Two coyotes coming fast, I said to myself, thinking a double was about to materialize. That’s when two more coyotes materialized, and instead of a double, I started thinking trouble.
It was December 2, and the pack barreling toward my medley of calls was likely an overexuberant band of siblings. Unfortunately, their rushing entrance was likely leading to a quick encounter. As scenarios played out in my mind, a shift in the wind or the sixth sense of one of the coyotes shouted danger. The entire packed skidded to a halt, then started a fast retreat.
Luckily, I had my decoy dog, Sage, waiting in the wings. She was already whining under her breath, and with a “Get ‘em” command, she was off. One of the young coyotes stopped to check out Sage long enough for me to put my laser rangefinder to use: 430 yards. Five seconds later, I sent a bullet and enjoyed the delayed smack of success (photo above).
Why Waiting Reduces Your Chances
December coyote hunting can be some of the best of the season for many reasons, including the frantic hunt I enjoyed recently. Coyote pups oftentimes still hang together, meaning if one comes to the call, they all come to the call. They’re also uneducated and fall for almost any ruse.
Like many of you, deer hunting takes up most of my fall free time. I put predators on the backburner, but not for too long. Many of my friends don’t hunt coyotes until after the New Year because of deer hunting and holiday obligations. Not me. December coyote hunting rocks!
Another reason to consider coyote hunting earlier than later is hunting pressure. As snow and cold increases, so does hunting pressure. You simply must look at the increasing number of coyote calling contests in the West to gauge the intensity coyotes feel. Starting in December and going nearly into spring, you can find a coyote calling contest every weekend in a nearby zip code.
To get your dose of December coyotes, start with a high-quality electronic caller. There’s a big bonus to using a remote-control caller, such as the Cabela’s SLP Game Call powered by FOXPRO (above). By placing it upwind of you, and situating yourself downwind with an open shooting lane, you can distract a predator away from your location. More importantly, you direct a coyote away from your scent stream.
Choosing a sound to entice uneducated coyotes is like going shopping at a Cabela’s store. There are just so many options! You can’t go wrong by pushing the button on your electronic caller to depict the cries of rodents or small game in distress. Pups are still polishing their hunting skills and love an easy meal. Fawns in distress also will lure coyotes, especially a group competing for a grand feast.
Confidence calls scattered throughout can calm the nerves of young coyotes, too. The most soothing sounds come in the form of birds, particularly crows and magpies. Crows infest most coyote skies. They offer coyotes an aerial indicator of food sources when masses of crows congregate and caw, plus they boost confidence that everything is okay. Include crow caws, crow fights and crow squabbles.
You can either start a prey-in-distress set with crow calls, or integrate them later. If you hunt mainly Western real estate, magpie squawking has a similar effect. They are the scavenger kings of the Rockies. I use magpie sounds on 50 percent or more of my setups, and real magpies almost always show up to fulfill the effect.
Coyote vocalizations can also be an aid in building the confidence of coyotes listening to your sounds. For December coyotes, there’s no reason to ramp up the “alpha” message of your calls. Stick with lone, friendly howls to let area coyotes, especially youngsters, know an intruder is passing by. Distress calls tell nearby coyotes that the table is being set, and crow or magpie sounds complete the confidence scheme. They all work in harmony.
Although I don’t like to sound too menacing during an early season setup, I find that one sound can increase the incoming tempo of coyotes: canine competition. These sounds imitate the rivalry of siblings arguing over that last drumstick. Coyotes routinely squabble and nip each other, trying to get the best seat at the dinner table. Those audible arguments build confidence and enthusiasm to any coyote en route. Follow your sounds of prey-in-distress with the occasional sounds of canine bickering.
If you really want a complete sham, add in a decoy. My decoy happens to be my coyote dog, Sage, but luckily you can skip the year-round maintenance of a live decoy and find one in the aisles of your local Cabela’s store.
Coyote decoys break down into two groups: predator and prey. The majority of coyote decoys are designed to imitate prey either in a static pose, or animated with Energizer battery help. Mojo Outdoors, FoxPro and other companies manufacture a variety of floppy, fur-covered contraptions to appear as prey in fatal distress. When energized, these furry devices whirl for hours to attract coyotes into shooting range, and distract them away from your downwind location.
You can also put out a coyote decoy to attract and ultimately distract an incoming canine. A top option includes the Lucky Duck Yote coyote decoy. These prove to be especially helpful in making coyotes believe the howling they heard came from a real canine buddy. Your coyote lookalike also comes in handy later in February when breeding ensues and coyotes are on the prowl for love interests.
Innovative companies even package decoys and electronic callers together. Place out your caller/decoy combo and the sounds, plus the decoy, will lure a coyote well away from your hideout as you operate it with remote control.
Lastly, as you check gear off your list of coyote must-haves, don’t forget to pack along a selection of hand calls. They still prove useful in certain situations, and may tip the scale in your favor when a subtle, or specific sound is required to seal the deal. The ability to vary volume and quickly send out a sound are bonuses of a hand call like the Primos Catnip. Fumbling with volume buttons, especially with heavy gloves on, can be nearly impossible when a coyote is racing your way.
December might seem like the best time to catch up on home chores after deer season and string Christmas lights, but it’s also a top month to add fur to your winter take.
This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.
Top image by Mark Kayser