Summertime Coyotes

Does anyone miss hunting yet now that most of our favorite game seasons have been closed for quite some time? It seems that as soon as a hunting season ends for the year we are already dreaming of opening morning of the next season’s first march through the fields to bag another rooster, the view of the sun’s first rays silhouetting the first flock of ducks setting their wings over your spread or for the calendar to hit the day when you can finally climb into the treestand for the first time with stick and string in hand. If only there was something to fill the time between turkey season and fall? Wait a second, there is!

Usually when we think of hunting coyote we envision bitter cold, and primed up coyotes running over barren snow covered fields. It doesn’t always have to be that way however. Coyote hunting is open to a continuous, year-round season in Iowa. When the cold gives way to warmer temperatures, we don’t have to store the guns away for months at a time until the next opener comes. Continuing to hunt coyotes into the spring and summer months not only gives you an excuse to go hunting, it also has many other benefits. Going after a coyote keeps your hunting skills sharp during the off season because you’re the predator trying to hunt another predator that is much better at making a living of it than you are. You can help out your local deer herd or bird population by taking a few fawn killers and nest robbers. When calves and lambs are young most ranchers are more than welcoming when you’d like to try and kill a coyote on their land.

Personally, I usually end my coyote hunting season once I begin to see pelts declining. I sell my coyotes and so I’m interested in a valuable pelt that shows little or no signs of rubbing or thinning. Once they’ve shed their thicker fur there is no longer value in the pelt. Call it controversial or a heated topic but there is some disagreement among coyote hunters throughout the country on whether or not coyotes should continue to be hunted past the winter months. There are those who believe that coyotes, like any animal, should be given the chance to rear their pups and that by us shooting them, it potentially starves the litter back at the den. Coyotes have no value at this time and since they obviously aren’t suitable table fair many dedicated coyote hunters don’t like the idea of wasting the animal. They also like the idea of letting the pups of the year live and grow so that they’ll have better numbers to hunt and sell in the winter.

Others shoot coyotes as a target of opportunity whenever it may arise believing that by shooting a coyote at any time of year they are doing a favor for other wild game populations as well as local livestock herds. I can certainly see both sides of the debate, which leaves me caught with one leg on either side of the fence on the issue. Even though I stated that I usually end my coyote hunting after winter is over it doesn’t mean that I take a firm stand with not hunting them in the spring and summer months. Quite the contrary. More than a few coyotes have been the target of my gun during this time of year in the past and growing up on the farm I have always had a love/hate relationship with the coyote.

The farm boy side of me will always see the coyote as a threat that needs dealt with anytime the opportunity presents itself, while the coyote hunter in me actually enjoys the healthy population for a wintertime hunting pastime and for the odd desire to skin and sell pelts. As with this article, I would encourage anyone who desires to coyote hunt during the summer to do so if they so choose. I would never hold anything against those who do it, the same is true for those who don’t wish to pursue coyotes this time of year. The state of Iowa like many other states, see the coyote as a varmint that needs its numbers held in check. Coyotes have the ability to produce large litters and multiply quickly. It’s perfectly legal year-round and can offer some great hunting.

I look at it as a personal choice. It may not be for everyone. I’ve known hunters who were also on the fence a little and might only hunt when contacted by a farmer about a troublesome coyote population on their land. I’ve even known guys who would try and determine whether or not a coyote was nursing before pulling the trigger. Either way, while they may not target coyotes in a dedicated way once it warms up, they are still hunting when the need is there and doing so in a way that is ethical to them. But everyone’s views may differ.

If you have no qualms about shooting coyotes during the summer then you can be treated to some very good hunting opportunities. It’s likely no coincidence that coyotes have their pups at a time when so many other species are rearing their young as well. Thousands of years of evolution have made them one of nature’s most prevalent killers, especially of the weak, sick, old and young. The large amount of young prey available in early summer such as fawns, small mammals and birds surely make the job of keeping abundant food at the den site to feed all of those hungry mouths easier. It’s easy for an adult coyote to maintain their own diet. After all they will dine on almost anything from grasshoppers to mice to berries if need be but the pups need protein and calories to sustain themselves when they are helpless and that requires the parent to regularly bring back some larger prey to the densite often.

A coyote at times may be desperate to find enough food to keep all of their young adequately fed and will be very attentive to anything that it might hear in distress. This is where a caller can take advantage. Rabbit distress is always a good sound year round but in the summer, other sounds that aren’t used as often can really work well. Fawn distress is one such sound. A fawn kill can feed their litter for days and they know that fawns make themselves hard to find until they are spry enough to avoid capture. Really, their only defense besides their mother is their natural camouflage, and remaining motionless. Once bumped out of their hide, they are extremely vulnerable so the sound of a fawn in distress should likely gain a coyote’s attention.

Don’t be afraid to mix up sounds. Give the individual sounds you try a chance to work but also mix in some rabbit distress or bird distress along with some higher pitched mouse squeaking. Mice are a mainstay in a coyote’s diet year-round and I’ve found that the higher pitched short squeaks really get a coyote to commit to coming in close which is perfect when vegetation is usually thicker in the summer months.

