By: Heath Wood
Calling in a coyote within close range or, more importantly, shooting range can be one of the most thrilling adventures while hunting that one will experience. The problem that the predator hunting thrill-seekers encounter is that it isn't always easy to bring them in on every stand made.
Whether you are a beginning predator hunter or a veteran at the sport, it is essential to remember that no hunter is ever too good not to ask another hunter for advice. Some of the best predator hunters I know seek out advice from other hunters.
Often it will be a tip or tactic that they may have already known or used in the past, yet hearing it again refreshes their skills and boost their confidence when on their next hunt. Below are five tips to make you a better predator hunter that may help you on your next predator adventure as well.
In almost every predator hunting seminar, how-to article, or tips and tactics video, you will probably hear the word, scout. In my opinion, it is the number one tactic to being a better predator hunter or hunter in general, for that matter. Almost every predator hunting pro will tell you, to up the success rate at calling in coyotes, scouting is crucial. By scouting for coyotes, you can eliminate many of what coyote hunters call dry stands. A dry stand is when nothing comes to the call, nothing is seen in the distance or heard in the distance. When dry stands are eliminated, the hunter's success rate improves, keeping them focused and excited for the next hunt.
How does scouting eliminate dry stands? Too many dry stands in a row are what bring doubt into a hunter's mind when trying to call. They begin thinking they are making the wrong calls, the calls were too loud or too soft, or they didn't have the wind in their favor. The number one factor for a coyote not responding to a call is typical because there is no coyote there to hear you in the first place. The outcome would have been different if the hunter had done a little more homework on the area. Spend time looking for signs such as tracks, droppings, den areas, leftover prey remains, or visually seeing coyotes in the area. When you find these in a specific area, that is where you need to make your next calling stand.
Approaching A Calling Stand
Once you have confirmed that there are coyotes in the area you are calling, the next mistake that may be happening, if no success has yet to be achieved, is how you approach the areas you are calling. I learned this tip several years after I began having success at calling coyotes. After going to areas where I knew coyotes were living, having wind direction in my favor, and making what I thought was a good attempt at calling, yet still was not successful, I began seeking advice from other hunters. After observing my surroundings, I discovered that coyotes were seeing me walk across a large open pasture when headed to where I was making my calling stand. Then someone asked if I was getting seen or smelt while walking in. That too, was a possibility that I never considered before.
When approaching an area to call, it is vital to stay hidden from being silhouetted or seen in the open while walking, and it is essential to keep the wind in your favor the entire time.
When I began using landscapes, shadows, and camouflage clothing to its fullest potential, I noticed my success rates increase.
Vocally Locating Coyotes
Even though I scout all my areas before I hunt, I can never be too confident. To ensure that I locate a more specific area where coyotes live, I often locate coyotes by using howling and yipping. By learning where a coyote is located, I know the area to call from when hunting.
On many occasions, I go the night before hunting and spend time driving roads or paths near the areas I have scouted. Using an open reed style howler, a diaphragm call, or my electronic call, I imitate the sounds of two or three coyotes yipping and howling together. These sounds will strike excitement from nearby coyotes, thus making them howl themselves, which gives up their location. When I go into that same area, hours after locating, I know the general area where coyotes will be, increasing my success rate.
Using howls to locate coyotes is another tactic I like to use throughout the summer while preparing for the upcoming fall and winter seasons. Periodically throughout the summer, I visit my hunting areas and use vocals to locate coyotes. I revisit these same areas several times during a two or three-month span. Throughout that time, I note where coyotes usually howl, how many coyotes are there, and how often I hear them. At the end of the summer, I can look at the data and see where coyotes spend the most time and where calls will work the best.
I would answer seventy percent if someone asked me how important it is to be a good shot when predator hunting. Yes, it is essential to scout, find coyotes, and know what sounds and when to use them to call in coyotes. However, if you can't kill them when they come in, the rest is just icing on the cake.
The difference between bringing more coyotes home at the end of the day or coming home empty-handed is seventy percent based on shooting ability. When I see a predator hunter who stands out because of their ability, they usually shoot better than average. For example, if a coyote hangs up at four hundred plus yards, the average hunter will have to scratch it up as another unsuccessful hunt. However, the better-than-average shooter will make the shot and load another coyote in the truck. To become a better shooter, one must practice every situation that a hunter might face. I use the Swagger Bipods Stalker QD42 to stabilize my rifle. When practicing, I choose to shoot from a table or solid surface, such as at a shooting range. Many shooters prefer using a vise or sandbags when shooting at a range or shooting from a bench. I agree if I am sighting in a new scope or testing a new load. However, if I am there to practice, I choose to shoot with the QD42's because that is what I often use while hunting. I shoot the primary fifty, hundred, two hundred, and three hundred yards when practicing. The reason for shooting each distance is to ensure that my scope is accurate at each distance. Plus, it increases my confidence when shooting the same distance while hunting.
The next type of practice that I like to do is shoot in a hunting situation. I periodically shoot while laying down, sitting in open areas, and against a tree or solid surface throughout the year. By shooting in a hunting situation, I am more comfortable and confident in making the shot regardless of the position the hunt requires to make the kill. As with shooting from a table, when practicing in hunting situations, it is crucial to use the Swagger Bipods that will be used while hunting. I shoot while leaning in one direction or turned to one side. Both mimic the movements that could be made while a coyote is approaching.
The last practice drill I use is a speed drill along with a friend. If you have predator hunted at all, you know it can be a fast-paced action when a coyote comes charging to the call. I often shoot with three to four different targets at different angles and distances to practice being ready for a quick charging coyote. A buddy calls out what target to shoot; the shooter must aim at the called target and quickly make the shot within three seconds. The quickness drill prepares the hunter to quickly get on a coyote when they come running in and successfully make the shot. Shooting at a quick pace can be the difference-maker in bringing a coyote home or coming back empty-handed.
Learn From Mistakes
All the above tips prevent mistakes from happening in the field or while preparing for the hunt itself. Unfortunately, no matter how good you are or how much you prepare, mistakes will happen. The key to being a better predator hunter is capitalizing on those mistakes and using them to become better. I often make mistakes throughout a season of predator hunting that cost me another shot on a coyote. As I get older, I have learned not to get discouraged, take notes of what mistakes were made to prevent a harvest, and learn from them in the future.
Common mistakes could be call selections and timing, wrong setups, bad wind directions, getting busted from unnecessary movement, and the list could go on forever.
One of my favorite movie lines comes from National Treasure when Ben Gates states, "You know, Thomas Edison tried and failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb. And when asked about it, he said, "I didn't fail; I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb." but he did not need 2,000 ways; he only needed one way to make it work. The same goes for predator hunting.