Deer are disappearing. Fawns, small game, livestock and even our pets, are being eaten alive by the exploding coyote population. Coyotes are one of the most adaptable animals in the world. Their excellent vision, sense of smell and hearing, matched with their ability to survive on eating just about anything, makes them irrepressible hunters.

Coyote population movement map showing disbursement throughout the United States.   (Photo: Stanley Gehrt, Ohio State University)

Coyote population movement map showing disbursement throughout the United States. (Photo: Stanley Gehrt, Ohio State University)

The geographic range of coyotes was once limited to the Great Plains of North America, but since the 1950’s, the coyote range has expanded by more than 40%. You can now find coyotes throughout the entire continental United States. The boom in coyote population and geographic expansion is attributed to the loss of their natural predators. In the early 1900’s, wolves and cougar populations were decimated by ranchers in order to protect their livestock and families.

Western coyotes are slightly smaller than Eastern coyotes that are seen expanding throughout the Midwest. The larger size of the Eastern Coyote is a result of decades of breeding with Great Lake wolves which makes them bigger, faster, and hungrier, typically weighing anywhere from 20-55 pounds. Today, there are 19 subspecies of coyotes recognized, all of which are rapidly growing and expanding their territories. They will eat whenever there is opportunity, but need to average about 2-3 pounds of food per day, 90% of their diet is mammalian. Coyotes are omnivores, which means, they will eat everything from dog food and insects, to rabbits and full grown deer. Overpopulation of coyotes means less food in an area. For most animals, when there is a food shortage their population caps. Coyotes will travel up to 100 miles to find their next meal and are able to adapt to new habitats. Coyotes are very elusive, hunting and traveling solo or with their mate or pups. Part of their elusiveness is credited to their nocturnal nature, especially in urban areas like Los Angeles, CA. Yes, when we said they can live anywhere, we meant it. Coyotes are now prevalent everywhere from cities in Central America, all the way up the northern reaches of Maine.

For many hunters, coyote hunting is not something our fathers and grandfathers did. For people on the east and west coast, we didn’t learn tips from our hunting mentors. Now that coyotes are present in all 49 States of the continental US, it’s likely that coyotes have moved into your area. Whether you are a hunter who has shot countless coyotes, or you are looking to learn the ropes of coyote hunting, we will show you why you should hunt coyotes and share strategy to help you to be successful.

Why You Should Hunt Coyotes

MANAGE THE COYOTE POPULATION

Coyotes are predators with little to no competition, and without serious effort, their population grows substantially every year. Coyotes adapt, then reproduce. Most animals cannot continue to live if their food source is depleted. Coyotes, however, are resourceful and migrate to new locations with new food sources. They will eat pretty much anything from trash to cat food to full grown deer, and continue to reproduce.

If an area is overpopulated with coyotes, a litter may only consist of as few as 4 pups. In contrast, if an area has little to no other coyotes, a female coyote can birth up to 12 coyotes in a litter. The average lifespan of a wild coyote is 10 years, and they are ready to mate at 20 months. That means, a female coyote can potentially give birth to more than 120 coyotes in its lifetime, which left unchecked, can lead to exponential growth of the coyote population in an area. That makes hunters and trappers critical to keeping this population in check or coyotes will continue to find new things to eat, keep expanding their territory, and keep reproducing.

HELP DEER AND SMALL GAME POPULATIONS THROUGH COYOTE MANAGEMENT

Coyotes usually breed from January through March, with a gestation period around 60 days. As babies are born in the spring, male coyotes will hunt and return with game for the female coyote and her pups. What else is being born in late spring all across North America? You got it, whitetail, mule deer fawns, and elk calves. An extensive study conducted in Oklahoma found that “coyotes were responsible for 86% of annual white-tailed deer fawn mortality.” Since fawns aren’t as strong, fast, and tough as mature deer, this makes them a perfect target for coyotes to bring back to their families, or a first hunt for a coyote pup.

Coyotes need to consume about 2-3 pounds of food per day. The average whitetail fawn weighs 6-8 pounds, the perfect adult cottontail rabbits weigh 2.6 pounds on average. Coyotes generally eat animals smaller than them, like small game and rodents. However, in the winter, when those food sources are more scarce, they are likely to go after fully grown big game animals like deer, elk, and moose in winter months.

