The American Outdoorsman is currently focused on big whitetail bucks, bugling bull elk, wild turkey slams, and an occasion overseas visit to Africa, which has taken the focus off of a variety of other hunt ventures that presently seem to be lost in the darkness. One such sport is the hunting of predator. Predator Hunting refers to the harvest of coyote, fox, bobcat, badger, raccoon, opossum, and other fur bearing animals found throughout the United States. Predator hunting in the Midwest may often times exceed that of even South Texas. Prior to the popularity of other hunting sports our forefathers pursued furbearers with passion.
One cold January day in 2006 I crept down into a piece of timber in northern Missouri with my Ruger 22-250 in search of an alpha male coyote. My hopes were to mount it and place it in the trophy room. I sat up with a favorable wind atop a log road and inserted “dying rabbit” memory card into my caller. I turned the caller on for 3 minutes and then turned it off. I sat as still as a statue but nothing responded. I waited another 3 minutes and then turned the caller on again for another 3 minute interval. Movement caught my eye from the west. Barreling in to within 50 yards was the alpha male coyote I was seeking. I squeezed off the trigger and collected my trophy coyote. 51 pounds. That’s quite a dog from anywhere in the United States. It was thrilling to have controlled the animal with my call using tactics to harvest the eirie wolf like trophy.
There is evidence that coyotes, especially in the Adirondacks, take a toll on the whitetail deer pop¬ulation. Suprisingly, the number of deer has been increasing in all Adirondack counties, but there’s also evidence that the coyotes may limit deer numbers in certain regions. The deer that I shot during the last day of the regular season in Saratoga County was being chased by a pair of coyotes. Other states report that coyotes are responsible for the mortality rate on whitetail fawns ranging from 17% to 35%. If you’re a deerhunter the coyote may be one your least favorite of the North American Animals. In fact in my outfit camps I tell hunters I will pay for their arrows or bullets that harvest coyotes. A highly populated coyote pack can devastate a whitetail population in certain regions. As hunters its our responsibility to control the coyote and other furbearing animals such as the bobcat, mountain lion, etc.
In the following narrative we will discuss predator history, types of calls, and strategies of harvesting predators and varmints.
“A brief history of trapping and predator hunting in North America
The history of trapping dates back to the earliest days of mankind. For as long as people have tried to protect themselves from the elements, they have used the skins of furbearing animals. When the first humans arrived in North America, during the Ice Age some 11,000 years ago, much of the continent was covered by glaciers. These people would not have survived without their fur clothing.
North America has always provided a wealth of furbearing animals. The first European settlers to reach these shores quickly observed this. Fur became an article of trade in North America in the early 1600s. In the year 1670, the Hudson’s Bay Company was established in what is now Canada. The aim of this company was to buy fur pelts. This makes the harvest of furbearing animals one of the oldest industries in North America.
The furbearing animals, and the trappers who followed them, played a large role in the development of this country. In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Merriwether Lewis and William Clarke to explore the land known as the Louisiana Purchase. One purpose of the Lewis and Clarke expedition was to report on the natural resources available in this region. They discovered a large number of furbearing animals in these lands.
The beaver was one of the most sought after furbearers during this period. The trappers who pursued these animals were largely responsible for opening up the western half of the United States for settlement. These were the famous “Mountain Man” trappers. These trappers were often the first non-native people to visit and explore the vast wilderness. Their travels mapped the trails that settlers would later follow.
As the country became more settled, trappers continued to harvest furbearing animals for their pelts. However, trappers began to play another equally important role. As more and more people spread out across the land, problems between humans and wildlife became more common. Trappers helped control the population of some wild animals that might otherwise have caused damage to the settlers’ crops and livestock.
While the days of expansion and settlement in this country have passed, trapping still serves two important purposes. First, regulated trapping provides a method for harvesting and using the pelts of furbearing animals. These animals are a renewable resource. Secondly, trapping provides a way to help control the population of certain animals. This helps reduce conflicts between these animals and mankind.
