Predator Hunting

Predator hunting basics
Here are the tools to get you into one of the fastest growing segments of the hunting community.

 

By: Ron Gayer

The sky to the East was now noticeably lighter. I could make out shapes but colors were still shy to the eye. I had been sitting 20 minutes in the chilled morning air, sequestered behind some silhouette-concealing brush, with the strong smell of sage filling my nostrils. I was experiencing a peaceful quiet of the predawn desert, something those who sleep in will never know.
 
Now, it was time to start calling. I turned on my electronic call and slowly increased the volume. The sound of a jackrabbit in unquestionable distress began to flow across the desert flats and drift into the nearby canyons. Then, after less than five minutes of some intermittent calling, the familiar canine shape of a large coyote came bouncing to the crest of the ridge across from my position. As Mr. Coyote cleared the crest, he immediately locked onto the movement of my decoy. His focus was deliberate. And his movements were calculated as he advanced toward the decoy’s jerking motion.

The animal was now about 85 yards away and closing fast. Close enough, in fact, that I could see that sharpness in his eyes through the lens of my riflescope. And those eyes belonged to North America’s most efficient predator, the coyote. Then suddenly he stopped. Something was not right. Seemingly, instinct told him to flee, but he was too late. The sound of the rifle report echoed across the sage and in an instant the predator became the prey.

Across the nation, predator hunting is gaining in popularity. Savvy hunters know they can hunt the wiley song dogs year-round, keeping their shooting skills sharp and enjoying more time in the field. Along with the coyote, the bobcat and fox are on or near the top of the list for most predator hunters. And when you successfully lure any predator to your call, the excitement level is off the charts. If you haven’t yet given predator hunting a go, here are some tips that will ease you into the pursuit with less pain and a faster learning curve.

Hunt them where they live: Finding a coyote really isn’t that challenging. They seem to live everywhere, including next to the metropolitan freeways and suburban housing developments. A good rule of thumb is: “Find the food source and you’ll find the predator.” However, the best approach is to find a remote area such as farming land near creek bottoms, mountain valleys or desert sage flats. The less traffic the better.

I always like to start at first light, but you can be successful hunting any time. Do not underestimate the intelligence of a predator. If they hear your truck door slam, or the sound of a shell being loaded in your firearm, or voices talking on the walk to a stand, then you’ve minimized your chances of success. Based on years of predator pursuit, my advice is to drive into the general hunting area. Once you’ve parked out-of-sight, then expect to walk 400 or 500 yards into the area where you want to set up. I like to use a ridge or hill to separate my vehicle from my prospective hunting area. The farther you get away from your vehicle, the better your chances will be to have success.

Your choice of set-up is very important. If possible, position yourself on a high spot, so that your field-of-view is as wide as possible. And make sure that the wind movement is directly in your face. Many times, coyotes will circle around to get the wind in their favor to check for danger. If they catch your scent, it’s game over! You can use a ridge or hill at your back to help minimize their efforts to smell you out. And sometimes setting up near a body of water will give you the edge. Coyotes won’t want to swim across and you may gain an advantage.

Concealment and movement: You have got to become one with your environment; at least the predator’s environment. Camouflage, including face and hand cover, is critical to your success. Remember you’re trying to fool the experts. Choose a camo pattern that will blend in with the landscape and the season.  You might fool the “young and dumb” with an “aspen” camo pattern in a “sage flat”, but the “old and wise” will not be fooled. That goes for your weapon as well; no shiny blued or stainless guns. Use a matte finish or camo tape to cover your weapon as well. Finally, minimize your ambient human odor with scent eliminators and scent-free gear. 

Once you pick a stand, get comfortable. Predators will key in on any movement, and I mean ANY movement. To enhance your level of comfort while on stand, use some type of cushioning between the ground and your posterior. And look for ants, snakes and sharp rocks before you assume a sitting position. If it’s still dark when moving into position, a quick once-over with a blue LED flashlight will insure that nothing interferes with your comfort. Finally, make sure you have some brush, rocks or a small tree behind you to break up your silhouette. It’s simply a matter of blending in and waiting.

Calls, Hand Held, Mouth and Electronic: In the quest for predators, most of the time your goal is to sound as though you’re an easy meal. Rabbits, small birds and rodents are all possible items on a predator’s menu. Where I do some of my predator hunting, wild piglets in distress can be a very effective call for coyotes. If bobcats are your goal, the sound of a quail in distress can be very enticing. Look at what your predator likes to eat and with your call work your way down the list. In the spring and early summer, a canine pup in distress can be effective to call in adult coyotes looking to defend their young in trouble.

Hand held calls are easy to use and when attached to a lanyard always at the ready. I usually keep a couple of my favorites around my neck for quick access.
Mouth calls, often called diaphragm calls, are some of the best calls to use. They offer hands-free operation and that equates to no movement. Better control of sound and volume are another reason they are a favorite. For some hunters, however, mouth calls are hard to master and can present a choking hazard.

Many call manufacturers now offer electronic calls. These battery-operated devices use previously recorded sounds of actual distressed prey. Some come with a wireless remote control, which also can be used to control not only the sound produced, but also the movement of an associated decoy. 

Regardless of your choice of calls, here are some basic guidelines that will enhance the effectiveness of your calling. Start at a low volume. Remember you want to ring the dinner bell lightly not BANG THE GONG! You will be surprised, if you have taken care and used some stealth in moving in your initial set up, how close a coyote or bobcat can be to you. If nothing shows itself after a few calls, then you can increase the volume.