There’s a reason the squeaks are referred to as coaxing sounds. Add some high-pitched bird distress in such as woodpecker, quail, or raspy woodpecker. I like the higher pitched stuff to emulate a young, defenseless chick. Along those same lines, instead of the raspier, coarser sounding rabbit distress that you may have played during the winter, change it to some higher pitched waning like that of baby rabbits. This is easily accomplished with a mouth call since there are so many calls out there that can easily mimic the higher pitched wailing of a young bunny. Look for something with a smaller sound chamber and a shorter, skinnier reed. Distressed kitten, fox pup sounds and even turkey yelping and kee-kee sounds can work too. Remember that a coyote has a broad menu this time of year. It’s common for spring turkey hunters to call in coyotes when making turkey vocalizations. Try some of these sounds and even add in some confidence sounds such as crow or blue jay and you’ll have a nice array of sounds that might lure a hungry coyote. Just make sure you’re not calling too often. Try a few sounds and then come back next time and try some different sounds. The right one might just trigger a coyote simply because the sound he hears is what they’ve been eating in that particular area the most.

Coyote vocalizations can work well too. Coyotes are a social animal all year long and listening for howling a few nights can really help you determine the general area where a densite might be located, hence making it a higher percentage area to call. I like to listen for howling just after the sun has gone down and just before it shows any sign of spreading light again in the morning. Reason being, those are the times that will most likely pinpoint a coyote nearest to the den or their established area. When you hear coyotes on a nightly basis sing out from the same general location you’ll have a good idea that they have a densite nearby.

Conversely, you may also hear nomad, younger coyotes sing out from other areas that aren’t quite from the same pinpoint locations night after night. They likely travel around the outskirts of an alpha pairs territory and so it is harder to predict a reliable spot to call from. Remember that 2 coyotes sound like 4, 4 coyotes sound like 6 or 8 and 6 coyotes sound like 8 or 12. Paired up coyotes with an established territory and a den will sound off together from that location. I’ve often noted listening at these hours that they will also generally sound off after another coyote or coyotes have began their chorus from nearby and I’ve always hypothesized that it could be because they have pups in the den they don’t necessarily want to draw attention to.

It’s almost as if they don’t really want to give away their location until they hear another coyote is in the area. Then they’ll fill the air with song to let everyone know that they are there so that other coyotes will avoid that area. As the summer goes along, then you will hear yips and shrill barks coming from the pair’s location as the pups grow. I’ve always been fascinated with the coyote language and although I’ll never fully understand it, there certainly are many forms of communication given and received through those nightly serenades!

Pup distress is a great choice for a calling sound in the summer to appeal to the maternal instinct of any coyote within earshot. It also brings in younger subordinate coyotes to investigate. Pup fight, pup frenzy, and challenge howls can work as well along with domain howling.

The old saying “You can’t call a coyote that isn’t there” holds just as true in the summer as it does in the winter and may even be truer in the summer months when coyotes just aren’t moving during daylight hours because of the heat of the day. Along with listening at night for coyotes in the summer to locate good areas it’s also a good idea to talk with the landowner, farmer or neighbors of the land you hunt. Because coyotes might be a tad more centralized in their travels, those people can provide the most recent information on where they’ve been seeing coyotes on a regular basis.

Coyotes will be spending daytime hours in shaded areas to escape the heat usually with a water source of some sort nearby. Just like your dog at home loves to lap up water out of the doggy dish when it’s hot out, coyotes need it too. Momma will help keep herself and her pups cool as they venture farther and farther from the den by bedding on north facing slopes and under low hanging brush along creek beds during the day. Check the edges of water for beaten down track paths that are telltale signs of coyote activity. They’ll be hunting more at night when it’s cooler so when temperatures climb the best times to hunt are early mornings and just before dark. Some of the best hunting might also occur when the barometer is falling ahead of a weather front moving in.

Lastly, you have to find spots that are more conducive than others for summertime calling. Elevation is really important to get above the vegetation that is in its peak growing time. Dense leaf cover on trees and growing crops all render many of your winter hunting spots useless in the summer so you have to find the areas of the landscape that will lead a coyote into sight such as eaten down cattle pastures, steep riverbanks, recently mowed hay fields or short crops. A freshly mowed hay field can be the best calling location in the summer. Coyotes are going to be patrolling these areas looking for dead mice, rabbits, fawns and birds left behind and distress sounds given from such a location soon after a cutting can work magic. Plus your visibility will be great across the lower vegetation. Otherwise, find round bales of hay, barns, hills and anything you can to get above the terrain you’re looking over when taller vegetation inhabits the scene. Because of denser vegetation in the summer, the use of a decoy may actually work best at this time of year to help attract a coyote’s eye.

If you think summer coyote hunting is for you and would like to eradicate a few of the fawn killers from your deer hunting grounds go for it. Even if you’d rather let them raise their young in peace you can still go out and call them and just learn. Either way, you can scratch that summertime hunting itch with coyotes!