Small Property v.s. Large Property Yotes

By Troy Hoepker

Something about the little 80-acre property just seemed promising. I had been given permission to hunt the piece of ground years before but never had until that day. That year the farmer had put part of the ground into preventative planting and the weeds sprung high into the air taller than me. A large pond lay to the south and the hills to each side of the property were open ground. I parked out of sight and walked along the east edge of the ground with the wind coming out of the southwest. It was a cold wind and as I sat down I found that my plan of attack wasn’t going to be a comfortable one. I had one area to shoot down the edge of the preventative planting so I had hung my Foxpro along the edge of the grass on a fencepost to try and get volume to carry across the stiff breeze.

I figured I wouldn’t spot a coyote until it was close as it came out of the grass but after playing a little waning jackrabbit on my first series my eyes detected movement deep within the field on top of a brush pile. True to nature, a coyote had been bedded in or on the pile on the downwind side and when he heard the screams of the caller he stood at attention for a minute high atop the pile. You could see the wheels turning in his head and soon thereafter, off the top of the pile he descended and here he came. I lost sight of him quickly as he entered the grass but now I held the advantage. I knew he was on his way and would be anticipating his arrival.

Minutes passed and no coyote? I played the caller again although more softly this time. There was no reason why this coyote shouldn’t have came. My wind was good, he was thoroughly convinced of what he had heard the last time I had seen him. Yet, no coyote? Finally, I see the coyote returning to the brush pile but I don’t know why? He stops and sits near the same place where I had originally spotted him. When a coyote does that, he likely won’t come again so I centered the crosshairs on what target I had. I could see part of his upper half and tried the shot. After the recoil I lost a sight picture of him. I gathered my gear and headed for the pile. Once there I was unable to find the coyote but did find a spray of blood in the snow. I tracked for a short distance before the blood and the trail ran dry in the vast amount of weeds and rough ground. My shot must have deflected off of the shoulder bone in a splash hit.

Curious as to why the coyote didn’t behave as expected I followed his track from the brush pile all the way to the edge of the grass when he was on his way to the caller. He had covered almost all the ground except the last few steps of removing himself from the cover. It was along that journey of tracking when I could of swore I was hearing voices inside of my head? Again and then again? Finally I realized that what I was hearing were real voices of two ice fishermen that had just came onto the large pond on the south half of the eighty acres. From the valley that the coyote was in the sound of their voices funneled right to that coyote. It was extremely bad timing.

The 40 acres of cover that the farm held yielded a coyote and I had played it perfectly except for bad luck and a bad shot or a poorly performing bullet but it was proof that a small property can be just as productive as a large expansive piece of ground. It pays off to not overlook even those smaller farms or bits of cover near an acreage or town that may hold a coyote or two. More than once over the years I’ve been able to set up just outside city limits or behind a building site and call a coyote. A coyote may call anywhere home for a few hours at a time and you never know where that will be. That’s why it’s easy to overlook small areas or even places near human activity. Just a couple of weeks ago my hunting partner and I watched as a coyote traveled across an open pasture among the cows during midday just to inspect the feed bunks right behind the rancher’s house looking for an easy meal. Probably a habit that coyote had on a regular basis.

When I have the option of calling a small property on the chance it may hold a coyote or calling an endless amount of acres of beautiful cover I’ll choose the larger piece every time just for it’s endless potential and greater likelihood of harboring a coyote within. But small properties sometimes hold an advantage of being near to a road or within sight that you can watch a coyote’s habits routinely. For instance, when old man winter’s icy grip takes hold in Iowa, coyotes often times regularly visit an abandon building or stack of hay bales for warmth and shelter. They may also be attracted to stay closer to a food source such as a feedlot, or an acreage with chickens, cats, and sheep. It’s during those times that make calling a small property worth it especially if you’re going armed with intell of a coyote’s regular presence there. If there are cats around try some kitten distress. Think about choosing a sound to play that is similar to the available prey of the immediate area. Always listen closely when a farmer or rancher tells of seeing a coyote regularly around his buildings or hay storage.

One of my favorite things about coyote hunting is that you don’t have to have permission on the good stuff, you just need to have permission on the neighboring ground beside it. If you don’t have access to the 500 acres of thick crp and timber that looks like coyote heaven, look closely at the small 40 acres that a neighbor might have that borders it that you might be able to gain permission for. Or maybe it’s a larger farm but doesn’t hold much cover. Either way, as long as it has some sort of cover to hide yourself and a decent vantage point in which to spot and shoot a coyote it’ll work well for bringing a coyote off the larger more densely vegetated property and into the smaller property for hunting. Just make sure you’re never shooting into a property that you don’t have permission for. Even if the property is really small a shotgun and an e-caller set out away from you can work.

