The empty sage flats in western Utah’s West Desert stretch on for unbroken miles, but the landscape is surprisingly full of life. Horned toads, jackrabbits and flitting lizards are everywhere, and so are coyotes. Federal’s Tim Brandt waits for a long-distance coyote to give him an open shot.
Good optics are required gear in this wide-open country. We used Weaver’s Grand Slam binos in the 10×50 configuration to shrink the big landscape into visually digestible chunks.
The best coyote hunting in the West Desert is well off the main roads, dozens of miles from the nearest blacktop. We camped every night under the clear Utah sky in order to maximize our time in the field.
There’s just no substitute for the high-pitched, high-volume calling of an electronic predator call. FOXPRO’s call is loaded with more than a hundred digital recordings of prey animals in distress, but we used the same three jackrabbit screams.
For close-in calling, guide and coyote-hunting fanatic Cory Lundberg used mouth calls. His favorite is a high-pitched mouse squeaker to interest otherwise call-shy desert coyotes.
The name of the game here in Utah is run-and-gun hunting. In an average hour we would make three or even four stands, calling for a few minutes and then moving on if we didn’t strike a coyote. We carried Cabela’s portable Gobbler Lounger chairs so we always had a ready seat on the open ground.
My first coyote of the trip came in on a string with its mate. A lone coyote responded to the call first, but either smelled or spotted us. This rangy Utah coyote and its partner weren’t as savvy, and I dumped it with a single shot from my .204 at about 250 yards.
For as many coyotes as we saw, our success in killing them was limited. Coyotes either scented us, or spied some motion or snuck in to the call under cover of the towering sagebrush.
Lundberg drags a coyote to the pickup. In three days of hunting, we killed just a handful of coyotes, and most were within sight of the valley floor where irrigated agriculture attracts mule deer, upland birds and rodents. All those prey species also attracts coyotes.
The West Desert is laced with remote two-track roads. We’d drive these roads, most of which run along dry washes, then take a short walk over the ridge to call to coyotes that were oblivious to the presence of our pickup.
Our arsenal covered all the bases. I had three rifles: my go-to Howa Axiom in .204, a Cooper .22-250 for longer shots and a Ruger .223 to handle Federal’s new TNT Green varmint bullets. But I also brought along my 870 to shoot Federal’s hot new coyote shotshell. Called Coyote Heavyweight, it shoots BB-sized pellets at over 1,300fps and will deliver 80 percent of the payload in a 30-inch circle at 80 yards.
Our optics line included Weaver’s bright new Super Slam riflescopes. The 3-15×42 with side focus topped my .223.
Khaki-colored and savvy, coyotes can be hard to pick out of the sagebrush. But by sitting still and waiting for the predators to come to the call we were able to detect their motion, wait for them to drop out of sight along a fence line or a dry creek bed, then adjust our rifles and wait for the perfect shot.
Along the desolate Utah/Nevada state line, coyotes are in every scene, even if they don’t always follow the script.