Winter Coyote Hunting | Mapping and Planning Winter Calling Setups
Using vocalizations, and calling techniques to entice coyotes into shooting range makes for some fantastic hunting. Coaxing dogs into a call can provide fast, heart pounding action; especially in winter when other hunting seasons are coming to close or are out for the year. The draw of winter coyote hunting is a combination of the relevant timing when most species cannot be hunted and gear you can use to hunt them, usually decked out AR-15 tactical rifles, silencers, and even thermals! This can bring crowds in from all walks of life, from deer and turkey hunters, to some of the most serious gun and tactical enthusiasts. Beyond the gear and timing, coyote hunting can be as simple as setup, call, and shoot! However, like anything, winter coyote hunting can have its challenges, which is why there is some planning, mapping, and strategy that should take place before a setup is made.
Stealth and wariness come natural to canines, its key to their survival. Factors like wind, sun, topography, and even prey or other coyote behavior cues are all elements that coyote use to survive. Each of these components are key to plan and think about before putting together a set. Understanding the topography, travel routes, and the overall picture of your hunting area as a coyote sees it is one of the first steps to approaching winter coyote hunting. Access aerial views of the area you plan to set-up
Determining Where to Setup For Winter Coyote Hunting
Think small game, birds and rabbits when you are searching out areas to target coyotes. This includes considering locations ideal for pack rats, mice, and voles. Travel corridors can also be extremely productive, providing opportunities to hunt animals moving in and out of bedding and feeding areas. Utilizing natural travel areas as a part of your hunt helps to keep things natural and sets coyotes at ease when they are responding to your call. Coyotes can be reluctant to move into a wide open area or across exposed hilltops that are not a part of their typical travel routes, and away from their natural cover.
Look to Edges for Coyote Calling
A great place to start any coyote calling session is along edges. Edges, or an area where two types of cover or terrain come together create an ideal habitat for nesting and feeding small game. The same environments that offer excellent small game opportunities will prove to hold coyotes.
A grassy area where an agricultural field edge meets a thicket, a strip of timber bordering a fence row, or a waterway of overgrown weeds below a field terrace provide examples of edges that are ideal for coyotes. Think like a mouse or rabbit, then try and think like a coyote and decide how you would hunt that area.
Aerial photography and mapping is an amazing way to zoom out and get a bigger picture of the macro edges you might not of even noticed. Consider a long fence line that travels a mile or more, creating an edge, an area where two or more drainages come together combining edges from across the habitat, or maybe a long hillside or valley where the edge is actually created by a change in elevation. Getting an overall and expanded view of the territory you plan to hunt will provide you with the insight to make your hunt most effective and productive.
Travel Corridors are Key for Calling Coyotes
Coyotes make their living by going undetected. These stealthy animals are masters at moving in and out of cover and reading terrain for their benefit. Natural travel ways between thick cover, edges along fields and meadows, or simply low lying depressions create corridors where coyotes travel to go undetected from both their prey and from humans. This also allows them to use any active thermal and wind patterns to their advantage.
By using cover and terrain to their advantage, hunters can set-up near likely travel corridors, and increase the odds of an encounter. Look for probable routes between hunting areas with thick cover.
Using the Wind is Critical for Coyote Hunting
A coyotes nose is one of its best assets. Coyotes use the wind to their advantage always; its instinctual to them, its sewn into how they behave. Hunters must learn to use the wind to cover their scent and sound, both while calling and while walking in and out of the calling setup.
Use a Cross Wind to Call Coyotes
Letting out a mournful cry of a rabbit in distress toward a deep draw with the wind in your face may seem like a no-brainer, and there is no doubt this strategy can be effective, but consider making that same calling stand from a set-up with a cross wind. A cross wind setup coupled with overlooking a likely travel corridor can allow you to make the most out of a property or setup.
Coyotes have keen senses, and while they use their eyes and ears, they are always working to get their nose on target when it comes to closing the distance to a call. By using a crosswind with the terrain to your advantage, its much easier to catch a wary coyote trying to circle around down wind of your call. Take a look at the aerials in relationship to the prevailing winds with HuntStand to find the best approach and calling vantage point with the wind in mind.
