Night was grudgingly giving way to dawn's first blush as I followed Hunter's Specialties Pro Staffer Pat Muffler down a gentle slope that emptied into a secluded hollow where we were going to make our first setup. I tapped Pat with my shooting sticks and pointed to fresh tracks in the dirty snow … one set left by a lone coyote, the other a large bobcat. He smiled and motioned to a fenceline that bordered a vacant pasture. "Let's set up over there," he whispered.
I readied my rifle while Pat walked the e-caller 50 yards out into the pasture and then settled in beside me and hit the button on the remote. It was barely 15 degrees and I scrunched a little deeper into my camo as the distress sounds of a yellowhammer woodpecker defiled the morning calm.
About 15 minutes into the stand, just as my thoughts were beginning to wander, I heard Pat stir. "Over to your right … coyote," he whispered. "Can you see it?" For the life of me I couldn't. "It's moving to the left, right off the end of your gun barrel," Pat tried to dial me in. After what felt like several minutes, I picked up movement in the brushy draw on the far side of the pasture. Wile E. Coyote was sneaking in like a thief in the night, displaying the extreme paranoia common to its kind.
The coyote stepped into a clearing about the size of a VW bus, and I quickly centered my riflescope's crosshairs on its shoulder. But just as quick as you can say it, the coyote turned and trotted for the safety of the thick brush only a few paces away. For whatever reason, it had had enough. There was something about our setup it wasn't buying. I tried to track the coyote through the brush but couldn't get a clear shot. Then, just when I thought I'd lost the game, fate dealt me the winning card. The coyote's curiosity got the better of it and it stopped for a last look back. I had a clear path to its shoulder and tugged the trigger.
Pat slapped me on the back and we walked across the pasture to retrieve our first coyote of the Colorado high-country hunt.
This high-country coyote was duped by the oldest ruse in the book—the ringing of the dinner bell.
New-Age Coyote Trickery
I believe that one of the primary reasons we were successful on that particular stand—with that particular coyote—was the fact that we were able to mix it up and throw a lot of different sounds and scenarios at it. And that's where electronic callers give the predator hunter a huge edge. The fact that this coyote took so long to come in and its noncommittal attitude once it got there, made it a tough customer. Pat had thrown everything out there but the kitchen sink—rabbit, bird, rodent, coyote vocalizations—finally hitting the right combination of sounds the coyote couldn't resist. It just had to have a look, even though it didn't intend to stay long.
Gerald Stewart, son of famed predator calling pioneer Johnny Stewart, once told me that electronic callers are a lot like a fisherman's tackle box—which might contain 25 different lures of various colors and styles. Sometimes a topwater bait might be more effective than a spinner, or one color might outperform another. You have to remain flexible so you can change with the conditions. It's the same with predator calling. E-callers, with the variety of recorded animal sounds available, give you that flexibility.
I don't know too many guys who know more about fooling coyotes than Pat Muffler. As pro staffer and predator expert for Hunter's Specialties, Pat travels the country hunting furred critters and giving seminars on how to effectively call coyotes and other predators. He knows how to get inside a predator's head. When Pat talks predator hunting, even seasoned vets lean forward in their chairs.
Pat says the two biggest changes he's seen in the past couple of decades in regard to the predator hunting, are the free exchange of information and ideas via social media, and the technological advancements that make today's e-callers such powerful tools in the field.
"One of the biggest changes has gotta be the influence of social media—all the information that's available out there that you didn't have access to before," he said. "I'll look back at magazines from the late 1960s or early '70s and I think, man, we had no clue compared to now. Social media allows you to pick so many brains and learn so much so fast. And on top of that, now you've got all the call and lure companies with websites and pro staffs that are putting tons of information out there."
Sick The Bloodhound On ‘Em
Pat says the other big change is the advancement in technology—particularly the new generation of electronic callers available today. While e-callers have been around for decades, improvements in technology have made them so much more efficient and effective in the field. A good example is the Johnny Stewart Bloodhound we were using during our Colorado hunt. Hunter's Specialties acquired the JS company a few years back, building on the decades-old brand and implementing digital technology Johnny could only have dreamed of.
"It's amazing how far we've come," Pat said. "Back when I was a kid, my dad would sit me down by the fox den with a blade of grass between my thumbs and a shotgun in my lap," he laughed. "That was my introduction to predator calling. You know, I don't think I had a regular predator call until I was about 14.
"The Bloodhound is really a great caller because it's powerful and can really get the sound out there," Pat explained. "And you've got the capability of downloading hundreds of sounds. It produces the high-quality digitally recorded sounds that the Johnny Stewart line is famous for—live animal recordings, not mockups or someone making the sounds on a call. These are the best sounds in the industry and I honestly believe that. I spent some time with Gerald Stewart down in Texas last summer and he taught me how to capture and record sounds. The work that goes into it is unbelievable.
"And with the remote feature—up to 200 yards with the Bloodhound—you can really manipulate the coyotes," Pat said." If you're using a hand call, it's easy to get pinned because the coyotes zero in on your position. But by placing the speaker away from you and operating it remotely, it almost works like a decoy, because you're pulling those animals away from you."
Street price on the Bloodhound is around $249.99 (presently on sale online at Cabela's for $229.99) and they can be found at most of the big-box sporting goods stores. If you want to take your predator hunting to the next level, the Bloodhound will give you the versatility and confidence to match wits with even the most stubborn and paranoid furred critters.
For more information on the complete line of Johnny Stewart e-callers and its all-new line of mouth calls, visit HunterSpec.com.
Oh, one final thing: Pat shared a little nugget of insider information that you won't find on their website—yet. For budget-minded predator hunters, or those who want a more trimmed-down caller, HS is in the final stages of developing a new compact caller built on the JS Attractor Series format, which should hit the shelves in July.
"We have a new caller coming out called the Attractor Max," Pat told me. "It has a powerful 10-watt speaker like we used to have on the Johnny Stewart PM 4, but it sits on a real small base unit. If you took four or five iPhones and stacked them on top of each other, that's about the size of the base unit. It's got the capability of holding up to 120 downloadable sounds, and comes with 10 on the machine. We're also going to offer two free downloads with the caller. It's got a remote range of 50 yards and easy-to-operate remote control with big buttons for when you've got gloves on. The big thing is that it's very lightweight. Most e-callers with the batteries weigh 4 to 4 1/2 pounds. This one runs on four AA batteries and it probably weighs less than a half-pound. It's got everything a guy needs—volume, range, remote control, a variety of sounds—and a low price point, less than $100 dollars."