A good buddy of mine was the first to arrive at the hunting shack. We were planning a weekend of grouse hunting, but he’d also packed his coyote hunting gear. He had just enough time for one setup before dark, and after checking the wind, he started sneaking along a tree row to climb into a deer stand.
The ladder stand sits at the corner of a swamp overlooking a pair of shooting lanes. One of the lanes dead-ends just shy of a small island of high ground in the tamarack swamp – an ideal spot for a coyote or two to bed up in the day. Knowing he might be close to a song dog, Ben started his calling with a very subtle rabbit squeal.
Half a minute later, a coyote was sitting on his haunches in the shooting lane, and a few seconds after that he was sprawled in the snow. Had Ben made even a bit of extra noise getting in, the hunt would have been over before it had even started.
Too many newcomers to predator hunting feel like coyotes will come charging for miles across open land to their calls. That is the exception for most setups, not the rule. To truly get good at calling in song dogs, it’s best to think in terms of deer hunting.
First of all, you’ll want to be close to where you believe the coyotes are likely to be. That seems so simple, but is often overlooked in attempts to set up where visibility is the greatest. And before you get set up, you need to think about the wind and the amount of noise you’ll make getting there. If you can’t approach quietly and relatively unseen, you’re in trouble.
If you do get set up ninja-style close to a shrub thicket, a wooded draw, or some other promising area, the next step is to give them a measured approach to calling. This is no different than trying to rattle up a buck on Halloween. Newcomers often clash rattling antlers together aggressively while attempting to mimic an all-out buck MMA fight. The reality is that most fights start with sparring, and so should your faux fights.
With coyotes calling, this strategy is a good idea as well. If you’ve already worked your way into hearing range, it doesn’t take much to coax a song dog out of the cover. Give him a couple of mouse squeaks, or soft rabbit-in-distress calls and get ready. It may take 30 minutes for a coyote to respond, or it may take 30 seconds if they are close enough to get an earful of soft calling.
If after 10 or 15 minutes or so you don’t get a response, then it can be time to ramp up and reach farther into cover with your calling attempts as you normally would.
If your setup doesn’t produce and you’ve got to relocate, stay stealthy. It’s easy to get frustrated and careless after a few Dead-Sea setups, but that is a mistake. If you’ve done your homework and are consistently calling into high-odds areas, you’ll get a response. Just be patient and channel your inner-ninja and you’ll be fine.