping at their heels.

The coyote is one of North America’s smartest critters. They are found in almost every climate and have an incredible ability to adapt to practically any surrounding – whether it be towns and cities, preying on family pets, or in the wilderness where they are found knocking down our deer populations. So I can hardly wait to get out on a few stands, trying my best to spend as much time with a coyote call stuck to my lips as the winter months allow.

I have been lucky enough to get out on more than one occasion with who I believe to be the Yoda of predator hunting, Predator Quest’s one and only Les Johnson. Les is a master coyote caller and eight-time world champion caller, so when you a have the opportunity to have a legend like this calling for you, it’s not hard to put the smack down on a pile of coyotes while picking up plenty of tricks along the way. I have never seen anyone that could call in a coyote like Les, and having the chance to spend some days hunting with him showed me why he practically wrote the book on calling these song dogs.

The winter months are my favourite time to get out calling coyotes and I usually layer up and pack a pile of gear to head out for a day of calling. I prefer using two or three of my favourite mouth calls, but I always take my electronic caller too, as there are times when this type of call will work to your advantage. E-callers tend to have a wide range of calls and can be used with fantastic success when you aren’t having much luck with mouth calls.

I usually have my best action on the coldest, calm days in the dead of winter. Calls on days such as these seem to travel a great distance and I’ve sucked in coyotes from what seemed like miles away, watching them run wide open across a pasture or a quarter section of stubble with the uncanny ability to hone in on my call.

One key thing that I’ve learned the hard way is to make sure you set up for your coyote stand well away from your vehicle and that it’s parked out well out of sight. I’ve had coyotes on a dead run to my calls, only to see a glisten of light reflecting off my truck in the far distance and then do a 180 and head for the hills faster than greased lightning. They are a smart critter, so be sure you have your truck tucked away and hidden before you start calling.

You can be calling without any action, but when that happens there is nothing that gives you a rush of adrenalin like having two or three coyotes bust out of a ravine on a dead run towards you. Sometimes they will hold up a ways back, hesitant to come in any closer, while the next time they will practically run you down. You never know how they will react, but the more time spent afield and the more calling experience you get under your belt, the more you will be able to read each set up and each encounter.

 

Setting up your stand

When setting up my stand, I generally prefer to be in the shadows of a windrow of trees, a fence line with high grass, bush – pretty much anything to break up my silhouette. When possible, I try to hunt over a small creek or slough, along a chunk of timber or in a place where you see a ton of coyote tracks. Of course, patience is very important, and after spending time hunting with Les I realized I was not spending enough time on one stand, as his persistence proved to shine time and time again. I usually try to spend 20 to 30 minutes on a stand and by then, if nothing has happened, it’s time to move on and find a new spot to set up.

A technique that I love to incorporate into my stands is either a coyote decoy or one of the fuzzy critters that dance around just off the ground, imitating a wounded rabbit – I’ve found the latter seem to mesmerize the coyote, focusing their sights on an easy meal and getting them to commit to closing that extra distance to well within range for an easy rifle shot or even a shotgun.

The biggest thing is to be ready before you start calling. I’ve had stands where within the first 10 seconds of my mouth hitting my call, I have had coyotes heading my way on a dead run. There is nothing worse than trudging your way into a perfect stand and to start calling before you’re set up and really ready, only to have the perfect opportunity blown in a split second. I like to get in a sitting position with my rifle on a bipod or shooting sticks and be completely ready for action before I start calling – sometimes it can all happen in the blink of an eye!

 

Calling techniques

I really do prefer mouth calls, as I can really give a good call a variety of pitches and sounds to entice the coyote into thinking they’re about to find themselves an easy meal. I like to give a few calls as soon as I’m ready, then sit still and keep my eyes peeled. If nothing happens in the first few minutes, I’ll start calling again and change the call lengths a little along the way. Once I have a coyote spotted and coming in, I still like to give a few calls to keep him enticed and heading my way, but making sure not to over call. Be sure to watch close – where there is one coyote, more are usually lurking close in the shadows. Try to be still and not make any sudden movement, as their eyesight is uncanny. I usually try to get them in as close as possible before taking a shot, to hopefully allow time for a second coyote to get within range as well. There is nothing more thrilling than pulling a double on two coyotes that you’ve called in, to know you’ve beaten them and capitalized on the opportunity makes it ever so sweet.

Firearm

My favourite coyote gun is a .22-250 and I shoot a TC Venture Predator. Although I like my .22-250, many hunters prefer a .223, .222 or even a .243 calibre to take out with them. I also like taking a 12-gauge shotgun with me, packed with 00 shot, as the close-range song dogs can be knocked down in short order with this concoction out to about 40 or 50 yards. Things can happen in a split second and a shotgun can guarantee success when it all unravels in right in front of you. Make sure you have a bipod or shooting sticks to be rock solid for those longer shots, they are a must to capitalize on your opportunities.

 

Clothing

Depending on the terrain you are hunting and whether or not there is snow on the ground will depict what you should be wearing for clothing, although I have worn coloured camouflage on many occasions in the snow with great success. But if the ground is white, a cheap white cover up jacket will allow you to blend into the landscape, disappearing to the terrific eyes of the coyotes. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on camouflage clothing, but the key is to be warm, so layer accordingly.

I have had so much fun out on the trails calling coyotes over the years. Calling coyotes is an activity that continues to grow in leaps and bounds. Believe me, the first time you call in a coyote, running full-bore towards you, it is a rush that will hook you for life. It is a cheap way to get out in the field in the off season and you will be doing your part to knock down some deer killers. So grab your gear, brush off those winter-time blues and get out calling coyotes.

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