Calling All Coyotes
How to trick one of the smartest critters into gun range.
Coyote calling had its origin about 60 years ago, when Morton Burnham heard a strange shrieking sound behind his barn. The Texas rancher investigated and saw a jackrabbit caught in a fence. But that wasn’t all he saw. A pair of coyotes were homing in on the hapless mammal, obviously attracted to its calls of distress.
Assuming that a similar man-made sound would obtain the same results, Burnham made a crude call, and it worked. Coyotes, foxes and bobcats came running. Amazed at this new hunting technique, he made a few calls for friends and then, at their urging, went into the business of making and selling calls. Burnham Brothers Inc. was born, and with it, a fascinating hunting strategy.
My first experience calling coyotes was in 1962. I used a Circe cottontail distress call, which I tried out of curiosity. I was astonished when a pair of coyotes actually responded. From that memorable day to this, I’ve carried a predator call almost everywhere I hunt, using it when I have the chance. My first mentor, Murry Burnham, taught me the techniques used by his father, Morton. He showed me how to call in various situations, in the dark as well as in daylight hours.
**Coyote Call Styles **
Two major types of calls are used: mouth calls and electronic calls. Most mouth calls are cylindrical with internal reeds and are operated by blowing into them. The air passes over a reed, making squealing and shrieking sounds that imitate an animal in distress. These calls can also simulate a coyote’s howls and barks.
Electronic calls make a variety of sounds. To work them you simply turn a dial on the control box. You can even get them to emit multiple calls at once. For example, you can start off with a cottontail distress call, then switch to a mouse squeaker, then a jackrabbit distress call, a fawn bleat or whatever other call you desire. Most models have a detached speaker, which you can set nearby. This is a useful misdirection; coyotes will focus on the source of the sound rather than your position.
How to Call
Vocalizations vary widely, depending on a hunter’s preferences. Many of the veterans I’ve hunted with, such as Murry Burnham, Wyoming call maker Ed Parodi and Burnham Brothers owner Gary Roberson, like to call for a minute or two and then wait for 5 or 10 minutes. If no coyote shows up, the sequence starts over. In most cases, doing this for 20 to 30 minutes is adequate; if no animals show, it’s time to move. Most callers like to travel a considerable distance to the next calling location.
I prefer a cottontail call, although I occasionally switch to a fawn bleat if I’m in an area where coyotes are call-shy. Wary animals will often ignore a rabbit call because that’s what they hear the most, but they might come in to a different call. When I begin calling, I blow softly in case coyotes are close by. If I get no action, I increase the volume. I typically mix up my calling by using two different cottontail distress calls, since hurt rabbits will vary the sounds they make.
Howling is a technique that mimics a yipping coyote. It is often used as a locator, since coyotes are territorial and frequently respond to an intruder by vocalizing. Some coyotes may run in to check out the call, so if a coyote answers a howl, wait several minutes to see if it shows up. If not, quickly get set up with the wind in your favor and use distress calls.
Selecting a Location
Choosing a calling site is of paramount importance, since you’ll never shoot a coyote if there are none within range of the call. It’s always better to walk some distance before selecting a spot in case your vehicle was seen or heard as you drove up. Always park in a low spot or behind screening cover so animals can’t spot your rig. After determining the general area you want to call into, pick a setup where you’ll blend in with brush and the terrainn, but not so much that you won’t be able to easily see approaching animals. An elevated spot offers a better vantage point, but take care not to be skylined. When you walk in, do so stealthily, assuming coyotes are very close. Don’t talk to your partner, and avoid making excessive sounds while walking on leaves or slipping through brush. Stay low. Avoid openings altogether if you can. If you must cross one, stay as low as possible.
Try to hunt in places that are not under heavy pressure from other hunters. Highly pressured areas are usually places close to towns with good access, especially public land. Coyotes that have been shot at and missed or have been spooked by a careless caller will be tough to call in again. It’s always best to hunt animals that haven’t had any experience with hunters.
Private lands are top spots to hunt, because hunters are often reluctant to ask permission. Many landowners won’t allow you to hunt deer or other game but will be happy to let you thin their coyote population.
To help disguise your presence, always use full camo, including a face mask and gloves.
If you see a coyote approaching, quit calling. It already has you pegged and is looking for the source of the sound. As the animal approaches, it will likely walk rapidly, trot or even run full-out, but it will often stop to look, sometimes even sitting for a moment. Stay absolutely motionless as it looks at you. When the coyote looks away and begins moving again, slowly raise your rifle and position it on your rest. You’ll often be able to get away with a little movement, because the predator is looking for a frightened animal and expects some motion.