As we traversed across the steep incline, Dan stopped to scan the area, he said, “This is a good spot for our setup”. We were hunting coyotes in Wyoming just outside of Rawlins. I was hunting for coyotes with one of the best coyote caller and hunter of today, Dan Thompson, the maker of “Dan Thompson Game Calls”. Dan has been hunting coyotes for the past 41 years. Twenty years ago, he started the business of his trade, making predator game calls. Since then, Dan has hand-made virtually tens of thousands of predator calls. All calls are fine tuned from a selected pieced of choice wood. He sets the standards in the industry for varmint calls. As a dreamer, innovator, designer and master of making several types of predator calls, Dan has forgot more about coyotes then most hunters like me will ever know.
As we sat down, I surveyed the area in front of us. I lifted my Leupold binoculars to get a better look and began thinking; this looks too desolate for coyotes. As thoughts were going through my head, Dan gave a howl on his “Red Desert Howler” predator call and he immediately got into a shooting position, He whispered, it would be coming up that shallow draw to our right. I thought, how will he know where the coyote will be coming from? In just three short minutes, I caught a shadow, the movement was at the end of the draw, and then just as Dan had indicated, the coyote appeared. When I thought Dan was getting ready, he fired, I was not ready for the shot and it startled me.
I saw the coyote stiffen up, sit back and fall over. The coyote was out around 280 yards. I looked at Dan and asked. “How did you know he was going to come in where he did?” Dan smiled and said, “I have been doing this for forty-one years and besides, the wind was blowing to our right”. The coyote went down wind and he would have caught our scent had he came another 30 yards, so I had to take him where he was.
How do you measure the value of one’s life changing experiences? In 2002, I retired from Lewis County Fire District #12 after spending 25 years with the department. In the last 14 years, my position was Asst. Fire Chief. During those 14 years my workload prevented me from hunting as often as I would have liked. I enjoyed getting up every morning and going to work, but I always had a passion for hunting and took advantage of the days I could spend time in the woods. Since my retirement, I hunt somewhere between 4 to 6 months every year. I have hunted from Alaska to Africa.
Spending two weeks hunting with Dan Thompson, I gained the experience and knowledge one would take years to learn hunting from trial and error. Predator hunting is one of the fastest growing types of hunting today. It is also the hottest selling hunting videos and DVD’s on the market through Stoney Wolf Productions.
Coyotes are no doubt the most adaptable animals in the US. People in the cities have no problem living with coyotes and don’t want hunters to shoot them until their pet dog or cat comes up missing and they see evidence left behind that a coyote is at blame. Coyotes are the most widely distributed members of the genus canis, in North America. State Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say coyotes are becoming an increasing problem in urban areas. In the cities and urban areas, coyotes can survive well on house cats and small dogs. Coyote attacks on people are rare. There have been a small number of attacks on people in the U.S. and Canada, with most of the attacks involving small children less than 5 years of age.
Coyotes live in every environment and/or habitat known to man. That ranges from high alpines of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State to the flat prairies in Wyoming. They are on our ocean beaches and in downtown Los Angeles. While people think of coyotes as carnivores, the animals don’t limit their diets. Coyotes will eat birdseed, fruits and other vegetation. They’re opportunistic and in an urban environment, cats are top on their list because there’s so many of them. A cat will look at a coyote and say, Oh, just another dog, and may not look at it as a threat until it is too late.
Here are some tips that will help you call and bag that pointed nose canine. Remember, they are predators like you and I. They are naturally suspicious and their senses are extraordinary. The eyes of a coyote are mounted in front of their heads for stalking and hunting benefits. The ears of a coyote can hear a mouse squeak at 400 yards. Their ears are the strong points as well as its nose, eyes and legs. But its ears, is also its demise. Its ears will get him into trouble but its eyes, nose and legs will get him out of trouble. Once a coyote is committed, all his logic goes out the window.
The first tip is your equipment; it needs to be the best that you can afford. I chose to use Remington’s Model 700 VSSF in 22-250 caliber. I can comfortably take shots out at 400 yards. In January of this year I took a coyote at 396 yards. I was wolf hunting with Sentinel Mountain Safari’s in British Columbia (www.sentinelmountainsafaris.com). We caught a coyote crossing the frozen Frazer River. I knew when it reached the other side it would stop and look back. I jumped in the deep snow, laid back and rested my rifle on my leg using a three-point set-up. When the coyote reached the other side, it went up the bank, stopped and looked back. I had about 3 seconds to make the shot. I was ready to take the shot when it stopped. After the shot, I looked through my Leupold scope and watched it drop where it stood. The scope I was using is the new Leupold VX-L 3.5 – 10X50MM Duplex (www.leupold.com). When you spend good money on a rifle don’t make the mistake by placing a cheap scope on top.
If you are going to take a long shot, know where your rifle will hit at 200 yards and out to 500 yards. If you have to walk your bullet into your target, you have already lost. A clod shot is predicting your first shot kill.
I consider myself a novice predator hunter. I couldn’t make any good sounds when using a mouth call so I use a FoxPro electronic call (www.gofoxpro.com). There are several sounds I can choose from. A rabbit distress seems to work the best for me. Even being a novice predator hunter I have called in up to 12 coyotes a day. One of the best features of using an electronic call is you can place the call away from you and use the remote to activate the sounds and also change the sounds without getting up from your ground blind or stand. An incoming coyote will focus where the sound came from. I have seen many coyotes come in from two ridges over and go straight to the call. Their ability to detect where the sounds came from and go straight to it is uncanny.
