From howls to distress cries to combos, experts weigh in on the best calls for getting song dogs to point-blank range
William Prescott famously told the boys at the Battle of Bunker Hill, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.”
Coyotes don’t have white eyes but if you try these calling tips on your next hunt, you might get to hold fire until they’re in that close, too. Right now, between deer and turkey season, is the time when many hunters are trying their hand at predator calling. But with so many sounds to make, which are the best? We asked several guys who know.
Eeee Like a Bird
You won’t find Tim Eaton on a pro-staff or hunting show, but he nonetheless puts a lot of eastern coyotes in the grave. “My primary option is a bird-in-distress,” he says. “The eee-eee-eee sound is how you would vocalize that. It’s not a squeak. It’s a little higher pitched. It’s more toward the tip on a reed call.” In addition to being a coyote killer, Eaton says bobcats really respond to bird-in-distress, too. Keep that in mind if cat season is still open where you hunt.
He encourages eastern hunters to call close to thick cover, especially in February, which is the coyote mating season. “Not that you won’t see them in open fields — you will,” he says. “But during daylight, they spend most of their time in thick cover. Call off into cutover timber, thick grassy areas, etc. Get within 100 yards or so, and make sure the wind is right.”
The traditional rabbit-in-distress sound still works, too. Realtree pro staffer and Convergent Hunting Solution’s Byron South leans on it most of the time. “I use coyote vocals very sparingly throughout the year, and I almost never start off with them,” he says. “I have found that prey sounds are by far the most productive sounds to use most of the time.”
Howl, then Whine
Mark Zepp likes to howl. The Realtree pro staffer who along with his wife, Amber, owns Zepp’s Predator Calls, uses coyote vocalizations more than most. “Most coyotes have been pressured,” he says. “They’ve heard about every kind of rabbit-in-distress sound on the market, whether it comes out of a speaker or the barrel of a hand-blown call. It’s hard to get guys to believe that coyote vocalizations will actually work and successfully bring a coyote to your stand. But less is more."
He usually starts by making a few lone howls, followed by silence. If coyotes answer, he stays silent for 10 to 15 minutes, playing off their curiosity. “They know you are in their territory and it is driving them crazy, but you must have the discipline to not answer them back immediately,” Zepp says. “I have located coyotes half to three quarters of a mile away — with binoculars — after they responded. I watched them scratch and kick up dirt and wet on nearby bushes. In these cases, many times I will wait longer and watch them eventually come in.”
If howling doesn’t work, throw a little extra incentive in there. “Blow a pup-distress sound if they turn to leave,” Zepp says. “Most of the time, they come in at a high rate of speed. This pup-distress sound is made with an open-reed call by placing your teeth halfway up the tune board and rapidly pulling it back and forth while thinking about saying yipe-yipe-yipe. If you have ever heard a yard dog make a distress sound, you may have noticed other domestic dogs in the area charging right in to see the fight or be a part of it. It’s really no different in the coyote world.”
Make a Combo Play
Mojo’s Terry Denmon loves combining sounds for a one-two punch. “The number one sound I use is a rabbit,” he says. “I have four rabbit sounds that I’ve used to call in 90 percent of my coyotes over the past 10 years. Two of them are cottontails and two of them are jackrabbits.”
But he doesn’t stop there. “I add the hurt coyote pup to that, and that’s what I use 99 percent of the time,” Denmon says. “That’s my favorite coyote vocalization, at any time of the year. It works. But I think the reason that it does is because it appeals on so many different levels. Coyotes are very territorial. A lot of people believe that they come to protect the coyote pup, and I think sometimes that’s correct. Other people think they come to eat it, and sometimes I think that’s correct, too."
Regardless of the reason, Denmon says adding the hurt pup sound to the mix works, and works especially well when traditional prey sounds aren’t getting a response. “If they don’t respond to that, then I’ll start trying other things,” he says.
You might notice that in some ways, these guys give conflicting advice. That’s because in coyote calling there are no hard rules. Keep trying sounds, and when you find something that works, try it again.