Core Stories

From Predator to Prey

Predator Hunting Basics

There are few experiences more addicting than calling a coyote in. The challenge of outwitting a skilled predator on their home turf provides a thrill that most hunters can't shake.

Coyotes live in every corner of North America, from deep in the wilderness to rural communities and major metropolitan cities. Capable of adapting to nearly any environment, their growing population makes hunting these predators a very popular, and very necessary, sport among hunters.

Like any hunting or shooting sport, predator hunting can be intimidating to break into if you’re new. But it doesn’t have to be. With the right gear and a little guidance, you’ll be hooked in no time. If you want to start hunting coyotes, then the following guide will help you get started.

Geared for the Hunt

New to predator hunting? Chances are, you already have everything you need. Basic gear – aside from a rifle – includes a bi-pod or shooting-sticks, strong lights with extra batteries, camouflage, an electric call, and an optic that suits the terrain. Coyotes typically bed down during the day and hunt at night, so the optic you use will vary depending on the hunt.

Daytime hunts require lightweight gear as you are mobile, moving from spot to spot to find where the animals are bedded down. A low-power, lightweight scope like the VX-3i 2.5-8x36mm works well for day hunts; the wide field-of-view and lighter setup make for easier shots in heavy vegetation and close encounters.

For nighttime hunts, use a high-power optic with a large objective, like the VX-6HD 4-24x52mm. The higher magnification helps with accurate identifications in the dark. When you see eyes at 300 yards out, you need to get a good look at the animal to ensure proper identification, and to determine how to call them in and position yourself.


Setup for Success

The type of setup you use depends personal preference and terrain. Some hunters set up in a high-rack loaded into the bed of a truck, others walk in and sit, while some post up in a tree stand. Regardless of the setup you choose, it should always cater to two things: wind and visibility.

Coyotes are masters at keeping out of sight, especially when stalking prey, so having 360° of visibility increases your odds of seeing them approach. But setting up in a place with good visibility is only half the equation. Most predators will circle downwind before coming in to a call, so it’s vital to pay attention to the crosswind and always have a set of eyes downwind. A predator’s nose is unbeatable, so don’t try to fool them. Instead, use their cautious behavior to your advantage. Set up in a spot that forces them to cross an opening if they want to circle downwind of the call – this gives you the opportunity for a shot before they wind you.

How long you sit and how far you move between stands depend on the terrain. Coyotes travel large distances and have exceptional hearing, so it’s best to space your setups a mile or more apart when hunting in open country, or just around the next hill when hunting in mountainous terrain. Typically, coyotes come in within the first 10 minutes of calling, so each stand should last no more than 15 minutes.


Talk the Talk

Calling is an acquired skill; the more you do it, the better you get. Most electric calls have a wide selection of sounds to pick from, but if you don’t know where to begin, start by listening and then mimicking what you hear.

For coyotes, there are three moods you can appeal to: hunger, curiosity, and territorial anger. A skilled hunter can evoke each of these through a progression of calls, luring in even the most wily predator. The trick to calling in coyotes is to understand their seasonal habits: Every season brings a new set of motivations and knowing these motivations will help you call more effectively.

In the fall, coyotes gain weight to prepare for the winter months; use distress calls to appeal to their hunger. During the winter, finding food and defending their territory matter most; appeal to their hunger and anger with a series of distress calls that start out quiet and grow louder, ending with a howl. This combination alerts nearby coyotes that there is food in the area and a coyote encroaching on their territory. Spring is breeding season, the time when howling is critical. Effective calls include male challenge howls, female invitation howls, or pair howls. Your calls should appeal to either a single male looking to mate, or a male and female pair looking to pick a fight.


Tips

Don’t stop calling after you shoot, chances are a second coyote will come in after the first. Coyotes hunt in loose pairs, especially in the spring, and aren’t always spooked by the sound of gunshots. So keep calling. If you see a second coyote take off, then you can stop them with a submissive call, like a pup in distress or a whimper, giving you the opportunity for a second shot.

Use your light! Many new and experienced predator hunters don’t use their light enough. Instead of using it intermittently, which can spook off animals, use your light constantly. By leaving the light on, predators become comfortable with it from a distance and it will make it much easier to spot incoming animals. Light also serves as incredible camouflage. Animals can’t see anything behind the light if you keep it in their eyes, which gives you the freedom to move around and prepare for the shot.


Listen & Learn

Listen to the Core Insider Podcast for more tips on Predator hunting.


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