Abundant, cunning and highly elusive with acute senses,
coyotes, bobcats and foxes offer incredibly challenging sport.
Often considered a nuisance animal, coyotes can provide exciting hunting all
year long without limit in many states, giving sportsmen something to do
between other seasons. The best hunting typically takes place in late winter or
early spring. At that time, temperatures remain cool and sportsmen can see long
distances before foliage begins to grow again. In late winter, food may become
scarce, so hungry predators respond better to calls.
"Coyotes have exceptional hearing and smell, but are curious; that's their
weakness," said Rod Haydel of Haydel
Game Calls (www.haydels.com) in Bossier City, La.
"Most predator calls imitate an injured animal. Coyotes might think that an
animal in trouble would make an easy meal. There's no right or wrong way to
blow a rabbit in distress call. Just make it sound like a baby crying and
coyotes will hear it."
Coyotes, foxes and bobcats all respond to calls that mimic animals in
distress. Other good calls for "song dogs" include fighting or mating calls and
howling. They might also answer a crow or owl call, tipping off hunters to
"For coyotes, I have better luck with rabbit in distress calls," said
legendary game caller Harold Knight (www.knightandhale.com)
of Cadiz, Ky.
"Cats like higher pitched calls. For bobcats, I usually have better luck with
bird calls. I've seen cats come running as hard as they could when I made a
squealing bird call and not stop until they get within 10 feet of us."
Skilled callers such as Knight typically prefer to blow mouth calls. Others
may prefer to use electronic units that can play various recordings. Sportsmen
can buy varied recordings, some made by experts or others using actual
recordings of live animals.
"I prefer to use mouth calls," said Sheri Baity
with Crow's Nest Calls (www.crowsnestcalls.com)
in South Williamsport, Pa. "When I call coyotes, I create a
scenario for them. I start with a male coyote barking. To answer that male,
I'll make a female chirping call. Then, I'll use a crow call as if a crow
flying over saw those two coyotes. Then, I'll add a rabbit call and then go
into a fight scene as if the coyotes are fighting over the rabbit. All that can
be done in 45 seconds."
Baity emphasized using sounds animals naturally
expect to hear at that place and time. For instance, where cats and coyotes
prey heavily upon turkeys, a turkey call coupled with a decoy might prove highly
effective. During mating season, she often uses courting calls. In the spring,
she often uses deer fawn or doe bleats.
"In late winter or early spring, I start with a male barking and follow it
with an estrus chirp," she said. "Then, I do another male barking to sound like
three coyotes. After that, I do a fight scene over the female and some enticing
whining from the female. From late December through February, I use breeding
calls with female in estrus chirping. Then, I throw in a dying rabbit call just
to mess with them."
Most hunters sit with the wind blowing in their faces so it doesn't carry
their scent in front of them. However, most predators also move with the wind
in their faces when hunting. A bobcat might sneak up behind a hidden hunter,
particularly one blowing a distressed animal call, without that person ever
seeing the cat. Instead, hunt with the wind blowing crosswise for better
visibility and awareness.
Transitions lines between forests and fields provide excellent places to bag
predators. Although shots may occur at long range over cow pastures, powerlines or fields, sometimes predators stealthily
approach close and may disappear without the sportsman ever seeing the animal.
Many predator hunters team up for better success. One hunter with a rifle might
look out over a field while a partner with a shotgun looks back into the thick
"I've had coyotes come right into where I was and then detect me and take
off running," Knight said. "A bobcat typically sneaks in low to the ground and
will usually be more discreet than a coyote. A young cat will sometimes come in
running. Often, I use a shotgun to shoot running predators."
Since coyotes prey upon livestock, poultry and sometimes even family pets,
many landowners enthusiastically welcome predator hunters. Some hunters make
extra bucks by shooting predators. A good cat pelt may fetch up to $100.
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