COYOTES SPREAD DISEASE

Coyotes contract various types of disease and then spread them when they roam or come in contact with other animal species. Canine hepatitis and canine distemper are among the most prevalent diseases found in coyotes. When Canine Distemper is inhaled by our domestic dogs it has a high mortality rate. Rabies and tularemia can even be transmitted to humans and other animals. Coyotes often carry parasites which include mites, ticks, fleas, worms, and flukes that can turn into flesh eating mange.

We talked to Bobby Mills, a retired game warden with 24 years in the law enforcement division of the Michigan DNR, acting as a Senior Detective. He is also an avid predator hunter. He explained to us that “Tuberculosis is contracted through coyotes feeding on infected animals, like bears and raccoons, and they contract to other species.” He speculates that “In NE Michigan especially, potentially CWD is spread through feces and urine.” Bovine Tuberculosis is an epidemic in whitetail deer. A study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture in Colorado reported that they “sampled 175 coyotes in the bovine TB-endemic area. Fifty-eight tested positive, and infection prevalence by county ranged from 19% to 52%”. Since male coyotes travel up to 100 miles in search of food, and can carry any sort of disease with them, it makes it hard, and at times, nearly impossible, to manage and quarantine infected coyotes.

HONE YOUR HUNTING SKILLS IN THE OFF SEASON

Coyote hunting makes you a better hunter because to successfully hunt coyotes you need to be aware of every single aspect of the hunt. From the camo you wear, to the movements and sounds you make. Hunting coyotes forces you to become a part of wildlife; to be the top predator. On top of that, coyotes are fast learners, adapt quickly, have great eyesight, and an impeccable sense of smell. If they pick up your scent, or identify your call as fake, your hunt is ruined. They recognize you as a threat and adapt to avoid your hunting strategy. This makes them one of the smartest, most challenging animals to hunt. As hunters, ourselves, we understand coyotes are extra cautious of their surroundings, which challenges us to hunt smarter. You must outsmart all of their excellent senses. You must camouflage yourself, make just the right call, and stay down wind so they don’t smell you, with the goal of getting close enough to get a successful shot at this small, quick predator.

KEEP HUNTING YEAR ROUND

In many states, coyotes can be hunted year round. In April 2016, the state of Michigan opened up its coyote season to 365 days a year, with no kill limit.  “The key reason, for me, is extending my hunting opportunity. Coyote hunting keeps me out and helps alleviate the postseason (deer hunting season) blues. Ice fishing didn’t cut it for me. – and so, I started hunting coyotes with a centerfire rifle, that allows me to get out and be active while having a positive impact on hunting as a whole,” said Bobby Mills. Coyote hunting is a great way to stay outdoors and active during the “off season.” You become more familiar with the area, walking and getting to know the terrain better than ever. While you’re out after coyotes, you are also able to scout for other wild game, like turkeys. When spring turkey season begins, or even deer season, you will be better prepared. You will be more alert than ever and your ears will be listening intently, your movements smooth, and your eyes on the lookout.

Key Components & Strategies for Hunting Coyotes 

Whether you are hunting coyotes who have never experienced hunting pressure from humans, or coyotes who know exactly what to smell, look, and listen for, predator hunting requires sound strategy to locate, hunt, and successfully shoot coyotes.

SCOUTING COYOTES

Coyotes inhabit many different terrains. However, they spend a lot of their time hunting in open areas as opposed to hardwoods, so when you e-scout, look for fields, swamps, creek beds, and easements you can use to get in undetected. HuntWise is the only hunting app that shows phone numbers along with landowner names and boundaries. If you identify coyotes on a parcel of land you can learn who owns it and gain their contact information in a matter of seconds. Farmers are usually aware of any coyotes impacting their livestock and welcome the help eradicating the issue. Hunting public land is also a great way to get on coyotes, many mobile hunting apps, like HuntWise, show public lands boundaries. When you are scouting a property to hunt, identify any houses, barns, buildings or other dwellings where people could be at least 450ft around the hunting area. Know the possible places your bullet could end up. Shooting from an elevated location is a good way to shoot into the ground is a good way to avoid this. Safety is always paramount.

Once you know the land you are going to hunt, how do you know there are coyotes roaming this land? And how do you locate them to get your shot? Often times, coyotes are so elusive we don’t actually see them until we are aiming at them through a scope. That said, coyotes leave a lot of evidence of their presence; here’s what to look for.

