By Troy Hoepker
It felt good to be settled in and surrounded by the tall walnuts and old rough-barked hickory trees that grew on the hillside once again looking down upon an open place in the field below that only we knew as a place where coyotes came to die. A year had passed since we had last hunted this farm and anticipation was running high and for good reason. Once a year, every year my Father-in-law, Bob Marquart and I would hunt this spot and every year we would call in a coyote. Still to this day, this spot has never let us down and we’ve called a coyote every single time. That year would be no different.
Hopes were high however, that we’d be able to call in a bobcat. The year was 2010 and the quota at that time was close to being filled. We hit this honey hole spot late in November in an effort to score a bobcat before the season ended. The farmer that owned the ground told us that he had cat tracks back there and sure enough on the walk in, we spotted a bobcat track in the low water crossing near to where we sat. Just what we wanted to see! To the east and north of us laid over a hundred acres of cedar choked country that was too formidable for man yet perfect habitat for coyotes and bobcats alike to call home. We sat up on that hillside where the cedars transitioned into pasture and hardwood timber. Coyotes still felt at ease coming out of the heavy cover and into a more open spot below us where we could snipe them.
With a north/northwest wind, I sat where I could watch my own downwind as well as the downwind side of the Foxpro I had placed in a small brush pile below us. Bob positioned himself to the East of me watching the backdoor and also overlooking the open area and creek below us. I began as I usually do by mouth calling a few long sequences of blood curdling distress. Shortly after I started the Foxpro from the brush pile to get the sound off of me and bring a coyote into the ambush zone where we wanted him. The same method had always worked perfectly in years past in this spot and I figured “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I played several different sounds on the Foxpro and had even went back to some mouth calling thrown in for good measure for over a half of an hour and nothing was showing itself.
It was now only minutes before it would be too dark to shoot. I was beginning to believe that our honey hole spot was finally going to let us down when the woods exploded with a thunderous boom! Bob had fired a shot that I had been hoping to hear even though it about made me jump out of my skin. A coyote had come out of the cedars, up along the creek bank and out into the open in our little clearing about 60 yards north of Bob. If I were a coyote, the one place I would never want to be is in the crosshairs of Bob’s rifle. He’s a heck of a shot with a rifle at any range. I did the calling and Bob did the shooting. Thank goodness too because I had not seen the coyote at all. One shot was all it took and the coyote was down.
He would end up a little further down than we would have liked however. Have you ever watched those movies where it’s not enough for the good guy to just shoot the bad guy at the end of the movie? No, the bad guy also has to dramatically plummet off of a skyscraper or fall off a cliff to make him that much more dead. That’s sort of what this coyote did. After being hit he dropped right off the riverbank and down into the creek fifteen feet below. After a bit of effort we retrieved a finely furred coyote and held our perfect streak intact at that farm. Our landowner friend was pleased to have one less coyote calling his calving pasture home and Bob and I had more memories to share of yet another great hunt together. One that we would treasure not because of the kill but because of experiencing the hunt with each other.
Calling coyotes alone is fun and self-satisfying, but having someone along to share the hunt with not only makes it more fun but can also add to your success rate as well when done correctly. Just the memories you can make with a friend make it worth it. I have friends that have shared hunts with me that we’ll both remember forever. From the stories shared of the missed shots and the great shots, someone tripping and face-planting, and every great moment and potentially embarrassing mishap along the way it all makes for exciting and vivid memories.
When calling coyotes a two-man team can be deadly. Conversely, it can also be detrimental if mistakes are allowed to happen. There are now two scents you are spreading to the ground, two scents that you are spreading to the wind, more noise made by extra footsteps and more people moving to be seen by a coyote. Walking into the field, you and your comrade can walk single file so that there’s only one scent trail. Work together to use the terrain to hide your approach and use the wind to keep your scent from drifting where it shouldn’t.
Once you’ve made it to your calling location there are more options in setting up with a partner. In areas where there is a lot of cover to watch a partner can help by simply sitting to one side and watching while you cover another side or separate field. It’s easier to hunt around hills and other terrain obstacles with a partner so that a coyote won’t surprise you. If one of you is a lefty and one is a right-handed shooter put yourselves in position to complement that aspect. Sometimes it’s nice to have one partner carry a shotgun while the other carries a rifle. A shotgun hunter will likely be closer to the electronic caller, be the caller themselves or be covering the downwind side when that area is a short field of distance. They will cover the area of shorter distance because of a more limited range and so they can swing quickly on a close quarters coyote. Otherwise I like the rifle carrier to watch the downwind side in most cases and have that downwind side be open enough that a coyote isn’t winding you from close by.
