SHOTGUNNING COYOTES: GETTING STARTED
My brother in law Kenny is a knucklehead. He never listens to me. That may be because he is slightly smart and more talented, but he should still at least feign respect, since I am the one who set him up with my bow hunter sister Nicole, and their marriage of 25 years is going strong, at least when she is not outhunting him as usual.
So he should still listen to me. Case in point. He set out to try hunting coyotes for the first time on a Wyoming ranch we have hunted for years for deer. He said the coyotes had never been seriously hunted there and they were psyched to try it.
Wyoming in unpressured areas can be incredible, I warned him, so he better be ready. And being ready means bringing a shotgun, I told him.
That ranch is perfect, with low lying cliffs, rock bluffs, and the Powder River splitting it all between fields rimmed with cottonwoods and blow downs.
But since he’s a knucklehead, he just brought rifles. He set up with three guys and immediately they were charged by three hungry dogs so fast one of them nearly bowled a guy over, and then another ran straight into the end of Kenny’s rifle barrel, knocking him to the side!
Nobody so much as got a shot off. Hilarious, and a cool illustration of just how intense predator hunting can be—which is why it’s one of the fastest growing sports in hunting.
Try shotgunning for coyotes and you’ll be addicted. The adrenaline rush is at least doubled when you kill them up close and personal. Despite all the intense marketing surrounding modern predator hunting, it’s really not that hard to fundamentally make the sounds that work well. Persistence and finding a place that has not seen a lot of pressure is in fact more important than being an expert caller. Kenny’s experience was proof of that! Watching predator hunting videos or tv shows, you might think you need a lot of high tech gear and a ghillie suit, expensive calls or a tricked out shotgun or rifle to kill predators. That’s just not the case.
Fact is, any old rifle that shoots straight works just fine, as does any shotgun stuffed with lead BBs or buckshot, and although a .22 centerfire like the .22-250 is a nice investment for a dedicated open-country predator hunter, even coyote hunters in the wide open spaces are finding they shoot nearly as many coyotes with a shotgun.
And the beauty of the shotgun is they all work. For sure, one set up for predators will be much more lethal right on out past 60 with a coyote-killing or turkey choke and properly patterned buckshot. Predator hunting is not a sport that involves a lot of shooting, so why not use the very best there is, the monstrously lethal Dead Coyote loads from HEVI-Shot in size T? Nothing compares, and anybody who has used it will tell you the same.
Tune your 12 gauge up with a HEVI-Shot Extended Range choke and those 1 5/8 ounce, 3.5 inch loads and you are ahead of the game. Add a red dot style sight so you can tune your point of aim to the center of the pattern at long ranges and you will be shocked at the damage you can do.
Truly any real turkey specific gun; ones with pistol grips, iron sights instead of a bead, or some kind of scope, are by design a perfect predator gun. But I have seen many shotgunners who throw those HEVI-Shot Dead Coyote loads in a regular old duck gun with murderous results. With a standard bead and non-custom choke they can still smash coyotes out to 45 yards.
And most of the shots in predator hunting are closer than that, which is why many guys don’t trick their guns out. In one Nebraska tournament we hunted, most of the coyotes our team scored on were killed with a shotgun, and most of those were under 20 yards.
I really learned on that trip how it is so much more fun to blast them at close range. Mojo’s Terry Denmon refused to hunt them any other way now, preferring to take them out as they attacked one of his decoys.
Why the break from tradition? That’s because coyotes can exploit the terrain—rises, ditches or gullies—to come running in and pop up so close it’s tough to find one in the scope. I have set up with a friend behind me as a cut off guy before, and he witnessed a coyote come in ghost like, literally sniff both me and a different guy seated 20 feet to my left, and skedaddle after having been within 10 feet behind us with me and the other shooter never even knowing he was there.
But what about the calling? Do you need that high dollar electronic call that can perform 15 coyote howls as well as “lost little piglets” and raccoon fights and chickens in distress? You do not. Buy and practice with a dying cottontail or jackrabbit mouth call and you are doing what has killed probably 98 percent of all coyotes ever called in and shot by hunters. They work everywhere, regardless of the presence of rabbits, surprisingly. It is simply a very primal sound that strikes a nerve with predators, whether it’s because they think they can steal a free lunch from a fox or because they think an intruder is hunting in their territory. Most likely, both.
Electronic calls are fun and sometimes work quite well because of that wild variety of sounds, especially in areas where coyotes have wizened up to the more traditional calls, but an affordable handheld mouth call will get it done…and for the same reasons. Electronic calls are great if you can afford one, but don’t wait to go hunting if you only have money for a mouth blown call.
The sound of a rabbit in distress is so strikingly similar to a squalling human baby that some pro hunters have reportedly recorded babies crying and used it to call dirty dogs. In open windy country, go with a loud volume call and stand on it with the “whaaaaa-whaaaaghhh-whaaa” sounds that accounts for some many pelts.
In tighter cover and less open country go with the cottontail in distress and a more whining quieter sound. Blow a sixty-second series every 5 minutes or so, looking for motion between calling. Open reed calls are trickier to master but have more flexibility and are the mark of a pro dog killer.
CALL OF DEATH
The advantage of the electronic call is that it moves the sound away from the hunter, so an animal running or sneaking in is not focused on the exact source of the sound. This is a big deal because it makes it easier to turn or raise your gun and finish the deal than if you are being lasered by a call-shy coyote that has been shot at before. But if you practice your setups, pay attention to your downwind, wear camo and hold still up until the very moment of truth, you will shoot plenty of coyotes with a hand blown traditional call.
To take the coyote’s focus off you, grab a decoy. Electric motion decoys are lethal but a simple rabbit or even a crow or owl decoy will work. Crows work not because they kill rabbits but because coyotes associate them with food like roadkill or a dead carcass and predators know crows are very wary, so they are a confidence decoy to a predator that takes the focus off you.
It is definitely more satisfying to call coyotes in with a mouth call, so give it a try. But when you have hard hunted country and you plan on covering a lot of it, I reach for that e-caller most of the time. The mouth calls come in where finesse is required or when I know I’m getting to hunt lightly pressured country.
You know, like my brother-in-law did in Wyoming. Now that he has educated all those coyotes, we’ll probably stretch our reach out with an e-caller when we hit that spot.
And, of course, a shotgun!
Don’t forget, calling is just a part of it, really. Focus also on finding areas that have not been hunted hard, and remember that predators will almost always circle downwind if possible before approaching. Also, be persistent. Bear in mind that even skilled predator callers expect to only score a coyote sighting perhaps one out of every four or five times they set up. So don’t give up—the adventure is worth it, which is why the sport has boomed.