Coyotes love feedlots and cattle or sheep. Setting up near a building site can work well as coyotes will often bed nearby. Hay piles are another place coyotes and fox like to stay when it gets cold and often times those hay stacks are near a road in a small lot. Try calling to hay bales from a short distance away and don’t be surprised if you see a coyote pop up right on top of a bale to get a look when you first start calling. Abandoned barns and outbuildings provide hard shelter for coyotes and fox and you’d be surprised just how often they’ll hole up in such a place when it gets bitter cold outside. I always pay special attention to hay stacks and abandon acreages that I have permission to hunt and I’ll make frequent stops there once a snow is on the ground looking for evidence of tracks and proof of occupation. An abandoned acreage with buildings and antique equipment overgrown with weeds are havens for mice and rabbits and coyotes make routine checks on them.

Problems arise from calling small properties however. A good share of the time if you’re looking at a 20-acre or 40-acre farm it usually borders a road. That presents a problem. It’s not always a deal breaker but during the daylight coyotes are usually bedded deeper into a section. They like to find cover that is nearer to the half-mile mark and be away from human interaction. If you walk all the way to the end of a 40-acre piece that borders a road you are now out of real estate to shoot any deeper into the section unless you have permission to do so. That makes it hard when wary coyotes won’t go near being visible to the road. So you’ll need to pick spots like that carefully. If you have a nice hill at the road that hides the road from the back of the property I’ve found that it works more successfully. Otherwise, night hunting can be a great option under a full moon with snow. Coyotes are bolder at night and these smaller properties can be gold mines of coyote calling. I’ve called one spot in particular, not 50 yards behind a house, for years at night and called in no less than a half of a dozen coyotes there over the years. The short walk in the cold doesn’t hurt my feelings either. Don’t overlook a small property just because you think it won’t work. Nighttime calling changes things so even if it won’t work during daylight it may still be a deadly spot after dark. Just make sure anyone living nearby is aware of what you are doing.

On smaller properties, livestock or human interference with your hunt comes into play as well, like what happened to me. I’ve sat down to call before only to have the rancher begin choring right near me or have the family dog not leave me alone. Other times a family member that lives at a nearby acreage will inevitably find that perfect timing of firing up his four wheeler for a ride. Success hinges on having no interference with what you are doing and some spots are just too busy or interruptive.

Small properties that may contain a coyote within their fences have to be approached carefully. There isn’t much room to get in there unseen or unheard. If you suspect a coyote may linger there during daylight hours, the time to get in is before light and hopefully before he arrives for his daytime hiding. Study the property for access points or even buildings that you can get in and hunt from. The same goes for large properties or farms. If you enter too deep within a section each footstep you take brings on the chance of being busted more and more.

I’m lucky to have the luxury of calling to coyotes out of my back door on occasion. Although I live in town, I’m on the edge and I overlook a farm field to the west that regularly holds coyotes. A quick trip through my pasture and I’m ready to set up for some coyote calling. At night coyotes come into town looking for a meal and every town is similar. Keep an eye out for those areas on the outskirts of city limits that may hold a coyote during the day. Big or small, these properties are overlooked and can hold great potential if you can gain permission to hunt them. Do so with caution and discretion anytime you are within sight of homes and dwellings. Try to park your vehicle in someone’s driveway, a place where it’s normal for someone to park and no one including the coyotes will be any wiser. Hunting during peak hours of human activity has more potential for a hunt to be ruined so plan your hunting times accordingly. Look for the creek bottoms that funnel into city limits and or natural cover that links the town and country fields together. I’ve witnessed heavy coyote and fox activity around landfills, city brush dump sites or lakes near to city limit signs. Properties near these busy places are where the critters lounge during the day.

Large properties give you more options as a coyote caller. They let you have multiple areas to call from, give you more choices of how to attack the wind and generally hold greater coyote numbers but in the right circumstance that hidden little gem may be right under your nose for coyote calling success in the form of a small property. There’s nothing better than carrying out a smart old coyote from a small property who’s had the cunning to hide right under our noses for a long time!