Published in December 2004

The deer seasons are nearly over, little hunting is left, except late season rabbits and squirrels, and it’s a long time until spring.  But there’s still a sport worth pursuing, a sport that’s tough and challenging, and is both new and different.  That’s seeking big and hungry coyotes with a predator call.  Coyotes have been around our area in good numbers for at least ten years, but they’re seldom seen and little hunted or trapped.

Some are taken each winter by large groups of hunters who go out on weekends, surround a square, and move in toward its center.  Trappers get a few, and other hardy folk hunt them with dogs to make a good kill.  But calling in coyotes is a new sport in Ohio, and it can be productive as at least a few ooutdoorsmen are finding out.

Remember calling for foxes, a sport that peaked in the 70’s and early 80’s?  Nearly all of the animals that were shot were greys, which are basically extinct in Ohio now, rather than much warier and smarter reds that tend to hang up at 80 – 100 yards and refuse to come in closer.  But coyotes will come, though they’ll hang up too, and getting them in range is an exciting business.

One outdoorsman told me about his experiences calling coyotes.  “I bought a Primo rabbit squeal last summer,” he said, “but never called anything in.  Then during deer gun season I saw three nice coyotes while I was up in my tree stand, and one came to within 30 feet, a big, really impressive animal.”  As soon as gun season was over, he hurried back to that farm with a Ruger .223 rifle and a 6-12 power variable scope.  He wore full camouflage, of course, and hunted from a ground blind, but had no luck on his first two hunts.

On the third visit he climbed back into his original tree stand before dawn, waited until good light arrived, and started a pattern of calling like a wounded rabbit for a minute or two, then waiting 15 minutes before another series of calls.  After about 45 minutes a big coyote walked out into the field and stood there looking in his direction.  It was 250 yards away, so he called again and got ready.  It moved closer.  More calls.  A bit closer.  At 200 yards he took a firm rest on a tree limb, waited until it tuned broadside, and touched off a round.  His kill weighed between 30 and 40 pounds. 

If you’re thinking of trying this new sport, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.  First, the experts say that coyotes have a larger range than foxes, so don’t expect one to come racing in at every stop.  Wear full camouflage, pick some good cover as high as possible for good visibility, sit with the wind in your face or quartering, and the sun behind you if possible.  Expect to call at each stop for at least 45 minutes, because these animals can hear that rabbit squeal for quite a distance and may need time to reach you.  And do it slowly, a short series of calls, then a 15 minute or so wait.

Use a flat shooting rifle too, a .223, .22-250, a .222 Swift, or a .243, and remember that both coyotes and red fox will usually hang up at 100 yards or so and look the situation over.  So, sight the rifle in at 100 yards.  And don’t forget night hunting with a shotgun, especially over snow with a full moon that gives good visibility.  They feel safer then, and will often charge to within easy range looking for a meal.  It’s a new sport, but plenty of coyotes are out there, and their pelts are worth about $10 each.  That’s enough to pay for gas and travel.  The thrills and adrenalin surge are free.

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