So, You Want to Hunt Coyotes…
Written by Prostaffer Jerad Mixon
It was the day after my 8th birthday; my dad introduced me to predator hunting. The previous day he had given me my first call as a birthday gift. The morning was frosty and calm. I remember the crows talking loudly throughout the creek bottom next to our hayfield. We sat quietly for several minutes until dad whispered to me to start blowing my call. I had no idea what I was doing or how to begin. I blew and blew and blew that call until my lips were numb, and I couldn’t blow anymore. As I was catching my breath my dad grabbed my shoulder and said, “DON’T MOVE”. It felt like an eternity to an 8-year-old until he finally said slowly turn to your right. As I turned, I caught movement from the tree line next to the field. It was a bobcat! I slowly raised my rifle, took aim, and boom! My predator hunting obsession began that morning and all other hunting seasons took a backseat ride from that day forward. Don’t get me wrong, I love all kinds of hunting whether it’s for deer, turkey, hogs, squirrel, etc. but calling predators is my passion. I have spent 24 years calling predators and I want to share my experiences with all the types of equipment I have used, along with what has worked for me.
What Gear/Equipment Do I Need?
If you search the internet and talk to other predator hunters you will find that dozens of articles and even more opinions on what type or caliber of rifle is best to bag coyotes, bobcats, foxes, etc. Let me let you in on a little secret, if you are just getting started into this world of calling predators and predator hunting whatever caliber of rifle you already own is the best one.
The first rifle I used to kill my bobcat back in 1995 was an old Winchester lever action 30-30. As you progress more and more into predator hunting you will want to make changes. You may decide to save fur to sell or tan for yourself. If this is the case a smaller caliber such as a .17HMR, 204 Ruger, 220 Swift, .223, 22-250, and the .243 are amongst the most popular and are better suited for smaller entrance holes and usually no exit wound, depending on the projectile used. I typically use my 22-250. The 22-250 has relatively cheap factory ammo, flat trajectory to 400 yards, and is built by almost every manufacturer. So, the answer to the question is this. There is no “best caliber” for predator hunting. Every caliber from a 22 through a 300 mag does the job so go out and have fun.
The second question that gets asked is what is the best scope? For the sake of this article I am going to focus on how I hunt which is daytime on public land as you can only night hunt in Wyoming on Private land. So the topic of optics opens up another discussion that might overwhelm you with the number of scope options out there and type of scope and if you are hunting day or night. As I stated earlier, I only hunt during the day so we will not be touching on night vision, thermal or lights. When it comes to optics, I feel there is a bigger variety than even that of firearms they’re used upon. Just like with the rifle you choose to use it all depends on what you can afford or better yet what you already have. For the sake of this article let us assume you have your rifle but no glass mounted yet. These are the questions I ask myself when looking for a new scope.
- What is my budget?
- There are hundreds of options for every price range.
- Once you have established where your budget fits go to the next question.
- How far will I be shooting?
- Depending on where you hunt this can vary greatly.
For example, hunting in Wyoming the shooting distance can be upwards of 1000 yards at any given time whereas in Southeastern Oklahoma the longest shot you may take will be 400 yards. This difference in distance will affect how much scope you need. By that I mean the magnification. When only shooting out to 400 yards, there is no need in purchasing an 18, 24, or higher power scope. In this specific case I would recommend a 3-9x, 2.5-15x or even a 4-16x. For longer distances the higher magnification is better suited. For most people these two questions tell them enough to decide on the type of scope they will purchase. There are several more options of scope than price and application such as reticle style, turret systems, illumination, parallax, FFP/SFP, etc which can be a whole other topic. It takes time to learn what you like and what works best for you. Be patient, learn, and make decisions on what has or has not worked for you.
Some accessories that are at times forgotten about are a backpack or chest pack, binoculars, laser range finder, shooting sticks, bi-pods or tripods, and seat. When coyote/predator hunting you will find that you acquire some tools that are necessary, and you must be able to carry them all. I’m talking about your calls (which we will cover in part II), binoculars, laser range finder, chair etc. It may not seem like a lot but when you are packing the stuff to your stand you will find that it is hard to carry without some sort of pack. Again, you don’t need to spend a lot of money for a backpack, many times a cheap camo backpack from the sporting goods store is all you need or a backpack you have laying around will work to carry your gear. I recommend a good set of binoculars to have at your disposal, especially if you are hunting open country and can see for miles, I carry a set of 10×42 binos that are not bulky and relatively light weight. Generally, when I start my stand the first thing I do is glass the area and see if I can see a coyote in the distance of if one is hiding on the edge of the trees and to better know the landscape. I also carry a laser range finder and will get yardage on objects in the distance for a reference point as you generally will not have time to range a coyote coming to your call. I carry my binos, range finder, water, granola bars or other snack, drag ropes, e-caller sometimes along with spare batteries, extra ammo, and my hand/mouth calls in my backpack with either a turkey chair or seat pad attached.
When you are predator hunting you will be sitting on the ground, so you need to determine if you need something like a turkey chair or just a pad to set on the ground. I have used stadium chairs before as well that work pretty good. The key is to find something that is comfortable to you for prolonged sitting and comfortable enough to shoot from as you will be shooting generally from a seated position on the ground. With this seated position you will need to find a bipod that you can attach to your rifle, shooting sticks or a tripod. There are pros and cons to each and over time you will find a system that works for you. I have used all three and it depends on the set, landscape and how much I plan on walking for what I use. Bipods attached to your gun are relatively light weight and can extend to a descent length in order to shoot from a seated position and still be comfortable if you are on semi-flat ground. If you are on a hillside that is steep the bipod may not work as well and shooting sticks in this situation are generally a better option as they have more adjustment capabilities. Now if you have the budget a very good option to look at is a tripod. This is becoming more popular in the predator hunting world as hunters simply clamp their gun onto the saddle and have it in the ready position and their hands are free. The tripod is the most stable of the 3 but is it often the most expensive depending on what you want.
Getting started into the world of predator hunting can seem expensive, confusing, overwhelming, and even frustrating and we haven’t even covered calls yet. However, it doesn’t have to be like that; in all actuality it can be very simple. Once you feel that you have the basic equipment that you need get out there and practice!!! If there is one thing that I recommend is practice, practice, practice. If you have access to land and can set targets at different ranges do that. If you just have a local range that you go to check with the Range Officer and make sure it is ok if you shoot from a seated position on the ground in your booth. The key is you must practice shooting from this seated position in order to be effective. When you first start out from this position you will find out that it may not feel right and you need to adjust accordingly. Practice bringing the gun to your shoulder and putting a shot on the target within 30 seconds, then try it in 15 seconds, the faster and more fluid you can be the better predator hunter you will become. Bottom line is using the equipment you already have access to and utilize what is at your disposal before you upgrade and purchase new things.
Stay tuned for Part II where we cover calls and coyotes in general.
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