You will need shooting sticks or a bipod. I use the Predator Sniper Styx; they are lightweight and short with three legs. By using the Predator Sniper Styx I can place my rifle or pistol in position without the shooting stick moving. I have taken several coyotes, boars and a black bear with the aid of the Predator Sniper Styx.
Camo clothing is important but you must blend in with the surroundings with what ever you are wearing. Coyotes will catch fast movements. When moving, move slowly and try to move when the coyote is not looking. Most of the time I will not wear gloves or a facemask, and sometimes I will wear a camo coat with dark jeans and always a camo cap.
You can hunt coyotes year round in most states but the best time to hunt them is in the month of September. The young pups have not been educated yet and are easier to call in. Their pelts will be in great shape, as they are getting ready for winter. The more productive time of day will be early in the morning and late in the evenings. Although, I have called in a good number of coyotes midday.
Before you hunt coyotes, you have to find coyotes. Fortunately, they are over-populated in all states. If you chose to hunt in the woods or hills find a good clearcut where you can get above the area you are going to hunt.
Coyotes are territorial and will protect their territory from other coyotes. So you may choose to use a coyote howl (vocalization) to locate the canine. He will come to challenge the coyote that’s invading his area and will protect it.
Before the setup, make sure your vehicle is hidden. When they come in and if they spot your vehicle you may never see them. They will turn and run from the area. Try to walk into the wind and keep the sun to your back if possible. Coyotes will come in down wind to pick up your scent. I always place the electronic call upwind from me between 25 to 50 yards. When they come in, sometimes they will come right to me while they are focused to where the sound came from. Keep something to your back to help break up your outline. Rock ledges or bushes are great. Your setup will make or break your coyote hunting success.
When walking to a setup, stay low and walk at the toe of the hill (bottom) or through a saddle. You can also use creeks, gullies and trees to cover you entrance. Once you are in your setup, remain still; move your eyes first then slowly move your head. Coyotes will catch your movement using their binocular-quality eyes and not come in.
When calling, only call for 8 to 10 seconds. All you want to do is get his attention to let him know you are there. After the call, let the coyote hunt you. When you use the call from the setup, get ready for the shot. Don’t wait until you see one, you will need to be ready when he appears. Remember, coyotes are always looking for movement. Scan 360 degrees; starting down wind, the coyote could be downwind when you set up.
Last year a friend and I were hunting coyotes on the Miller Ranch in Eastern Washington. After we gave a brief distress call using the FoxPro call, we started scanning the area in front of us with our binoculars. Within 2 minutes I lowered my binoculars and saw a coyote walking past us just 10 feet away. He came from behind us but had to go around the rocks we were leaning against. When I moved, the coyote started running and didn’t look back until it was going over a ridge to our right about 30 feet away.
After you call, wait 10 to 15 minutes before calling again. And only call for another 8 to 10 seconds. If nothing comes in after 30 minutes go ahead and move to another location. But, get up slow and scan the area before leaving. More than once I got up to see a coyote within shooting range after sitting for 30 minutes.
If you are hunting where there are magpies around, watch them, sometimes they will follow a coyote to get a free meal. Watch your coyote, if you have more than one come in and one of them breaks and runs you will need to shoot before the others breaks. Call to stop them.
If you get a coyote to come in and take it, don’t talk. Sometimes a gunshot will not scare others off. I immediately use the coyote pup in distress call. If you see one and it hangs up and you are comfortable on taking a long shot, go ahead because they won’t come any closer. It knows something’s amiss and its caution will dominate its curiosity. Sometimes no matter what call you use, they will stay out between 200 and 500 yards. Other times they will run you over coming into the call. Several times last year I had a hard time stopping the coyotes when they were responding to our call. I have found out the best way to stop them is to give a quick bark like a dog.
Coyotes will not only try to get down wind, they will also try to come in covertly. Watch eroded gullies, small ravines, grassy depressions and hedgerows.
As mentioned earlier, I use the rabbit in distress call more than any other call. But coyotes respond to a variety of animals in distress. Some of the more popular distress calls include rodent, woodpecker, fawn and canine.
I have found two places that are excellent to locate the pointed nose critters. The first one is the Miller Ranch in Eastern Washington located just south of Sprague. Scott Miller operates a guiding service for predator hunting as well as pheasants, chuckar, turkey, mule deer and waterfowl. The lodge located on the ranch can be rented while you hunt, or you can use the R.V. hookups.
I spent several days’ last September hunting on the Miller Ranch and took several coyotes. We saw somewhere around 10 to 15 coyotes a day. Eastern Washington offers some of the best coyote hunting in Washington State. The rock bluffs and ravines are great places for your setup. You can spot the coyotes coming in from up to a mile away. Sometimes you will have two or three come in at once. When they do, just sit still until they all are in range. After taking the first one, use the coyote in distress call to stop the others. Check the Miller Ranch out on the web or call Scott at 509-370-5535.
The second place is Wyoming. The state offers public access on BLM land with wide-open areas where you can hunt several days without hunting in the same area twice. Hunting license is not required when hunting for coyotes in Wyoming. I hunted several days with Dan Thompson and we called in over 100 coyotes taking 36 on film. We could have taken more but when filming it’s a challenge to get the footage needed.
Predator Sniper Styx
Crooked Horn Outfitters