Consider incorporating elevation and electronics into your hunt strategy.
Calling from high ground increased visibility and helps carry your scent away from incoming coyotes. Photo credit: Kevin Wilson
Overlooking a deep ravine lined with evergreens, an open hillside of patchy willows gave way to a meandering frozen creek. Ideal habitat for rabbits, squirrels, grouse and other prey species, my confidence soared as we prepared for a calling session. Where there is food, there will be coyotes and from an elevated vantage point, the odds were good that we would not only avoid detection but draw in a curious, if not hungry, wild canine in short order.“There has to be a few coyotes down there,” I thought to myself. Sure, it offered a bird’s eye view and a high point to project sound but with so many trees, shot opportunities would surely be limited.
“This outcropping is perfect,” I whispered to my guests Rick and Matt Day. Staring down the valley, we could see 250 yards in one direction and almost 150 yards straight across to the other side. “This is a textbook scenario. The wind is light, and the coyotes will be able to travel swiftly on the frozen ice.”
My clients were curious, but not entirely convinced that the set-up could produce an opportunity. Whenever possible, I try hard to choose stand locations that maximize the shooter’s visibility and minimize the chance of being seen or smelled by an incoming coyote. That usually means posting up in an elevated location.
Coyotes are small and can easily disappear in rolling topography. On many occasions I’ve had coyotes slip in to less that 30 yards, simply by using the rolling landscape for concealment. This spot however, had it all. Height, visibility, and the ability to eliminate scent issues by allowing the breeze to carry our odor well above their anticipated line of travel.
To improve our odds, I told Rick and Matt to sit tight while I slipped down to the bottom to place the electronic call. The hill was steep but the effort would pay out in the end. Tucking my Foxpro call into a shelf near the creek’s edge, I scrambled back up to join the guys.
Photo credit: Kevin Wilson
With a flick of the switch, I started out with a sequence of scavenging crows and magpies. Coyotes are astute, always listening and watching for scavenging birds. Where these birds linger and congregate, there is often carrion. A couple minutes in, I switched to the unmistakable squeals of a suffering jackrabbit. First soft, then with a little more volume. I was using an older Prairie Blaster. With a primary horn speaker and two tweeters, the calls would shift, literally throwing the vocalizations around at different volumes. It was indeed the most realistic e-call I have ever used, and the results proved it. Varying the volume and periodically turning the call off, it was an orchestral masterpiece the likes of which no self-respecting coyote could possibly ignore!
Sure enough, less than five minutes passed and, directly below us, a curious coyote showed skulking through the dense pine trees at along the creek.
“There’s one,” I whispered. Rick shifted, to ready for a shot, but the coyote was only 40 yards down the slope and must have heard him move. We were much higher, so its doubtful that the wild dog saw us, but in the stillness of the afternoon, you could hear a pin drop. With that, as quickly as the coyote had appeared, it vanished.
By this time, I had turned down the volume on the call. I suspected the wily coyote was holding tight and hadn’t yet made his exit. And sure enough, every few minutes we would glimpse fur moving about under the trees, never actually holding still in the open long enough for a shot opportunity.
The call continued to play and, after 25 minutes, I switched to a pup in distress call. I knew there were more coyotes in the valley, they just had to show. If there is one vocalization that closes the deal more than others, it’s the KiiYii. With a series of suffering whimpers projecting down the valley, indeed at the 30-minute mark a lone female appears on the creek bottom 200 yards to the south. Steady and intentional, she made her way to the sound. At 70 yards she jumped up on the bank and started making her way through the tangle of shrubbery. With plenty of time to prepare, Rick had followed this coyote with his sight trained on the prize for several minutes and, at just the right moment, when she was quartered toward and in the open, he squeezed. A well-placed round from his .243 dropped the coyote in its tracks! Elevation and a medley of natural sounds from the e-call had brought in two different coyotes and allowed us to take one home.
