A member of our staff at Babe Winkelman Productions just returned from a visit to his parents’ farm in Illinois. While he was there, he bumped into an old pal at the local tavern and they began talking about how their respective hunting seasons had gone. The local boy had taken a decent buck with his bow, plenty of pheasants, a good bag of waterfowl, and, oh by the way, 11 coyotes in the past two days.
Eleven in two days? Wow! — with the capital “W!”
I love hunting coyotes. The thrill of howling and wailing on a rabbit distress call, and being the “hunted” as a hungry, territorial predator dog comes charging in for a fight and/or an easy meal — well, it just gets your heart a-thumpin’!
Babe Winkelman (left) and pal.
But like so many things we like to do, it’s not always easy to find the time for a cherished pastime. With so much time spent fishing, filming, traveling, doing seminars and other professional chores, there aren’t many hours left over for predator hunting. But when I heard about 11 coyotes in two days, it lit a fire under me. So the other day I broke out the .243 WSSM, dusted off my Johnny Stewart remote caller, and prepared for a morning hunt the next day.
Preparing For The Hunt
Task No. 1, as is the case on the eve of any hunt, was to make sure the rifle was throwing darts. Three rounds from 100 yards assured me that the trusty Nikon remained true since the last time I fired the rifle. I tell you, a Browning A-Bolt and Nikon Monarch go together like venison jerky and opening day.
Next, I tested my digital caller — no problems there either. And since there’s plenty of snow on the ground here in Minnesota in January, I dug my snow camo out of the closet and ran it through the washing machine with H.S. Scent-Away detergent. A coyote’s nose is about as keen as it gets, so you want to approach predator hunting with the same attention to scent control that you use for deer hunting.
I also scrubbed my rubber boots and gave them a dousing of no-scent spray. I’ve seen more than one coyote stick his snout into a boot print and high-tail it for the next county. Taking these precautions for scent control is quick and easy to do. And it can mean the difference between coming home with fur, or coming back empty-handed.
That evening, as I lay in bed, I couldn’t sleep. The anticipation of the morning hunt was too intense. Mr. Weatherman had predicted a fine forecast for the following day: 15 degrees with a light breeze. My calls would ring out from here to Timbucktoo, and hopefully bring in any dog within earshot that wanted to eat a silly wabbit before curling up in the sun for a morning snooze.
Perfect Calling Weather
When I awoke the next morning, I was delighted to see that the weatherman had been accurate. After a short drive and hike, I arrived at my pre-determined spot on a piece of public land that gets very little pressure. It contains a small, shallow lake rimmed by cattails, with long fingers of timber that feed down into it. With 1/2-hour remaining before daybreak, I had time to set up a folding stool in the cattails and tamp down noisy snow and vegetation. It’s important to always do this when hunting from the ground so any impending movements will be silent.
As shooting light arrived, I let go with a howling sequence, but there was no answer or no sightings. I waited a few minutes, then howled again briefly, and followed it up with some blood-curdling rabbit crying. My theory on this calling approach, and I think it’s shared by many predator hunters, is this: A distant coyote hears another coyote howl. Maybe this gets his goat and he comes charging in to run the other dog off. Or maybe it just annoys him a little bit. The next howl annoys him some more, but when the rabbit wailing starts, that’s too much for him to take. He thinks: “You’ve got some nerv howling in my turf, but when you start eating my rabbits? I don’t think so!”
Whether my theory is accurate or not, I can’t say. But I can tell you it has worked before. And on this calm, crisp morning, it worked again. From across the lake, about 200 yards away, I saw him coming down a distant timber ridge. He had the pedal to the metal, with snow flying up behind him like a smoke trail. Once he hit the cattails he disappeared, but I could hear him plowing through the brittle vegetation like a Sherman Tank. Then he broke into the clearing, with nothing but a hundred yards of frozen lake between us. On he came until he was only 50 yards out when he eased on the brakes and stopped, looking in all directions for the intruder.
The Perfect Shot
As for the “other coyote,” yours truly, I was on my shooting sticks waiting for the ideal shot angle while heartbeats pulsed in my temples. Talk about exciting! The big predator took a sidestep and gave me a nearly broadside profile, quartering slightly toward me. The crosshairs steadied on the front shoulder, and with a squeeze of the trigger the coyote crumpled with barely a quiver.
Did I go on to shoot 11 coyotes in two days? No I did not, but that one dog made my day. His hide will end up making a warm, stylish hat that I’ll give to my daughter on her birthday. And the exhilaration of it all reignited my passion for predator hunting. I hope my experience helps fire you up, too.
For a selection of Predator hunting gear, click here.
Editor’s Note: Babe has shared his love of the outdoors with TV viewers for more than 25 years. Babe will share his tips and outdoor adventures weekly on sportsmansguide.com. In 1984, Babe’s “Good Fishing” program debuted and later his “Outdoor Secrets” show became popular with hunting enthusiasts. Babe’s programs appear on the Outdoor Life Network, WGN, Fox Sports Net, Fox College Sports, The Men’s Channel, Sportsman’s Channel, Great American Country, WILD TV, and Comcast. Babe also writes hunting, fishing and conservation columns that are carried by up to 350 newspapers each week. Winkelman sponsors include Chevrolet, Miller High Life, Johnsonville Brats, Crestliner Boats, St. Croix Rods, Browning, Hunter’s Specialties, Nikon, Minn Kota, Optima Batteries, Mathews, Honda, and many more.