Remember the old Road Runner cartoons with Wile E. Coyote. He was a smart old dog, capable of concocting elaborate schemes, traps and contraptions to try and catch his nemesis – the speedy but patient Road Runner.
What was Wile E. Coyote’s motivation? The answer is simple: predation. He wanted to EAT the Road Runner! But in the process of trying to do that, and despite his creativity and constant effort, Wile E. Coyote failed miserably and routinely. If he wasn’t falling off steep cliffs or being crushed by ACME anvils, he was getting flattened by steamrollers or blowing himself up with TNT.
His desire to eat made him make mistakes. Painful ones. But never fatal, since survival skills are pretty amazing in cartoon land. As predators like Wile E. Coyote ourselves, we can learn something from that lovable canine. We can learn that hunger makes our prey vulnerable. The yearning for food creates distractions and temptations that we can use to our advantage when harvesting game.
Since we’re on the subject of coyotes, let’s take a look at some tips and tactics that can put more fur in the skinning shack and help you control predators on your land. Harvesting these predators is a necessity for population control and a balanced ecosystem that gives small game, upland birds, waterfowl and even hoofed animals a fighting chance against the voracious ‘yote.
With all the following approaches to coyote hunting, visual and olfactory concealment is always critical. Wear camouflage that’s suited for the environment and season in which you’re hunting. And conceal your human odor just as you would do when hunting whitetails. That means washing your hunting clothes in scent-eliminating detergent and spraying everything down (yourself and gear) with Scent Killer. With scent control as part of your coyote hunting routine, you’ll collect a lot more animals.
Calling 101 - First and foremost, call where there are coyotes. Scout, and find areas with plentiful tracks and scat. Ask around, knock on landowners’ doors and locate good areas with a lot of animals. Then, focus your calling efforts on areas in or around good sources of cover. Sloughs, river bottoms, brushy draws, tree lines and other “obvious” cover are ideal.
When you set up, choose a good vantage point with cover behind you to break up your outline and with the sun behind your back or quartering over your shoulder. The wind should be crossing, so you can cover both upwind dogs and spot those who have circled around to get a downwind sniff of things.
Call from each stand site for 15-30 minutes, with a few minutes between calling intervals. The rabbit in distress call is your best friend. A mouse squeaker is great for up-close encounters and a coyote call (for howls, whelps, etc.) is a keen tool of the trade too. I can’t teach you how to call here, but if you’ve never done it I recommend one of many how-to DVDs on the market -- or an electronic caller that makes the sounds for you.
Baiting Basics - If you put meat out in coyote country (road killed deer, animal scraps, etc.), they will eat it. No doubt. The key is to be on the spot when they come to chow down. And nobody is interested in sitting for hours or days waiting for that moment. So if you’re going to bait, put your morsels in a spot that you can check easily from a long distance (using your binoculars). Also make it a location that allows you to quietly and easily sneak into an ambush position for a clean shot. Gravel pits and valleys make ideal baiting sites. It takes a bit of homework and thought to determine the ideal layout, but if you take the time you will get some great shots at coyotes!
Hunting at Night - Coyotes are extremely nocturnal animals. So if you’re looking for a thrilling adventure, try calling them after the sun goes down (in states where the laws allow it). A perfect scenario is a cold, calm evening between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM with snow on the ground and a bright moon overhead. Under these conditions, sometimes you can shoot coyotes without introducing any artificial light. But always come equipped with a spotlight, your rabbit and howler calls, and the right firearm for the job. Use fast, flat-shooting bullets for mid- to long-range and a 10 or 12-gauge shotgun with BBs if your shots are going to be inside of 40 yards.
Whenever you’re hunting coyotes, always remember one thing: Get inside the coyote’s head and understand that you are tempting him with food and he’s responding because he thinks he’s going to eat. Hunger is the motivation that will allow a coyote to let down his guard – and Wile E. Coyote’s mistake will be your victory. Just ask the Road Runner.
Clay Owens hunting Coyotes in Colorado