It’ll get your heart pounding…


February 01, 2013

It was an ugly scene. In the snow was the carcass of a totally devoured whitetail buck. All the meat was missing, body parts were strewn in every direction and blood covered the white snow. The scene is becoming more common throughout Michigan as populations of coyotes rise. When I saw the results of the fatal attack it made me mad so I got permission to hunt the area that night.

Hedgerows, forests, thick brush, standing corn bordered by open fields provides an ideal funnel because smart coyote will not cross open areas during broad daylight. Night hunting is a different story and you can setup to watch open areas and catch coyotes boldly dancing in fields. Kenny Darwin photos

I set up close to the scene of the kill as the full moon touched the horizon, and it was visibility perfect to see animals at a long distance. I checked the wind, put my back against a fence post and began a calling sequence sounding like coyote over a fresh kill. In the distance a coyote responded and after several more calls the animal rushed closer. That’s when I knew he was coming and I went silent. I thought I was seeing a rabbit moving along the thick brush of the forest nearby. But when I put the rifle scope on the movement I could see it was a coyote headed directly at me. When he was about 80 yards out he stopped, waited, looking my direction for his companions. That’s when I pinched my cheeks together and made a high pitch call resembling a mouse in distress or rabbit held tight in the jaws of a predator. The animal immediately responded to my finisher squeak, bounded in my direction as I took the safety off my Ruger .22 magnum.

Through the scope I could see his long bushy tail, brown fur and steady gate resembling a dog prancing for a judge at a competition show. Then, he stopped, looked directly at me and I gave him a little squeak from my lips. He jumped a ditch, charged my direction and soon had him so close I could see the light reflecting off the gleam in his eye and his long canine teeth. The first shot clipped his shoulder and he spun in a sharp circle and headed for the thick cover but the second shot hit his neck and he piled into a fur ball close to the deer carcass.

I felt good about taking this animal when I glanced at the bones of what could be a trophy buck. My heart was still pounding at the sight of a large predator at close range. Come to think of it, I thoroughly enjoy hunting coyote, fooling them with calls and bringing them in close, kissin’ close before I unleash mayhem.

Sometimes I resort to sneaky tactics to bring critters extra close. One of my favorites requires batteries and a fuzzy rabbit looking decoy. Turn it on and it flip-flops like a rodent or dizzy rabbit in snow. Fox and coyote love this decoy and will bust straight for it every time, no problem. Some savvy hunters use a Frantic Fawn decoy, Wobblin Rabbit, Wooly Bully or Sit’N Spin Crazy Critter. They all have an erratic stop and go action that is adjustable and mimics injured prey. Most have a collapsible design for hassle free packing. Everything you want in a predator decoy that is easy to operate, lightweight and very deadly comes from the folks that make Mojo duck decoys. The Mojo Critter has tantalizing action, realistic fur and runs on 4 AA batteries. Mojo also makes a Double Trouble Varmint caller combining state of the art digital caller with built in critter decoy. The digital caller holds up to 1,000 sounds and the remote works up to 400 yards away. Caller and remote operate on 8 AA batteries and retails for around $400.

Oh yes, forgot to tell you the most important part of calling coyote close is you need to remain motionless once the animal is in view. This requires a comfortable seat. The solution is a comfortable hunting cushion that is waterproof, fully padded, like the FatBoy with double density foam seat and handy carrying strap.

I’m from the old school of coyote calling and prefer hand calls mimicking coyote, rodents or birds. My calls are collector items but they still get the job done, and I enjoy working them to create the brand of magic that bring wild animals extra close.

Most modern coyote hunters use electronic calls. Wow! The results are impressive. They are simple to use, lightweight to transport and the volume can be controlled to bring animals running from close or far. There are many on the market offering reliability, ease in transporting, camouflage, fantastic sound quality, great versatility, variety of game animal sounds and they range in price from $150-$600. I’ve hunted over the Executioner E-caller by Johnny Stewart and love the results. Don’t overlook the quality and price of Western Rivers Navajo Varmint Caller and the Primos Turbo Dogg. They both deliver volume and sharp, clear sounds. Some hunters prefer the Primos Alpha Dogg electronic predator sound system with 180 degree rotating speakers and dynamic sound projection without distortion.

Guess I’m sort of a coyote chasing crazy hunter enjoying the thrill of predator animals kissin’ close. Perhaps my endless need to see the animal up close, face to face, mano-a-mano, on the animal’s turf is a kick back from my telephoto camera work. Or perhaps I simply love fooling critters with enough cunning, crafty skills and endless instincts to help them to avoid human encounters at all costs. Or is it the look on their face when I’ve got the drop on them but their instincts tell them to look directly at me just as my rifle ends the close encounter. All I know is when you get near a wild, adult male coyote, feel his power and witness his cunning strength; it will get your heart pounding, pulse increases and you become very excited. Kissin’ close coyote encounters are exhilarating, tons of fun and provide the brand of outdoor excitement to keep you coming back for more.

The author anchored this coyote after he called it from a thick swamp. Coyote like to sleep in holes, shallow dens, behind fallen trees, in thick cover, next to stumps or rolling terrain that offers concealment.

