Outdoor Journal: Coyote hunt a double score

Each year, in mid-February, I get a few calls from several farm owners asking for help with their co

Each year, in mid-February, I get a few calls from several farm owners asking for help with their coyote problem.

I’ve already gotten three calls, one which I took care of early this month, one that the landowner took care of himself before I could get there and one last Friday morning in Washington County. Right now, the coyotes are in their breeding season, and are more visible because their daytime activities are much more frequent.

In this particular case, the dairy farmer had lost a lamb, several chickens and, most recently, a cat, which he actually saw get carried away by a coyote out by the shed next to his house just before dark. There was also an instance when on his way into the barn for milking, he was greeted by an exiting coyote, which be believed was after either the chickens or lambs.

The day that I got the call, I was unable to hunt, due to a previous commitment, but that evening, I drove by the field about 8, and as I was approaching the spot, two coyotes crossed just 25 yards ahead of me. Pulling over immed­iately, I rolled down the window and pulled out my ND5 Long Distance Laser Illuminator light and lit up both coyotes as they made their way quickly along the edge of the woods. They weren’t alerted by the light’s green beam. When I whistled, they stopped and turned. If I’d had a rifle, I could’ve easily dotted both their eyes.

This light is very different from the lights being used by most nighttime predator hunters. First of all, the ND5 has a control button that will collimate and adjust the light beam diameter and illumination intensity. Actually, this beam can be seen at a distance of five miles for signaling and search and rescue operations. But for predator hunting, it will light them up out to 400 yards, and when used in conjunction with a scoped rifle, will allow you to focus the crosshairs clearly with no problem.

I recently took the ND5 out on the ice at Saratoga Lake at night, just to see how it really projected, and I actually surprised a few nighttime ice fishermen who were several hundred yards from me. The green light does not cause night blindness, is the easiest for human eyes to see and doesn’t alert pred­ators. For more information, go to www.lasergenetics.com and watch the videos. Boaters should take note of this light; it’s a good thing to have on board after dark.

The next day, I wasn’t able to get to the field until around noon when I was able to do a little scouting, and with the snow cover, their tracks were easy to follow. I had gone about a half-mile when I came upon the freshly killed carcass and feathers of a wild turkey. It looked like it might have been killed that morning or late the night before, but there was still some left, so I thought it might be a good place to set up the next day. Before leaving, I picked out a spot about 25 yards from the carcass and set up a portable 12-foot-long by 26-inch-high Hunter Specialties blind to hide in. I also found a small, brushy area about 40 yards from my blind where I could put the remote speaker of my Johnny Stewart PreyMaster electronic caller.


The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., but I was awake well before that — I always am the morning of a hunt. I guess the excitement and antic­ipation is something I’ll never lose, I hope. After a quick breakfast, I dressed in my full camouflage winter wear and headed for the woods. The temperature was around 30 degrees, there was a slight wind and I was probably overdressed, but when you’re going to sit in Feb­ruary, overdressing is a good idea. It was about 5:30 a.m. when I headed into the woods, and the crusted snow was very noisy. I hoped it wouldn’t alert the coyotes, but I had no choice. Entering the woods at night, even when familiar with the area, can sometimes be a bit of a problem. Things look different, and I probably would have missed the setup spot had I not been carrying the ND5 which quickly helped me locate the blind.

I set up the PreyMaster speaker, then slipped into the blind and sat down facing the carcass, which appeared to be just the way it was the day before. It was time to load up. My gun choice on this hunt was, ironically, my turkey gun — a camouflaged Mossberg model 935, semi-auto 12-gauge shotgun. And should Mr. Coyote appear, I planned on greeting him with a load of Federal 12-gauge, three-inch Power-Shok 4 Buck shot, which is 41 pellets, each .22-caliber. It’s good coyote medicine.

I was ready to start calling. Much of the excitement of coyote hunting, especially in the dark, is the anticipation of waiting and watching. You make calls and stare into the darkness, never knowing when or where it will arrive, if it does, and most hunters turn on flashlights more often than we really should. This alone makes this green light that much better, because it really doesn’t scare them.

Coyote hunters know the feeling of clicking on a light, and it’s there. Nothing sends shivers up your spine more than to turn on that light to find a coyote right in front of you. Or how about when they howl off in the distance and are answered by another coyote? Which one will get there first, and from what direction? There’s no definite answer. You just have to patiently wait while staring into the dark, with that chill traveling up and down your spine.

I made my first call, the squealing rodent, about 6:15 a.m., and another perhaps 20 minutes later, and there were no responses or sightings. Perhaps I should’ve gone out at midnight or stayed out on the edge of the field. And the lighter it got, the less confidence I had in being successful. I’m really not an experienced coyote hunter, but I do enjoy the excitement of the hunt, and probably am successful only half the time I go out alone.

But I decided to stay until 8 and continued to call, but less frequently. I was actually about to get up and head out to pick up the speaker when I saw movement in front of me, about 100 yards away. When I looked through the binoculars, it was definitely a coyote standing there sniffing the air and looking around. Turning down the volume on the caller, I pressed the button and the rodent squeal got his attention. He started moving again, with his head held low to the ground.

At about 50 yards, I found out he was not alone. There were two, and they didn’t act alarmed or show any signs of running off. But they turned off to my left, and within a few seconds disappeared into the brush. I knew enough not to move, but I wasn’t sure about calling. I did another few low-volume squeals. No sign of them; they could’ve been there, but it was too thick to see. About 10 minutes later, I turned the volume up a bit and made a few calls, and almost immediately I saw the head of a coyote off to my left. I made a low-volume call, and got the two of them to step out in the open, headed right for the PreyMaster speaker.

They headed for a small patch of Christmas tree-sized pines. I waited for them to enter the trees before I raised my gun. I also turned the volume down very low and made one last call. Out they stepped, at what I later paced off to be a distance of 26 steps from my blind, and I dropped the second coyote immediately, hoping the lead coyote would hesitate long enough for me to get him in my sights. He did. That one split-second he stopped to look back at his fallen companion was all the time I needed to get him sighted and touch the trigger of the 935, launching those 41 pellets at a speed of 1,210 feet per second. Both shots were quick, clean and final.

A double, something I will probably never do again. I remember something an old gentleman I used to hunt with when I first started told me about hunting; “You can be good at hunting, but it’s better to be lucky.” I could write a book on all those times over the years that I’ve sat out in the cold trying to coax in a predator and was unsuccessful, but not on this day.

Those who have hunted coyotes or any of the other predators that roam our fields and woodlots know that they’re as challenging as any of the other wildlife we hunt. And this is especially true when you hunt predators after dark. To hunt any of these furbearers (coyote, bobcat, fox, raccoon, opossum or weasel) you must possess a small/big game license during their legal hunting seasons. You can hunt them day or night, using a shotgun, muzzleloader, bow or handgun. For a complete explanation of furbearer hunting and trapping, go to pages 50–56 of the New York Hunting and Trapping 2009-10 Official Guide To Laws and Regulations.

Categories: -Sports-

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