With all due apologies to those among you hunting for other species or by other methods, this column will confine itself to using calls to entice coyotes into rifle–and sometimes shotgun–range. For those who insist on seeing bonafides, during the second half of the 1960’s, I actually made money hunting coyotes. Admittedly, to quote a country song, “It wasn’t just a different time, it was a different world.” Back then, gasoline was 19 cents a gallon, and “excess” military ammo could be scrounged for free around nearby Fort Riley. Meanwhile, a coyote pelt would bring around $10.00, plus a two-dollar bounty.
Fuel and ammunition prices have skyrocketed in the past 50 years, but fur prices didn’t keep pace. In 1966, $12.00 had an “income commodity” value equal to $157.00 in 2014. Alas, it will be hard to get 12 present day dollars for a prime Midwestern coyote pelt this year.
But all hope of becoming a modern day “wolfer” having been dashed isn’t all bad. Believe me, if you’ve never case-skinned a small furbearer, you don’t want to start with a coyote. Far more important, not worrying about profit and loss leaves coyote hunting for the sole purpose of seeing if your skills can measure up to a predator’s eons-honed instincts. In other words, for fun.
With some exceptions I’ll get to shortly, coyotes can be hunted 24 hours a day the year round. That sounds really good, because calling coyotes is at its most effective at night. But wait! The use of artificial lights or any type of thermal imaging equipment is illegal. In other words, it’s ok to wander around the countryside in the dark with a loaded firearm, but it’s a crime to turn on a light so you can see what you’re doing.
The only time I’d risk hunting coyotes at night under those regulations would be on snow under a full moon. Even then, I’d use a shotgun loaded with #4 buckshot and would give livestock a wide berth.
Hunting coyotes is illegal during daylight hours from April 1 through April 19–don’t ask me why, I don’t write this stuff, I only report it. During turkey season, coyotes may only be taken by methods legal for turkey hunting, and the hunter must have either a filled or unfilled turkey permit.
Dogs may not be used to hunt coyotes during daylight hours from November 1 through the close of the November firearms and the antlerless deer seasons. I think that daylight hours part is crazy. Why not just make using dogs completely illegal during that period of time?
A wide variety of mouth-blown and electronic are widely available, and both types are legal in Missouri. I’ve always preferred mouth-blown calls, because they allow me to alter the volume, pitch, tone or pattern of the call instantly. On the other hand, the better electronic calls have remote controls and can be placed several yards away from the hunter’s location, which can be a huge advantage at times.
Some calls imitate a small animal in distress, and others imitate sounds made by coyotes. I’ve always used calls that imitate a cottontail rabbit in distress. They work well for me, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in them. That said, coyote imitators have been the rage the last 10 years or so. I don’t have enough personal experience with them to offer anyone else advice, but I do know several expert callers who swear by them.
The number one secret to successfully calling in any wild animal or bird is to lure it someplace it wanted to be anyway. Coyotes are no exception to that rule. Fortunately, they don’t mind leaving heavy cover–they’re very fond of warm season grass–to cross open ground in response to a call, so pick a calling location that makes it easy for them to do that.
Remember that the coyote is hunting for you, so good cover, good camouflage and minimal movement are essential. Keep the wind in your favor, because no set up is any good if an incoming coyote can catch your scent before getting into range. Be alert, because coyotes often come in on the run.
Bobcats also respond to predator calls, but they come in so stealthily many of them escape notice. Bobcat season runs from Nov 15 through January 31. Bobcat pelts must be submitted to a conservation agent for tagging prior to April 10. Once tagged, the taker may keep the pelt as long as chooses, but it can only be sold to a licensed taxidermist, tanner or fur dealer.
It’s very unlikely, but possible to inadvertently call in a black bear in southern Missouri or a mountain lion anywhere in the state. As soon as you see the bear or lion, stop calling, stand up and start shouting. It’s legal to kill an otherwise protected animal in last resort self defense, but the incident must be reported and will be investigated. You won’t be allowed to keep the animal even if killing it is ruled to have been justified, but the story will be yours to tell forever.
Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]