Today, trapping provides a good source of outdoor recreation for many individuals. Also, as it was for trappers in the past, the sale of pelts provides a source of income. The public also benefits from trapping because it reduces the frequency of disease and damage that may come with an overpopulation of animals.” (Ohio Division of Wildlife)
Gone are the Mountain Men portrayed by Robert Redford as in the epic movie, Jeremiah Johnson. Along with it the sport of predator or varmint hunting has taken a backseat to other more popular hunt ventures. However, predator hunting can be an exciting way to spend the boring months between whitetail and turkey season in the continental United States hunting some of the keenest animals in the world. The satisfying factor of hunting predators is that there is actually an art to being successful in pursuit of coyote, bobcat, fox, badger, and other furbearing animals when the hunter implements the usage of wild game calls.
“Types of Predator Calls”
Mouth Blown Calls
The most advanced predator hunters usually implement or use mouth blown calls as these types of calls can sometimes take many years to perfect authentic sound with. While mouth calls make the sport of predator hunting for coyote, bobcat, fox, etc more difficult I recommend them mainly for coaxing an animal that refuses to come within weapon range. Mouth calls have advantages as they are easy to carry, and they are also very inexpensive to purchase and maintain. Diaphram calls for predator hunting are slightly different than diaphragm turkey calls and often times can prove to be uncomfortable and tickle the roof of the hunter’s mouth to the point of being unbearable. Predator or varmint hunters may also elect to use a variety of hand calls or barreled calls. With hand mouth blown calls the hunter is able to really wail across riverbottom fields and open areas with a gravely and raspy tone. These calls are equipped with reeds to produce sound. My preference are the calls designed by Hunter Specialties. Johnny Stewart and Hunter Specialties have perfected these calls over years of testing and do prove to be very effective in hands of the experienced predator hunter.
If I was confined to two hand blown calls available I would choose from Johnny Stewart/Hunter Specialties include: -...Variable Pitch Predator Call
Model P C 1 Variable Pitch Predator Call: The most versatile mouth call ever developed for predatory animals and birds. With the Rubber Button Pitch Control, this predator call easily The most versatile mouth call ever developed for predatory animals and birds. With the Rubber Button Pitch Control, this predator call easily produces pup squeals, high-pitched squeals, mid-range squeals and low-pitch, long range squalls. It can also recreate the sounds of raccoon chatter and produces pup squeals, high-pitched squeals, mid-range squeals and low-pitch, long range squalls. It can also recreate the sounds of raccoon chatter and chicken cackles.
Model PC-2...Mini Predator Call
This "close-in" squeaker is one of the most compact and effective short range calls ever developed. Small enough to be carried in your pants or shirt pocket, with a big enough sound to coax predators right to your feet. pocket, with a big enough sound to coax predators right to your feet.
The mouth caller will need the PC1 to initiate contact with predators such as coyote, bobcat, fox, etc. The PC2 is used to coax animals closer which refuse to come into weapon range. A variety of hand blown calls can be seen at http://johnnystewart.com/Updateable/update_display.cfm?pageID=20&categoryID=15
You will find the Hunter Specialty calls to be very forgiving and are able to take reed abuse caused by sub zero temperatures associated with predator or varmint hunting. These calls also do not suffer from slobber rot as varmint hunters refer to it.
Howling can be a very important aspect of a successful coyote hunt. When predator hunters mimic the howling of a coyote it has the same effect as a crow or owl call for turkeys. It serves a “locater” purpose. Mastering the art of howling with hand blown calls is going to take some practice, and can drive residents or your household to the brink of insanity. Ever walked around the house prior to turkey season practicing and get the sneer from an annoyed spouse. I know I have. Now imagine the practice of howling louding as a coyote or pack of coyotes. This may require the search of a good divorce lawyer, ha ha. In an effort to locate the pack during your outing the hunter may wish to implement or mimic the “howl”. Normally this leads to a response by a single coyote up to the entire pack howling back at the hunter. This gives the hunter a clue regarding what position he or she may wish to take in an effort to begin calling. Don’t ever count on howling to be an accurate measure of the prescence of coyotes in the area. Often times the pack won’t howl back no matter how good you are at howling. To accomplish this task I recommend Hunter Specialties/Johnny Stewart’s
Model CYC-2...Mega Coyote Dog Howler
The Coyote Dog Howler with attached megaphone works great for long-distance calling. Reproduces howls, barks, whines and yelps. Includes lanyard and instructional cassette.
