The sun was just spreading its first rays across the landscape of the beanfield in front of us. It was peaceful, calm and quiet. Yet, you would have never known that moments earlier there had been such a struggle for life take place across that tranquil field. You wouldn’t have known that two coyotes had just barely witnessed their last sunrise before now laying flat on the bean stubble, over a hundred yards apart and that there had been such gunfire of four consecutive shots disrupting the morning’s silence or that there had been such a display of speed in desperate flight to escape and such dramatically instantaneous life ending energy pounded into their bodies swiftly eliminating two of the area’s most dominant predators. You wouldn’t have known that anything had happened. Oh but it did, in one of last year’s most exciting hunts for us!
We weren’t planning on these coyotes. Weren’t even planning on hunting that spot at all. But as happenstance would have it, I spotted a coyote mousing along a waterway in the first minutes of dim light near the road we were traveling on the way to what was supposed to be our first hunting location. Never one to pass up an opportunity, I checked the plat book quickly and while I didn’t have permission on the land the coyote was on, I did have standing permission on the “L” shaped farm that bordered it to the west and to the south. Having never called it before, it was indeed time to give it a try.
My calling partner, Mark Johnston, and I drove over the hill from the lone coyote we had seen and parked the truck nearly a half-mile from his last known location. Quickly gathering our gear, we hoofed it over the hill to the south towards a creek that led back to the east where we had last left that coyote. He would likely be traveling up that same creek towards us or headed south towards a different field. Either way, we hoped to get into position quickly and call him to us on land where we could get him.
After getting settled in, with Mark sitting out in front of me a bit to the east, the sun broke over the horizon and began to blind us. It wasn’t ideal but it was the only position we could likely call this coyote in from on this farm. It would have to work. Sometimes you just have to make it work. And work it did, as my initial series of mouth calling brought that song dog right up out of the creek ditch into the very beanfield we were sitting along to our southeast. As I put my eye in the scope the sun was pouring right thru the other end of the tube. That coyote stood almost directly under the sun coming up behind him!
Luckily, we had a negotiable customer and the coyote dilly-dallied just long enough for me to finally find a sight picture I felt comfortable enough to use for pulling the trigger. At the crack of the shot, the coyote fled back into the creek ditch behind him and out of sight. Within moments, not one but now two coyotes broke loose from the cover on the opposite side of the ditch, both in high gear and headed across the adjacent beanfield forming an ever increasing V-pattern as they ran. I settled in on the closer coyote that was running parallel and slightly quartering away and as I pulled the trigger I heard Mark’s rifle report as well. Regardless of all the gadgets and high tech tools used for coyote calling on the market today, the best thing you can have with you undoubtedly is a partner who can hit a coyote on a dead run at close to two hundred yards, and Mark’s shot was proof of that, as mine missed its mark. The farmer may have had to harrow out the furrow that coyote made as he seemingly plowed a trench in the ground ten feet long before skidding to a stop.
Now where was the second coyote? Quickly I cycled the bolt and acquired the second coyote now making his way more directly away from us up the side-hill at a slightly quartering away angle. Taking my time with the shot, I correctly lead him high and in front and he ran right into the bullet as he was headed up the hill spilling over at 257 yards away. He was attempting to regain his wheels after the shot and I found him in the scope once more and “Click!” Out of ammo in my 3-round magazine.
“Hey Mark, can you kill that coyote for me, I’m out of ammo?” I yelled over to my partner with a bit of urgency as I dug at the extra shell holder on my belt. Mark replied matter-of-factly, “He’s down!” not knowing that there were two coyotes that came out of the ditch. Standing up, I could no longer see the second coyote trying to survive. It had expired and that is when Mark and I pieced together the puzzle. Mark had gotten his eye in the scope so early on the coyote he shot, that he never saw the second coyote. He thought I had gone mad shooting an extra time and then asking him to shoot it again. As far as he knew the coyote was dead and he couldn’t figure out why I kept wanting to shoot the lifeless coyote that lay there? When I told him that there had been two coyotes we had a great laugh out of the miscommunication and still do to this day.
It’s that anticipation that keeps bringing you back to coyote calling. The thrill of the hunt and not knowing what craziness can transpire in the moments after making those first coyote enticing sounds. The mayhem is always amped up an extra notch when multiple coyotes present themselves. It’s a cool experience to have one predator come hunting you but when two or three prairie wolves come in search, it always makes the heart rate speed up even more and it doesn’t matter whether you’re by yourself or with a partner, chaos usually ensues when multiple targets present themselves. The first mistake I made was only wounding the coyote on the first shot I took instead of making a killing one. Had I put that coyote down, we would have both been able to concentrate on the second one once it showed itself. In the end, we made up for it, but mistakes like that rarely end well.
