As simple as the fundamentals of coyote hunting are, someone is out there, virtually every day, making mistakes through inattention to detail or, in some cases, by overthinking what should be a fairly simple, and fun, process.
And that bothers Realtree pro staffer Byron South, who has been hunting predators for 30-plus years. “It’s a pet peeve of mine,” he said. “Calling coyotes can be difficult so being unprepared to create the opportunity or to seize it when it comes can be very frustrating,” he said.
South, a professional predator hunter, is co-founder of Convergent Hunting Solutions, which designs and manufactures game calls, so he has the credentials to back his list of common mistakes predator hunters make. Call ‘em Byron’s Pet Peeves of Predator Hunting.
Pet Peeve No. 1: Wrong Stand Location
“Coyotes are hard-wired to come to a call, but choosing a bad stand location will almost always afford him the upper hand before you even begin to call,” South said.
Many hunters get in a hurry and think they can just go anywhere, blow a call and coyotes will come running, he said. “A lot of guys rely heavily on their calling and not as heavily as they should on their ability and hunting skills,” he said. “Their most under-utilized tool is usually their head.”
A good stand location has certain requirements, including providing undetected access to it. You need a place to hide your vehicle from which you can slip in with the wind in your favor, “which is normally somewhere on some portion of your face,” South said. “It doesn’t have to be straight upwind, a crosswind is good, but keep that in mind.” And look for an elevated vantage point. “You don’t want to be down low. It’s better to be in a high spot where you can see him approach,” he said.
You have to beat the coyote’s eyes, ears and nose, South said. “With Realtree camo, you can generally beat their eyes,” he said. “Their eyes are fairly average. Just wear good Realtree camo, don’t skylight yourself and stay in the shadows as much as you can. And try to keep the sun at your back.”
To beat a coyote’s ears, be quiet. “No loud talking, no slamming doors, no crunching the leaves. Just slip in quietly,” he said.
A coyote’s nose foils many hunts, he said. “Coyotes rely heavily on their sense of smell. Pick a stand where the wind is somewhere on your face so he is not aware of your presence as you get there or as he approaches the call.”
Pet Peeve No. 2: Not Being Ready
“When you start calling or turn on that electronic call, everything out there is looking so you can’t move,” he said.
South said he has hunted with people new to coyote hunting and invariably they aren’t really ready. “I ask if they’re ready and they say, ‘yeah,’ so I start calling and look over and see them fidgeting and getting stuff situated,” he said. “That’s not being ready. If you are in a wide-open spot a coyote might be laying out there in the grass and pop his head up and if you are fidgeting around, he’ll see that and he’s not coming.”
And not only be ready, but also be comfortable, comfortable enough to sit still through the entire calling series, which can last 15 to 20 minutes, he said. If you need a cushion or seat to be comfortable, take it, he said.
Pet Peeve No. 3: Not Knowing Your Gun
It is surprising how many hunters are not familiar with their guns, South said. “A lot of guys assume once they get a coyote in, something miraculous will happen and they’ll be able to get their gun up and shoot it, even though they haven’t practiced with it,” he said.
South said he frequently hears “I couldn’t find him in my scope,” a comment that feeds his pet peeve. “How could you not find him in your scope?” he said. “The only way is you haven’t developed muscle memory in your forearm so when you pick up your gun it’s second nature and you don’t have to think about it. If you’re not familiar with your gun, it’s not going to happen naturally. You have to train yourself to do it.”
It’s frustrating, South said, because “most of the time you will have a short window of opportunity to shoot. It does you no good to call a coyote if you are not in tune with your gun and aren’t able to seize the opportunity.”
Hit the shooting range for rifle practice at different ranges, and pattern your shotgun, he said.
Pet Peeve No. 4: Too Much Scope
This falls right in with Pet Peeve No. 3, not being familiar with your gun.
Too many people use a riflescope with more magnification than necessary, South said. “A lot of guys have it in their head they have to be able to shoot a coyote 400 yards away,” he said. “Well, any caller worth his salt is not going to be shooting coyotes at 400 yards. That defeats the purpose of having a call. You call him up where you can shoot him, preferably under 100 yards.”
“This is calling, not sniping,” he said. Most predator hunters shoot coyotes at under 200 yards and “probably 90 percent are shooting them under 100 yards,” he said.
A variable-power scope in the 2- to 8- or 3- to 10-power range is fine. You don’t need 14- or 20-power magnification, he said. “If a coyote comes hard-charging in and a guy has his scope set on 14, he can’t see him,” he said.
“I don’t care how wide open the area is, I always have my scope set at the lowest setting,” he said. “If a coyote hangs up at 200 yards, I’ve got all day to turn it up to 9 or 10 if I want to.” On the other hand, if a coyote is hard-charging in, you don’t want to move to adjust magnification down to get him in the sight picture.
Pet Peeve No. 5: Trying to Shoot Offhand
It’s not just about shooting from a steady rest for better accuracy. South also recommends shooting sticks because you can prop your rifle or shotgun facing the direction the coyote is likely to approach. That means less movement to get on the incoming target, less movement to give you away.
Plus, he said, by securely holding the rifle or shotgun on sticks, your other hand is free to run an electronic or mouth call.
Pet Peeve No. 6: Getting Up Too Early
No, not getting up too early in the morning. Getting up too early from your stand.
A lot of hunters miss out on additional opportunities by getting up after they’ve shot, South said.
“Keep calling after the shot,” he said. “Many guys assume that once you shoot, the stand is over. That is not true.” Many times you can get a second coyote, or more, in if you immediately go to a ki-yi call, a coyote distress sound, after your first shot, whether that shot was a hit or miss, he said.
A gunshot may not scare other coyotes, he said, though it will likely scare the targeted coyote because of the sonic crack as the bullet whizzes past. But to other coyotes, loud noises don’t necessarily mean danger. “We’ve demonstrated hundreds of times on video that when you shoot the first coyote and immediately get on the ki-yi sound, many times we’ll get a second, third or fourth coyote in there,” he said.
But don’t expect success at every stand. “Give it your best effort, sit for 15 to 20 minutes,” he said. “If I don’t see anything or any sign of something coming in, like birds raising Cain or some indicator something is coming in, then I’ll let it set for five minutes to settle down, then quietly get up and leave.”
Bonus Pet Peeve No. 7: Overthinking It
Some hunters make it more complicated than it needs to be, South said. “I hear guys discussing what they did and what went wrong and I say, ‘Look, you’re overthinking this deal. Get to where coyotes can’t see, hear or smell you and you can take a party favor, a kazoo, and call in a coyote,’ ” he said. “Or they’ll say, ‘The moon was wrong.’ No, it didn’t have anything to do with the moon. A coyote is a predator. He has to eat something every day. Did you check the moon this morning before you had breakfast? No. He didn’t either.”
“It doesn’t happen every time. It depends on his mood as well. Or someone may have tried that trick on him yesterday so he might not come. Just focus on the things you can control and don’t overthink it. Wash, rinse, repeat. Just keep doing it and learning from your mistakes.”
Any other pet peeves? Oh, yes.
“The older you get, the more pet peeves you have,” he laughed.