Good tone is produced from this barreled call. There was enough length on the reed atop the sound making portion of the mouthpiece to allow for the variety of pitches in a single "howl" to sound realistic enough that I had no fear of joining in to morning or evening coyote serenades. As a plus, the make-shift howler takes less lung power to blow than other howlers in the industry. I like that. I'm very much convinced that howling should be in the repertoire of all coyote hunters. From the standpoint that on several occaisions, I've had a coyote come in to a howl when they didn't come to the squalls of the dying rabbit calls.
Howler calls also work great to stop a spooked coyote. Make a couple of yips or whines and they will always stop and look back. Giving the shooter another chance.
To this moment in my hunt career I can say without a doubt that electronic calls are by far the greatest predator or varmint calling device introduced into the predator hunt industry. The only downfall to using the electronic call is that they are not as easy to carry around but with modern day advances some electronic calls weigh less than one pound, thus lets not assume the hunter has a vast task by lugging one around on a hunt. The electronic calls are also more expensive than mouth blown calls, however the advantages of the electronic calls are huge.
Electronic callers require little expertise in using. These user friendly calls simply require the user to know what dvd or cassette to select for harvest of a particular species of animal, choice of volume, and frequency of calling series. As an outfitter with 13 years of predator hunting experience I recommend the purchase of Hunter Specialties/Johnny Stewart electronic predator call entitled:
PM-4 Wireless Preymaster
The new Johnny Stewart PM-4 Wireless Preymaster™ Caller incorporates all of the great features of the original Preymaster Caller with the added extras that predator hunters have asked for.
The PM-4 Preymaster Caller is a remote operated unit with a wireless range of 100 yards (up to 250 yards at optimal conditions).
The handheld remote transmitter has a durable water resistant keypad with raised select buttons for each sound, making it easy to operate with gloves or in low light conditions. It operates on one 9-volt battery. The volume button is conveniently located on the side and it also has a lanyard loop for carrying it in the field.
The base unit has three slots that are compatible with all available Preymaster memory cards for up to 12 available sounds. The memory cards contain the authentic Johnny Stewart sounds that have been digitally remastered.
The base unit will play continually until shut off and operated on 4 AA batteries. There is a clip on the back of the base unit to attach the remote transmitter and a mount on the front to hold the speaker.
The speaker has a 110+ db rating. A 10’ extension cord is included to allow the speaker to be elevated while the base unit remains safely on the ground.
The base unit measures 8.1 x 2.84 x 1.3 inches and the remote 6.1 x 2.55 x 0.87 inches, making the PM-4 compact and easy to transport with a total weight of 2.3 lbs.
The Johnny Stewart PM-4 Wireless Preymaster from Hunter’s Specialties is a rugged, dependable unit that will satisfy the needs of the most dedicated predator caller, yet is affordable and easy to operate for beginners as well.
The PM-4 offer a virtual library of memory cards for the modern day predator hunter as well as other species of animals. Take a look:
Johnny Stewart offers the most realistic and extensive library of premium animal sounds.
