Putting Your Shotgun Crosshairs on a Coyote
The Tips in Taking Down Coyotes with a Shotgun
The Ideal Setup
Put your caller and decoy 80 yards crosswind of your stand. Coyotes usually circle downwind of the decoy to scan the area with their noses, and the setup is designed to bring them into your lap. The decoy isn’t just an attraction, it’s a distraction, too, that keeps the coyote’s eyes off of you. Shooting sticks will help you steady your shotgun for long attempts when coyotes hang up. Just as important, they let you keep your gun up and ready, because coyotes, unlike turkeys, don’t gobble to tell you they’re coming.
A head-on or quartering-on shot is best, so put your cross hairs on the coyote’s chest. For broadside chances, shoot behind the shoulder to hit the lungs. If all you see is the head peeking out of the brush at close range, that’s what you shoot. Some fatally hit coyotes require blood-trailing like a deer, but 80 percent of them fall over on the spot.
When a coyote is close, you should move only when it’s behind some brush or looking at a decoy. If one comes running in, bark—by mouth or on a call—to stop it. It works, some of the time. When barking doesn’t work to stop a close-in, running coyote, you kick yourself on the way to the truck if you brought a rifle. If you brought a shotgun, you carry a coyote out with you.
How To Find Coyotes In Your Area
No amount of calling will work if there aren’t any predators around to hear it. One way to discover what’s out there is to check with local ranchers and farmers. In the West, talk to any sheepherders you run across as they often know where coyotes have their dens.
Still, there’s no substitute for searching for coyote sign on your own. Dirt roads are good places to start looking, as predators like to travel on them, and surfaces will show fresh tracks and scat.
Off the roads, coyotes often hunt along well-worn routes, or runways, that may form junctions at high vantage points. If you live in the north, a covering of snow will make finding fresh tracks a relatively easy matter. Look for dens in extremely thick cover on the sides of arroyos, riverbanks, and dry slopes. Scouting predators is hunting, and you should always have your calls and rifle with you. Coyotes are visually oriented animals, so move stealthily. Don’t let yourself be silhouetted when you top a ridge. Use cover as you move, and pay attention to the wind.
No mammal in North America is more vocal than the coyote. Use an electronic call to take advantage of this trait. Set up on ridges and above canyons to howl or make prey sounds in the hope of getting coyotes to call back, revealing their location. The best times to try this are in the late evening and early morning, when coyotes are back at their den.
More Calling Tactics
Coyotes mostly prey on small game such as rabbits, squirrels, prairie dogs, and birds as well as smaller “game” such as mice. To draw a coyote into range, use a call that imitates the screams and distress calls of a dying rabbit or other critter. Coyotes can’t resist those cries and will come sneaking in from long ranges to check out the source. There is nothing wrong with using an electronic call (where legal), but the real excitement comes when you pull in a predator with a mouth call. The two choices are closed- and open-reed models.
Closed-reed mouth calls have the advantage of being simple to use. The problem is that while you can produce different tones by varying the air pressure, most closed reeds sound pretty similar. In an area with hunting pressure, and where most hunters use closed-reed calls, coyotes quickly learn what those sounds mean. Because of this, the preference is open-reed calls. The synthetic materials of these reeds are also less likely to freeze than the metal in many closed-reed models. Open reeds are tougher to use at first, but they’re worth the trouble.
Time of year can make a big difference in determining which calls work best. From late September through November, coyote dens are breaking up, the pups dispersing to form their own packs. Howling, especially that reminiscent of a dominant male, may intimidate them. Stick to distress calls, which promise food. In February and March, when coyotes are looking for partners to mate with, howling may work, too. There’s no cut-and-dried answer to the question of how long to call. Predators usually respond within 20 minutes, though you may want to persevere in the presence of a lot of sign.
If a front moves in and you find yourself calling in high winds and rain, it’s best to hang it up for another day. Just be certain to scan the area before moving, in case there’s a coyote making a last-minute run to your location.