That’s why it’s important to always have a gameplan once you sit down at each location for just such a scenario. The better prepared you are ahead of time, the better chance you have at downing multiple coyotes. With a partner it’s important to discuss these things and how you’ll handle them. When two coyotes are there, you don’t want both guns firing at the same coyote. To prevent this I usually use a system with a partner that lets each hunter know which coyote is theirs without the need for speaking or hand communication causing movement. Normally when we sit down, if I’m to the left of the other hunter, then I will track the coyote furthermost to the left of any other coyote coming in. My partner on the right then knows that any coyote to the right, no matter how slim the yardage to the right, is his. Another system commonly used is to let the caller be the one to track the closest coyote so that he can manipulate that lead coyote how he needs to for not only his own shot but to also try and bring in any other coyotes in tow as close as possible for their partner. The partner would track whichever coyote other than the lead one he or she chooses. Other exceptions to these rules would be dictated by which hunter may hold a shotgun if it is the case. Any hunter with a shotgun would obviously take aim at the closest coyote while the rifle-carrying partner would know to choose a coyote of greater distance.
Just those simple rules eliminate a lot of confusion and simplify the process making your odds of dragging multiple coyotes out of the field increase. To take things a step further, it’s also important to trust in each other and show patience at times. When a coyote is seen approaching from a distance, it’s important to let him keep coming as long as he’s not spooky. This gives you time to get the rifle ready and also gives any other trailing coyotes time to show themselves as well. Coyotes often trail one another as they travel and often times a hunter is too impatient and fires at the first one he sees as soon as he sees it and doesn’t allow a second coyote the time to show itself. The best indicator of knowing whether a coyote is alone or not is to give him time to give up his partner. Watch a lead coyote’s body language as he or she comes in to tell if there is a following coyote or two. That lead coyote will pause repeatedly at times to look around and occasionally you’ll notice it look behind itself. Those looks over their shoulder are dead giveaways to another backtrailing coyote. Think of that lead coyote as a scout. The closer you can get it to you, the closer you’ll get the second, more relaxed coyote in as well. The trick though is not letting that lead coyote so close that it busts you. If that happens things change fast.
Know where your wind is and where your partner’s scent is traveling as well. One hunter needs to be tracking the lead coyote intently so that at the first sign of a problem, they can pull the trigger. It’s important to not get too greedy.
When hunting by yourself you have to develop your own strategy. There are two schools of thought on how to handle multiple coyotes approaching at different ranges. The first is to take aim at the farthest coyote and after putting him down, you’ll then have a better chance of getting the closer coyote as well because of his closer proximity. The second is to take the higher percentage shot on the closest coyote and then make an attempt if possible on the far one. Both methods can work very effectively. Personally, I usually take the higher percentage shot on the closer coyote first when by myself. After years of doing this, I’ve learned that there is a higher probability for something going wrong with targeting the farthest coyote first and ending up completely empty handed. Depending on the distance, sometimes that shot you make on a farther coyote might not completely put him down. Now you have two coyotes scrambling for cover and you owe it to the wounded coyote to stay targeted on him. Other times when focused on the farther coyote, the closer one might get close enough that it gets jumpy before you even pull the trigger and now you are clueless the closer one is getting away while you are trained on the farther target.
By targeting a closer coyote first, you remain attentive to the coyote most likely to bust you. As long as the close coyote doesn’t suspect anything is wrong, the following coyote will usually remain coming as well. I try and get that first coyote as close as I can before pulling the trigger to up my odds on getting the second one. I’d rather make sure I’m carrying at least one coyote into the furbuyer instead of none at all. I do make exceptions to this however. If the lead coyote is going to get my wind before I can get my rifle on him, then I’ll chose the rear coyote if possible. I’ll also usually try and do a quick eye test on them as they come. If the lead coyote shows signs of mange or rubbing then I’ll switch my attention to the rear one. Coyotes show up fast and so you have to think fast out there. Thinking about these things ahead of time helps you react quicker in the heat of the moment.
After you’ve put the first coyote down, you want to calmly and quickly find the second coyote in your scope and then if time allows take a millisecond to judge his reaction to the shot. Some coyotes will take off like lighting, some will just begin to trot away and others will just stop and stand there not knowing what is going on. If the afterburners are lit, you’ll likely want to get your lead and holdover figured out in a hurry for a shot. But if that coyote is only trotting away, or bouncing along looking over his shoulder and time and space allow it, there’s a good chance that coyote will stop and look back one final time before hitting a treeline or cover if prompted by a voice howl or ki-yi’s. Keep tracking them in the scope and wait for that opportunity.
Multiple coyotes don’t always come in together when coming to the call. You may watch some of these guys on television, call up a coyote, kill it and then immediately begin whooping and high-fiving right afterwards but that isn’t the best thing to do. A larger percentage of coyotes in Iowa aren’t far from another coyote throughout the day. Once you’ve fired a shot, no matter whether that shot found its mark or not, keep calling. Sit for another 10 or 15 minutes. You’d be surprised just how many times you can call in another coyote. After a shot, I’ve used everything from ki-yi’s to pup distress, to common rabbit distress to draw in another coyote. When you’ve had a second coyote bark at you or get away after a shot, don’t be afraid to get up and change positions on the property to try and fool the partner.
Bagging a double or a triple is extra special and a hunt you’ll always remember! Why get one when two are so much more fun!