Are you fed up and broke from paying lease fees to hunt? Have you sworn you’ve had the last door slammed in your face trying to get permission to hunt? If so, you could be a varmint hunter in the making.
Instead of begging permission, landowners may be asking about your fees to shoot coyotes on their property. States vary in their laws, but some states require no license, enforce no seasons or bag limits. Plus, you don’t have to drag the game carcass back to the truck. Check your local Department of Natural Resources website for exact regulations, which is in the Resource section of this website.
Rocky Raab, a varmint and predator hunter, says there’s plenty of excitement to be had in the sport. He has shot foxes and coyotes at ranges of 500 yards and at his bootlaces. Varmints can seem to materialize out of nowhere — right in your lap. Raab says, “If you don’t see it by the time it’s past the last sagebrush, it can literally be in your lap or run over you.”
Raab also has been caught from behind. He has called for 10-15 minutes with seemingly no response. He has then turned around to find himself face-to-face with a coyote or fox 10 feet away.
The .223 is the perfect gun for predator hunting, in Raab’s opinion. “It’s got enough range and power, without being too loud or having too much recoil.” He also uses a 22-Hornet rifle for smaller predators, such as fox. The .223 works well on coyotes.
Raab’s preferred strategy is to “sneak into their territory and sound like lunch.” Lunch sounds like a jackrabbit or cottontail, whatever is most prevalent in the area. He also uses a mouse call, which works especially well on foxes. Not only are mice their favorite food, but also a fox may not be able to take on a full-grown jackrabbit. A mouse also can sound like a wounded gopher or bird.
Camo Clothing Helps
A variety of different camo patterns can work well. Raab has used everything from army surplus to white or mottled white in snow, and even to a Ghillie suit. The Ghillie suit, with its multiple layers of fabric, concealed him from a ferruginous hawk only five feet away. He adds that covering your bright, shiny face is more important than the camo pattern.
Predators are usually nocturnal. The best times to hunt are early morning hours and late in the evening. Their metabolism has to crank up in the winter, however, so they may be coursing during daylight hours. Prey is more difficult to hunt in winter, further increasing their need to hunt longer and harder. However, Raab has good luck hunting right before, during or after a winter storm.
Predators will test your hunting skills. If an animal does “make you” and escape, you won’t get another chance at that animal. Predators have a sharp learning curve. Raab notes his success rate plummets in an area where a coyote or fox has caught on to his game.
The Varmint Hunters Association offers a quarterly magazine as one of their membership benefits. You can reach them at 800-528-4868.