It’s going to be a great winter

It’s only mid-December, and already we have had plenty of snow
and cold.

Yes, it’s going to be a great winter for hunting fox and
coyotes. When the winter starts out like this not only is the early
winter hunting excellent (as in “right now”), but if the cold and
snow persist, the hunting will improve as the winter
progresses.

From what I have seen so far, it appears that numbers of both
fox and coyote, at least here in southern Minnesota, are high this
year. In fact, I’ve seen more red fox this year already than I have
during the entire winter the past couple of years.

There are several ways to hunt both species, but I’m partial to
calling. To me, there is nothing more exciting than calling in a
critter, whether it’s a bugling bull elk, a rut-crazy buck, or a
sly, old coyote or fox. If you would like to try your hand at
calling, this is going to be a great winter to start. Here is some
advice to help you get off on the right snowshoe.

Don’t expect too much. Many would-be-callers give up after a few
attempts because nothing responds to their calls. My own average is
about one-in-eight here in Minnesota. That means that there are
many days when I don’t have a single critter respond to my calling.
Then there are days when I call in three or four.

Call where there are critters. This sounds elementary, I know,
but it’s not. The easiest way to find areas with good numbers of
coyote or fox is to cruise the country roads the morning after a
fresh snow. When you find an area with lots of tracks crossing the
road, you have a good area to call.

For coyotes, get as far away from the road as possible. Big
sections or oddly shaped sections almost always are more productive
than the normal square mile sections. Coyotes get road-shy in a
hurry.

Most of the fox that approach my call are fox that I have
spotted and stalked, then called. Coyotes rarely lay out in the
open where fox can easily see them, so nearly all of the coyotes I
have called have been from “blind sets,” which means that I did not
actually see the coyote before calling.

Fox often will bed up for the day in a wide open field or along
a skinny fenceline. Coyotes like cover. Corn stubble, CRP, sloughs,
and the timber edges are favored daytime resting places for
coyotes.

The best days for calling are calm and cold. If the wind is
blowing more than 15 miles per hour, forget about calling.

Here in Minnesota we can not use lights for night hunting, but
when the moon is full or nearly full, you can see well enough to
shoot over a snow covered field. I prefer a shotgun for night
hunting

I use both a Johnny Stewart electronic call and mouth-blown
predator calls. Give the edge to the electronic call because of the
variety of tapes available. Coyotes especially, are attracted to
sounds that I cannot reproduce on a mouth-blown call. I’ve found
tapes of canine pups and baby birds to be especially
productive.

When a critter comes into the call, that critter is looking hard
for the source of the sound it heard. That’s why, whenever
possible, I not only wear white or snow camo, but also tape my gun
and scope as well. I use white horse wrap available at any tack
store (Fleet Farm carries it). This is like an adhesive elastic
bandage, which they wrap a horses ankles with, and it works great
on rifles and shotguns. It’s inexpensive, too!

The most productive time for calling is the first hour or two
after first light. Fox and coyotes hunt all night, but they are not
always successful. No critter likes sleep with an empty stomach.
The second best period is the last hour of daylight in the evening.
If the winter weather is brutal, and the fox and coyote have been
hard pressed to find a meal, you can call during the middle of the
day, but it takes some serious weather for action to occur.

Don’t give up. Calling critters is like a lot of things in life,
it’s not easy, but the rewards are darn sure worth the effort. I’ll
pass along more tips on calling fox and coyotes in future
columns.

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