February COYOTES

Right now you can expect the best coyote hunting of the entire year as predator breeding season kicks into high gear and sly critters are actively seeking companionship. To sweeten the pie, the New Year’s thaw of 2012 ushered in warm weather and all the snow melted. The lack of deep snow makes hunting easier and animals are free to traverse the Michigan countryside. The presence of fresh snow makes tracking easy and the brown fur stands out against the snow on night hunts. Ever tried coyote hunting? Well, here are some helpful tips to help you score on Mr. Yodeler.

Calling is a deadly tactic for hunting day or night. Sure, you can still hunt or set up over a deer carcass or city dump site but calling will bring coyote running and the hunting is never boring. The trick is to use run-n-gun tactics. Once you have set up and called in one location, after 30-45 minutes move to another. Keep moving until you score, run out of ammunition or are dead tired. There will be days when you get shots 50 percent of the places and other days when few animals respond. Seasoned hunters know where to set up, which call to use, how loud or frequently to call and how to anchor animals with a single shot. Rookies are lucky to see one coyote in six outings but breeding season tips the scale in their direction and February sightings drastically increase.

A typical outing goes like this. Match your camouflage to the set up location, wear white if you are hiding in snow and woods camo works in brush. Stalk your set up location. Getting there without detection is critical; avoid making noise like slamming truck door, or talking loud. Set up downwind from the suspected coyote liar. Start with a few soft calls and try to entice animals that could be within 100 yards. Then increase the sound or try loud squeals to bring dogs from afar. Pause for a few minutes and repeat the sequence. When you see coyote headed your way increase volume to initiate frenzy that causes coyote to dive desperately into range and expect predators to circle downwind from you.

Savvy callers use electronic calls that take the guesswork out of learning mouth calling tactics and have several call choices ranging from rabbit, birds, and animals to actual coyote sounds like howls, yips, barks, whines which is enticing coyote language that often bring love crazed males on a run. Most hunters start with a howl use distress calls in the middle and a howl at the end. A long howl is a signal to coyote a new dog is in town and they come to investigate. Electronic calls also work like dynamite when hunting crows.

I’m an old school predator hunter and prefer to practice my trade under the cover of darkness. Hunts are planned around the full moon which provides enough light to see coyote at long distances. My best hunting times are from 12-4 am, three days preceding full moon up to 3 days following. Full moon in February 2012 will be the 7th and March full moon falls on the 8th.

I love using mouth calls to bring predators close. My favorite is a rabbit that makes a loud distress sound that they can hear at long distances. Once I have them coming I switch to using a mouth sound by pressing my lips together and making a crippled mouse or hurt bird high pitch sound. The idea is to give the predator something new, bring him kissin’ close. This trick is deadly during calm weather and still nights when predators can hear the mouse death squeal from long distance.

Some hunters like to track or walk down predators and the weapon of choice is a shotgun. When calling try a scoped rifle. Flat shooting centerfire guns like the .243, .223 or 22-.250 are popular. However, only rimfire can be used at night by Michigan law and the weapons of choice are .22 magnums and .17 caliber. I’ve dumped coyote with them all, .22-.250 at long range, #4 buckshot up close and the itsy .17 caliber and my choice is a .22 magnum Ruger bolt action matched with Winchester Supreme 34 grain high velocity varmint hollow point bullets that offer superior accuracy, knockdown power and shells are inexpensive.

Michigan law also requires night hunting “With game call only. Firearm may be loaded or arrow knocked only when using call. Flashlights, portable battery powered spotlights, night vision optics and scopes are legal.”

Coyote breeding season peaks in February and a winter thaw that melts snow and brings temperatures above freezing can get them fired up. During the rut it is not unusual to see mating pairs in open fields. Love sick pairs are often difficult to call but they make excellent targets for rifle toting predator hunters. Callers will find that usually males respond to coyote sounds and distress squalls but the regularity of spotting animals increases during February when males are searching for mates and eager to respond to calls. Best time to hunt is daylight, sunset and night when the full moon illuminates a blanket of fresh snow and coyotes come out to play. Are you ready to hunt coyote? Be patient, try several calling locations and your reward will be a beautiful predator dancing your way at close range, eyes gleaming in the moon light and teeth snarling. I guarantee a big male coyote up close will get your heart pumping and make your knees weak!