Hunt coyotes like a pro

kid-with-coyote

Story and Pictures by Drew Hall

Deer season has been over for more than two months and turkey season is only a temporary cure for what will soon become a summer-long withdrawal. You’re longing for days in the woods to fill your primal desire to hunt. Well, you’re in luck. Coyote season is open year-round in Georgia and there are almost no regulations at all as to how you can hunt them. And there’s even more good news. If you don’t have coyotes on your normal hunting grounds, there’s a lot of folks who want them gone off of their property and will flat out invite you to come kill the coyotes.

Coyotes are abundant throughout the Southeast and have the ability to rapidly adapt to almost any habitat. Ranging from Alaska to Central America, it’s almost unimaginable that the same animal that thrives in sub-zero temperatures is just as at home in the rolling agricultural fields and pine forests of Georgia. The fact of the matter is that coyotes are survivors. Survivors that have the uncanny ability to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck if you happen to hear one howl nearby on a dark walk to the truck from the deer stand.

Georgia Wildlife Resources Division Biologist Charlie Killmaster said that coyotes are not a native species to Georgia, but have been here for quite a while.

“The earliest records of coyotes in Georgia date back to the 1930s,” Killmaster said.

He explained that coyotes are naturally a western species, but they have colonized the Eastern United States through a combination of natural Eastern expansion and human relocations.

As a hunter you might be asking, “What does this all mean to me?” Well, there are a few things you should be concerned about. Coyotes prey on deer fawns and when their population is unregulated and they can have a significant impact on your deer population.

If you only hunt turkeys, then you’re still going to be a little upset. Coyotes also prey on turkeys and their nests, so having a pack of coyotes on your hunting land isn’t necessarily the most exciting news you can receive, even if there is an opportunity to hunt them during what isn’t a traditional hunting season.

If you’re not a hunter, there’s still room for concern. Coyotes can prey on livestock, and domestic animals, with domestic cats being in particular danger. Coyotes can also displace native fox populations, which don’t prey on animals as large as those coyotes find adequate for supper.

I know there’s a few of you out there who just don’t want to see any animals get hurt and are thinking there has to be something beneficial about coyotes, and you would be correct. Killmaster listed two benefits that we might see from coyotes in Georgia.

“In urban areas, coyote impacts on fawn recruitment may help limit deer numbers where hunting pressure is inadequate,” Killmaster said. “Coyotes also partially occupy an ecological niche left vacant with the extirpation of red wolves in Georgia.”

But enough about the background of coyotes, let’s talk about hunting them. That’s what you’re really interested in. I caught up with Realtree Pro Staff Member Byron South of Convergent Hunting Solutions to learn his tricks of the trade as a professional coyote hunter.

“I killed my first coyote when I was 5 years old and I been doing it ever since,” South said.

South now owns Convergent Hunting Solutions, a company that designs and manufactures electronic wild game calls and specializes in predator calls. Prior to working full-time as owner and operator at Convergent Hunting Solutions, South was just a fan of coyote hunting.

“I’ve always been interested in coyote hunting,” South said. “People knew I did that, when they had problems I would help them out. It got to a point where I had to start charging for it. Then I had a lot of requests from people to show them how to coyote hunt. So I guided a little bit and gave instructional tips to show them how I did it. I had several people encourage me to make instructional videos on predator hunting and that evolved into what I’m doing now.”

 dead-coyote-with-ar-and-callCoyote Calls

South explained the great thing about coyote hunting is that you can hunt coyotes with the same equipment that you hunt deer or turkeys with. You don’t need a lot of fancy new equipment to get started, the only new piece of equipment you’ll need is a coyote call. South said that a beginner hunter can’t go wrong with a hand call that mimics a rabbit in distress.

“Hand calls are cheap,” he said. “They will cost you about $7 to $10 and it’s not very hard to sound like a dying rabbit. I can teach a 10-year-old kid to call a coyote. The worse you sound, the better.”

After you’ve mastered the hand call you’ll be hooked on coyote hunting and want to upgrade to an electronic call. This is because you’ll have also grown tired of blowing a call for hours while waiting on a sneaky coyote that saw you within the first five minutes and won’t be returning for a second glimpse. The real beauty of electronic calls is that they get the source of the sound away from the hunter so the coyotes are concentrating on the source of the distress, which isn’t necessarily in the same location as the hunter. South developed the Bullet HP HD electronic game call for this purpose. (Available at http://www.convergenthunting.com).