Desperate Cottontail (102G)
Pleading Chicken (112B)
Fawn Bleating (155A)
Coywolf Bark/Howls (168)
Model #MC-CY1 Coyote #2
High Pitched Cottontail (102C)
Canine Pups (107B)
Yellowhammer Woodpecker (116C)
Coyote Pup Distress (163)
Model #MC-CY2 Coyote #3
Vittle's A'La Jackrabbit (101G)
Grown Cottontail Distress (102A)
Wild Piglet Distress (124B)
Coyote Locator (161)
Baby Cottontail Distress (102B)
Distressed Rodents (105A)
Kid Goat Distress (123A)
Coyote/Gray Fox Fight (166)
Model #MC-CY4 Coyote #5
Coyote Locator (161)
Coyote Pup Distress (163)
Coyote/Raccoon Fight (167)
Coywolf Bark/Howls (168)
Model #MC-CY5 General Predator #2
Canine Pups (107A)
Kit Goat Distress (123B)
Pleading Chicken (112B)
Whitetail Fawn Distress (155B)
Model #MC-GP2 NEW
Rodent Distress (105B)
Squealing Bird (116A)
Meadowlark Distress (117)
Bobcat In Heat (121)
Model #MC-BC1 Raccoon #1
Raccoon Fight (104B)
Coon Fight & Squealing Bird (104C)
Gray Fox and Coon Fight (113E)
Meadowlark Distress (117)
Model #MC-RC1 Crow #1
Crow Distress (201A)
Crow and Owl Fight (202)
Crow Reveille (207)
Single Excited Crow (208)
Crow Distress (201A)
Fighting Crows (205)
Hawk With Crow Distress (201C)
Crow and Hawk Fight (203)
Model #MC-CR2 Crow #3
Young Crow in Distress (209)
Crow Frenzy (204)
Crow Distress With Owl (206)
Crow Come Here (210)
Model #MC-CR3 Snow Geese #1
Snow Goose Calls (306A)
Single Snow Goose Calling (306B)
Feeding Snow Geese (306C)
Calling Snow Geese (306D)
Turkey Calling #1
Plain Hen Yelps
Excited Hen Yelps
Model #MC-TK1 Turkey Calling #2
Excited Hen Yelps
Soft Hen Yelps
Cluck & Purr
Model #MC-TK2 Turkey Calling #3
Barred Owl Hoot
Moose Calling #1
Cow In Heat
Model #MC-MC1 NEW Deer Calling #1
Immature Buck & Doe Grunt
Model #MC-DC1 Deer Calling #2
Antler Tree Rubbing
Deer Calling #3
To purchase this product, click on the Dealer Locator to find stores in your area or links to mail order and online catalogs.
With the introduction of the electronic caller hunters not need take hours upon hours of time to master the art of mouthcalling. Just put in a memory card and press play. Its just that easy. However there is a manner in which to use the caller which we will speak about in strategies of predator hunting. The hunter has to know how to use this state of the art equipment.
Predator Hunting Strategies
Coyotes and Fox Strategies
Different species of predators must be pursued in different manner. Strategies that work for coyote hunting may or may not work with bobcat hunting. Coyotes found in low deserts and valleys weigh about 20 pounds, less than half of their mountain kin, who can weigh up to 50 pounds. Desert Coyotes are light gray or tan with a black tip on the tail. Coyotes of high elevations have fur that is darker, thicker and longer; the under parts are nearly white, with some specimens having a white tip on the tail. In winter the coats of mountain coyotes become long and silky, and trappers hunt them for their fur.
The coyote is one of the few wild animals whose vocalizations are commonly heard. At night coyotes both howl (a high quavering cry) and emit a series of short, high-pitched yips. Howls are used to keep in touch with other coyotes in the area. Sometimes, when it is first heard, the listener may experience a tingling fear of primitive danger, but to the seasoned outdoorsman, the howl of the coyote is truly a song of the West.
• Howling - communication with others in the area. Also, an announcement that “I am here and this is my area. Other males are invited to stay away but females are welcome to follow the sound of my voice. Please answer and let me know where you are so we don't have any unwanted conflicts.”
• Yelping - a celebration or criticism within a small group of coyotes. Often heard during play among pups or young animals.
• Bark - The scientific name for coyotes means "Barking dog," Canis latrans. The bark is thought to be a threat display when a coyote is protecting a den or a kill. The bark also is used to convey danger or announce their detection of a hunter.
• Huffing - is usually used for calling pups without making a great deal of noise.
The coyote's tail is used in threat displays. It becomes bushy and is held horizontally when the Coyote displays aggression.
The coyote's hearing is very acute and is used for detecting prey and avoiding danger. Movement and position of the ears are used to communicate mood and rank. The coyote's sense of smell is highly developed and is used to detect prey and carrion. It is also used to detect the scent left by other coyotes as territorial markers. The coyote has 5 digits on the forefeet, including the dewclaw (remnants of a 5th digit) and 4 digits on the hindfeet. The coyote is digitigrade meaning it walks with only its toes touching the ground.
