While most hunters have hung up their boots for the season, some of us are just warming up. This is the time for predator hunting.
Predators are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. They can cause problems, but they still are cool to have around and can be hunted when managed properly.
Coyote calling from January to March is one of the greatest hunting challenges in Nebraska. We are entering the breeding cycle for bobcats, coyotes and other predators. For coyotes, this opens a new door of communication between predator and hunter because hunters can have good responses from both prey (distress calls) and coyote (howls, barks and yips).
Predators make their living with keen eyesight and a nose that can smell a mouse under the snow several hundred yards away. Scouting an area helps you locate coyotes and indicates where to start calling. Hunt into the wind or a crosswind, as predators often try to circle downwind to smell and locate their prey.
Using decoys confuses the predator and takes the predator’s focus off the hunter. I like furry decoys that flicker or gyrate. I spray a bit of fox urine on the decoy to add to the confusion. The coyote usually comes into the call and heads straight for the decoy.
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Howling can work any time of year, but greater opportunities exist now. Coyotes become more territorial now. Males are searching for females and willing to pounce on any other male in the area. Start a morning session with a long contact howl or a challenge howl. I give a couple of these and then wait for a few minutes, and then come back with a prey distress call. If a coyote gives me a challenge howl or barks, I respond with a challenge howl and the fight is on.
If the distress call does not work, use a female invitation howl, which is shorter in length. I then use the howler to make coyote yips and whimpers, which can get the attention of a big male.
Distress sounds imitate the cries of dying prey, such as a bird, rabbit or other small mammal. Distress cries work when a predator is hungry and sometimes when it is just curious. When I arrive to a site to call, I start with quiet distress sounds, just in case a coyote is near. After calling for 10 seconds, I stop, watch and listen. I then give a distress call but focus on the shrill screams rather than the cries. After a couple of 10-second stints, I mix screams and cries of a distressed critter. I play this call for 10 to 20 seconds, and then sit quietly for 30 seconds or more. I do this for about 30 minutes, and then I move a half-mile to a mile before I call again.
Predator hunting combines all the necessary stealth and skill of other types of hunting with the excitement that comes from being the hunted.