10 Common Mistakes New Coyote Hunters Make
By Troy Hoepker
When my publisher Patrick presented to me the idea of doing an article about the most common mistakes a rookie coyote caller might make, I started doing a lot of thinking about all the mistakes I’ve made hunting coyotes over the years. That’s when I realized that I might just be the most well qualified person to write such an article. I think I have made every mistake that a person could when dealing with Iowa’s sneakiest and wariest critter. I still make mistakes to this day. It’s something you never completely gain perfection of. But you learn from each mistake, analyzing the things that went wrong or went right and use that to become a better coyote hunter in the future. Hopefully by learning from my mistakes and what I consider to be some of the most common mistakes new hunters make on Iowa coyotes you can up your odds at success.
1: Don’t Try and Make Them Go Against Their Instincts
I start with this because sometimes it’s the mistakes that we never realize we are making that lead to consistent failure and it’s hard to correct an error when you don’t know you’re doing it. Too often I think new hunters don’t think like a coyote at all when first attempting to hoodwink their adversary. I cringe thinking how many people take their brand new Christmas gift Foxpro into the field, lay it on the ground and begin blaring sounds without any preconceived notion for how a coyote may respond.
Coyotes have certain tendencies they display on a regular basis when responding to a call. Trying to call a coyote out into a wide open place where he feels vulnerable as well as obvious to his prey is not a place where a coyote desires to be. It’s just unnatural for them. We have to give a coyote a sense that our location is a good place for them to use their senses and feel confident about their odds of success.
The same is true for how they approach another coyote that they may be unsure of. In either case of prey or coyote, when a coyote hears you they are generally more interested in coming to the call if they know they can either see it or wind it from a place that leaves them out of harm’s way. One of the worst things in Iowa I think new callers do is call to a spot where the cover that holds a coyote is in front of them and sit with a wide open expanse behind them that is their downwind. That downwind area may also be visible of a road as well. Coyotes hear the call but know full well to get around the sound, they’d have to expose themselves more than they’d like to get there and get a sniff. The result is a coyote that you never had a chance in calling up and you never realized it. Instead you walk out figuring that there were no coyotes there in that spot that day. A coyote hunts with its nose and instead of taking that away from them we need to use that to our advantage, not theirs. Remember first of all that you rarely call a coyote to where it doesn’t want to be.
2: If The Wind Is Wrong: Don’t Call!!!
Wind is probably the one single most factor that has determined success or failure to any coyote calling situation. It’s everything! From the moment you leave your truck, to the spot you call from and to how a coyote responds to your call. A coyote gets a whiff of you in any one of those steps and he is gone, plain and simple. So plan accordingly. I think another common mistake for those just starting out is that their desire to call a place with good coyote numbers is so great that even when they know the wind is marginal at best for calling the property, they don’t have the patience to wait for a better day. I once had a new caller tell me that he just couldn’t understand why he couldn’t call any coyotes at a farm we both hunted since he was catching them on trail camera all the time. He went on to tell me where he had been and that he had just tried it the day before our conversation and hadn’t seen a thing. Having intimate knowledge of the landscape and knowing full well what direction the wind was out of the day before, I was now certain why I hadn’t had any success at the same spot that year once I heard how many times he had been trying it. Sometimes our eagerness to call a coyote blocks out our attention to detail. If the possibility exists that you’ll broadcast your scent to the area where a coyote is at or to the area that he’ll travel to get to you without you being able to see him, wait for a better day.
3: Over-Hunting Your Spots
This one is pretty straightforward but I think it still demands a place on the list even for veteran coyote hunters. In relation to not calling a spot if the wind is wrong, it’s important to have numerous places to choose from when heading out to call coyotes. The wind won’t be right for all of them on any one given day so it’s important to have options. Over-calling one particular spot can and will lead to the spot drying up fast especially if you are calling up coyotes that get away. I’ve never seen a lot of harm in calling a spot not long after killing a solo coyote at that spot, but continued intrusion both physically and audibly at the same location can lead to call shy coyotes after time. You’re leaving your scent with each visit and coyotes do visit the areas where you have called from even after you were there trust me. Add to that any bad experience any coyote may have had while approaching your calling either seen or unseen and you have the recipe for making any further calling attempts there less successful. I try not to call any of the properties I hunt more than about once a month on average over the fall and winter. Keep that spot fresh.
4: Calling Too Much
Shut up a little will ya? Don’t take offense; I have to tell myself that too on occasion. It seems like whenever I’m in a slump and haven’t called a coyote in a while, the best thing I can do is make things simpler and grab one or two handcalls and make myself use them sparingly. It’s a constant reminder that to call coyotes in Iowa it doesn’t take using every sound on the e-caller to get them in. Last year I used three short series in taking a male that only heard the sounds spread out over the course of an entire half-hour. Remember that less is more sometimes. On the flip side of the coin, I’ve also called coyotes while letting my Foxpro run almost continuously but I’ve found the results are far less successful here in Iowa when using that method. Less calling means a coyote has to hunt harder for you, giving you a better chance of not being pinpointed, not being seen while you’re blowing on a call or operating a remote and a better chance of seeing it when it arrives. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that coyotes hearing sporadic calling come in more relaxed, slower of foot, and give the hunter a better chance of making the kill. Over calling leads to coyotes knowing exactly where you are thereby giving them the advantage of how they want to hunt you. Keep it a bit of a mystery!
