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Which is better?

2834 Views 13 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Paul Workman
Being able to spot Coyotes on open ground.....or having enough geologic structure to sneak into your set, but not knowing if there is a coyote within 3 miles?

The other day, I was fortunate to have had BOTH! A rare combo. A week ago, we saw a lone coyote mid-day, lounging out in a fresh planted field, keeping a keen eye on cars going up and down the road 1/2 mile away. So I drove in from the north this time, parked almost a mile up from "his" field, and walked south. On my way, another coyote jumped out of a ditch and stared at me a few seconds before retreating. I was on a road, and could not shoot him. Lucky day for him.

When it got to crunch time......I glassed ahead, and did not see anything in the suspect field that I was targeting. But confident that either I just could not see him yet, OR he would maybe pass thru the area in mid day if I hurried up and got concealed in the lone bit of nearby cover, a drain pool for irrigation water, surrounded by bamboo, brush, and some farm implements. This was my view of it, just before slinking in and laying down. The pool is on the left side of the picture, the water level (fortunately) is low right now.

Here is my view of the field. Little did I know, right after snapping this pic, I knelt down, and saw a tan head and two dark brown ears slowly rise from behind one of those cut troughs! Within range. Wow, there he is....I settled down, got the 222 ready , and in the prone position , took a good look thru the 12X setting on the scope. He only looked around a few seconds, then settled his head down again. Completely out of sight.

So here we are, both laying in the 1pm sun, just 217 yards apart, but cannot see each other. The steady 5mph breeze is straight into me. Not any hurry, we are both comfortable, and not going anywhere. I decide to NOT call him to his feet, as he is lifting his head every few minutes to scan around. When suddenly, he just looks my way, while Im glassing him. Why? I hadnt moved, made a sound, nor could he possibly wind me. Was there something behind me? A bird? Cattle? I was amazed yet again at the coyotes keen sense of awareness to know that it was now time for him to slowly get up, and walk further away from the brushy sinkhole I was laying in. As he stretched and yawned, I was noticing my heart rate had increased just as I was positioning my finger onto the Sako's trigger. He was cautiously looking my way, and knew something just wasnt right! Easy shot, broadside, ribcage... and down he went on the spot. One or two "rotor-tails" and the air was still again. Saw no others on the horizon, so I called it a day, picked him up and left the farm to recover and be quiet now.

Even though this one died, I am always amazed at their level of awareness and intelligence that keeps them at the top of the food chain in the San Joaquin Valley.

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Which IS better?

"Being able to spot Coyotes on open ground.....or having enough geologic structure to sneak into your set?"

Both is obviously the way to go when possible, and is the kind of terrain structure I try to seek out when I'm scouting new ground. But, which one is better, if you can only have one or the other? Hmmmm... I think, that like nearly all things "coyote", that "it depends". You have mastered the art of setting up where there seemingly is no setup John. But for myself, I think that if forced to choose, I'd take the topographic relief to allow myself to more easily get in and get setup undetected. Then take my chances on being able to see the coyotes coming (or not). It really would depend on the specific circumstances though. I routinely pass up making stands for both reasons - either not enough relief to allow a stealthy approach, or too thick to allow good sight and shooting of responding coyotes. Some of the flats in our Utah West Desert have the worst of both worlds - flat as a dinner table but also very thick sage brush cover. Those flats tend to have a lot of rabbits and coyotes, but they are hard to hunt.

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Nice job and story John. What I am amazed at is how you seem to "stubble" over them in flat and uncovered country. I imagine you stories just make itsound like you stubble over them. ;) There has to be some experience and technique that has you with such good yotes sightings.

Great job. Thanks for sharing.
Farms vs. open range

DAA; I agree with your comments. Too much of either is not ideal. :) Dogs tend to love those rabbit rich flatlands, with draws here and there, but hard to get in on them.