A coyote travels over its range and hunts both day and night, running swiftly and catching prey easily. It has a varied diet and seems able to exist on whatever the area offers in the way of food. Coyotes eat meat and fish, either fresh or spoiled, and at times eat fruit and vegetable matter and have even been known to raid melon patches.
Although the coyote has been observed killing sheep, poultry and other livestock, it does not subsist on domestic animals. Food habit studies reveal that its principle diet is composed of mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, other small rodents, insects, even reptiles, and fruits and berries of wild plants.
The coyote is an opportunistic predator that uses a variety of hunting techniques to catch small mammals likes rabbits and squirrels, which comprise the bulk of its diet. Although it hunts alone to catch small prey, it may join with others in hunting larger mammals like young deer or a pony.
The coyote often tracks its prey using its excellent sense of smell, then stalks it for 20-30 minutes before pouncing. It may also take advantage of its stamina to chase its prey over long distances, and then strike when the quarry is exhausted.
At the beginning of the mating season in January, several lone male coyotes may gather around a female to court her, but she will form a relationship with only one of them. The male and female desert coyote may travel together before mating in January or February.
The female bears one litter of 3 to 9 puppies a year, usually in April or May when food is abundant. The gestation period is from 63 to 65 days.
The pups are born blind in a natal den, but their eyes open after about 14 days and they emerge from the den a few days later. They suckle for 5 to 7 weeks, and start eating semi-solid food after 3 weeks. While the male helps support the family with regurgitated food, the mother does not allow him to come all the way into the den.
The pups live and play in the den until they are 6 to 10 weeks old, when the mother starts taking them out hunting in a group. The family gradually disbands, and by fall the pups are usually hunting alone. Within a year, they go their own way, staking out their own territory, marked with the scent of their urine.
Studies show that 93% of all coyotes and foxes come into a call within the first 3 to 9 minutes of a calling sequence. Therefore coyote hunting is based solely upon this very premise. The hunter should make what is called, “stands”. A “stand” is a single location where a hunter sets up and uses a call to lure the coyote into weapon range. Hunting predators of any kind is a game of odds. The more stands or times you setup the more likely you are to harvest a trophy alpha male coyote or fox. Therefore when hunting coyotes and foxes one needs to have plenty of land tracts to access and a lot of room to move from place to place. I prefer to put in a least 10 stands over the course of day hunting during prime hours of movement which are primarily morning and evening. Any predator will be much more vulnerable or willing to come into a call when weather conditions are cold especially with a snow covered ground or range. During the warm months rodents and other food sources are not in hibernation and are plentiful but in the cold winter months their food source is scarce which forces the coyote to be more willing to come into a call. That’s why when choosing an outfitter to hunt coyotes or predators with you want to go December through February in an effort to hit the breeding season during a time when food is scarce and pelts are full and beautiful.
Based upon the premise that 93% of all coyotes and foxes comes into a call within the first 3 to 9 minutes of a calling sequence one is able to formulate a very simply hunt strategy. Successful predator hunters will select 8 to 10 locations prior to their hunt outing. Setup downwind of where you believe the coyote will come from. I always use a cottontail rabbit distress call. The hunter should call for 3 minutes and then stop calling and remain silent for 3 minutes. Then the hunter should call again for 3 minutes solid and again remain silent for 3 minutes until the strategy depletes a 25 minute span. After 25 minutes you will want to go back to the truck and move on to your next stand or location and repeat the same strategy again. The idea is the more stand or hunt locations you setup in the better the odds a coyote will come into the hunters call. Obviously a variety of calls are available such as puppies in distress, kittens in distress, etc. however with coyotes stay with cottontail rabbit in distress. Experts claim that on average a hunter should be able to call in one coyote per every 10 stands he or she hunts unless your area is not highly populated with coyotes. As an outfitter here in the Midwest with IMB Outfitters found at www.imbmonsterbucks.com our studies show we are successful on 3 of 10 stand locations on an average. The only downfall with hunt predators is that they are sensitive to wind conditions. During high winds predators seldom work well as they can’t hear the calls or don’t want to move in high winds in an effort to avoid danger. Give me a high wind and I’ll give you a bad coyote hunt.
