Coyote School

Master the art of coyote hunting to be a better big-game hunter.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Coyotes have a way of intimidating hunters. Many of us believe there are dark, mysterious techniques that must be used to hunt them successfully. These canines have a reputation of being exceedingly clever, and their nocturnal nature keeps them most active at night, when we aren't out there. Coyotes are extremely wary, but they are easily deceived by calls-if you're making the right moves. Once you master coyote hunting, you'll be ready for big game.

First, you need to hunt where there's a decent population of coyotes. A call to your state wildlife agency should steer you in the right direction, and you'll typically find farmers and ranchers willing to share information. Many landowners who have livestock will allow coyote hunting but no other form of hunting.

Making the Call
There are two types of basic calls: mouth calls and electronic calls. Mouth calls are simple-you merely blow into them, making sounds that imitate a wounded bird or animal. Years ago, when predator calling was brand-new, cottontail and jackrabbit distress calls were used exclusively. Now you'll find all sorts of calls- flickers, fawns, you name it. Smart coyotes that have been wised up by hunters may not come in at all, or will sneak in or approach within several hundred yards and refuse to come any closer. For all these reasons, you must be well concealed and ever conscious of wind direction. You must also be quiet, still and capable of making a long shot.

Learning to call coyotes will help with your big-game hunting since many species respond to calls. Elk, whitetails and moose are the most common big-game animals to call, but you can also call antelope, cougars and bears.

Electronic calls eliminate the need to know precisely how to make a certain call. All you need do is select the type of call you want, push a switch, turn up the volume and wait. Most calls have a loudspeaker that can be placed some distance away from your location. Any approaching coyotes will focus on the sounds coming from the loudspeaker and not on you, giving you the chance to make any required subtle moves and zero in on your target.

Picking Your Spot
Many people don't realize it, but coyotes have established territories and leave sign like other animals. The easiest signs to spot are prints in sand, mud or snow. Once you find coyote sign, you'll need to find a place with favorable wind that offers good visibility and has cover for concealment. In most places, the prevailing wind comes from the west. If you're in the mountains, the thermals will blow up in the daytime and down in the evening. When checking out a spot for visibility, the farther you can see out into the landscape, the better. It's also critical that your calling spot is easy to reach from your vehicle, so that coyotes in the area don't wind you or become spooked by your truck. On your scouting day, try to find several calling locations. We often take these precautions when hunting coyotes but forget about them when we hunt deer. This practice reinforces the need to consider scouting and stand locations when we hunt big game anywhere.

[pagebreak] If you're hunting coyotes in the same place where you hunt deer, and tree stands are still up, use the stands. Stands are ideal locations to call from, because they offer superb visibility and help to keep your scent away from ground level. On the actual day you'll hunt, get to your calling spot as quietly as you can, and avoid walking in the open. Use the terrain to screen your approach, and never skyline yourself. Wear clothing that is quiet in the brush. Coyotes have incredible hearing and eyesight. How many of us use this degree of stealth when we approach our deer stands? We should.

**Time on the Ground **
Once I'm in my spot, I wait five or ten minutes for things to settle down. My first call, usually a cottontail distress call, will be soft in case there are coyotes close by. I'll blow the call for one to two minutes and then sit. I'll wait five minutes and blow again, increasing the volume. This time I'll wait ten minutes before I call again. The total amount of time I spend in a location depends on my confidence in the spot. In some choice spots where my success rate runs close to 90 percent during the first hunt of the year, I might wait 45 minutes.

Because coyotes have terrific hearing, they might detect your call from a long, long way off, perhaps a mile away if it's quiet and calm and there's no local traffic noise. Since they're traveling a great distance, it's a good idea to wait longer.

Calling elk or rattling for whitetails also requires patience. What you learn on your coyote forays is easily adapted to the big-game woods. Many veteran hunters have told me that if you can hunt coyotes successfully, you can hunt anything. I agree.

Hunt of the Month
Eastern Montana Coyotes
**Where: **Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, northeastern Montana skinny: You'll find lots of coyotes on this refuge and in the surrounding BLM land. Charles M. Russell is open for coyote hunting until March 1. Electronic callers are prohibited here, so you'll need to brush up on your mouth calling. Also, your gun must be cased when you travel through the refuge in your vehicle.

Cost: Free. No license is needed to hunt coyotes in Montana, except on school trust land.

**Contact: **Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (406-228-3700)

Calling All Coyotes
The three mouth calls in Lohman's Pro Predator System will lure in coyotes no matter where you hunt. These three rabbit distress calls work in situations ranging from hunting in high winds and open country to when you need to coax a nearby animal just a little bit closer. ($18; 877-956-5746; www.kolpin .com)

For information on Jim Zumbo's books, go to www.jimzumbo.com.