One thing to note, on these farms I call, and hunt. The coyotes tend to work smaller ranges, as long as they are not pressed out of the area, by either hunters, or a stronger family of dogs expanding their own range. This gives me an un-common advantage to actually have a good idea where they may be at certain times of the day, and then the key is to spend enough time out there walking, waiting, and glassing. Putting yourself into a situation that you feel has a good % chance of producing.

But the guys I really have respect for are the ones who can drive into an unknown area, especially an open desert, and assess accurately the terrain and find productive areas that hold coyotes, then work into that area,undetected... call them in, and get them on the stretcher. That to me, is the greatest accomplishment a coyote caller can acheive.

Though I guess it does take a certain skill to know their habits on farms and ranches too.


Dr. Bubs, I was wondering if you were still on vacation. Good to hear from you.:)
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Man John

I admire your methods, you have studied the area and coyote behavior in order to make some fantastic coyote hunts. Most others would look out across that flat landscape and not even bother. I always look forward to reading about your hunts.

John, the only way that I was able to hunt fields like you are hunting...

was at night. We had a lot of farms that we hunted in Mexico like that. We went to the hills for day time hunting.

I have a lot of respect for that flat land hunting that you are doing.

When living in Az, I killed a lot of them out in the flat fields when they were irrigating the fields. The gophers would get on the tops of the rows to avoid drowning and it was a feast for the yote...until I caught them out there in the open. I really worked them over with a 22/250 AI.

I tried to get close to them, call them up, but the distances were often too far because you have to hide the truck.

Most of the time, I just stepped out of the truck and shot from the side of the road, then the race was on to try and cut them off as they tried to escape from the field. I almost wrecked my truck on numerous occasions. Farmers knew what I was doing, so there was no problem.
Thx Pat R.

By KeithCandler

"I really worked them over with a 22/250 AI.":D Thats a great line!:D :D Take that you damn dogs! :D I like that one!

And like you say, a warm summer night or overcast calm with no moon is great for spotlighting, as the mice and rabbits are all over the ground at night, when the days get into the 100's and force them to seek cover from the hot sun.
One thing about your hunts, John. You hunt them where there is NO hunger imperative as there is where it gets really cold. That's a big disadvantage to calling. That is offset by the fact you often can see them before calling, and observe their reaction to the call, which is a big advantage. I'd say it's about a toss-up. Another terrific writeup, and pics, in any case.
Have to have both

Here in Iowa The roads are close togeather so spot and stock happens a lot. If the section is too flat and no cover say a 120 acre bean field game over. Calling works much better when you see one and sneak up on them.
Man! I can't wait to get out and sneek around the country side again! It's been more than a week now and even if I don't see or hear anything, I still have a great time out. All the stories from you folks are pure inspiration!

BTW...Heading out to Eastern, WA on Monday, anybody in the SEA area wanna go?

So how do you hunt those flats with the tall sagebrush?
George, for the most part, I don't. If there is some structure nearby, where I can sneak in and have a little elevation, I'll often try and pull the coyotes uphill out of the flats and that is often successful. The last coyote I got, last Sat. morning was a stand exactly like that. But I don't often just setup and call out on the thick flats. Lots of game in them, but I'm a firm believer in setting my stands up to stack the odds in my favor. I always strive for a setup where once a coyote commits to coming in, he is going to have a really hard time leaving. We are fortunate enough to have access to virtually unlimited public land here in our part of the country, so it's usually an efficient and effective strategy to simply roll on by those hard to hunt flats and find some easier pickings.