Best Calls for Winter Coyote Hunting
You’ve executed a plan of attack, found an ideal location with cover and a travel corridor, the wind is in your favor; now its time to make a call. Coyote calls cover a wide variation of prey and communication sounds. Various vocalizations and getting a response can be easy one day and tricky the next. Coyotes are intelligent, and their temperament can change quickly. All of this reinforces the fact that selecting the right call is dependent upon reading the situation and time of year.
Winter coyote behavior tends to lend itself to opportunity more than other times of year. With breeding occurring from January to March, coyote vocalizations in particular are very effective in the winter. However, if temperature plummets or snow moves in, a break in the weather may cue you to use more in distress sounds.
Wounded Prey Calls for Coyotes
The most basic and common call for coyote hunters is the sound of wounded prey. There are numerous illustrations of how a wounded prey call should sound, but the common factor is an easy lunch. Don’t pay attention to the name of the call, but instead he likely situation. Think: cottontail caught in a fence, pack rat pinned down by a crow, or even a fawn being attacked by a coyote. All these prey distress sounds can be effective at calling in a coyote looking for a quick lunch.
Start out soft, with a low key and non-aggressive sound. If there is a coyote nearby, it’s best to ease into the calling session. However, if time is not on your side, getting loud and aggressive early could be in your best interest.
Mouse or vole squeaks work terrific on still days with little wind. Call and then wait, then repeat. After a few short calling sessions of two or three minutes, it’s time to up the volume or hit a coyote vocalization. Cottontail distress is an easy go to in terms of prey calls, but other not so common distress sounds like a fawn, pack rat, or even different bird species can peak the interest of a pressured pack.
Coyote Vocalization Calls for Breeding Season
Coyotes are very social animals. Fortunate for the hunter, winter coyote hunting falls right smack in the middle of one of those social seasons. The coyote’s breeding season generally falls between late December and early January, until early March. Setting up in the backyard of a dominant male coyote and letting loose with some female in heat calls is a dynamic way to get his attention. Not only will a dominant male come in to investigate the female and breeding opportunity, but other males will work tirelessly to keep other males out of their territory and defend their females.
Another amazing tactic for breeding season is to produce dominant male vocalizations to trigger either aggression from a nearby male, or investigation by a nearby female; either way be ready to shoot. Other calls that can be effective during the breeding season include pup in distress and coyotes attacking pups/dens. Interestingly enough, a sound made by one species is often effective and drawing a different species into the setup.
Think Outside the Box for Coyote Calling with Unusual Sounds
Sometimes things go stale, the coyotes aren’t reacting to your calling, and it seems like nothing will work. Occasionally it’s time to pull out the stops and try something totally new. If the coyotes in your area have been called to this season, and perhaps been educated by other hunters, the typical calls and vocalizations may not be effective. Using a sound that area that coyotes have never heard can be just the ticket.
A peacock’s high pitched calling, a goat in distress, or maybe a squealing piglet; these are all examples of out of the ordinary calls that can be effective when nothing else seems to be working. The sound of a prey animal in distress is sometimes a universal dinner bell to coyotes. The added intrigue of an unusual, but non-aggressive sound may be just the ticket to get a reluctant coyote to make a move. There are also sound files with very aggressive pup and coyote vocalizations, some of the most unusual and enticing being coyotes attacking other coyotes. While you may think it’s intense or unusual, other hunters have been using this as a staple in their calling list.
Utilize a Full Toolbox When Winter Coyote Hunting
Winter coyote hunting calling can be incredibly effective and rewarding, and it’s a fantastic way to get out and enjoy the outdoors when many other seasons are coming to a close. To increase your odds of success, be sure to put all the tools you have available to work.
● Make a plan of attack utilizing knowledge of topography, wind, and terrain by using aerial maps and imagery.
● Start soft with distress calls, sound like an easy meal and appeal to a coyote’s ravenous appetite.
● Don’t neglect calling with coyote breeding seasons and socialization in mind.
● Pull out all the stops and don’t be afraid to sound like a wounded prey animal your area coyotes have never heard, curiosity is a powerful thing.