Monday, January 31, 2011

Coyote Hunting 101

And the big subject today is location.
Just where are all them fucking coyotes, you ask?
Damned if I know. I’m still trying figure that one out myself but I can tell you what I look for, what I do, and who I ask when I’m scouting.
Again, keep in mind my location. This may or may not apply to mid-west or eastern coyotes, I really don’t know. But these tips are worth keeping in the back of your head.

Okay, we’ve established that coyotes eat anything and everything but their main diet is mice, rabbits bugs and other assorted field critters. I see coyotes every day (if I get off before dark) in farmers’ fields hunting mice. But the thing is, I don’t see them in every field, only certain ones and these are fields that have lain fallow for a cycle, fields that have been freshly (and I emphasize freshly) harvested or cut, and fields that have just been plowed. Why? Because that’s where the mice are easiest to catch. If there’s a thick crop of alfalfa or rye, it’s harder for the coyote to pin the li’l bastard down.
Look for other food sources as well. At the dairy that I hunted last week, the woman was complaining about her chickens being killed. Some dairies and farms have a location where they put dead stock while waiting for the rendering plant to come pick them up.

In eastern California where I hunt when I have the time and gas money, they run a lot of sheep on BLM land and I’m talking huge flocks. My best set ever was shooting near a spring that had just had a flock travel through. A half dozen coyotes in less than 3 hours under a full moon. Pure luck on the timing but I had the location in mind already.

Water. Every living creature, even muslims, need water. And like muslims, coyotes know where it’s at or how to find it. If there is no water in the area, there ain’t no coyotes either. Find water and you’ll find coyotes. Something along that subject: A friend of mine lives in the foothills where there’s a few wineries and he was telling me that the wineries have a big problem with coyotes. I puzzled on that for a few seconds until he told me that during the summer the coyotes chew up the drip irrigation lines to drink. Wanna guess where I’m headed this summer after it gets good and hot? You guessed it, I’m going to be talking to winery managers. So don’t think just natural water sources, think irrigation canals, lines, stock tanks, etc.

Coyotes need cover as well where they can lay up during the day. Contrary to popular belief they don’t have dens that they return to every night. The only time they den up is when a female has pups and they’re the only ones you’ll see in the den. Other pack members lay up in the same area, but not in the den. During the winter look for an area that has a south-facing slope so they can catch some of the suns’ warmth. During the heat of the summer look for a north-facing slope where they escape it. Always think slope when scouting. They’re like any other animal and want a place where they can see you before you see them. If it’s flatland where you’re at, look for a brush line or something like that where they can hear you approaching.

So they need food, water and cover. Sounds easy enough…..

When I go to a strange area I do several things. The very first thing I do is check it out using a detailed map. My favorite is my De Lorme road atlas because it shows topographical details, it shows roads, trails and 4WD roads. It shows springs, water tanks and even seasonal streams. Then I go to (get ready, this is my ace in the hole) Google Earth and check it out in living color. Granted, you can’t always get the clarity you want but you would be fucking surprised at how much detail you can see. My atlas doesn’t show stands of trees but G.E. does.
Then I go ask around. I talk to anybody that comes in contact with hunters, fisherman, ranchers, etc, and ask them what they know. That means clerks at the mini-mart, the girl at the hamburger stand, the desk clerk at the motel you’re staying at and the madam at the local whorehouse. Folks like to be asked questions, it makes them feel important especially if they can help. I ask everybody I come in contact with in a new area.
Absolutely for sure ask the guy at the local gun or bait & tackle shop as well as the local ranger if you’re on BLM or Nat’l Forest land.

Once I do my homework and arrive on site, I go in the middle of the day to where I want to hunt and start poking around. I stay near the edges of the area and start looking for sign. I’m looking for tracks and coyote shit and I’m looking for them specifically on trails. Why trails? Because animals are like humans - they’re not going to bust brush if there’s a trail to saunter on down. I look for fresh shit, something shiny, brown and smelly. If all I see is white piles of crap I start thinking of moving on. I look for areas of concealment and depending on the season, the location. If it’s dead in the middle of summer and there’s a slope facing south, I move to the other side where it’s cooler. Remember, if you’re comfortable, so is the coyote.

Wind. I pay hard attention to the godammed wind. And I know that in the mountains and high desert, that shit swirls and swaps direction like a womans’ mind but I try to put the odds in my favor.

Okay. Everything looks good. I’ve done my homework. I’ve talked to people and I’ve listened to what they’ve had to say - where they’ve seen and heard coyotes. I’ve gone to the area and poked around a little looking for sign and found it. What’s next?
Nothing. For the moment, anyways. I go back to my house, motel room or camp and fucking wait until after dark. Take a nap, go over my gear, put fresh batteries in what needs batteries, eat, whatever.
After dark I head back to the area, turn off my motor and sit quiet for a few minutes listening. Then I haul out the best thing since Astro-glide lubricant - a fucking siren. No shit, a siren that I ordered from Fur Harvesters Trading Post. It’s a box about 4”x4” with 2 different pitches of 1964 Mayberry RFD siren that wails out at over 100 decibels. That motherfucker is LOUD.
I turn it on for about 30 seconds (after putting on hearing protection) and then turn it off and listen. I move around the area in several locations until I hear the coyotes howling back to it, and believe me, they do with a vengeance. That’s where I’ll be before first light on my first set of the day.

So, keep in mind food, water, cover, and comfort. Watch the wind. Always watch the fucking wind. Scout the area with your eyes on the ground and your head out of your ass. But most importantly do your homework. If you just drive to an area and jump out and commence to hunting, you may get lucky. If you do your homework and some planning, luck won’t have shit to do with it.

My next post (probably next weekend) is going to concern coyote calling. Maybe. I ain’t made up my mind yet.

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