  • If there is an absence of foxes in the area, that’s a sign coyotes are present. Foxes are a natural competitor of coyotes. Coyotes will eat foxes, but foxes don’t eat coyotes.

  • Put out trail cameras, just like deer or any other animal, you can often get a peek into wilderness with trail cameras. Some hunters even put old meat scraps to improve their chances of luring in a coyote to the camera.

  • Look for tracks in the snow. Coyote tracks look just like dog tracks, so be aware of any possible dogs that could be in the area and the size of their tracks.

  • Lack of rabbits and small game. If you are a small game hunter and notice a drastic decrease in rabbits squirrel and other small game, there is quite possibly a coyote reeking havoc on their populations.

  • Listen for them at night. Coyotes are the most vocal animals in all of North America. Since they are most active at night, you can often hear them howling, yipping or barking.

We asked Mills the key to finding coyotes, he told us to look for “Field edges and woodlot edges, marsh, and CRP areas, hunt around these areas to call them out of these areas to the fringes. Coyotes like to look over frozen surfaces during the breeding season, this allows them to see far and find a potential mate.” He also told us to keep an eye out for ravens and other predatory birds as this is typically indicative of a carcass, which makes for an easy meal for a coyote. When you are in the field and you observed evidence of a coyote, pull up HuntWise and mark it on your map as this is a great way to start to understand coyote patterns and develop your hunting play. In our blog, 3 Things You Must Remember When Hunting Coyotes on Public Land, we share strategies that use river, streams, and deer trails to your advantage.

PLAY THE WIND

Coyote’s sense of smell is impeccable so playing the wind is crucial. Always stay downwind of a coyote. If they get a whiff of your scent they will make sure to avoid you, or worse yet, they may even leave the area entirely. Scout before your hunt and plan according to wind conditions. Using an app like HuntWise allows you to see aerial views of the land you are hunting and the direction of the wind, so that you can plan your play accordingly. Bobby Mills strategically uses the wind to his advantage by using a crosswind set up. “Setting the call upwind but hunting the crosswind – maybe on a lake, may allow you to get a shot without being picked off.”

CALLING

While calling to a smart predator like a coyote is exhilarating, over calling or calling incorrectly creates “call shy” coyotes, making them weary of every noise thereafter.

When hunting coyotes you can use electronic calls, diaphragm calls, prey distress reed calls, and coyote imitation calls. Many predator hunters have their favorites, but most use multiple styles of calling. The most important takeaway is to learn how to use the call well, so coyotes don’t become educated on the sound.

Popular Types of Coyote Calls

ELECTRONIC CALLS

An electronic call will make the perfect imitation of animal noises. Electronic calls come with a variety of sounds loaded on it and a speaker. The more expensive electronic calls have more sounds and many have the ability to load more sounds onto them. An advantage to using electronic calls to place on decoys, or just upwind of where a coyote is headed, as coyotes often hunt their game from downwind. If you are new to predator hunting, electronic calls are a sure way to trick coyotes with more realistic, consistent call sounds. Seasoned predator hunters can expand their strategy by incorporating various electronic calls, diaphragm calls, and reed calls. We found this list of the 9 Best Electronic Coyote Predator Calls Reviewed (2019 In-Field Test) by Outdoor Empire very helpful.

DIAPHRAGM CALLS

Diaphragm calls are great to use when you are on the move. They can be used to mimic prey distress calls or coyote howls, barks and growls. Diaphragm calls are used in lieu of other calls to make a more dynamic hunting setup. The concern with diaphragm calling is that if you are not good, coyotes can identify the error and never come to the sound again. A common issue is that coyotes become “call shy.” When you are taking your hunt to the next level with diaphragm calls, make sure to do your homework and practice. Utilize YouTube channels and instructional resources. Here is champion caller, Al Morris, demonstrating the basics of using a diaphragm.

PREY DISTRESS CALLS

A distress call is like saying “supper is ready, come and get it” because the sound produced mimics an animal in distress. That could be the sound of a bird caught in a fence, or a rabbit caught by another coyote. Animals make a variety of sounds when they are distressed, which means your calls need to reflect reality. You can find calls to mimic all range of distressed animals, from rabbits to rodents, to birds, cats, and even fawns.

