I am often asked, do you howl for coyotes and does it work? The short answer is yes and yes. But I’m going to try and break down the long answer. Now remember one thing though. There are no definites in this game and keeping an open mind and a willingness to give things a try, even things that pop into your head, even if you’ve never heard of it before. Calling coyotes is a never ending game of learning and your best weapon is your brain. Only you know your area, and the better you know it, the better you’ll become in knowing what’s gonna trigger a response.
I like to start using coyote howls in January for actual on stand hunting. In the fall I mainly use the howler as a locator tool. I use it the night before I hunt an area to get an idea of where the coyotes are, so I can plan for the next morning. Sometimes they are not where you heard them, but knowing the area and getting to know the coyotes routes and travels, terrain, cover, etc., you can have a pretty good idea where they went.
In January, the coyotes are moving around a lot, priming up for the breeding season, and some are already breeding and pairing up. So coyote vocals are very convincing this time of year to a coyote and often times prove fatal. A lot of socializing is going on and they are also defending territories a little more aggressively as time goes on into February. Another reason howls and other vocals are viable is due to the fact, that most coyotes out there this time of year, have either heard the rabbit distresses a 100 times now or was a witness to a less lucky buddy that fell to the bunny cries. Either your left dealing with the survivors, the smarties who are paranoid beyond therapy.
So what do you do? Well, first practice on an open reed call doing your best imitation of a coyote howl, the kiyi’s and the whines. There are a few tapes and videos out there that can teach you the basics. But the main thing is practice till you get a good smooth howl. How do you apply it to your stand? Just like anytime of the year pick your locations, keeping the wind and terrain in mind. Once your settled in make a couple short barks followed by a howl and immediately repeat it. Give it a few minutes and listen for a response and watch for any incoming coyotes, even if you don’t hear a vocal response. A lot of times the occupants of the area will come in silent hoping to catch the intruder. It’s been my experience up here in the north that’s what mainly happens, no vocal response, they just come. If there is no response either way, give it a couple more howls, then wait a few more minutes. Before we venture into this further, we’ll go to the scenario that there is a response by coyotes howling and yipping back off in a distance. What do you do now? Well you howl back, to see if those howls start coming closer. I’ve had a few different things happen when coyotes howl back. One, the howls get closer, which of course gets the heart pumping and things can get interesting here. As long as they’re answering, keep talking back. And if there getting closer keep it up. But keep your eyes peeled for an incoming critter at the trot. I found a lot of times while they are answering back, one will break from the group and come in to check things out. I’ve even seen where they are not getting closer, yet one comes in on auto-pilot, whether it‘s from the group or maybe the true resident. I’ve had it go both ways. I never say never and there are never any always when it comes to calling coyotes.
Here is a little twist. Let’s say your talking smack back and forth and they’re getting closer and they stop answering. Now what? Well a couple things can play out here. One, they hit a boundary that is the end of their territory and are afraid or leery of crossing that line. Or two, they’re coming in and you better be ready for some shooting. If nothing is coming in period and you’ve been on stand for 20 minutes and the trash talk just isn’t getting it done or you get no response whatsoever, it can seem like Death Valley out there. Well, you still have an ace or two up your sleeve. If your howls were convincing enough, you’ve established in the coyotes mind there is another coyote out there. What I’ll do is blow a few short distress cries, nothing long term, just a short series of the wah wahs. I’ve had a lot of times where that is all it took to trip their trigger. I think the thought of another coyote on their turf is irritating to them. But then for that coyote to have the audacity to kill a meal in their back yard is just too much for them to tolerate. It has to be dealt with. If that doesn’t seem to pry them from cover, what I’ve done is throw a couple yips or kiyis out there followed by a couple distress notes. A partner can help with this, one yipping and one throwing the bunny around. But don’t over do it. Make it just subtle enough to get ‘em coming. Or you can throw a couple squeaks out there with a squeaker instead. Just something to get their imagination going and coming in. I have seen all of these scenarios and these techniques work. But I’ve also had times they didn’t, because the coyotes just weren’t there.
The one response that makes my gut twist up are those short bark and howls, that resemble a tied up barking dog when you walk by, to me that spells B-U-S-T-E-D. You can try to coax them in, but it is futile. It sounds something like a challenge howl, which is a couple abrupt barks followed by a quick short howl that breaks off abruptly. Which brings me to that howl, the challenge. I usually stay away from it. I’ve had it work, but a lot of times I end up talking smack back and forth. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, it does. But young coyotes have a tendency to hang back. They’re not to sure of themselves yet, like an old dominant dog would be. But if you happen to connect with a paired old couple you’re in business. Getting back to being busted, you can sit and talk tough back and forth if you want. But I usually back out and try not to stir things up too much so I can come back another time. If you see them hung up out of range, it is tempting to take a poke at them. But you’re better off getting out. If you take a shot you just educate them even more, which makes your next stand at that location even tougher.
I hope I’ve helped you get an idea of what goes on out there and passed along some knowledge on using howls and barks. Like I said, there are no definites in this game. You just need to keep at it, if something isn’t working don’t be afraid to try something different. Start out simple and don’t get discouraged. Oftentimes the coyotes just aren’t in that area. That’s just how it goes. Also read, watch, and listen to whatever info is out there on coyote hunting. Some of it’s BS and a lot of it’s the real deal. But it will increase your knowledge and awareness when on stand. Good luck hunting!