Tips for a Successful Coyote Hunt
Written by Michael Duong
Edited by Mark Butler
Coyote hunting is a popular hobby for many people. Some hunt coyotes for the sport, while others hunt them to protect livestock and game animals. Regardless of the reason for hunting them, 400,000 coyotes are hunted or trapped each year. 80,000 of those kills are conducted by the federal government as population control. If you live near wooded areas, coyotes are probably established – and it’s not uncommon for them to be found in suburban neighborhoods, too. Even though they’re present, that doesn’t mean you can locate them easily. Various methods and tactics can help you get a good idea of where the coyotes are and how to lure them.
First and foremost, you need to study coyote habits and movements. Scouting the land before you hunt is essential. If you have never seen them in the area, scouting will tell you if there are any on that particular piece of land. For those people who are dealing with coyotes killing livestock, search for signs: pawprints, blood, and disturbed vegetation can indicate where they are dragging and storing carcasses. Be on the lookout for feces as well—it will tell you what their diet consists of and can give you a rough estimate of how many are in the vicinity. Look for game trails and where the coyotes travel in relation to those trails. A game trail can tell you what direction the coyotes like to come from. When you’re scouting, listen for any calls they make. Coyotes are very vocal animals and the sounds they make, high-pitched barks and yips, can tell you a lot about their location.
Like many predators, coyotes are also scavengers when opportunities arise. After a successful whitetail hunt, for example, and after you dress the deer, make a note of where you leave the deer’s remains. More than likely, a coyote or other predator will soon come in for a quick and easy meal. You can use this to your advantage by placing the remains within sight of your hunting blind. Feral hog hunting is extremely popular here in Texas, and it’s not uncommon to shoot dozens of feral hogs in a single night. Since the hogs are usually shot for the purpose of eradication instead of traditional hunting, the meat isn’t always taken. This often leads to hunters leaving entire hog carcasses out for the coyotes. Even if you don’t see any coyotes while doing this, the carcasses are seldom still there, as the predators will probably haul off the hogs after you’ve left the hunting area. Some hunters make their own coyote bait by saving the scraps and bones from processing deer and freezing them in a bucket with water, making a type of “coyote popsicle.” Baits and liquid lures can be purchased at retailers as well, which provide varying degrees of effectiveness. Be sure to check your local laws and regulations for baiting coyotes. Some states don’t allow using certain baits such as wildlife parts, and other states only allow baiting during designated seasons.
If you’re still having trouble finding coyotes, a decoy dog might be able to provide useful assistance. Coyotes are naturally scared of humans and see us as a threat. However, they are also naturally curious creatures. They are less wary of dogs since domestic dogs and coyotes are both considered canids; coyotes will actually often approach dogs, or even try to attack them for encroaching on their territory. Decoy dogs are trained to go out and search for coyotes and lure them back to their masters. Think of them as the best possible hunting partner. Not every dog can be a decoy dog though, and the ones that succeed are extensively trained. Using an untrained decoy dog runs the risk of your dog getting hurt or killed. Obedience is key when training a dog for hunting coyotes. A good decoy dog can operate independently of its master when tracking coyotes at far away distances, but will immediately return if it can hear the command. Some hunters utilize collars that vibrate or beep to signal the dogs to return if they are too far for verbal commands. Decoy dogs will find coyotes and “play” with them, attempting to goad the coyote into attacking. Eventually, the coyote will attack, and the decoy dog will run back to its human. Because they’re often within biting distance of the coyote, some decoy dog hunters will outfit their dogs with protective gear. Most hunters will do everything they can to protect their decoy dogs because for many, they’re not just a hunting dog, they’re considered family. Common breeds used as decoy dogs are generally different types of curs, heelers, shepherd and retrievers. Even pit bulls have been known to be used as decoy dogs. Although breed does matter, what matters more is a combination of intelligence, obedience and physical build.
Calls and Decoys
The most common method of coyote hunting is with the use of artificial calls and decoys. Calls come in a variety of types but can typically be divided into electronic or mouth calls. They replicate various sounds known to draw coyotes in, such as a rabbit in distress. Not all calls draw them in by enticing them with a meal though; other sounds will use a coyote’s curiosity against them by playing something like coyote pup cries. Mouth calls are generally limited to only one noise and require some skill to get right. They are much cheaper than electronic calls, though they don’t have as many features. Electronic calls can be placed down-field so the coyote travels toward the calling device instead of heading towards the hunter, like they would with a mouth call. Electronic calls have the benefit of holding many different call options, sometimes up to a few hundred.
Decoys can also be very useful. They work by drawing the coyote in visually instead of with sound. Some decoys are just plastic coyotes while others are more intricate and have a moving fur animal tail which tends to drive coyotes crazy. Some higher end devices will combine electronic calls with motion decoys and can be controlled through remotes or Bluetooth.
Thermal and Night Vision
Coyotes are most active at night – they have great night vision. Humans, however, can’t really see at night too well. Nighttime optics such as thermal and night vision completely reverses this situation, though. Thermal devices use sensors to highlight heat signatures so animals stand out against cool backgrounds. When looking at a coyote through a thermal device, they will look like they’re glowing, making it very easy to spot them. Some thermals, like Pulsar’s Helion 2 XP50 handheld thermal monocular, boast a detection range of 2,000 yards and have features such as 8 different color palettes, Wi-Fi integration and built-in photo and video recording. Thermal devices are great for spotting, but they don’t show fine detail. For that, digital night vision is the answer. Digital night vision devices use sensors to detect invisible infrared light and make it visible to the user’s eye. The Digex N455, also made by Pulsar, is a great rifle optic for night hunting since it shows fine detail not available with thermal devices. It has a 550-yard detection range, on-board recording and connectivity with a smartphone through Pulsar’s Stream Vision app. Although both types of products work well on their own, many hunters will combine the two. Thermal for finding the coyote, and then switching to a night vision or digital scope to take the shot. A major improvement that these devices have over traditional night vision is the ability to be used during daytime hours.
With the rise of coyote populations across the country, more people are getting into coyote hunting. It can be a very fun pastime and coyote management can be a very useful tool for farmers. Coyotes are very adaptable animals, so if you’re going out and not seeing any, don’t be discouraged. They’re likely there, and with practice, you might be able to get some nice pelts and a cool coyote-hunting story or two.