By: Jay Meier
Think you’re a big time hunter? Shot a few whitetails in your day? Always take limits of pheasants out in SoDak? Or ducks and geese in NoDak? Well, my friends, there are hunters and then there are coyote hunters, and you better not confuse them. If you can hunt coyotes successfully, you are as good a hunter as there is.
Gonna step up? Excellent. Then its game on and your timing is perfect. Minnesota is full of prairies and broad farmlands, perfect coyote territory. The temperature has dropped to brutal. There’s fresh snow on the ground. The atmosphere is cold and the moon is shining brightly. The dogs pelts are full and thick and those critters need some calories to stay warm. So they are out hunting…and they hunt at night. The conditions are perfect! Are you ready? Here’s a few thoughts, if you’re just getting started.
Coyotes are so skeptical and will just sit off in the distance, maybe from some vantage point, where they can just watch for a while. You need to be absolutely still and have excellent camouflage. That old RealTree jumpsuit your wife bought you ten years ago? It’ll make you look like a black blob in a snow filled coyote set. You’ll need white and it better be beyond warm and waterproof.
Coyotes are a dog, of course, and have one of the strongest scenting abilities on the planet. You need to play the wind perfectly and understand that the coyotes will circle around what interests them, to check for scent indicators of danger. They will scent you from hundreds of yards away and back away before you even wonder if they’re there. These aren’t like that stupid deer that walked under your favorite stand last fall.
All this, means you need a long range shooting capability and a very accurate rifle. When they commit to their target, coyotes rush in. So, you need to be able to hit a running dog occasionally. That means a semi-auto is very helpful. So….Long range caliber, accurate, with semi-auto capability. This is why the AR is the rifle of choice, often in a .243 or other caliber that’s fast and flat shooting, but also that delivers enough energy to kill at distance. Your .223 Rem “can” work, but at range, it might be light for dogs.
Locating coyotes isn’t hard. They are EVERYWHERE. I mean that literally. If you think there aren’t coyotes near you, you don’t understand coyotes. They are in the countryside, small towns and major metro areas. That wildlife preserve, where your yuppie neighbor walks that stupid, worthless dog? They’re in there. That river trail, where you see all the yoga pants? They’re in there too. That trash can, in the alley behind your house? Yup. You never see them because….they are coyotes. One thing that coyotes do is call to each other, when they want to establish territory. That spooky howling is nothing but a warning they are in the area. Well, if you can make that noise, other coyotes might respond by howling back. So you can locate them if you want. You can buy hand callers that, when blown, make that noise. But you might consider listening to a YouTube clip of coyotes calling, so you don’t sound wrong to them.
As far as calling them to dinner and the kill shot, know that they are opportunistic. They respond to injured prey because it’s easier for them. They can burn fewer calories gathering new calories. Get an electronic caller with a remote control device. Set it out some 50-100 yards from where you intend sit. Set the caller on “injured rabbit” or other critters dogs frequently try to eat. Dogs aren’t picky about what they eat and callers scream the terror/death call of lots of different critters. Don’t be afraid to change it up once in a while, but rabbits are at the top of a coyote’s menu. Rabbits and other rodents live in cover. So, Minnesota prairies, farm fence lines, shelter belts and sloughs are great places to hunt. Incidentally, they love the smell of sheep and livestock. If you can set up near a farm that has livestock pastures, you increase your odds of calling a hungry coyote.
You need to be able to glass and shoot without moving and without the dog scenting you. So you want to sit in a place where you have clear glassing and shooting opportunities at distance, like a hillside that over looks livestock pasture, prairie and
slough. Ideally, you want to sit relative to the caller, such that the coyote doesn’t wind you while it scopes out the caller location. And then you sit and wait….still and quiet…while that caller screams bloody murder. Many avid coyote hunters lay in the prone position, with a bipod on their scoped rifle, with good binoculars handy. This way they don’t have to move much, if they see that ghost sitting or even pacing around at 250 yards. Or how about 400 yards? Better be ready for that…
“Sure, but how long do you wait?” Coyotes range long distances throughout the night. They are so smart and spooky, that they wont waste a lot of time in questionable circumstances. You might think your set is perfect, but that doesn’t mean the dog does. So, prepare for a long night of yote-hunting by scouting out several locations. If you find yourself starting to wonder that something might be wrong, there’d a good chance the local coyotes already came to that same conclusion. Don’t be afraid to pack up after an hour, to reset at a new location. And, if you get ONE, you’re doing better than most guys.
You’ll need a valid hunting license for wherever you hunt. Depending on the State, you might need an additional Predator or Varmint License. They aren’t expensive. You also should know that the pelts often have value, especially if taken during coldest times, when the pelt is thickest. Many states or municipalities still offer bounties for coyote pelts. Unfortunately, many coyote hunters think they don’t need to ask for permission to hunt private land, but this pisses some farmers off. It’s stupid because livestock farmers hate coyotes and frequently welcome you shooting them. You’re doing them a favor. So don’t be afraid to ask permission. Some taxidermists and tanneries will buy the pelts from you. Im not gonna get into skinning or tanning a coyote, but better do some research on that because it isn’t easy, like ripping up a pheasant.
So now you have the basics. Good luck and stay out of my sets, rookie. Hehe….