There are several ways to hunt coyotes. Calling them in is always an exciting and rewarding way to pursue them, yet it can sometimes humble even the savviest of hunters—let alone those that are new to the sport. Baiting them, where it is legal to do so, is another viable and productive option. This usually requires you to place the bait somewhere you can be within sight of most of the time. Then there is running them with dogs, which can be a very effective way to get the job done to do your part to help protect fawns and small game.
Coyote hunting fills a void during our coldest months after most other hunting seasons have closed, and before warm-weather spring outdoor pursuits begin. Besides that, coyotes are nuisance predators whose numbers need to be kept in check. Coyotes were once considered rare or uncommon in some Midwestern states until the 1970s. Since then, they have proven to be both extremely adaptable and prolific breeders. Their numbers are likely to remain quite high, especially in the Midwest, for years to come. Hunting them is the only way to keep these animals’ populations from exploding.
To hunt them with dogs or by pushing them (walking through sections or woodlots in order to get them up and hopefully into range of a waiting hunter) requires snow, lots of hunters, and lots of permission. The snow is so that you can spot tracks. Once tracks are spotted you can do one of two things. If they look fresh and you have dogs, you can put the dogs on the tracks and see what happens. Otherwise, you can see if the tracks cross any other roads. If they do not, then you know that the coyote is still in that section and you can send a couple of guys walking through it.
The more the merrier
Ideally there will be plenty of hunters, with at least four of them doing the shooting on any given setup. This is so that each side of the designated cover that the coyote may be in can be covered. This will reduce the chances that the coyote crosses one of the roads and slips into the next section. Find a ditch, fencerow, or the like on each side of the area you expect the coyote to come out of and place hunters there. If there is not a ditch or fencerow on all four sections, just have them crouched down in the field or standing in some sort of cover.
Love the one you’re with
If you get into a situation where different hunters in your group have seen multiple coyotes, be sure not to make the mistake of splitting up and trying to go after them at the same time. Stick to one coyote at a time and go back after the other(s) once you are finished running the first one, otherwise you are likely to strike out on all of them.
During one particular hunt, our group ran three coyotes out of a block of timber. The coyotes split up and headed in different directions, but one of them came by me heading north and I missed my shots at him. He ended up crossing the road into the next section. As we were putting a couple of dogs on his tracks, some of the others in our group decided to drop a few dogs on the other two, who had gone west. What ended up happening was that after separating, each of our groups ran our coyotes but never got them because we did not have enough hunters left to cover all four directions of the coyotes’ possible escape routes, resulting in the coyotes slipping away from us.
Do your homework
Hunting coyotes in this manner usually leads to several square miles of ground being covered. Coyotes can sometimes cover a lot of ground very quickly; be sure not to hunt on land that you do not have permission to. Let an errant coyote go, or see if he eventually gets back onto ground you can legally hunt.
As for firearms, we almost always use shotguns when hounding coyotes. In certain situations and conditions rifles will work, so we usually have one with us. It is just imperative that you make very certain to only utilize the rifle when shooting in open areas with no houses or buildings for miles, and if you are certain that there are no other hunters in your group that are downrange.
It seems as if the number of sportsmen getting together each Saturday morning to go coyote hunting with dogs is diminishing these days. If you get the chance to do it, or better yet, form a group of hunters to do it and gain enough required permission, you will certainly be doing your part to help your local small game population.