Coyote Hunting

July 10th, 2009 / Posted by
Coyote Hunting


As is the case across most of America these days, there’s no shortage of coyotes near the western Kentucky home of Harold Knight and David Hale, two of the country’s top game callers. So when the pair set me up behind an old log atop a small hill overlooking a field edge and began calling, I asked no questions. Instead I chambered a round into the .22-250 and got ready.

It wasn’t 20 minutes later an old song dog came loping out into the field, drawn to the pair’s squalling like flies to honey. I let him drop his head and started trotting our way before setting the crosshairs on his chest and clicking off the safety. Harold’s squealer was the last thing he ever heard.

Coyotes hunting across America is as good as it’s ever been, thanks to a rapidly growing population. It’s also a challenging and exciting form of off-season hunting.

“Coyotes are cautious animals, always afraid that there’s something out there trying to eat them,” said Harold Knight, half the famous Knight & Hale game calling team that manufacturers a wide variety of game call products and videos. “You have to be meticulous in your hunting if you want to have a chance at calling a dog into shooting range.”

Find and Study Sign
You have to be hunting in an area that holds coyotes, which seems pretty obvious but is something many beginning hunters overlook. “Take the time to learn how to recognize coyote sign, then look for it,” said David Hale. “Look for tracks, scat, and evidence of where coyotes have been eating small game like rabbits. You can also listen for howling at and dawn and near sunset. I like to howl right before or just after dark, which often will stimulate a nearby pack into answering me. If I do this, I know they’re probably within a quarter mile of where I’m standing. They’ll probably bed down close to that, so I know to be in position to hunt that spot as soon as it’s light enough to see the next morning.”

Set Up So You Can See
“Out West, where you can see along ways off, it’s best to set up on an elevated knob or bench, where you can see a long ways out there,” said Knight. “I like to be able to see a quarter mile if I can. The key is to slip into this position from the back side, so the coyotes won’t spot you as you set up.

“In the East, it’s best to set up under 300 yards from where you think the dogs are laid up in a wide open area. This may seem strange at first, but you have to be able to call the coyote into an open area so you can get a shot. If you call one up in the thick brush, he may come in but you’ll never see him. This open terrain is a disadvantage for you, so be sure to stay still and be well camouflaged.”

Play The Wind
“You have to play the wind just as if you were deer hunting,” said Hale. “If coyotes get a whiff of you, they’re gone. Period. A coyote’s nose is as good as his ears and eyes, and they’re very good. His only weakness is his appetite, which is what we’re playing with when we try and call them in.

“Also, on windy days try and set up at least a quarter mile from where you think the coyotes might be,” Hale said. “On calm days, a half-mile is about right, to avoid accidentally spooking them while you’re getting ready.”

Choosing The Right Call
When selecting the type of call to use, choose one that imitates a small-game animal that is prevalent in the local food chain. “In the West, the key food source for most coyotes is the jackrabbit,” Knight said. “In the east, it is the cottontail rabbit. Also, you’d be surprised how many small domestic dogs coyotes eat. You can make the sound of a puppy whining with a mouth diaphragm, and that often gets coyotes running to you where more conventional calls may not.”

There are many calls with instructional cds and videos available in the Eders virtual pro shop that provide an inexpensive way to learn the ins and outs of coyote calling from the experts. see theCoyote Calls at

The Calling Sequence
Knight and Hale follow a basic calling pattern when prospecting a new location. “We like to use a brisk series of sounds beginning with a squalling sound as loud as we can make it, then taper it off to a series of more quiet squealing,” Hale said. “These series may last 10 to 15 seconds, and we try to repeat the sequence four or five times in the space of two minutes.

“The first series of calls is usually at a lower than maximum volume, in case there are coyotes close to where we’ve set up,” Hale said. “If we don’t get any action, we up the volume and tempo. If I’m hunting in the morning, I’ll usually give a set-up an hour before moving on to try another area. That’s because in the morning, the dog is returning to his bedding area, and I have to give him time to get there.

Using complete camouflage, including covering the face, hands, and ears, is critical to consistent success on coyotes. “Choose a pattern that blends in well with the surrounding foliage at a particular time of year,” Knight advised. “Coyotes have sharp eyes, and their suspicious nature makes them wary of anything that doesn’t look just right.”

It’s also critical to monitor your own movement, Knight said. “You have to sit still, especially when you’re set up in semi-open country,” he said. “Even if you’re camo’d up, if a coyote sees you move he’ll become ultra-cautious, and that means it’s game over.”

The Locomotion
The locomotion isn’t just an old 1960′s dance, it’s also a good way to get a call-shy coyote into range.

“We like to improvise some sort of motion decoy when we set up,” said Hale. “If a decoy will focus the dog’s eyes on it instead of you, your chances of getting off a good shot are increased dramatically.”

Harold and David like to use a two-man attack, setting up 75 to 100 yards apart. The caller carries a shotgun loaded with buck shot, while the observer carries a long-range varmint rifle. “The caller is the decoyer,” Knight said. “He needs to set a decoy of a rabbit at least 30 yards from his hide. I like to give the decoy movement by attaching a piece of fishing line to it, then moving the line enough to give the decoy a life-like motion. Feather- Flex makes a great bouncing rabbit decoy for this trick.

“Mouth calls are best for close calling because of the low sound and because you can use them with both hands free to handle the weapon.”

“When we set up, the caller needs to keep his eyes focused in one direction, the observer in another,” Knight said. “You can’t make a lot of motion, or an old coyote will see you. They usually approach to the edge of the cover line, then hesitate while they size things up before committing. If they see any movement other than the decoy, they’ll vanish. The rifleman must watch for the movement of the coyote at long range, then make the shot before the dog catches on that he’s been set up.”

Types of Calls
There are several commercially made varmint calls on the market, and most will work well under the right conditions, Hale said. “External calls will produce the most volume for you, while internal (mouth diaphragm) calls produce the least volume. Mouth calls are best for close calling because of the low sound and because you can use them with both hands free to handle the weapon.

“Electronic callers are excellent choices for most coyote hunting, where legal,” Hale said. “This way you can set the speaker off away from you, near the decoy, which will draw the coyote’s attention away from you blind and, of course, keeping the hands free for the shot.”

Hale also recommends varmint hunters listen to one of several how-to cassettes on calling coyotes, watch videos, and attend seminars given by expert coyote hunters to learn as much as they can about the sport. “Even if you’ve been calling coyotes for a long time, you can always learn something new. These training aids are inexpensive, and even if you only pick up one or two little ideas from them they’ll be worth the money.”

For a short instructional video from Primos on calling coyote see the video below:

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