Coyote Calling 101
As you have heard me say, predators will not always respond. I like to compare it to fishing... “the fish are always in the lake, but they’re not always biting”. Same with predators. If you are calling with no response, it may be what you are or are not doing. Or maybe it’s just that they are not responsive at the moment.
Golden Rule: The most important thing is to get into your set-up without the predator knowing you are there. THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT! That involves sight, timing, scent and sound. Concentrate on these points.
This tutorial assumes calling in the daylight hours. Night calling is a different game altogether.
- Timing: First and last light usually prove the most responsive, so if you’re not getting a response then, you should probably review what you’re currently doing. However do not totally discount that they will, at times, respond in the middle of the day when they do not respond at first or last light.
It is my belief, even if I cannot prove it, that they respond when they are up and hunting. They tend not to respond when they are bedded. However, oftentimes, when nothing is responding, we will call one in under a couple minutes. They may have been bedded nearby but did not detect us setting up. The sound was just so close, they had to jump up and check it out.
The mama coyote will typically kick the male pups out in the August/September/October time frame, depending upon the breeding season in any locale, and the young males must move and find a different territory. They are on the move and not yet very smart. They’re easier to call than the older ones.
The breeding season is usually in the late January to February time frame, again, depending upon your location.
- Cone of Scent: Next, one needs to understand how well a coyote can detect scent, and how well their brain can process the molecules of scent detected. It will be better than any animal you have ever hunted, and the only reasonable way to deal with it is to constantly be aware of the cone of scent (the source of scent is pretty much a point source that is carried downwind in the shape of a cone) that is being generated by your vehicle, your body and anything else man-made with you. You need to monitor that from the time you arrive at the hunting area all the way to, and through your set up. Do not count on scent control products to prevent the coyote from detecting your scent, it just will not work.
The use of commercial wind dust, or if the dirt is dry, I like to just kick it and make a dust cloud. Either way, one can easily see that the cone of dust, and thus the cone of scent, expands very rapidly, and can be quite wide at any reasonable distance downwind. So one is probably giving up more area downwind that they think.
If we assume that the sound from your calling is carried somewhat in a circle around the source of sound, then obviously, your set up will be at the center of this circle, most predator callers call “the pie”. You must contaminate a portion of the circle in order to travel to the area, walk to your stand or set-up and actually call. The trick is to contaminate the smallest portion of the pie as possible, and the best way to do that is to do all the needed things in the SAME SLICE of the pie (travel, walk, set-up).
It is probably too complicated to describe in a 101 tutorial, but it goes without saying that within that theoretical circle, there are places where the predator would most likely be, and places where one would not expect them. With practice, one can learn to position the circle and the route to the stand so as to contaminate the area of least probability, and leave clean the area of greatest probability. The bottom line is, you want to give yourself the maximum amount of that portion of the pie of maximum probability within which a predator does not know you are there. That’s how you raise your odds.
You will rarely find perfection in a set-up, and you will have to compromise portions of it, but one cannot violate the scent cone aspect. Always assume that you must set up to kill it before it penetrates any part of any scent cone you have made or are making. That is the rule by which I call predators: “I must be able to kill it before it penetrates any scent cone I have created”! Once you start thinking like that, it becomes clearer what to do.
If you can accomplish the above, and you are in an area containing coyotes, and they have not been excessively called to, you will be successful. Every time they hear the sound, even if they do not respond, it lowers the probability that they will respond to the call the next time or thereafter for a reasonable time.
- Sound: The best way to deal with that is to visualize that the caller is emitting sound in 360 degrees, basically creating a circle of sound around the caller. The size of the circle depends on how loud the sound is, the weather, especially wind, and how far it will travel. The circle is obviously distorted by the wind, which will carry the sound farther downwind than upwind. It is not difficult to get the sound to go a half of a mile, and if so, that means that the circle has a diameter of 1 mile or more. I try to ensure that the sound from one set-up is not heard by predators in the next set up. To do that, I try to move a mile between set-ups (sometimes I can’t) but I try to at least move ½ mile. At ½ mile, the sound from successive set ups is, no doubt, overlapping, which reduces your chances of calling in a predator. If they hear the sound on the first set up, and do not respond, they are less likely to respond when they hear the sound on the second.
However, for simplicity of understanding, just assume the sound is a true circle around the caller, and that no predator within that circle has heard the sound
3a. What Sounds to Use As to which sound to play, sounds are broken into 2 main groups:
1) wounded prey, and
2) coyote vocalizations.
