coyote hunting
A Montana coyote checks his backtrail before crossing a bridge. Donald M. Jones
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Habitat will make or break your coyote hunt. But knowing what coyotes need to make a living is only part of the equation. Identifying land features that optimize your ability to remain hidden make up the rest. I use a quick scoring method to rate the sign and landscape, so I know in a flash whether a place is worth hunting or not.

TRACKS AND SIGNS: 0-3 POINTS

No matter how good a location appears, if you’re not seeing coyote tracks around, you are wasting your time. Good locations have a set of fresh tracks—that earns a single point. When you find a spot that is criss-crossed with coyote tracks, give it 2 points, then figure out the best way to approach the location using cover to reach an elevated vantage point. Other sign, like a recent deer kill, will add a point to this category.

COVER: 0-2 POINTS

Award full points (2) for those places that have enough cover to conceal you, but also the right mix of brush and terrain that allow a coyote to approach your location undetected. A full-points stand location overlooks a valley bottom that’s between 300 and 500 yards wide. The bottom has enough brush to make a coyote feel that he’s concealed, but enough openings to allow you to detect his approach and get a clear shot at him.

APPROACH: 0-3 POINTS

Getting into the calling location undetected is a hunter’s biggest challenge and the most overlooked aspect of coyote hunting. Full points (3) go to locations that provide the terrain necessary to hide your vehicle and get you and your gear in position without being seen or heard before you start calling. If you can see the calling area when you park the pickup truck, the spot gets zero points.

A shiny window, a rattling engine, or a clanging gun case can’t be avoided 100 percent of the time. But by picking out good approaches with heavy timber or hills, you will be hidden from view and most sounds will be muffled or deflected. Some of the best locations are just off main roads where ambient traffic noise dilutes any sounds you might make. Use any land features to remain hidden from the time you leave your vehicle until you are in position to hunt. Add an extra point for approaches with a stiff wind in your face.

ELEVATION: 0-2 Points

A spot that elevates your hide above the surrounding terrain gets a full 2 points in this category. These locations enable you to see farther and allow your scent to remain above an approaching dog. If you suspect there are coyotes working an area (because the area scored high in sign points), then sneak in from above and glass before you do any calling. If you use an electronic call, set it up below you in order to draw coyotes in at a lower elevation, where you’ll better be able to see them coming.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER

Whether you plan to sit it out, glass-and-stalk, or call, try to get as many of these arrangements working in your favor as possible. Approach and sign—with a maximum of 3 points apiece on my scale—are the two biggest factors. But a location should accrue at least 8 total points in order to make it worth your time.

I like to evaluate every situation in the order presented here. Find tracks and scat first, and determine if there is enough cover for concealment. Next, figure out if you can approach the location undetected and pick a route. Once you’ve got those elements, you just need to choose a good vantage point, and you should use any elevation the area provides. Look critically at what the terrain offers you and do the math to make accurate assessments quickly. Eight points is good, but 10 points is coyote-hunting perfection.

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