5: Not Staying Long Enough
You can rarely make the claim that something is a sure thing when talking about the characteristics of any wild animal but there’s one thing I can say about hunting Iowa coyotes that you can take to the bank. If you’re only staying at your calling location for fifteen or twenty minutes in Iowa, you are missing out on coyotes and hurting yourself. You will call coyotes that take longer than that to show up I promise. In the years since I began keeping records, a coyote’s average response time from when I made my first sounds to the time I first spot it, averages between 12 and 14 minutes. I’ve called coyotes that showed themselves in the first minute and I’ve called coyotes that took up to an hour to show themselves, but that is the average time I’ve recorded. I’ve called in way too many coyotes at the half-hour mark not to sit at least that long before giving up. You’ll read plenty of articles and see plenty of television personalities tell you that if those little doggies haven’t came in fifteen minutes to move on to the next spot. Most of that testimony comes from those living in western states and only leads to educated coyotes when following that advice here in the Midwest. The only exception to that here may be for those spots that don’t harbor a lot of cover when trying to coax an Iowa coyote.
6: Don’t Rush It
When a coyote comes to the call, new hunters are sometimes way too eager to take the shot as soon as possible. This leads to moving to get a shot when you can’t get away with it, and also being too anxious at the time of the trigger pull. Sometimes it’s necessary to kill a coyote as soon as you can, but most of the time it’s better to be patient and let the coyote make the mistake. If they come in hunting you they’ll likely take some pauses or they’ll move behind some cover that lets you move on them. Never try and move when a coyote is standing still overlooking the scene. Wait till they are at a trot. While trotting, even when they see movement, they aren’t always sure about what they have seen and still allow for a shot. Do your best to shoot when that coyote is stopped and standing still if possible. You can manipulate a lot of coyotes into stopping right where you want them by simply barking, lip squeaking or even yelling ”Hey there!” Read their body language. If a coyote turns to head out, most of the time as long as he hasn’t been shot at, he’ll still be curious enough to look back one last time unless you know he’s really gotten a good whiff of you. Wait for them to stop or induce it with a voice howl or call of some kind. A high heart rate, off-hand, unsteady, or rushed shot is not what you want.
7: Know Your Gun
I wonder how many times I’ve had someone that wanted me to take them coyote hunting and when I asked what they’d be shooting, they’d tell me that they have an old 30/30 that they never use or that a buddy has a scoped rifle that they could borrow or something similar. We don’t go to the deer stand without knowing what our bow is capable of in our hands so why do we go coyote hunting without being familiar with our gun? Know your point of impact at different ranges with the ammo you are shooting, how the wind will affect the bullet’s path and make sure your scope is dialed in. It’s important to have that muscle memory with the safety and have a good fit and feel for the rifle. A shot at a coyote can come at any different range. With a shotgun, it’s important to know the effective range of your load. More coyotes possibly get away from hunter’s neglecting proper familiarity with their firearm than anything else.
8: Saying The Wrong Thing
As a new caller just learning it’s important to realize that every sound we make out there can trigger a negative or positive reaction from a coyote. It’s hard to know what sounds might do which! That’s why I always advise a new caller who’s wanting to use coyote vocalizations to start out friendly with female invitation howls, lonesome howls, whimpers and whines or pup distress. Those are the vocals that can cause the least amount of harm year round. If you’re unsure what set of ears may hear your calling, it’s best to stay friendly or submissive in nature. More aggressive sounds lead to submissive coyotes not coming at all or any coyote only showing itself from a far distance. If a coyote vocally responds to your calling I advise a new caller to mimic the sound they hear the best that they can on a howler back to them. It doesn’t always mean you’ll call them in but you will have a good learning experience for the future. Just remember that aggressive sounds are best suited for a situation that requires them and when used on a whim can lead to coyotes going the other way.
9: Keep Calling After The Shot
I think people don’t realize that even when a shot has been fired it’s worth it to sit a while longer and call again. All too often we kill a coyote and get right up to celebrate the success. Where there is one coyote, there may be two. Coyotes for whatever reason don’t always associate a gunshot with danger. I’ve called in additional coyotes after having killed one and I’ve also called coyotes back in after I’ve shot and missed. The key is understanding whether or not a coyote has seen something they didn’t like or caught a whiff of you. In either case calling that same coyote back in is unlikely, but there may just be one more nearby that is none the wiser.
10: Conceal Yourself Well, But Not Too Well
It’s important to find a place to sit that offers some concealment but you don’t want to close yourself off from the outside world either. I think some callers think they have to be buried deep into the bushes to make sure a coyote doesn’t suspect something is wrong but that is usually not the case. Break up your outline, get in the shadows, but don’t limit your vision of the area where a coyote could come and you’d never know it or God forbid get to a place where he can wind you without you seeing him. If you substitute limited movement, good eye scanning and elevated positioning usually a coyote is none the wiser to your location when he comes into the immediate area. Slow movement of the head and gun compensates for totally burying yourself in cover. Move when it’s wise to move while watching the coyote’s behavior. In heavier cover where your view is limited select calling sites that leave a coyote too vulnerable to escape the fast swinging target acquisition of a shotgun.