It is my opinion that people put too much emphasis on the actual prey sound(s) to use, and probably not enough on the vocals. For 10 years or more, I have called over 90% of the coyotes with the same 5 wounded prey sounds. On the MOJO® Triple Threat Caller you have:
007 CT Rab,
008 Q Jack,
009 Dueling Jacks
010 Dueling CT
If I could only have 2 sounds on my caller it would be 010 Dueling Jacks and 018 KiYi. Most e-calls today have good sounds and you can pick a few that will accomplish the same thing.
The 001 Terry Coy Hunt (Soft) & 002 Terry Coy Hunt (Aggr) sounds in the sound library are actual hunts using these sounds, which I put there to help people get started. If you play 001 or 002, you’re going to play basically the same thing I would play if I were there. You can do pretty good just playing the 009 Dueling Jacks sound track for about 10 minutes. I did a good bit of that recently when we called 17. They were responding at each set up so I just played that one sound.
Here is a link to the 82 sounds that are both in the on-board sound list and on the SD Card furnished with the MOJO® Triple Threat Caller. You can add any sound to the SD Card, or to another card and it will play once the caller and remote are paired.
A note on vocalizations. As they start to pair up for breeding, they can become much more difficult to call, especially with wounded prey sounds. At times, they can be easier to call with coyote vocalizations, but it becomes critical which sound one uses. As I stated above, with wounded prey sounds it is not that critical, unless a particular sound has been cast in the area causing one to want to change to another sound. But when one starts talking “coyote” they need to say the right thing at the right time.
Coyotes are very territorial and when one plays a coyote vocalization, it is a new coyote in the resident coyotes territory.
On the recent hunt in February, of the 8 or so we actually killed, only 1 or 2 were females, which gave me the thought that they were through, or nearly through breeding. One of the 3 we killed on the triple was a female, so she probably had not been bred yet (we think). I am not sure exactly what happens during this time, but it seems that the females may go off and build dens or similar, and mostly males are called.
I don’t use a lot of vocals because I am not that knowledgeable of them, but mostly because our sport is to call them up close and shoot them with a shotgun. As you see in our videos using wounded prey sounds, they tend to charge the caller/decoy which is conducive to this type of calling. Whereas, using vocals they tend to come to check it out, or “hunt” the new coyote and it is much, much harder to get them to the call.
Remember, they are not responding to the decoy, they do not see it at the time they hear the sound, they are responding to the sound, and on the way to it, they are looking for confirmation that it is actually what the sound suggests, and the decoy adds a visual to the sound.
- How to actually set up and what to do: I have covered earlier the points in getting to your proposed stand site undetected and it cannot be overstated. How do I pick the best spot to set, and what do I actually do when calling?
The Golden Rule is getting to your stand without being detected and that requires some knowledge of the lay of the land. We often call places we have never been, but we can observe the areas we think the coyotes will be at that time (brushy draw or bottom, brushy strip of woods or cover, etc.), then you must consider the wind. Most places can only be called on certain wind directions. You have to locate a place where you can approach and set up downwind.
The ideal setup would be some opening where you can set up in the edge of the brush downwind of where you suspect the coyotes to be. With the wind in your face or nearly so, and the sun to your back. If possible, and the terrain has some relief, set up above your caller. Placing you in the shade and the decoy in the sun. As said earlier, you rarely get perfection and you have to compromise as best you can, except you cannot compromise the wind, the scent and cross wind is about as far as you can go.
Our typical set up we will play 4 sounds for 5 minutes each and if no response in that 20 minutes, we move to another position. We let the call sound and the decoy run continuously, we never cut it off from beginning to end. We call most coyotes in no more than 10 minutes. If we have lots of property to call, we move a mile between setups. If the area to hunt is limited, we may move only a half mile. You don’t need but an acre to call on, so its not necessary to control all of the land from which you might call a predator. Small parcels in the right location work great with the correct wind.
While we can't control the everything at all times, below is an example of an ideal situation.
One last thing. We regularly edit predator calling videos and air them both on TV and on Social Media and a thought has emerged that maybe we make it look too easy, too simple? It looks like we just go to a spot, set the caller out, back up 30-40 yards, turn the caller on and the coyote runs up and gets shot. However, it’s not like that at all. There was much thought that went into where we set up and how we got there. A major component is to ensure that we did not contaminate that portion of the circle with the highest probability of calling a predator. One cannot see that in the video, but it was of paramount importance in our thinking our way through the set-up.
Coyote calling doesn’t have to be complicated; it is just excessively acute to the details. One will only be successful by constantly monitoring the details. It’s like whitetail hunting in the extreme. Start with the basics and work your way to the fine points and you will do well.
President & CEO, MOJO Outdoors