If you’ve ever been out coyote hunting, then you already know what kind of rush it can be to successfully call one of these intelligent and cautious creatures in and make a perfect shot. If you’ve never been out coyote hunting, well, then you have no idea the thrill you are missing.
Coyote is one of the few seasons that are open to hunters during the early months of the year, especially in Massachusetts. Turkey hunts are still a couple of months away, while game birds, bear and deer are too far away to even start getting excited about.
So, coyotes, which in Massachusetts are legal to hunt until March 28, are one of the few real thrilling hunts available right now.
Bringing a coyote in isn’t as easy as one might think, however. These animals are highly intelligent and are easily spooked away. One wrong movement can find them fleeing well away from harm before a hunter is even able to get the cross hairs settled on it.
Here are five good tips for the beginning coyote hunter to consider as they prepare to head out on their next hunt:
Keep an eye on the weather: This time of year, that sounds like a joke, right? Snow, snow and more snow, especially up here in the Northeast. But knowing what the weather is outside or in the coming days can really have an impact on your hunt. Take into consideration that cold temperatures tend to allow sound to carry farther than normal, especially if there is a light wind helping push it along. A hunter can call in a coyote with much more success in these conditions, but can also give away their position in an instant if not careful. The other side of that coin is a windy day, or a mild temperature, which can have the coyotes sitting tight and not moving, no matter how much you bait them with calls.
The time is now: Breeding season is the best time to be out hunting for coyote, just as it is for deer and any other game animal. Female coyotes tend to go into heat in January and well into February and it’s now that a hunter should work the woods and fields extensively. Hunt near known den sites to increase your chances, but this time of year you can find males traveling distances to find females in heat, often galloping through open fields or strolling along tree lines.
Steady your shot: Don’t be foolish and try to simply throw the gun to your shoulder and take a shot. You may not know this, but an effective kill zone on a coyote is barely bigger than a grapefruit, which means a shot from long range has to be spot on. The best way to increase your steadiness and accuracy is with a shooting rest, such as a gun-mounted bipod or even a shooting stick. The more stability you can give yourself, the better chance you have at bringing down a coyote at long distances.
Don’t skimp on scopes: Optics like binoculars and a high-quality scope are a must, with the former being far less valuable than the latter. Binoculars help you scan an area without having to have your gun up on your shoulder the whole time. Using a high-quality pair makes spotting animals in dwindling light conditions much easier than lower-quality lenses. But a high-quality scope is a must. Check out our review of the Nikon Coyote Special for one such scope, or pick up something that is higher end from top-quality manufacturers.
The right gun is key: Can you shoot a coyote with a 30.06? Sure. Will you kill it? Most likely. Is it an ideal gun for coyote hunting? Definitely not. Coyote hunters, at least successful ones, are darn good shots, especially on those long distance targets. Anyone can hit a paper plate-size target at 100 yards and take down a whitetail deer, but not nearly as many can hit a tennis ball at 300 yards. One of the ways a hunter can increase their odds of making a great shot at such distances is to use a flat-shooting gun, such as the .22-250, .223, .204 and the always-popular .243. These guns can shoot over long distances without the arc of a heavier caliber, making them ideal for the oft-needed long shot to take down a crafty coyote. Another tip when picking out a coyote gun? A heavy barrel. These guns weigh much more than a featherweight does, which gives them a lot of stability when being set up to shoot.
Photo: Justin Johnsen