By: Jason Herbert
The ‘mule kick’ was good for my confidence and after waiting till dark to look for my bloody arrow, I was pretty certain of a clean kill. Still, just to be sure, I elected to wait until morning to recover the deer. It was plenty cold and I wasn’t in a hurry.
The next morning revealed to me a slight blood trail and I found the mature doe a short distance away. I was hunting in some pretty thick cover and simply did not see or hear her fall. I also wasn't the first to find her. In the brief time between shot and recovery the local coyotes found her and took advantage of the free meal. Starting at her hind quarters, the coyotes ate their fill. It looked fresh, like I might have scared them away while searching for her.
I’ve since become dedicated to doing my share in coyote population control and am convinced that with a little know how and commitment, the average deer hunter can become proficient at killing coyotes. Not only are we helping the deer, turkeys and rabbits live well, but coyote hunting is a lot of fun!
As with hunting any animal, coyotes can’t be killed if they aren’t around. During deer season listen for twilight howling, look for tracks and scat, and pay attention to kill sites and gut piles. Like I mentioned earlier, the calling card of a coyote pack is the hind end of a deer being eaten within hours of the kill. While finding that a gut pile had been quickly demolished doesn’t guarantee the work of a coyote, it is a good sign.
Trail cameras work great for keeping track of coyotes. Use the cameras similar to deer hunting by placing them along well used trails, water sources, funnels, field edges, bedding areas, etc… Coyotes really like to use the wind to their advantage, and anywhere deer or rabbits are supposed to be, the chances are good a coyote will be nosing around downwind.
Similar to roosting a bird while turkey hunting, drive around at night and listen for howling. Coyotes are social animals and where there’s one there will be more. They use all sorts of vocalizations but the easiest to listen for is their howling. If a handful of coyotes are overheard howling one night the chances are good they they’ll be around in the morning.
It's time to dust off or thaw out the old deer season clothes for another adventure! Swirling winds and unpredictable circumstances make scent control crucial when predator hunting. A deer's sense of smell is amazing and a coyotes is just as good- some even say better. In fact, coyotes are even less tolerant of human odor than deer are. Be sure to treat all of the hunting clothing the same as in deer season with proper washing, storage, and transport being critical. Like in deer season, don't get dressed until arriving at the hunting location. Once all the scent free clothes are on, be sure to spray down everything with a liberal layer of (thawed) Trinity Blast or Ti4.
Veteran coyote hunters will never hunt a set unless the wind is perfect for them. That's good advice however, like in deer hunting, long after the hunt is over, uncontrolled human scent will leave a lasting residual trail. It is likely that a wandering coyote might cross the hunter's entrance or exit trail and smell the human interference. It's best to play it safe and remain scent free for the sake of future hunts.
There are two popular ways to legally kill coyotes; over bait or by calling. Many people prefer to coyote hunt in the mornings. Others prefer the dark cloak of night. One thing is for certain, be sure to have a setup that is downwind from where the coyotes are expected to be. For instance, if they are often seen entering a field on a certain trail, be sure to approach from the downwind side and stay well away from it. You may also use a popup blind or sit in the old hunting shack when coyote hunting, just make sure it has been up a while and the animals have become accustomed to its presence. If no blind is available, get tight to a big tree, nestle in comfortably and don’t move. Often, coyotes will approach silently and wait a while, cautiously observing everything they can before allowing their curiosity to take over. Many hunts are ruined before they start because a cautious coyote sees the hunter first.
Like in deer hunting, human scent control is important. Coyotes are a pretty nervous animal and generally like to come into a call or kill from a long way downwind. Their noses are hard to beat so be sure to continue to follow scent free deer hunting guidelines when chasing the wily coyotes. At a minimum, always spray down boots and decoys and electronic calling systems.
Coyotes are very vocal animals and there are several calling options to lure them in. Many hunters start small with a mouth distress call simulating a rabbit version of screaming bloody murder. Another beginning call that is simple to use is a basic mouse squeaker. Field mice are a favorite morsel of a coyote’s diet and if close enough, they’ll respond to a mouse squeak. Others may start with locating, breeding or dominance coyote calls. Several of these DIY hunters also get frustrated rather quickly, realizing the limitations to their wind pipes and volume so they soon explore electronic calling options. Electronic calling can be as simple as a smartphone app pre-loaded with a dozen calls to a professional system capable of blasting out over 1000 different vocalizations.
When using a remote controlled electronic calling system be sure to place it well up-wind so if the animal approaches the sound it will not wind the hunter. Many callers like to create a deadly combination with some sort of decoy. Decoys can range from a simple arrow shaft with a few turkey feathers attached for slight movement in the wind, to a shaking tail attached to the electronic caller for a very realistic presentation.
“Run-N-Gun” style coyote hunting is by far the most popular choice. Like turkey hunting, these aggressive predator hunters sit each setup for about an hour, then move on. This is probably the best way to start calling because the constant movement allows hunters to stay warm and become less bored. Also, changing setups and driving to new farms help the hunter cover as much ground as possible. It’s a simple concept- if there’s an interested coyote around, he’ll show up within the hour and hopefully take his last steps. If not, go find one that is.
Similar to deer hunting, many predator hunters prefer to hunt over a bit site. Where legal, baiting is a very effective way to kill a coyote. Like any other animal, coyotes prefer different types of bait. Many hunters use old deer carcasses and road kills to lure in coyotes. Others use butcher scraps and chicken parts. Some hardcore fur trappers use raccoon and beaver meat as well. If baiting, commit to hunting the site hard, otherwise all that is happening is that the local coyotes will be getting a free meal. Like in deer hunting, be able to approach the stand and bait from downwind so as to not educate the animals to the fact that they are being hunted. Hanging a trail camera near a bait site might help to pinpoint exactly when the animals are coming in to feed. Many bait hunters prefer to hunt after dark when the coyotes are comfortable feeding in the open.
Coyote hunting is a lot of fun. Even if an animal isn’t harvested, at least you’re in God’s great outdoors enjoying the creation. Another positive way to look at coyote hunting is the amount of human pressure they feel. Different from deer, where hunting pressure is a bad thing, it’s good when coyotes feel the human presence. Hopefully a few will get shot, and they won't be such a problem. If none are taken, at least they won't be so comfortable anymore and may choose to relocate the pack elsewhere, where there is less human pressure during the winter months. So, obviously hunt smart and try to kill as many as possible, but… if you bust a few now and then, that’s OK too. Hopefully they’ll take off and the deer, turkeys, and rabbits will decide to come back.
As with any hunting, the best way to learn is by doing. This information is just a scratch on the surface of coyote hunting. Be sure to follow all local and state laws in regard to predator hunting. Wearing blaze orange when walking is required in some areas and recommended in all. So instead of sitting on the couch suffering from cabin fever; do the local turkeys, rabbits and deer a favor by killing a few coyotes. Be safe, shoot straight and have fun!
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