I am a master of all things hunting. Wait, let me qualify that. I am a master of all things hunting when compared to my coyote hunting “skills.” I have shot coyotes. I have called in coyotes. To date, I have not called in and shot a coyote.
This has been a nigh on 14-year quest. I bought a Lohman Circe rabbit-in-distress call when I was 16. It’s occupied every day pack, fanny pack and backpack since then, collecting lint, but nary a coyote pelt. It’s been wailed on from North Carolina to Colorado to South Florida and has done an excellent job pulling in fox, bobcat, crows, hawks, cows, deer, and one wild boar, yet only one coyote in South Carolina that circled through the brush and winded me.
I remember clear as day the first coyote I saw in Florida. Back in ’94 we were driving into a piece of private property early one morning to deer hunt in Manatee County when this big ol’ dog ran into the headlights. Today – and I’m not encouraging or endorsing this in anyway, kids – he probably would’ve have died in a hail of gunfire from either of the two in the front seat, but we were slack-jawed at the time. The yote just trotted in front of the Bronco, looking back to tease once in a while, then finally off into the imagination. Since then, the coyote has been a creature of mystique for me – of course, one smelly mutt I popped in Cedar Key about ended that.
A couple years ago I purchased a Johnny Walker digital call. Wait, that’s not right. Johnny Stewart digital call! Johnny Walker is what I drink to console myself after the hunt. Silly me. Out of sheer desperation, I also acquired a Mojo predator decoy that flips this cotton thing around in an attempt to distract incoming predators. Let me tell you something. Listening to that caller for more than 10 minutes will cause dementia and horrible, ghastly thoughts. It’s deranged, especially the fawn bleat that’ll almost make you want to join PETA. And watching the cotton ball device – while I believe the theory is sound – just reminds me how much I love to blow money.
This last weekend at Upper Hillsborough WMA, I put these last two toys to the test. My coyote calling-and-killing chastity remains sacred.
The dog came in from the right out of a sea of palmettos. Of course, this was off my wrong shoulder as I faced downwind overlooking a fire trail. I turned my head ever so slightly, and that was it. He spun back around and into that rattlesnake-infested oblivion. Stupid!
I hate to admit this, but aside from blasting the occasional one from a tree stand, that story pretty well illustrates my hunting experiences with coyotes. If I can beg a pardon from the Turkey Hunting Cult, I believe a gobbler is much more forgiving to movement than a coyote - a deer especially is. You know that old saying that if a turkey could smell you’d never see one? Well, guess what? You’ve just described the Southern Coyote. The parallels between hunting the two are striking. Calling to an animal in thick brush where calls only travel so far. Each animal has fantastic eyesight and hearing, and the coyote has the extra advantage of a functioning, no, superior olfactory system.
My strategy was to face downwind to intercept the dogs as they circle the source of the noise. Dad would guard the upwind side. Both of us carried 12 gauge 3 ½ magnums stoked with heavy turkey loads. The shotguns were perfect for this brush work in a small clearing of trails between a cypress head and aforementioned palmetto flat.
I’d hit the rabbit squealer button, and the card would play for about a minute. Then silence for five to ten minutes before hitting it again. I’d do this three times and move along. Well, this coyote came at the end of the third sequence. I was covered head-to-toe in a Scent-Lok ghillie suit, and he still saw just the mere twist of my neck from 60 yards away.
Coyotes have been in Florida now for a few decades, but the hunting literature has not caught up with them yet. I enjoy watching guys air them out on TV in places like Montana, but it’s a different ballgame in the South. Stay mobile and try new things. That’s about the best advice I can give. There are plenty of them here, but they are wicked smart.
I’ve been reasonably successful in most manners of hunting in which I’ve endeavored over the last 17 years. I’m not going to give up, but the coyotes about have me beat.
If anyone has any advice to share, please do.