Martin Duke, from Georgia, took this fine specimen with Alberta Hunting Adventures by posting up on a small hill. The coyote snuck in to inspect the distress sounds from the author’s e-call, by following a low-lying fold in the landscape. Only by sitting up high, were he and his guide able to detect the incoming coyote to make the shot. Photo credit: Kevin Wilson
One of the biggest barriers to shot opportunities is lack of visibility. Coyotes are small animals and they can easily elude the hunter by sneaking through tall grass and subtle contours in the landscape. Any time we take a stand, it’s important to choose a place that offers a decent vantage point. Wide-open, flat fields may not be an issue. Coyotes are often easy to spot in this type of habitat, however if you’re overlooking pastureland where wild grasses, clumps of scrub brush or willow stands are prevalent - or simply overlooking hills and valleys, then using a height advantage is paramount. Again, this was one of the most vital contributors to our success during the hunt I just shared.
Whenever the author is guiding visiting coyote hunters, he sets up of hilltops or ridges to capitalize on the height advantage to maximize visibility. Photo credit: Kevin Wilson
Not all topography allows for an elevated stand position, but where it does, it is equally important to sit against a tree or other backdrop, or even better yet lie down flat to shoot prone from a position above their line of sight. Often when we post up in an elevated spot, we risk our silhouette being visible on the skyline. Even from a higher point, we still need to take measures to blend in with the surroundings. One of the reasons we were successful on that hunt, was our ability to see them approaching. Had we been down in the bottom of the valley, we may not have even seen either of them come to the call.
The second thing elevation does is allow the breeze or wind to carry the shooter’s scent away and often over top of any approaching coyotes. Savvy coyote hunters are acutely aware of this wild canine’s sensitive nose. Incoming coyotes will often work their way downwind to confirm authenticity of the calls. On many occasions I’ve seen them circle downwind to catch scent. Without fail, as soon as they detect a human’s foul odor, it’s like they hit a brick wall and can’t vacate fast enough!
I have mixed feelings about today’s technological advancements in the world of hunting. So much of it takes the guesswork out of the hunt and, to a great extent, essentially eliminates much of the skill. On the other hand, when it comes to coyote hunting, I fully support the use of high-tech equipment like the electronic call. Given our rising predator populations, I believe it is not only important, but vital that we capitalize on every tool at our disposal to lawfully cull these wild dogs - this is where today’s electronic calls really shine.
With the robust inventory of vocalizations, including a long list of predator and prey species that can be played during any given session, e-calls continue to revolutionize coyote hunting. For those who have learned to use them correctly, it's akin to playing an instrument - hit the right notes at the right time, and it can be music to a coyote’s ears, bringing them in on a string. Hit the wrong ones, and they will run and hide. Certainly, there are times and places where mouth calls outperform, but e-calls offer unparalleled versatility. For instance, on a recent hunt, I used a cottontail distress call and ran a pup in distress call simultaneously. Within minutes a finely furred female emerged from the woods and eagerly trotted up to the call. Almost impossible to replicate that combination and clarity of these natural distress sounds using mouth calls alone, it’s tough to argue with versatility and results.
E-calls allow us to manipulate the volume, all at the press of a button. Depending on the preferred call, we can load it with scores of different sounds from coyote yips, howls, barks, and KiiYiis, to bird and other small game distress sounds, an assortment of scavenging birds, deer and elk distress sounds, and many more. As a rule, you get what you pay for, but variety is key when different situations call for different sounds.
Plenty of coyotes are sniped by resting a rifle on a fencepost and sending a bullet on its way. Sure enough, this can be an effective way to cull coyotes. If on the other hand, you are interested in really interacting with coyotes and learning to call them in, on your next outing, consider incorporating elevation and electronics into your hunt strategy. Whether you have the opportunity to climb up high on hilltops, river banks, or even utilize tree stands or hides to look down on approaching coyotes, or simply capitalize on moderately higher ground that gives you a modest height advantage, remember that elevation is your friend. Mix in a medley of natural sounds using your e-call, add in a measure of patience and, chances are you’ll bring one or more coyotes in on the run the next time you are out predator hunting.