COYOTE CALLS

Coyotes are most vocal during their mating season. So coyote calls are most used by predator hunters during winter months. Making the sound of a coyote can signal many things and they are vocal all year round. Coyotes are territorial and when you call like a coyote, it challenges a coyote’s territorial instinct. This is mostly male to male barking and howling. Coyotes are also not going to pass up the opportunity to get a free meal. Pup distress calls only work when pups are present, and pups are born in April and May. So using a pup distress call in January is only going to raise a red flag for coyotes in the area. Practice your calls so you mimic a real scenario.

 

How to Effectively Call in Coyotes

TEMPT COYOTES WITH PREY

Set the scene to make the situation as realistic as possible. Often times, this means using a variety of sounds. You can call the coyote to you, to an electronic call, or to a decoy. A common technique is to tease a coyote with the opportunity for a free meal. Start off with coyote howls, wait a few minutes, then bring in the distress sounds. Once coyotes become educated about a particular type of call pattern, you may need to change your strategy. The advantage of using an electronic call is that it calls away from your scent which allows you to be more strategic with your placement in correlation to your call.

CHALLENGE A COYOTES DOMINANCE OR TERRITORY

During the breeding season, January-March, focus on howls and coyote calls rather than distress calls. Coyotes mate for life, and practice monogamy, they will stick together and look out for one another. In breeding months, a male coyote will go after food for their female companion. A good strategy is to threaten their territory. If you are able to call in a pair of coyotes, try to shoot the female first, as this will give you a better chance of stopping the male with a pup distress call, and improve your chance of doubling up. The Ohio Division of Wildlife released findings of a very detailed explanation of the 10 coyote vocalizations which includes some insight into the meanings of each. To learn more about their findings on the meanings of the growl, huff, woof, bark, bark-howl, whine, yelp, woo-oo-wow, lone howl and group howl, click here.

Hunting Coyotes with Decoys 

Decoys are a great way to convince curious coyotes to commit to investigating your calls. Call for 10-20 minutes, then wait with your senses on high alert. Coyotes will most likely remain hidden for a while searching for what is making the sound. If you are hunting with an electronic call, place your call next to your decoy and get out of the way. Position yourself 50-75 yards away with good visibility to take your shot. You can use decoys of coyotes, or small game animals like rabbits. Decoys are especially effective as they connect the sound with the animal, proving the sound they heard is real.

Guns & Gear for Coyote Hunting

One of the most fun aspects to hunting coyotes is the fact that you can use just about any form of weapon to shoot them, from traditional bows to AR15’s. However, laws vary not only by state, but even county. Before you head out to hunt make sure you check your local laws on what kind of guns are legal to use, and limits on time of day and year. Some states allow coyote hunting 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no limit on firearms or accessories like night vision scopes. Others have strict guidelines. Most hunters use an array of firearm styles, however you want to keep in mind the type of shooting you will be doing. Remember that coyotes like open terrain, and you will most likely be taking pretty far shots. Your deer rifle will do the job just fine, but if you are planning to purchase the best rifle style, look for a flat-shooting .223 caliber rifle. Check out this list of top coyote guns by gunnewsdaily.com.

The Best Time to Coyote Hunt

In most states, coyote hunting is legal all 12 months of the year. Most people enjoy hunting coyotes in the winter months for many reasons. For one, their fur is the thickest in order to keep them warm in cold temps. This makes their coat in prime condition for selling as fur or using as decoration in your home. In winter months, their food sources become limited as insects and rodents are unavailable. This causes coyotes to become a bit more active during the day and more desperate and responsive to free meals. Coyotes are still the most active from dusk until dawn. Some states allow night hunting, that makes for an exciting unique hunting experience. There are many other variables that attribute to a coyote movement. With the help of HuntWise’s HuntCast you can predict peak movement times for coyotes in your hunting area. You don’t want to miss out on your best chance to get your shot at a coyote.

Coyote hunting challenges your hunting ability, keeps you hunting during the off season, and helps protect the other wildlife in your area. And while there are a variety of hunting styles and methods, the bottom line is that hunters are on the frontline of managing the rapidly growing population of coyotes.

A distress call is like saying “supper is ready, come and get it” because the sound produced mimics an animal in distress. That could be the sound of a bird caught in a fence, or a rabbit caught by another coyote. Animals make a variety of sounds when they are distressed, which means your calls need to reflect reality. You can find calls to mimic all range of distressed animals, from rabbits to rodents, to birds, cats, and even fawns.

Source: https://www.besthuntingtimes.com/blog/2020/2/3/why-you-should-coyote-hunt-how-to-get-started