There is little doubt electronic decoys and digital calls will bring them running and drastically increase your sightings and kills. However, it is my humble opinion far too many predator hunters shoot animals at long distances with high power rifles and they are missing the heart pounding excitement of short range shooting. There is more to calling coyotes than simply making a few calls. Here’s some important advice.

Much like hunting wild turkey the success of any predator hunt depends on where you setup. Most savvy hunters like to put their back against something that will break up their outline like a tree, fencepost, woodline or thick cover. When predators approach the call they have their senses riveted on the exact location of the sound, ears are perked forward, head is upright with eyes searching the landscape in an effort to determine what is making the sounds. Select a setup location offering enough cover to keep animals from spotting you. During the day coyote tend to stall on the fringe of open areas or fields and will only move closer if they have appropriate cover to hide their approach. Night hunting is a different story and savvy hunters often use open fields or openings in the forest as shooting ranges for coyote hell bent on charging across wide open spaces to quickly greet the source of the call. If you have white camouflage you can nestle into a snow bank, ditch or hillside and be somewhat invisible. This requires absolute complete camo of gun, hands, face, boots; anything looking out of place in the blanket of snow.

I like to face quartering downwind and select stand locations to see a predator coming. Try to avoid movement yet turn your head to spot animals coming from any direction. Once you hit the call have your gun or archery equipment ready to shoot because sometimes they appear at lightning speed. Pick a spot and get comfortable, most calling sequences last about 45 minutes before you move to another. When you spot a coyote get on him fast, with minimum of motion, and let him come closer for the shot.

Coyotes may show up minutes after you hit the call or it may take them an hour to work into range. Keep your face mask and camo gloves on until you stand and begin to leave. One unsettling aspect of calling predators is after you’ve called and sat patiently, when you stand and get ready to go, the animal is in easy range, staring directly at you. OOPS!! Always keep in mind coyotes have unbelievable instincts and they are more intelligent than most hunters give them credit.

Most of my hunts are in southern Michigan and it is sometimes very difficult to stash the truck and move into calling position without the animal hearing you. Days highlighted by super calm conditions, no wind and dry noisy leaves can make an approach to a calling position difficult. The trick is to stalk your setup location, move slow, keep noise at a minimum, and learn to use rolling hills, brush, and standing corn to conceal your approach.

Other times coyote hunting can be simple as child’s play and you get the kill in minutes. Such was the case when I spotted two adult coyotes circling a deer stuck in a snow drift. The predators chased the deer into the belly deep snow and they were closing for a kill when I charged directly at them using a deep ditch to conceal my approach. When I eased over the ditch bank I caught a big male standing broadside at 60 yards. He was concentrating on the stranded deer, facing away from me as I rested the .22magnum on a sapling, flicked the safety off and put a hollow point bullet through his boiler room. The big dog jumped up, leaped two feet in the air, hit the snow running but crashed immediately. The second coyote was confused about the direction of the shot; the echo off the nearby trees sent him running directly at me. I racked in a second round, put the cross hair on the charging beast and dumped him in his tracks at about 20 yards.

I begin most hunts with a few loud squalls designed to mimic the bloodthirsty cry of a dying rabbit. The trick is to not get too carried away. No dying rabbit takes very long. Don’t make the mistake of continuous loud calling, which often makes wary coyotes suspicious. Give calling a break, then make a sequence of medium volume squalls. If critters are in the area they heard the call, now wait, and get your weapon ready for a shot.

Coyotes usually show within minutes at long distances, but it may take 30 minutes for them to show. Hunters using long range rifles love the challenge of dumping dogs at long yardages. I prefer to accept the challenge of calling the critter up close.

Most savvy coyote hunters use electronic, digital calls that offer a variety of sounds ranging from howling or barking coyote to rabbits in distress. Some prefer mouth calls that offer perfect tone and hunters can quickly control volume, pitch and more.

That’s when I use a squeaker, kiss the back of my hand or make a sound like a rodent in distress. The finishing call is high pitch but much softer than a squall and designed to bring coyotes running to get a closer look. Remember incoming coyote are actually hunting you; their full attention is riveted on your location. Try not to move, call sparingly, chirp like a small crippled bird, make sounds like an injured mouse and watch them turn on the afterburners in an effort to pounce on the prey.

At some point you need to shoot. It’s your call, but if you wait too long and the coyote realizes he’s been duped, he will sprint to get away. Other times they will stare directly at you, get your heart pumping, crosshair wiggling and you have the luxury of a close encounter and relatively easy shot at point blank range. More often than I like to admit, I get flustered, rush the shot, jerk the trigger and miss an easy shot. It has also been my humiliating experience to empty the clip on numerous occasions without cutting a hair. I have no excuse for missing the first shot other than a bit of coyote fever, but hitting a coyote running is almost impossible. They have several running speeds. After the shot they shift into hyper fast gear and you need to give them an extra-long lead if you want to come close. Once in a while I’ll clip one, spin him in a circle and take him down with follow up shots. As a general rule, hitting a moving coyote is a daunting task.

Coyote are a challenging winter target. Call one into close range, get him near to you and the adrenalin rush is off the hook. Once the shooting starts and you miss your first critter I guarantee you will be hooked on predator hunting and trying desperately to get even.