Spring Coyote Calling Deep Snow

Spring time can be a slow time of year for allot of hunters. Turkey season isn’t quite here and most other game seasons are closed. But there is a silver lining in that dark cloud hanging over us this time of year, Coyotes! In the north coyotes are paired and females are bred for the most part, but haven’t yet had their pups. Hunting coyotes this time of year can help curb deer depredation for the following winter and even the current up and coming fawn crop by taking a few of these coyotes out. Also the fur can and is still usable this time of year and can be tanned for hanging on your wall or even a hat.

The above video was filmed with the author in early March in Northern Wisconsin. It’s a long unedited clip but we wanted to show new hunters the frequency and variety of calls as well as the duration of a typical hunt.  You will see the entire call set from the time we got in place through the final shot.

For the most part this time of year coyotes have been pretty much burned out if calling is popular in your area, but there’s still a few tricks you can pull out of the hat to put a coyote on the ground or should I say snow if you had a winter like we did here in northern WI. One of the most difficult things to deal with is the deep snow thats accumulated through the winter. For one, the temps are warming and the snow gets soft and crystalized making each step you take a workout that’s rival to anything a treadmill could throw at you, but its also difficult for the coyotes to get through it as well. To combat this I like to concentrate my calling to early mornings where the previous nights cold temps freezes the snow making it easy to walk on top and in turn easier for the coyote to travel and respond as well, before the mid-morning temps start turning the snow to quicksand again.

What makes these coyotes vulnerable this time of year is the fact that even though the snow is deep, it’s going down in depth, which they depended on to slow deer down earlier in the year, but they could stay fairly on top to chase these deer down, because the snow wasn’t crystallized and slushy. So the coyotes after eating well are now getting a little growl in their belly. Even small game such as rabbits and hares are getting tough to come by due to it being easier for those critters to get around faster, plus their numbers are down just because its the cycle of nature and multiple factors of predation, die-off, hunting, etc. Most game populations are at their lowest this time of year just before the spring baby boom.

So where do you find the coyotes? Well coyotes are creatures of habit and oppurtunity, and they will still be holding close to the deer concentrations here in the north,looking for an oppurtunity to take a weakend animal or feeding off an old kill even if it is just bones. They’ll also hang on the rivers that are still frozen with water starting to open because deer will be there as well. The deer are browsing these areas for plants just starting to pop under water and buds on tags etc that are starting to plump. Everything out there in the wild has a cycle and knowing whats going on out there will put you where you need to be.

When I call this time of year I like to just hit the howler once or twice, then wait about 10 min. Coyotes this time of year are now paired like I mentioned, but also have staked their claim to a piece of ground and usually wont tolerate another on their turf. If I dont get a response off the howl, I’ll switch into a few deer distress bawls to sweeten the pot or a short series of bunny cries, then silent for a few minutes. Still if no takers I pull out my little trick that has worked beautiful this time of year and works on that territorial instinct just a tad more. I scream a short YIPE! Then go right into the distress I was using for just a few seconds, then stop.

I’ve had coyotes pop out just like that on that combo that were reluctant to show because of being burned out and call shy to the usual sounds they’ve been accustom to thru the winter. I like using an open reed call thats easy to blow for the combo, because you can switch from yip to distress without missing a beat. I believe it gives the impression the coyote just suffered a kick or bite and the the instant distress is from the instant retaliation the prey just recieved. I’ve been playing with that combo the last few years and have had excellent results from it in tough calling conditions like late season. And when you get that coyote coming in and your zeroed in on him/her and ready to shoot, BARK! if it’s running in or moving. The coyote will come to a stop increasing your odds of a well placed shot that connects and puts it to the ground. So if you want to kill the late winter blues and spring turkey fever, go harass a few yotes, it”ll brighten your day

Taking Down a Coyote

Sounds easy enough, don’t it. It can be, but can also be frustrating at times due to a multitude of reasons. Coyotes are a tough animal, tougher than most give them credit for. When it comes to hunting them and at the cusp of squeazing the trigger there can be many factors that contribute to whether the next milli-second is going to do the deed. And that deed is dependent on the little details we tend to miss in the heat of battle.

