Monday, January 25, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Coyote Hunting

by Naomi K. Shapiro

With ever-growing coyote populations, hunting them is becoming a very popular sport. We'll discuss some "basics," but make sure you check all regulations in your area (each state and area have different regs) so that you stay within the law when hunting these "wily varmints".

Winter with snow cover is a terrific time of year to hunt coyotes. Hunters dress in snow camo to blend in perfectly with the winter season background.

There are a couple of different hunting methods:

Sit and stalk

Hunters go out in the evening and night hours, setting up in the brush on field edges, over frozen beaver ponds, wood-line edges, and marshes. Electronic decoys are set out -- things like a rabbit or mouse -- natural prey animals for coyotes. These decoys spin around, bounce right and left. The decoys mimic an animal in distress, flip-flopping on the ground. In conjunction with an electronic decoy, hunters will use any number of calls. Electronic calls imitate dying or distressed prey. "Old timers" – as in "real savvy hunters" scoff at the electronic calls, preferring mouth calls. Why? Because they offer a much larger variety of sounds. Pitch and tone and repetition can all be readily changed and adopted to varying conditions with a mouth call. An electronic call doesn't offer these options. Then again, it takes plenty of practice to know what mouth call "tone" to use; when; for what period of time; how many repetitions – all of that. When decoys and calls are properly done and set up, coyotes will come rushing in (coyotes are seldom stationary -- they always are moving).

At night, a spotlight is often used to illuminate. Stop thinking in terms of some real bright halogen light. That's a no-no. Hunters will use a muted amber, red, or green light, which, while providing sufficient illumination, will not alert the very wary coyote to the hunter's presence. Other hunters simply go out on clear, full moon nights only. No need for spotlights of any type.

Running dogs

Many daylight coyote hunters use highly-trained dogs with electronic collars that can be tracked from a vehicle. Hunters will follow their dogs in trucks, using a homing device to track them. After getting a positive lead, the trucks will race around and cut off the coyotes after determining which way they're coming; and literally "head them off at the pass." It works. In truth, however, most hunters don't have the time or money to put into the needed quality dogs and high-end electronic equipment. No one is knocking it, just a "reality check," nothing more.

Weapon of choice

You don't need a .458 elephant gun to hunt coyotes. A long range "varmint rifle" like a .22/250 long rifle or maybe a .243 will do real well. A small bullet with a lot of powder behind it is what you want. That's all you need. Some hunters we know use a .270, but for us that's a little overkill -- literally.
Day hunters will often use a shotgun with an appropriate buckshot load. This offers a larger pattern since coyotes never stop moving; and, unless you're a crack-shot with a rifle, a shotgun will give you a better chance of success -- albeit at a somewhat shorter range. Also, a shotgun can be safer near-population areas (coyotes are "coming into town" more and more, often killing domestic pets) . And of course some hunters opt for using a bow and arrow. Not many though, as if you're talking about a "tough hunt" -- that for sure applies to hunting coyotes with a bow and arrow.

(Phil Schweik of Hooksetters Guide Services contributed to this article).
Naomi K. Shapiro, OWAA, SPJ, can be reached at


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