Mr. Coyote - Don’t Call Him Late for Dinner
By Gary Lewis
Scientists classify the coyote under the order Carnivora in the family Canidae. Canis latrans has been called the brush wolf and the prairie wolf. Some folks call them song dogs and others call them yodelers. The Aztecs called them coyotl. Ranchers call them trouble at calving time.
When there is snow on the ground, I'm calling them hungry.
We headed east and south into the junipers and sagebrush. An inch of grainy white stuff lay like a blanket on the ground. Tracks laced the landscape. Almost every deer trail had a coyote print that ran parallel. It looked like the dogs were hunting in packs.
"I told you there were a lot of coyotes here," Bob Williams said.
He was right about that. Seldom have I seen such a concentration of coyote activity. A few minutes later, we saw the reason why. Mule deer. A herd of does bounced away through the junipers.
I guessed that a fawn distress call would bring a coyote within range of my semi-auto .223 or Bob's .243. I dialed the Trijicon down to 3x. Action was likely to be up close and personal.
We set up the FoxPro electronic caller and a decoy about 40 yards out. Robbie, Bob's son saw the first coyote, 30 seconds into the set. But Robbie wasn't carrying a gun. I made sure that he sat right next to his dad on the second set.
This time a coyote crossed behind the decoy then went behind a juniper. A minute later, he was in our laps. But sometimes close is too close. That one got away.
On the third set, we had company in less than three minutes. At least two showed on the horizon, but I saw coyote ears above the sage, about 60 yards away, behind the decoy. And then the ears began a quick exit stage left.
There. A glimpse as it flashed through sagebrush. I swung the Trijicon triangle and squeezed the trigger as the dog passed through an opening. One down.
We saw no coyotes on the fourth set, but the fifth set paid off. This time, we used mouth calls for a jackrabbit/cottontail duet, and took up perches in a couple of juniper trees to gain elevation and watch for free-loading furbearers. In seven minutes, we had another inbound coyote dash headlong for dinner. I missed the first shot (incoming) at 15 yards and saw the dog skid and make a quick right turn. I picked it up again, going away, and stopped it.
It doesn't take a lot of experience to call in a coyote, but it does take a sanitary setup and a coyote in earshot. Right now, the best coyote hunting is on winter deer and elk range. Wherever deer go when the snow flies, that's where you'll find coyotes.
I like edge habitat where agricultural lands butt up against sagebrush and junipers. Canyons and dry washes are like highways for coyotes. A pair or a trio will run the length of a wash, on the prowl for rabbits or deer, teamed up for the chase.
Set up in front of a bush or a tree to break up your outline and post a partner to keep watch in another direction. Often, a coyote circles to catch the scent stream before charging in.
Wear camouflage and a facemask. It's important to conceal the shine of your face. But don't let the facemask break up your peripheral vision – you're going to need it. A flick of a tail, a pair of ears above the tops of the grass, a flash of fur in the sage, a bird spooked from a bush – all these could be clues a dog is coming in.
There are different methods, but I recommend hunters operate the call sparingly. Start with a subtle cry, sustained for about 30 seconds. Wait two minutes then increase the volume. Call for about 30 seconds at a time and then go silent for about two minutes. If you're imitating a rabbit or a fawn in distress, remember that these animals have small lung capacity and cries are likely to be of short duration. Consider using a bird in distress call instead, in areas where the dogs are likely to have experience with camo-clad rabbit impostors.
Going back through my journals for last season's hunts, the coyotes have been coming in at an average of under 3-1/2 minutes on each successful call setup. On that half-day hunt last winter, we saw a total of eight coyotes. They came in fast and hungry.
Where coyotes live around people they become more cautious. Four-legged predators with any experience would rather be safe than seen. For this reason, I time my residential area hunts to coincide with sunrise or sunset and the slanted light that coyotes prefer for their hunting.
Last February, I hunted with a friend and his 8-year-old son on their property just outside the urban growth boundary of our town. Coyote packs, on nighttime forays, had been harrying his goats, sheep and chickens. His big shepherd dog was a bundle of nerves defending the ranch.
An hour before sunset, we set up on a rimrock, looking down on a frozen meadow. I started with a coyote howl then went quiet. Two minutes later, I employed baby cottontail cries for about 15 minutes then switched to a deer bawl.
45 minutes into the setup, I switched to a male coyote challenge. A pack of coyotes answered from the canyon. Five minutes after that, a big male trotted out onto the packed snow, 175 yards out. I signaled to my partner to shoot, but he couldn't find the dog in his scope. I kissed the back of my hand and the dog swiveled to a stop, half-concealed by a sagebrush bush. I put the tip of my Trijicon triangle at the base of his chin and squeezed off a 55-grain round. Hit, the dog spun, went down, got up and started for the treeline. I stopped him with another round through the body.
It had taken 52 minutes for that dog to show, typical for a town dog. On the edge of a residential area, coyotes are prone to be more suspicious, yet confident in their ability to find a meal.
Out in the country, I give them 15 minutes before I move to the next set.
Last November on a hunt in the Umpqua Valley, we called two in less than two minutes. They came boiling out of a nearby canyon to pounce on what sounded to them like a blacktail deer in distress. The distress turned out to be the coyote's in the form of a single round of .223.
For the rest of the winter, Mr. Coyote will be following the deer, antelope and elk herds, preying on the less-experienced yearlings. Yotey, prairie wolf, yodel-dog – call him what you like, but don't call him late for dinner.