By Eric Christensen
Like in other types of hunting, coyote hunters have a wide variety of methods, calling sequences and tactics. The same methods and tactics used to hunt big game really do apply when hunting dogs. Scent and wind control, keeping your noise to a minimum when setting up and movement when calling are just a few topics to consider when venturing out for a day of calling dogs. Just because you can call in a dog doesn’t mean it is going to be easy. Remember, coyotes are still an animal of prey and opportunity.
Coyotes survive by being stealthy and using years of evolution to take notice of anything that seems strange. Even the most serious coyote hunters have messed up a calling sequence or two, but they have learned and modified what they do and when they do it to become more successful on each trip.
Here are some pointers and stand set up’s that a few die-hard dog killers have passed on to me from their experiences.
Animals use wind for survival, whether they are foraging on plants or meat. Keeping the wind in your face will increase the odds in your favor significantly. Never approach an area you intend to hunt and allow your scent to be spread out over your hunt area, as you will end your hunt before it ever begins. Coyotes rely on smell to determine if the meal is worth chasing or not. Smelling is one of the biggest advantages a dog has to find food, dead or alive. Even if the area you want to hunt has produced consistently for you, a fail wind could mean disaster if you place yourself in the wrong wind direction. Like most animals, coyotes will often circle downwind to verify their target with their nostril’s rather than their eyes.
Prior to grabbing your gear and heading off, here are a few things to consider that might have kept a dog at bay, rather than coming into your call.
Hiding your vehicle is one small aspect and I’ve failed here on a few occasions myself. A wary dog may flee away if he spots your ride on his way to the calls. Dogs live around roads and are conditioned to the noise of running engines, but a door slamming can be an alarm, especially if the area sees a lot of pressure from other dog hunters.
Safety is always a top concern when firearms are involved, but loading your magazine prior to leaving the truck, while leaving the chamber empty until the setup is ready, can put a few more percent of success in our pocket. If you’re hunting with a partner or two, make sure you discuss the plan of attack from the cab of your vehicle prior to heading out for a calling sequence. I’ve been extremely surprised at how far a human voice can carry in the wilderness. A dog can hear a mouse squeak from a couple hundred yards, so he is sure to pick up on your conversations if nearby.
Go over your mental checklist prior to walking to the area you intend to hunt. Making multiple trips back and forth to your truck to grab gear that you forget can cost you an opportunity at a dog. Be prepared, with your calls in a readily accessible pocket or pack. Check your battery status on your calls at home. Make sure you grab your gloves and your seat cushion. Preparation and the little things may seem insignificant, but like Murphy’s Law, something always seems to happen when you least expect it.
Being prepared will make a night and day difference for your hunt. Planning out every detail prior to stepping out of your truck puts you that much closer to becoming successful. That being said, even the most thought out hunt can go south quickly. But in my opinion, hunters that put in the time preparing and spending time in the field make their success a positive hunt, rather than a frustrating drive home.
Next, choose areas that have what dogs need – food, water and cover. Dogs can hunt in several miles of territory and will leave sign like any other animal you choose to hunt. Scat and tracks are the best indicators if the animal has spent any time in the area recently. If an area looks good and you think it will hold dogs, then by all means, get set up and call it. But, take notice if the sign is old or missing. Fresh sign and plentiful sign are big indicators that dogs have frequented the area. Some areas see more pressure that others and you really need to think out of the box to bag those call-shy coyotes.
Coyotes are among the most vocal predators in the world. They use howls to proclaim territorial boundaries and to let other coyotes know where they are. Using a howler call is a great way to find dogs willing to defend their turf by answering you back. One tip I learned this year, from a friend of mine who is a dog hunting fool, has proven priceless to me; he will get a dog to answer him with a howler locator call and then he will stalk into where he heard the dog. This is another great way and approach to killing dogs.
When planning out a stand, try and provide yourself with a good view of the landscape. Setting up with a slight elevation over a large sage flat or opening can help you see the dog first. I like a height advantage where I can see a long distance. This gives me crucial extra time to adjust my gun setup and make adjustments so I can get a crack at a dog as it works its way to my call.
Next, make sure you don’t skyline yourself when setting up above your hunting area. Coyotes have extremely keen vision and can pick up movement from a long distance. Always conceal yourself in the shadows if possible. You may want to find a rock pile or a thick, branchy tree, anything that will help to break up your appearance and mask any movement that a wily coyote would detect. Some hunters will even use a blind to conceal their movement. Remember, the key to ambushing a predator who makes a living from the death of other animals, is to become invisible. When you’re in your stand and calling, make sure to keep movements to a minimum and keep yourself blended into your surroundings.
Using a motion decoy can be very effective and allows you to have more options when setting up. The motion decoy will help draw in a dog that hangs up because he wants to see what is making the sounds. It also helps to distract the dogs’ attention and will help disguise your movements.
Using an electronic call in conjunction with a motion decoy is a great combo for effectively bring dogs in close to your setup. The new generation of electronic calls gives you the ability to use a variety of different calls in one setup. I really like that most electronic calls also give you a professional calling sequence.
3D decoys are another visual option to consider. There are several models available, from a coyote body, to rabbits and even gophers. They can be the difference between success and failure when trying to bring in dogs.
When calling, be patient after blasting out a series of calls. The dog might well have been called before and might be slow to come in. Just be patient and keep positive as you work your calling sequence. You might have piqued a coyote’s interest from a long distance and the travel time is longer than you would have thought. Not all dogs are going to be running full speed into your stand, in hopes of finding a free meal.
In closing, no hunting tactic or method can compare to experience. I would recommend that anyone interested in coyote hunting should try out many different setups and quiz your buddies about their techniques. Learn what type of areas hold dogs and where to set up for optimal success. If you blow a coyote out of the country, learn what happened and how to avoid it for the next setup.
The choice of handheld or electronic calling needs to be based off of your hunting preferences and budget. If you want the personal satisfaction of calling a dog in by a mouth blown call, then try out a few different calls to see which ones work the best for you.
Be sure to check your states’ hunting regulations regarding rules and requirements for hunting coyotes. Some states offer a bounty per dog killed. For those lucky enough to live in a state that does, you have an even greater incentive to hone your calling and setup skills. Getting paid to hunt is a dream for most hunters. It can also boost your motivation to get out and enjoy the outdoors.