Dove season is on, squirrel season is on, rabbit is on and the archery deer season will open at the end of the week. However, there is one often overlooked part of fall hunting, maybe because it has no set season. Predator hunting, particularly coyotes, may be the most challenging type of hunting you can do. If you can regularly call in and shoot coyotes, you can consider yourself a competent hunter!
I think the coyote may be the smartest animal on the North American continent to hunt, especially if you are calling the critter to you. It is one thing to launch an occasional shot at a coyote loping across a pasture; it is quite another thing to bring the coyote to you.
When you are calling predators, you actually become the “hunted”…this is a new dimension for most hunters. And when you get into calling and hunting things like bobcats or mountain lions, it can get quite interesting! This part of the country has lots of coyotes, and landowners are often quite willing to have you thin out the number of coyotes they have. I hunt a number of ranches and farm operations that raise cattle, hogs or fowl. Most of the owners are only too happy for me to eliminate a few of the predators that can put a noticeable dent in their bottom line.
Jeff Rawlinson, with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), is an avid predator caller. He recently called me and asked if I could help set up a hunt for Phil Seng, a marketing professional who is working with the NGPC to develop hunting feedback surveys. Rawlinson said they would be in the North Platte area and that Seng had never hunted coyotes before. Well, anything to get into the field and hunt something…I said yes.
I called a local landowner that had a hog operation and some canyon ground. I got permission to hunt and bring guests, so the hunt was on. All we needed now was the date to get here, and a coyote or two to show up when called.
Rawlinson and Seng were decked out in camouflage and ready to go when I met them. We talked about the areas we planned to hunt. Some of it was open ground where long shots would be the norm. Rawlinson had only brought shotguns, so I offered Seng the use of one of my rifles in case the situation dictated launching a bullet a couple of hundred yards.
Our first set up was below a hog confinement. Rawlinson called for a while, but nothing showed up to see what all the noise was about. In coyote hunting, set ups are brief, maybe 20 to 30 minutes. If nothing comes to the call…..move to another spot.
Our second set up was canyon ground, about 70 acres of rough ground that fell away from row cropped tables. Rawlinson liked the look of this part of the county. For this area, a 12 gauge shotgun with buckshot was the best of choice.
“This looks like a spot where we should find a coyote or two”, Rawlinson commented as he scanned the area. “The little fingers of the canyons will be good spots to set up and call.”
Rawlinson and Seng disappeared into the canyon. I moved off a quarter mile or so to be less or a potential problem. The more hunters you have in the field, the more likely you are to have someone move at the wrong time and blow the hunt. I could not hear Rawlinson calling, but only 20 minutes or so had passed when I heard a shot. I looked at my watch. It was 1:58pm. Coyote calling is something you can do any time of day.
“I cut my teeth in southern Indiana hunting ground hogs with rifles”, Seng told me after the hunt. “I love calling and long range shooting. Those two elements made me want to try coyote hunting, but I’d never thought about hunting them with a shotgun and I never thought about hunting them in this type of terrain.”
Rawlinson had located a spot where he and Seng could oversee the mouth of the canyon and set out a decoy, a furry blob that was set to be remotely activated and wiggle. Seng sat a few feet up the wall of the canyon; Rawlinson sat up a little higher so he could call. After only a few calls the coyote appeared. Seng clicked off the safety.
The coyote was being cautious, but was fixated on the decoy. It walked back and forth in front of the hunters a couple of times. The distance was now about 40 yards. “Shoot”, Rawlinson whispered. Seng took aim and fired. It was a good shot and Seng had his first coyote with a shotgun. Congratulations, Phil!