It sounds really fancy and that’s because it is. The Bullet works with a free app that can be downloaded to any Apple or Android smart phone. The app is pre-loaded with high-definition predator calls that are transmitted over Bluetooth signal to the Bullet. This means the hunter can position himself up to 200 feet away from the call and still have complete control over what is playing from its loud speakers. The Bullet HD includes an attachable decoy feature which spins a visual attractant around on top of the call to entice the coyotes to come even closer to investigate the call. Both the sounds and the decoy movement on the Bullet HP can be controlled through the smart phone mobile application. The loud distress call mixed with the visual reinforcement of the spinning decoy makes for some really exciting coyote hunting.

 dead-coyote-with-ar-and-calldead-coyote-with-ar-and-callCoyote Guns

When it comes to a gun to shoot coyotes with, you’ve got a lot of options. The most common firearm would likely be the same rifle you deer hunt with; but you can also hunt them with a shotgun, you just have to call them in a lot closer.

“Any caliber from a .223 and larger will work in a rifle and you can hunt them with a shotgun using larger sized lead or heavier shot,” South said.

South added that hunters should weary of using “varmint bullets.” He explained those bullets are designed to kill rodents like a prairie dog, not a big animal like a coyote. Coyotes should be considered predators and require a larger bullet for effective damage to the target.

“You want an expanding bullet,” South said. “I’m not a big fan of ‘varmint bullets,’ because a varmint is different than a predator. When you buy varmint bullet, it’s for a 4-pound rat and it doesn’t perform as well on a 40 pound ‘yote. The 35 gr. bullets out of a .223 is for a rodent, but for coyotes you’ll need a bigger round. I shoot a 55 gr. or larger bullet in a .223. A .223 with a 60gr. Hornady Beemax is my preferred load, but any soft point will do.”

South also said that just because he has a fast shooting gun, doesn’t mean he’s going to try to make any questionable shots. He waits on the coyotes to stand still and makes the same shot most deer hunters have made their whole life.

“I shoot them just like you would a deer, right through the shoulders,” South said. “Right behind the shoulders is the heart and lung area. If you put a .223 through their lungs, it’s a bigger and easier target to hit. We always try to get them to stop in a position for a shot. Any time you get a shot at one within 100 yards, you should take it. If it doesn’t look like they are going to stop, I’ll mute the call. If they won’t stop when I mute the call, I’ll woof at them or make a loud squeak and that will usually get them.”

 When & Where to Hunt Coyotes

South explained the best time to hunt coyotes is right when deer season has subsided.

“They are mating then and they are cold and hungry,” he said. “Their fur is also better that time of year and they make a better trophy. You’ll see more of them that time of the year as well because they have to eat and are actively looking for food. Coyotes are naturally omnivores and they’ll eat watermelons, junebugs, rabbits, whatever. But in winter they are a true carnivores because there isn’t as much agriculture to feed on.”

While the perfect time of year to kill a trophy coyote is probably over by the time you’ll read this article, South explained you can hunt coyotes successfully year-round if you have the right strategy.

“First thing is don’t make it more complicated that it has to be,” he said. “It’s really pretty simple. It’s definitely not rocket science. When you set up to call, make sure you can see. You want a vantage point where you can see really well. Have a good vantage point, and get there quickly and quietly as you can, with the wind in your face. Your biggest enemy is the wind. You can beat his eyes and ears but you are never going to beat his nose. A good vantage point could be from a field edge or a clump of brush in the field, or anywhere that you can see a long distance in several directions. He will usually respond in the first 5 to 10 minutes, and 80% of coyotes will show in the first 5 minutes. A coyote runs almost 40 mph, so if it’s coming, it doesn’t take him long to get there. If the wind is right you will see him get there, but they won’t run in there like a dumb animal.”

But just because a coyote isn’t likely to run in like a dumb animal, that doesn’t mean there won’t be other species who will take exception to the rule. One thing South said to be mindful of is that many different animals will come to a distress call. It could be a doe deer coming to help what she thinks is a fawn in distress, or even domestic dogs, cows, crows and even foxes and bobcats.

“If you’re hunting in around a farm, be careful of dogs and bulls. Especially the bulls because they will come in pretty hot,” he said.

Another thing that might happen is more than one coyote could appear at a time. After the first shot the coyotes are going to run, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the hunting is over.

“They can come in 3 or 4 at a time,” South said. “I’ll just shoot one and keep calling. I’ll go to a distressed coyote call, named a “ki-yi.” The gunshot doesn’t really spook them because they don’t think like humans do, they just think it’s a loud noise. But if you’ll hit that “ki-yi” call, the coyotes will come back in there.”

If you’ve hunted your whole life and never given coyote hunting a chance, this is certainly the time to do it. You could even call it early deer scouting and look for deer signs as you seek out the perfect vantage point to take your first coyote. If South can teach a 10-year-old to blow a coyote call like a pro, then you certainly don’t have any excuse to not give it a try this summer. Just don’t forget all the great tips South shared. Good luck!

 

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