Calling coyotes out West can require different tactics than back East. Check out our tips.
Coyote Calling Out West
© Tom Rassuchine photo
Coyote calling has traditionally been a concern out West. While coyote populations have expanded in the East, it’s still the West’s vast expanses that relinquish the best predator calling possible. Now, this shouldn’t be interpreted to mean easy, as while the West has higher numbers of song dogs, it also has more desolate spaces. Approaching predator calling smartly is important to pare this massive real estate down to manageable size and put more pelts on stretchers. Use these 10 steps to tip the odds in your favor.
Coyote calling is wildly popular, so even the sparsely-populated West sees plenty of hunting pressure. If you want to shoot more coyotes you’ll need to travel to areas that receive less hunting pressure. This can entail more difficult access due to poor roads or private lands, but more often means driving away from civilization. I’ve spent plenty of nights sleeping in my truck to enjoy world-class coyote calling.
Hunters are prone to End-of-the-Road Syndrome, seldom considering exiting a vehicle until they’ve reached a road terminus. But what of all those miles between highway and road end? This can also be said of pastures close to ranch yards, the very edges of town, or maybe the field behind the county landfill.
While participating in predator-calling contests years ago my best-kept secret was parking and walking off major highways, even Interstates running through public lands. Parking behind a cut and putting a half mile between highway and call site resulted in scads of bagged coyotes collected within earshot of whizzing traffic.
Always heed the wind when entering calling sites, and especially when setting up to call. Coyotes don’t present viable shots after receiving a snoot full of human scent. Enter calling spots and set up so any approaching coyotes remain upwind of your scent, even if this requires additional effort. Ideally you want a clearing upwind of your position, with breezes pushing into wide-open spaces (where you can also shoot farther) or tangled vegetation coyotes are less likely to traverse while approaching. Better is falling downwind ground — mesa edge or ridge drop — where scent travels above critters’ heads when approaching from downwind.
Electronic Callers, Decoys, Calls and Cartridges
© Patrick Meitin photo
Remote-operated electronic callers present many huge advantages. In relation to wind they help direct traffic and keep coyotes out of your scent stream. Savvy coyotes regularly swing downwind of the call source, which means you, when using mouth-blown calls. Coyotes think you stink. Setting a calling unit 75 to 100 yards away and on a crosswind shortstops these scent-checking coyotes and presents shots at distracted targets.
Electronic callers also save your lungs. A mouth call, blown with heart, can literally take your breath away. An electronic call leaves hands free to react more quickly to approaching coyotes and assures you’re not shooting while out of breath — fewer surprises, straighter shooting and fewer escaped dogs. Electronic calls also provide more calling options, which I’ll address momentarily.
Another part of working the wind, directing traffic to your needs and setting up higher-odds shots is decoys. Simple static forms such as a competing coyote or deer fawn work wonders, but it’s really difficult to beat attention-grabbing motion decoys. A quivering bunny, whirling furry critter or similar decoy adds realism to your efforts and creates an obvious focal point coyotes instinctively hone in on. Many motion decoys can be plugged directly into electronic units to synch with calling sequences.
Motion decoys coax reluctant coyotes that extra 100 yards for surer shots, cause them to toss caution to the winds or lock onto calls from greater distances. That added motion really seems to get their salivary glands going, eliciting greed that results in more eager responses.
There are days when coyotes just don’t seem interested in your best calling. This was especially true when we were all regulated to mouth calls offering essentially identical calling sequences. Electronic calls expand options. Day in and day out in most habitats garden-variety high-pitched cottontail, coarse jackrabbit or raspy fawn distress calls represent our go-to calls.
But following a few blank setups I begin to mix things up. I might stick to standard rabbit cries but toss in some coyote talk to spark competition. During January and February, I’ll try a series of female coyote sequences to spark sexual urges from nearby dogs. Fighting woodpeckers or raccoons, whining puppies or distressed bobcats might do the trick. If you’re having a slow day, it doesn’t hurt to try, and you just never know; you might fall on the combination that really rattles their cages.
Another quick note: there are days when coyotes simply respond more slowly to calls. If you’re having no luck with standard 30-minute setups, try sitting tight a little longer to see if that turns the tables.
Called coyotes offer unique shooting challenges. They appear suddenly and opportunities are sometimes fleeting, with no time for rangefinders or shot contemplation. A flat-shooting rifle provides an edge by widening the margin for range-judging errors. For instance, while the .22 Hornet (one of my favorite varmint cartridges) includes loopy trajectories, making 200-yard shots dicey, a .204 Ruger loaded with 32-grain bullets shoots like a laser to 300 yards.
Fast cartridges — .17 Remington Fireball, .204 Ruger, .22-250 Remington, .220 Swift, rounds that easily push 4,000 fps — also make common running shots easier. Instead of leading runners by body lengths, inviting misses due to zigs and zags, you’re holding on a coyote’s head for proper lead.
Running Shots and Shotguns, Seriously
© Patrick Meitin photo
Coyotes are jittery critters that seldom stand still long. If you’re waiting for that perfect broadside, standing shot you might be sacrificing 50 percent of shot opportunities. A faster cartridge, as mentioned above, makes this easier, but confidence gained through practice is important. When young we learned to make running shots by thinning superfluous jackrabbits from ranch pastures and alfalfa fields. An old tire filled with cardboard and rolled down a long hill is another viable option.
While still participating in calling contests I always carried two firearms into every stand; a flat-shooting rifle and a full-choked shotgun loaded with 3-inch lead BBs. Scatterguns are an obvious choice in heavy cover, but even in open country its 50-55-yard reach is welcomed when handling sudden appearances from unexpected directions, and especially when addressing multiple dogs (most common late in the season). I’d allow the lead dog to approach as close as possible, take them and any other coyotes within range, tossing the shotgun aside to clean up with the rifle. My record employing this approach is seven coyotes in one sitting.
Many novices don’t take coyote calling seriously, especially following several blank stands. They lose confidence and approach calling halfheartedly. Successful coyote calling comes down to converting on every opportunity offered and this requires diligence, believing a coyote will arrive any time you call and staying on point. I’ve also noticed how a successful calling sequence can break a caller’s rhythm. It’s important to stay the course, striving to discover the next calling setup, to make just one more stand before nightfall.