Three years now I have spent bunkered up and bundled up during the cold winter mornings in pursuit of cute and fury critters coming to the dinner bell. I don't claim to be very successful, though I have learned enough to where I feel confident in the field. I started out with a cheap bunny in distress call, an SKS, carhartts as winter gear, and absolutely no idea what to do. I would head to the same highly traveled trail system and call different areas during all hours of the day. Since then I have gathered much information from internet forums, many books, and in field experience. After spending so much time practicing these methods I figured I would share a few of my thoughts about predator hunting.
Eventually I grew familiar with when and where coyotes would travel. This came fairly quickly while spending at least one day a week for most of the season in the same area. Also while desperately trying mimic a dying rabbit I would often hear coyotes howl, I never saw them but I knew there were animals in the area. I suppose the most important aspect of calling is finding an area with animals. If there are no animals to be called you might as well pack up and go home.
Is camo that important? I wear my winter camo cover ups on every trip, but it's not essential if the stand is setup right. In a open field I can see how camo would help, but I have called in a handful of coyote wearing average clothing while sitting up against a bush or tree line. A buddy that shot a coyote I called in was sitting against a patch of dead alder and fidgeting like he forgot his hemroid donut pad at the truck, the coyote never spotted us. Also this was no long range shot, the coyote was taken at 50 yards on a narrow trail.
Upwind, downwind, crosswind, does it make a difference? So far all the coyotes I spotted while calling have come in on the upwind and crosswind. When I hunt with a buddy I usually give them the direction which I believe a predator will come from. There's a few reasons for this. I go calling so much if I have a buddy that is willing to wake up extra early, deal with the cold mornings, and be a great hunting partner, why not let them have the better of the two odds. Also, I have occasionally seen tracks that indicate a coyote coming to the call circled downwind and bolted. I've heard this is a good strategy, waiting for them to circle to downwind and hope to sneak a peak at the pred, I've seen the tracks while walking back to the atv but I haven’t seen the animal with my own two eyes. Maybe I will one day when I let someone else stake the prime direction. No matter which way I look at it I always see them on the upwind or crosswind.
I'll tally up all the predators I have taken to date, yup that's a big goose egg. I've called them in numerous times, a buddy has taken one, but I'm still 0 for three years. Two coyotes I called in I had a very good shot, but the sun set behind the mountains and my $40 scope couldn't pick up enough light to pick them out. I saw them beautifully with my binocs though. The rest never gave me a shot. I hunt an area that is probably the most heavily traveled atv system in Alaska, but I still do it because it's the only area my wife will let me hunt alone. I believe these animals associate people with the noise of an atv. While I am sitting on a stand I can literally hear people running atv's from miles away, and my hearing isn't near the average person let alone a coyote. Just imagine how far away they can hear an atv. I'm leaning to believe that's why I hear them howl so often while calling. Almost as if they are saying, "do you think we're stupid?" Currently I am reading "Hunting The Hunters" and it has presented a few insights that I wouldn't have otherwise thought of. How exactly do you target a educated predator? With a drop off from a truck or atv, but this takes two people. Really, it makes sense. You won't have to walk to the stand and allow the predators to listen to the crunch of every foot step. The person driving the atv can also quickly set out an ecaller. If everything goes right the predators will think it was just a passer by.
Currently I am reading "Hunting The Hunters" and it has presented a few insights that I wouldn't have otherwise thought of. How exactly do you target a educated predator? With a drop off from a truck or atv, but this takes two people. Really, it makes sense. You won't have to walk to the stand and allow the predators to listen to the crunch of every foot step. The person driving the atv can also quickly set out an ecaller. If everything goes right the predators will think it was just a passer by.
Stop and stalk. I have not be fortunate enough to spot a predator without calling it in to begin with. But last weekend I did get into a pack of wolves. I was checking a few snares when I heard a pack of wolves howling. The howls were loud and crisp, I estimated them to be within 400 yards of heavy alder thickets but there was a narrow trail through the brush with small opening fields. I decided to make a stand and throw out some coyote howls hoping the wolves would defend their territory. It worked, somewhat. They ran down the trail towards me, within 75 yards and right before they came to the opening I was hoping for they took a b line through the heavily brushed ridge line. At least that is what their fresh tracks indicated. I never saw them.
Eventhough I haven't bagged a predator I seriously love this sport. There are few situations that get my heart pumping like sitting on a stand and hearing a coyote howl in the dead of night while I'm playing DJ with my ecaller, or watching a coyote barrel down over a hill towards my call. Or when the grip warmers of my atv scat the bed at -30*F while riding back from a solo hunt after seeing fresh predator tracks in the snow. No matter what I love it.