When using an electronic caller, have your partner set up so that he or she is either downwind of the caller or so that any coyote coming downwind of the caller’s position will be right in front of them for them to see. With good placement, it’s often times not all that hard to guide a coyote right into your trap. I like to have the person controlling the caller able to see the caller and watch upwind while the partner covers the downwind angle. Depending on the area and the terrain both hunters may or may not be able to see the same field of view. Some areas require that you split your fields of fire. Other areas remain fairly obvious as to how a coyote will approach and where it will come from. In those instances you may both be facing over the same area. This is where it’s important to have some basic communication signals worked out ahead of time. A quiet lip squeak or whistle to a partner to let him know that you’ve spotted a coyote can help them get on them also.
When multiple coyotes come to the call have a system in place before the hunt ever begins on how to handle the situation should it occur. It can be as simple as having one shooter take the coyote that is to his side while the other hunter knows the coyote angled to his side is his to shoot or maybe one team member is more comfortable with longer range shots and will always get the farther trailing coyote in the crosshairs while his partner knows the lead or closer coyote will be his automatically. A plan like this really helps eliminate some chaos at the moment of truth and can lead to twice the fur in the back of the truck after the hunt.
Anytime I take someone new to coyote calling out for the first time, I usually sit fairly close to them. It helps me to guide them through a hunt if a coyote comes in. If you are new to calling coyotes, go out with someone who is more experienced and willing to take you. You’ll learn some things that will help you in your own learning curve. A good calling partner can help you see the hunt from a new angle or have other new ideas that maybe you’ve never thought of before. Bouncing ideas off of each other helps the both of you.
Camaraderie isn’t only beneficial when calling coyotes. It can be extremely successful when pushing a coyote to a friend. Here in Iowa our landscape offers many areas where spotting a coyote out in the field isn’t all that hard. What’s hard is getting to them. With a partner one hunter can be dropped off to block the likely escape route while the other hunter goes around to push the coyote towards them.
In this game you want the blocker to be downwind or crosswind of the coyote’s location and also downwind of where that coyote will likely travel while trying to flee or it likely won’t work. The pusher can try to stay unseen and unscented all the way to the coyote’s location for their own shot if possible but it isn’t a deal breaker if he does get winded or spotted as the pusher moves along. The more people you have to block escape routes the better, but this method of hunting can be extremely successful with just two people.
Study how coyotes like to move and where their likely escape path will be when they are pushed out. Remember that a coyote will prefer to move through lower land features if they can and that they also prefer to have a little wind across their nose when moving. You’ll have escapees at first, but after a while of hunting the same ground, you’ll really get a great feel for where coyotes are and where they’ll run to escape letting you set more effective traps.
When the snow is on, it’s also a great time to grab a partner and try some spot and stalk hunting for coyotes and fox. A radio comes in pretty handy when one hunter (the spotter) can get to a place where they can keep their eyes on a bedded animal while the other hunter stalks in on the critter. The stalker has to use the wind, the hills, and land features to keep from being detected so he can get in close enough for a shot. Usually the stalker can’t see his victim until the end of the stalk so the spotter helps guide him into position and can also let him know if the coyote changes positions or moves at all. I’ve seen coyotes just lay there watching the spotter watch them all the while not knowing that someone is moving in on them. It’s a lot of fun if you’ve never tried it.
Lastly, always be aware of safety when hunting with a partner. If you are calling coyotes make sure you always know where your partner is located. Anytime my partner and I have to put some distance between ourselves we always try and wave at each other before sitting down just to make sure each knows the other’s location well. Extra care should especially be used when night hunting. When pushing a coyote know exactly where each other is going to be and the path you intend to take. You aren’t wearing hunter orange in Iowa hunting coyotes usually so be careful with your shots. There’s no coyote in the world worth shooting at if there’s any chance a hunter is near the location of the shot. You can’t pull that bullet back once you’ve pulled the trigger. If you are going out at night consider taking someone with you. It’s always nice to have a partner along in the dark of night and in the middle of the night in case something goes wrong.
Consider your choices when picking a partner too. Not everyone will make a great partner. The last thing you want is to take someone to your hunting spots only to discover that they have helped themselves to the same spots without permission from the landowners after you have hunted with them. A good hunting partner is someone you can trust, relax with, share pleasant stories and conversation with and someone who is good hearted and generous. Someone who shares the same passions for hunting that you do. Share a hunt and it’s likely you’ll always share a friendship that can last a lifetime also!