Clancy on Coyotes

Looking back through my hunting journals, which I have kept
since junior high, I see that I have called coyotes in a lot of
different places over the years.

The Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are fine
places to call. Not only are coyotes numerous, but they also are
the biggest coyotes you likely ever will see. Forty-pounders are
common and 50-pound coyotes are not uncommon.

In both cases, when I called coyotes in these provinces, it was
spur-of-the-moment. In Alberta, hunting waterfowl in the morning
and upland game (sharp-tailed grouse and Hungarian partridge) in
the afternoons and then evening scouting of fields to hunt geese
the next morning, didn’t leave much time for anything else.

I managed to spend one evening and most of one afternoon calling in
coyotes. Thought I might call in a wolf or two as well, but that
did not happen. On the Saskatchewan deer hunt, I took a nice buck
early in the week and since another writer and I were traveling
together, I had time on my hands. Luckily, I have long been in the
habit of packing a couple of predator calls anytime I am traveling
some place where there is even the remote possibility that I might
get a chance to do some calling.

A couple of mouth calls take up very little space and weigh next to
nothing, so why not include a couple in with your other gear? In
Saskatchewan that November it was very cold the week we hunted. On
several days, it never got above zero. But the coyote action kept
things heating up big-time. I’m pretty sure that those northern
coyotes had never heard a predator call before.

The only problem I had was that the only gun I had with me was a
Browning A-Bolt chambered in .300 Winchester Mag. This
flat-shooting, hard-hitting round is a good choice for whitetail
bucks that often weigh 300 pounds on the northern extreme of the
species’ range, but it was a bit much for a 40-pound coyote. Let’s
just say that none of the coyotes I shot on that trip
suffered.

On the other extreme, temperature-wise, the scrub brush country of
South Texas is home to an incredible number of coyotes and a fair
number of bobcats. I’ve enjoyed good calling action each time I
have had the opportunity to do some calling in the Lone Star state.
Ditto for Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Montana and both Dakotas. And
although I have never called in Idaho, Nevada, Arizona or Utah, I
know some good callers who have enjoyed good success in these
states. If you are ever headed for any of these states to hunt deer
or other big game, pack a couple of easy-to-master predator
calls.

I mention all of those wonderful places where I have called
coyotes, fox and bobcats, not to brag on my good fortune, but
simply to encourage you to get in the habit of packing a call or
two with you when you travel to hunt. The other reason I mention
these places is that none of them are Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin or
Michigan.

When you watch a television show or a DVD on calling coyotes, check
out the vegetation and the habitat. You can bet that the show was
not filmed in the Midwest. Making a show for television or putting
together a decent DVD is expensive enough without making things
more costly by hunting places where success is as limited as it is
in the Upper Midwest.

This brings me to Mistake No. 1. Most hunters new to the sport of
calling coyotes simply expect too much. My average over the past 20
years here in Minnesota has been about one coyote called in for
every eight sets. The best year I ever had I managed one coyote
called in for every six sets. Since a set will take a minimum of an
hour, when you figure 15 minutes to hike in to where you are
calling from and another 15 to hike out of the section, with 20 to
30 minutes of actual calling time in between, you quickly get the
drift that calling coyotes is not a high percentage game. Most
hunters who try calling coyotes tend to give up before they ever
call one in.

Mistake No. 2 is alerting coyotes to your presence before you even
get set up. If a coyote sees you, hears you, or smells you as you
walk to your calling site, forget about calling in that canine. And
if that coyote starts barking when it sees, hears, or smells you,
it will alert every other coyote within hearing range, in which
case you might as well hike back to the vehicle and go somewhere
else. Any coyote within hearing distance will have heard that
warning bark and know instantly that something is up.

Most hunters underestimate a coyote’s keen senses. Since we are all
familiar with white-tailed deer, I will use it as a comparison.
From what I have experienced after countless hours of hunting both
species, a coyote sees better than a white-tailed deer, hears at
least as well, and I believe has a sense of smell at least as good
and possibly superior to that of a deer. To avoid detection, keep
the wind in your favor and avoid crossing open areas whenever
possible even if it means going out of your way. Above all, do not
skyline yourself. Coyotes, I am convinced, sleep with one eye
open.

Mistake No. 3 is attempting to call coyotes in places where there
are few of them. Although coyotes are now well distributed across
the Midwest and here in Minnesota, there are still plenty of places
where there are few coyotes. You do not want to waste your time
calling in these areas. The best way of ensuring against this is
personal knowledge. If you are familiar with the land and have seen
or heard coyotes on the property, have at it. Second-hand knowledge
works, too. Farmers, rural mail carriers, the guys on the snow
plows, UPS drivers, milk haulers… anyone who spends time driving
the backroads is a good source of info.

Another great method is to drive the country roads a day or two
after a new snow. The more coyote tracks you see crossing from one
section to another, the better. As a last resort, go out after dark
and howl. Coyotes are very vocal and they will usually respond to
howling after dark. They even make a siren you can use for getting
coyotes to cut loose.

Mistake No. 4 is attempting to call coyotes across wide open
fields. Most coyotes in our part of the country stick to cover when
coming to the call. I do the same.

Mistake No. 5 on the list is not staying put long enough. Trust me,
when you are sitting in the snow freezing your butt off, five
minutes of not seeing anything seems like an eternity. Force
yourself to give each site at least 20 minutes to a half hour.
Granted, most of the coyotes that I have called in have come within
the first few minutes, but there are always slow-pokes, or canines
that simply have a lot of ground to cover to get to you.

And this year, so far, we have deep snow with no crust on top to
support the weight of the coyote. Any coyote coming from a quarter
mile away will take awhile to get to you. And along the same vein,
always take a good look all around you before you stand up. I’ve
lost count of the number of coyotes that have sneaked in without me
seeing them, only to have them blast off when I stood up to
leave.

Mistake No. 6 is not using a rest. Shooting sticks or bi-pods, the
choice is yours, but use a rest and you will kill most of the
coyotes you shoot at.

Mistake No. 7 is not using a shotgun. When I hunt with a partner,
one of us carries a rifle and the other a shotgun. When I was
younger I always carried both. Now that I am older, I carry the
rifle and shotgun on only about half my sets. See, I too am getting
smarter.

Shotguns are tops when a pack comes to the call. Twice in my life I
have had three coyotes come to the call at the same time and killed
them all. Both times I was using a shotgun. Four times in my life I
have had three or more coyotes come to the call all at once while I
was using a rifle. Twice I got two and twice I managed to get only
one.

While I have never claimed to be the best rifleman in the state,
like most of you, if the coyotes are close enough, I am better off
with a shotgun in my hands than a rifle. A 12 or 10 gauge loaded
with No. 2s or BBs is deadly out to 60 yards. Some hunters prefer
four-buck and you can’t argue with success, so I won’t, but deuces
and BBs work best in the old Model 12 pump I use on coyotes.

Mistake No. 8 is not putting enough emotion into your calling when
using a mouth-blown call. If the little hairs on the back of your
neck do not stand up when you blow your call, you are not putting
enough emotion into it.

Mistake No. 9 is over-calling your sites. Coyotes are intelligent.
Even if you have not killed or missed any coyotes from a calling
site, I figure that by the time I have disturbed the area twice,
that I am better off looking for virgin territory.

Mistake No. 10 is not carrying a couple of five-foot lengths of
parachute cord in your pocket. That way, when you do not make any
of the first nine mistakes and you actually kill a coyote or two,
you can tie one end of the rope around their neck and skid them
along behind you.

 

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