The bobcat is totally different animal than the dog. Different calls and techniques are needed for the harvest of bobcat especially in the Midwest. Although Texas is known for the best bobcat hunting in the United States we have been very successful in the State of Missouri with its abrupt increase in bobcat population especially in the Northern Counties of Missouri such as Macon, Knox, and Shelby. In Northern Missouri we have also seen a darker and richer coat color than the Texas bobcat.
Bobcats are found in almost all types of habitat -- except metropolitan areas -- especially in mountains and even in desert areas where water is available. In fact it ranges through all four deserts of the American Southwest, but favors rocky, brushy hillsides on which to live and hunt. The name Bobcat may have originated from its short tail, which is only 6 or 7 inches long. The end of its tail is always black, tipped with white, which distinguishes the Bobcat. The Bobcat has long legs and large paws. Large specimens can weigh up to 30 pounds, but the average Bobcat is only 15 to 20 pounds. The Bobcat's growls and snarls are deep and fearsome. Geographic variations have some effect on their color. In the area of northeastern California generally are a paler tawny-gray, often with a complete absence of spots on the back and less distinct markings. The coat in wintertime is a beautiful fur.
Despite its pussycat appearance when seen in repose, the Bobcat is quite fierce and is equipped to kill animals as large as deer. When living near a ranch, it may take lambs, poultry and even young pigs. However, food habit studies have shown Bobcats subsist on a diet of rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, pocket gophers and wood rats. Quail have been found in bobcat stomachs, but predation by bobcats does not harm healthy game populations. The Bobcat roams freely at night and is frequently abroad during the day except at the peak of summer. It does not dig its own den. If a crevice or a cave is not available, it will den in a dense thicket of brush or sometimes choose a hollow in a log or a tree.
Bobcats occupy areas from 1/4 of a square mile to as much as 25 square miles, depending on the habitat and sex of the Bobcat. Female Bobcats occupy smaller areas than males and normally do not associate with other female bobcats. Males roam wider than females; while they are not particularly tolerant of other males, the home ranges of males will overlap those of both males and females. Its mating behavior is similar to a housecat's. Young are usually born in April and May, although litters may be born during almost any month except December and January.
The normal Bobcat litter consists of 2 or 3 kittens, born blind and weighing 4 to 8 ounces. Birth occurs in a rock crevice or burrow, after a 60-day gestation period. The kittens open their eyes after 10 days and are taught hunting skills by their mother until they leave her 9 or 10 months later. The father has no role in raising the offspring. Males are usually fertile by their first year, but females do not usually give birth to their first litter until they are two years old. Females normally produce just one litter per year. Because Bobcats are solitary animals, males and females spend only a few days of the year together -- during courtship and mating. Bobcats in captivity have been known to live as long as 25 years.
Strategies for the harvest of bobcat are far different from that of coyote. Rather than the cottontail rabbit distress call I would select dying woodpecker or dying or injured birds calls. While bobcats will come to the cottontail rabbit distress call the dying woodpecker call is much more effective in the luring in of the bobcat. Unlike coyotes and the dog family bobcats usually don’t come in with the first few minutes of a calling sequence and are much more cautious and slow in the stalking and taking of prey especially when reacting to calling by a hunter. To harvest the beautiful bobcat select 8 to 10 locations prior to your day’s outing to hunt primarily in the morning and evening hours. The hunter as aforementioned in coyote strategies sets up stands or hunts a series of locations. The hunter uses the dying woodpecker call should turn the caller on for 3 minutes and then remain silent for 3 minutes. Again turn the caller on for 3 minutes and then remain silent for 3 minutes until one hour elapses. Bobcats work very slowly and may take up to 45 minutes to an hour to appear within weapon range, however don’t be surprised if the bobcat appears within minutes. In the woods anything can happen.
In conclusion, predator hunting can be a great way to pass the time between deer and turkey season. Amateurs should book a hunt with a professional predator hunting operation such as IMB Outfitters www.imbmonsterbucks.com in an effort just to watch the guides work. It’s a very affordable hunt which will provide you with the training you need to equip yourself for a lifetime of predator hunting.