I do end up calling the flats occasionally though. Sometimes, the sign is so heavy, and topographic structure so far away, you just have to play the cards dealt in front of you. Ideally, I'll find an opening even if it means a long walk, usually a patch of cheat grass. When I do find an island of open in an ocean of flat sage brush like that, I'll set my Foxpro a couple yards into the brush on the upwind side, and I'll sit about ten yards into the brush on the downwind side. The idea being that coyotes have a strong tendency to utilize available cover to circle downwind, and that I'll catch one circling into my lap. It's worked often enough to give me some confidence in the technique. But, and a non-trivial "but", it's a very time consuming kind of stand to make. Generally involves a long walk both ways. And although it has been successful for me, it has also resulted in coyotes coming in and being able to leave often enough to leave me kind of non-plussed over all. These factors are what has led me to mostly just roll on by and look for more friendly terrain features down the road. I think that most of the time, rather than investing an hour or more on a brush stand like that, I'll kill more coyotes over all by driving for another half hour - forty five minutes and investing 20 minutes into a better looking stand on the other side of the valley or whatever.

I should mention too though, that sometimes out on those flats, I'll just plop my butt down in the brush with a very limited view and start calling, just hoping for the best. Tim and I call that a "brush stand". Often as not, the truck isn’t even hidden on those stands. If the sign is thick enough, you almost have to make them - it's just too hard to drive by really good sign. We call in coyotes on a high percentage of these stands. But our kill ratios on them are depressingly low compared to the kind of setups I prefer to make. Whereas over all, I usually end up killing about 70% of the coyotes I call in on most of the stands I make, it's more like 30% on brush stands. Just too easy for the coyotes to come in, bust me, and leave without ever offering a good shot.

Something I mentioned above, that pertains directly to the discussion of open vs. structure, that I think is worth fleshing out a bit more, is a coyotes tendency to utilize available cover to get downwind. It is precisely that coyote trait that has caused me to gravitate towards calling more open ground over the years. Now, I realize that all coyotes are different, and that there is no such thing as "always" or "never" when talking about coyote behavior. And I also realize that there is a world of difference in how a coyote living in a remote area will react to moving across open ground in daylight vs. how a a coyote living in an agricultural area will react to moving across open ground. All I ever hunt is public ground though. Rarely if ever do I hunt private ranches, and never farm country where the coyotes get shot at by every truck that drives by. So the coyotes I'm relating to obviously act different than the coyotes someone else in different circumstances is relating to.

So, anyway... It's been my experience, that if there is cover available that a coyote can use to circle downwind of the call, the coyote is very likely to use it. Where as, same coyote, same calling sound, but no cover, the coyote is more likely to just come straight in on a string. If that is true, and I strongly believe it is, then the advantages of hunting more open ground become obvious and significant. The more I came to realize and believe this, the more I started seeking more and more open ground to call. And eventually came to realize that I had been wasting a lot of time, getting busted on a lot of stands, calling in spots where there was good cover available for the coyotes to get down wind of me. My strategy and tactics have evolved to both avoid situations where the coyotes will have too much of an advantage due to this factor, but also to take advantage of their strong tendency to behave this way in situations where it comes into play. Like the "island" stands in an ocean of sage brush I talked about above. Or calling in timber or trees etc. I almost never make stands in this type of cover anymore unless I can find a setup that allows an ambush in downwind cover. Things are much simpler and easier calling open ground!

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Great reply Dave..........

And thanks for taking time to comment.

One thing that I wanted to add regarding stand selection in hilly, rocky or forested terrain.

There are times that I feel (either because of time of day, ambient temperature, or wind speed) I need to make the setup more "tempting".... or more difficult puzzle for the curious coyote to solve. By that I mean I will purposely place structure or some kind of cover in between me and the direction I am targeting with the call. Or put another way, I will reduce my own visibility, in order to GIVE the opponent more cover, and therefore hopefully instill more confidence for him to take the chance with a response, and approach me. This works a high % of the time, but of course the trade-off tends toward a reduced kill rate, as when they DO spring up close, and should you have to move, they have you pinned, and can also DIS-appear, back behind that cover you have generously given them.

Like you say, they will always use whatever advantage the terrain gives them, in their approach. That you can count on.
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You and DAA keep the good times rollin' (and me on the edge of my chair!) Nice pics! Thanks for the ride...again!

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