You can improve your success calling coyotes if you learn to speak their language, and of all the sounds coyotes use to communicate, there are three you should have topmost in your coyote-hunting bag of tricks, according to Realtree Pro Staffer Fred Eichler.
These three coyote vocalizations – lone howl, puppy-in-distress and stopping bark – will help you find, call in and kill coyotes, said Eichler, who hosts Predator Nation TV show on Sportsman Channel.
1. Lone Howl
Howling can be effective year-around, season to season, but for different reasons, he said.
In the spring, he uses the lone howl to locate and call in coyotes.
Eichler ranches (and hunts and traps) in southern Colorado cattle country and neighbors and friends often ask him to help rid their ranches of coyotes preying on their cattle herds, especially during spring calving season.
“A lot of people don’t hunt in the spring, but I do,” he said. “When coyotes start to den up I’ll use a lone coyote howl to locate the dens. When they respond, they are responding pretty close to their dens so I know where to set up and call.”
Eichler prefers to howl at night, calling from ranch or back roads, marking sites on his GPS and making notes on how many coyotes respond and from what direction. The following morning he returns and slips in undetected toward the location from where the responses came.
Once set up, he’ll howl and get ready. Most of the time, he said, an aggressive male – sometimes an aggressive female – will come in to check out what it thinks is another coyote encroaching on its territory.
During other times of the year, Eichler uses howling as a locator call, “especially in places I’m not familiar with. Maybe somebody will ask me to help with coyote problems on their ranch and I don’t know the ranch, so instead of just going in and calling blind, I’ll go out at night and throw a howl out there and try to get a response and then have an idea if there’s one pack, two packs or multiple pairs out there.”
Howling helps him:
1. Determine if there are coyotes in the area.
2. Plan his calling stands, closing the distance to where he heard coyotes.
3. Conserve hunting time by making his time in the field more efficient and, more importantly, not wasting time calling where there are no coyotes.
Howling can also be effective early in the year, before denning season, when coyotes are starting to pair up for mating. Howling and sounding like an intruding coyote can provoke a territorial response. “A lot of times I can get a male to come in thinking he’s going to run another male off, but I’ve also had females respond and come in as well,” he said.
Eichler reproduces howls three ways, all using FOXPRO calls.
“I make a good howl on a single-reed diaphragm call,” he said. “I feel I can control it the best.”
He starts the howling sequence with two barks, then goes into a long, drawn-out howl, sort of a two-tone sound starting high, then dropping down and naturally trailing off. The call sequence lasts only 1½ to 2 seconds. “I usually do two or three sequences, then sit there and listen,” he said. He also turns while howling to broadcast the howl in all directions.
“I know guys that howl only once,” he said, “but I’ve seen coyotes hear it but ignore it, or they’ll lose interest unless they hear it again.”
Eichler also likes to use FOXPRO’s Skyote howler, a mouth call with which he can easily produce realistic howls and he often uses a FOXPRO’s electronic caller, which allows him to effortlessly broadcast authentic, consistent howls. Having all three howling methods at his disposal makes him a diversified, effective coyote caller ready for pretty much any situation.
2. Puppy in Distress
“I’m a huge fan of the puppy-in-distress call,” Eichler said. “I’ve had a lot of success with it. It works all year, for multiple reasons.”
The call, essentially the sound of a wounded, crying puppy, works on several levels, he said. It can provoke a protective response, with coyotes running in to see what is hurting the “puppy.” That response is particularly strong in the spring, when coyotes are denning, when paternal and maternal – not to mention territorial – instincts are strongest.
But it also works any time of year, playing on coyotes’ innate curiosity. Coyotes sneak in to look, “like, what the heck is going on over there,” Eichler said.
But not all responses are benign protective or curiosity responses, he said. The call can also trigger a hunger response. “In winter when coyotes, just like us, need more calorie intake to go all day, man, I’ve had ‘em come in looking for something to eat,” he said.
“Protection, territorial, curiosity and food,” he said. “I’d put it under those categories and that’s why it works well everywhere. I’ve used it in Florida, Georgia, California, Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, Nebraska, all over and it seemed like it didn’t matter if I was in the Southeast or Northwest, I had success with it.” [Editor's note: Be sure to check coyote hunting regulations in states you hunt. Laws vary.]
“It’s like a puppy scream,” he explained, demonstrating a pain-filled yip, yip, yipping sequence with a diaphragm call. “It’s like a scream, a ki-yi sound, like a wounded dog or if you stepped on a puppy’s foot or a puppy caught a foot in a trap; like a puppy is hurt or in a fight with a badger or something has ahold of it.”
Eichler said he calls as long as he can, until he runs out of breath, then takes a short breather and hits it again. “I work on keeping it going,” he said. “I’ve noticed in areas where I can see coyotes coming from a long way they’ll sometimes lose interest if I don’t keep that one going.”
At times he also uses an electronic caller, which spares him running out of breath.
3. Stopping Bark
Eichler uses this sound – more of a woof, than a bark – to momentarily stop a coyote running into or across a stand for a stationary shot. Sometimes it will cause a fleeing coyote to pause long enough for a quick shot.
A mouth call or diaphragm call can be used to make the bark, but it is simple as making a woof sound with your voice.
“To get the shot, I will use a short, quick woof, just to get it to stop. When I do, I need to be ready – because if you do that with a young coyote, he’s just as likely to give a quick glance and take off thinking ‘uh oh, I’ve run in here to eat this rabbit and there’s a big dog already here.’ They get intimidated by it, but if it’s a dominant dog or bigger dog coming in, they’ll likely stop and look ready to fight, looking to see what’s going on and those are the ones you have a little more time to aim on.”
And that’s a key point, he said. When howling or barking, don’t sound like a dominant male or you might scare off younger, less confident coyotes, sending them running in the opposite direction. Keep your howls and barks high and tentative in tone, not low, loud and threatening.
Don't Do This
A sound not to make is the short, flat, harsh bark, bark, bark sound coyotes make to warn others of danger. If you hear that three-bark sequence, you’ve been busted and the warning is out.
Some hunters use it, Eichler said, and probably get some curious coyotes to come in but he stays away from it.
“I never want to do alarm barks for the same reason I don’t do cow alarm barks when I’m elk hunting or warning putts when I’m turkey hunting,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to me to warn any animal there’s danger out there.”
You don’t have to speak fluent coyotese, but learning these basic coyote vocalizations can go a long way toward improving your success in the field.
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Editor's note: This article was first published Sept. 24, 2016.