There has been much written as to what’s the best caliber for shooting coyotes. The truth is they all work, some to a more destructive degree and some to a lesser extent. I won’t go into what’s best, because it’s a matter of personal preference and what your motives are for hunting them, whether it’s for fur or damage control. So your gun of choice is what works best for you. But…I will say this, in my experience is to stay away from rimfire’s. I know plenty of coyotes have been killed by them and in the perfect situation they work, but life isn’t always perfect on the calling stand. If you choose to use a rimfire, keep the shots under say 75yds and head shots. Anything else is going to be marginal and if you don’t have snow, tracking a coyote is gonna be tough, because chances are you will be tracking them if you go for a boiler room shot and it’s not quite perfect. I’m speaking from experience.

Head Shot Coyote

As for me my rifle it’s a .243 700 Rem action and barrel cradled in an HS Precision Pro series stock topped off with a Nikon Monarch shooting 100 gr Sierra BTSP Game Kings powered by 45.2g of H 4831sc hand loads. It works for me whether I’m coyote hunting or deer hunting and doesn’t tear up the coyotes hide. I’ve seen guys using 30-06’s , .270’s, 6.5-.284 and then most with in the range of the .204, .223 all the way up to the .243. Well you get the picture.

Now, which ever caliber you choose isn’t going to take down a coyote if you don’t pay attention to a few things. One of course is making sure your rifle is sighted in and you know where it shoots. But that’s only part of it. Even if you hit a coyote, it dosen’t mean he’s going down. Personally I like the bang/flop your dead scenario. And there’s a few things to consider to do that. The main thing is bullet placement, and I have my preferences depending on the situation.

First before you take the shot, it’s always best if that coyote is standing still, they have a lot of fur around that frame, and having a standing shot gives you a better shooting scenario and less chance of a rushed or not so on shot. If the coyote is moving, you’ll want to stop them, what I’ll do is bark at them in my own voice. This will usually stop em’ to give you a shot, if your ready and were tracking them in your scope.

Now for the shot. The saying goes, aim small, hit small. A lot of hunters new to coyote hunting will tend to just shoot when the coyotes in the cross hairs instead of placing those cross hair on a specific area, usually resulting in a center body shot. That’s not good, I’ve seen many times coyotes taking off and you end up on a wild coyote chase tracking him down. Believe me a coyote can go a long ways like this, the furthest I’ve seen one go was a mile and a half. I’ve seen it many times, I happen to take quite a few new comers along so they can get their first coyote, shot by them, so have seen many mistakes over the years and have made a few myself. But the mistakes I’ve seen, taught me a lot.

On a coyote that’s standing broad side I like to hit right where you would if shooting a deer, right inline with the shoulder, this will usually drop them like a bag of rocks, too far back and you’ll probably be tracking a while. What I don’t like about a broad side shot is you have less margin of error at longer distances, all that fur makes them look big, but in reality you only have a depth of some where around 7 inches from the top of the back to the bottom of the ribs, and if you are shooting at distance of say 250 yds or better the shot placement is critical and knowing your bullet drop is of utmost importance. So depending on caliber like my .243 I’ll lay the cross hairs right on the top of the shoulders, knowing my bullet with take out the ticker when it gets there or close to it.

Now, my favorite shot to take on a coyote is a frontal straight on shot, especially if that dog is out there. I use shooting sticks most of the time because they really do make you steady for a shot, especially on the long ones. The reason I like the straight on shot, in my opinion is it gives you the most room in the margin of error dept in judging distance. And for connecting on your intended target. At least for me it is. My windage is pretty much dead center, and the only thing I need to worry about is drop, unless of course it’s extremely windy, then you’ll have to adjust accordingly. But when dealing with light winds and say a bullet like the .243 it’s not a problem. Anyway what I’ve found with the frontal shot is you have a little more area to allow for the bullet drop, like around 12 inches, and for me, I’ll just rest the cross hairs on top of the dogs head or on his nose depending on what I think or how far out he is. And this usually results in those nice bang flops, or those instant butt seaters then collapses. The main thing is, always make sure the dog is stopped and if not, stop him with a bark like I mentioned. Those furry critters don’t have a lot under that fur and it’s easy to miss.

Well, what about those quartering at you deals. Well for me I like where the point of the shoulder meets the neck, but here you have a little less room as you would for a head on shot but a little more than the broadside. This shot will anchor em’ in their tracks as well.

I hope this little write up gives you the basic concept to taking down a coyote. It’s not every scenario but it’s what I run into most, and you have to adjust depending on the approach, but keeping these things in mind coupled with more contact with coyotes and the experience it brings along the way, will increase your success of putting down those coyotes. I’m not saying you’ll never miss, because we all do one time or another, but you’ll be a more consistent coyote slayer. Good Luck.