Call for a few minutes then wait for a response. Remember you want to entice that predator in for an easy meal. Curiosity will work better than a long blast of a non-stop screaming rabbit. Bobcats can be slower to respond to calling, so remember to be patient and control your unnecessary movements.

If you are using an electronic call, mix it up. Don’t use the same call at every set up. Remember, you’re dealing with a predator that hunts every day for a living. Anything out of the ordinary, or that does not sound realistic, is going to spell danger for them. And predators are quick studies. Get a hold of how-to tapes or CDs that call makers sell.  And learn to become proficient with whatever call(s) you select before you go start hunting.
 
One final bit of advice, always check the regulations for your chosen hunting area prior to using an electronic call or pursuing predators during nighttime hours. And remember, any predator can respond to a predator call. A mountain lion, a bear or even wild hog could come in to your call. When hunting in lion country, set up with your back against a tree or large rock as protection from any attack from behind. And if you have a partner calling with you, set-up with a view to each other’s blindside.

The Shot: You’re all set, camouflaged from head to toe, the best calls money can buy, and the sweetest set-up ever. Here comes a large adult male coyote and he is within range. Now what? Well, that all depends on what you want to do with your prize after the shot. For example: Are you just trying to control the local predator population, or are you out to save a fine winter coyote, bobcat or fox pelt? Now we both know that a .300 Winchester Magnum will kill that coyote dead. I mean extremely dead! However the resulting bullet damage could only be described as complete and catastrophic and might not look too impressive in the form of a jacket. On the other hand a .17 HMR round at 50 yards will leave you with a deceased coyote and you will be hard pressed to locate the entrance wound. All of this means that choice of both caliber and bullet must be given their due consideration.

Regardless of the firearm choice, learn to be proficient with it. Shot opportunities  can be anywhere from in-your-face to 300-yards, or farther. Veteran varmint and predator hunters like a flat shooting round in a caliber like the .204 Ruger that I use. And the use of a bi-pod, or other rest, will help provide a solid platform for long-range shots. A shotgun for up close work can be effective, with #2 shot or larger the best choice. But that means no fur jacket. Archery shots can be made easier with the use of a blind to conceal your draw.
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The final analysis: Challenging predators on their own turf is not easy. So, who wants easy? Just jump in and get started. You’ll be amazed at the excitement you feel the first time two, or maybe three coyotes come in to your call at the same time (by the way, shoot the long range one first). Predator hunting will help sharpen your senses and get you out in the field more often, and that is a good thing. If you bag a predator or two in your deer hunting area, you will help the fawn survival rate come spring and that’s another very good thing.
 

Side Bar

Predator calls come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. Try several until you are happy with the sound produced and the results in the field. I use an electronic call occasionally, but always carry hand and mouth calls. All can be effective and you should mix up when calling and don’t fall into a calling pattern rut. Here are some of the most popular call makers and vendors:

Primos Hunting Calls, www.primnos.com, (800) 622-8076
Knight & Hale Game Calls, www.knightandhale.com, (800) 531-1201
E.L.K. INC., www.elkinc.com, (800) 272-4355
FOXPRO INC., www.gofoxpro.com, (717) 248-2507
Hunters Specialties, www.hunterspec.com, (319) 395-0321
Extreme Dimension Wild Life Calls, www.phantomcalls.com, (866) 862-2825
Burnham Brothers, www.burnhambrothers.com, (325) 396-4572
AllPredatorCalls.com, www.allpredatorcalls.com, (888) 826-9683

Side Bar

Guns & Bullets: Many firearms manufacturers have responded to the growth in predator hunting by introducing rifles configured for the sport. Remington offers several rifles designed with the varmint hunter in mind. This includes several Model 700 bolt-gun configurations, a compact Model Seven Camo Predator rifle, the economical Model 770 Stainless Camo rifle, the Model 7615 Camo Hunter and the new semi-auto Model R-15 VTR Predator and Predator Carbine built on the popular AR-15 platform. And Remington chambers these firearms in a host of outstanding predator calibers, including .17 Rem. Fireball, .223 Rem., .204 Ruger, .223 Rem., .220 Swift and .243 Winchester. Savage markets the Predator Hunter bolt-gun, chambered in .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., .243 Win. and .204 Ruger, which features a synthetic stock, oversize bolt handle and is entirely covered in camouflage. And Legacy Sports international, has recently combined the proven Howa barreled action with the Knoxx Industries Axiom V/S synthetic rifle recoil suppression stock. Available in .223 Rem., .204 Ruger, .22-250 Rem. and .243 Winchester, this rifle is a great choice for the dedicated predator hunter.

When selecting a bullet type, consider how much damage you want to inflict or want to prevent. Rapid expansion equates to more damage whereas a solid or slower expanding bullet can kill with less damage to the pelt. Federal, Remington and Winchester all offer ammunition designed specifically for varmint hunting. And Barnes Bullets offers their new Varmint Grenade that offers explosive performance without pelt damage. If you use a shotgun for up close work, you can’t go wrong with #0 or #4 buck.  With the right choke, you’re good to well past 60 yards. Pinpoint accuracy with whatever caliber and bullet you shoot will increase your effectiveness in the field. So practice at the range until you can hit what you aim at!

 

 

 

 

 

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