CAN YOU PATTERN COYOTES?

Serious big game hunters spend considerable time patterning their quarry—whether it's deer, elk, bears or whatever. Why, then, does the thought of patterning coyotes seem so foreign to many would-be varmint hunters?

In truth, you can pattern coyotes, especially those that haven't been over hunted and over-called. And like with other animals, a working knowledge of where coyotes are and what they're doing at specific times of the year is critical. To achieve consistent success, coyote hunters need to think outside the box—much like a fur trapper does—to predict exactly where coyotes might be at any given point in time. The best way to get a handle on this is by understanding basic coyote behavior, and then using that knowledge to your advantage.

Scouting— Scouting is critical to any hunting success. Talk with landowners and ask about recent coyote sightings. One of my best coyote hot spots a local told me about it is where a dairy operation disposes of dead cows. In arid areas, water is often the key. Drive the back roads and listen for coyote vocalizations, and glassing can help locate roaming coyotes that aren't vocal.

Time— In heavily hunted areas, the best calling success usually occurs after dark, or right after sunset and just before sunrise. During the dead of winter, though, coyotes are often on the prowl during mid-morning hours.

Successful fur hunters know the value of patterning the critters they pursue—taking the same approach as they do when hunting big game animals.

Fall Dummies— During September and October, juvenile coyotes are running amok, and these coyotes— freshly kicked away from Mommy and desperate to learn to survive on their own—are the easiest to call. You might often find these youngsters closer to human activity than more wary adults. Look near subdivisions, farmsteads, feed lots, public campgrounds, golf courses, dumps and road kill sites.

I'm So Lonely— Later in the fall, when big game and upland bird hunters are tromping all over public lands, coyotes tend to become reclusive. This is when it pays to hunt them like big game, hiking away from the crowds and calling lightly hunted tracts of public or private land.

When winter gets nasty, coyotes often congregate where they can get out of the elements. If you kill one, be ready for more.

Survival Mode— When winter sets in, hunt locations where coyotes go to get out of the elements, which means south-facing slopes where they can loaf in relative comfort. It's also the time of year when livestock losses are highest, so hunt near cattle concentrations when possible. Calving season occurs during late winter and early spring, and coyotes target newborn calves and the afterbirth left by their mothers.

Dog Breeding Season— February through early April, depending on where you live, is when coyotes breed. During this time, they're bonding and forming mating pairs. Coyotes are very territorial during the mating season and constantly monitor the perimeters of their territory, so it's often possible to intercept them as they're on patrol. Older juveniles are driven out of the family unit now, and they wander around looking for mates. This is a good time to use decoys and decoy dogs. If you call in a coyote, be on the lookout for its mate—coyotes typically travel in pairs during the breeding season.

The Parent Trap— During summer, coyotes are focused on rearing pups and can often be found traveling to and from den sites. As pups get older and more mobile, den sites are abandoned. Pup distress calls work well at this time because maternal females will often respond, thinking their pups are in danger.

Gang Fight— Mid to late summer can mean hot, windy weather, which means daytime activity is greatly reduced. I prefer to call late in the day and into the early hours of darkness, hoping to catch hungry coyotes heading out after a day of loafing. Remember, too, that biting insects often force coyotes to abandon low, shady ground and move to higher but windier locations. This is also a good time to monitor transition areas and backcountry sites where there's fawn activity. Also, remember that if you kill a juvenile pup, it's productive to monitor the same area later that day or the next as its parents often come looking for it. The same thing applies in reverse. Taking a parent will often result in confused pups.


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