For a serious hunting thrill, it’s hard to beat the excitement of a coyote hunt. These animals are no joke. They’re smart predators, and the slightest mistake will set them off and running away from you. Of course, that only makes it more rewarding when you finally do score a kill.
So how do you maximize your chances of success?
We’re here to help you out. We’ll talk about where and when to hunt coyotes, as well as hunting guns, compound bows, other gear, bait and calls. This isn’t like hunting whitetail, where you can set up and have a good chance of shooting something, even if it’s not the ten-point buck you were hoping for. You’ll need every tool in your toolkit to bring home some game.
Of course, there are more reasons for coyote hunting than just the adrenaline rush. Many people hunt coyote for the fur, which can get you a good price on the open market.
Another common reason for hunting them is if they’re an agricultural pest. On the one hand, being a farmer can make things easier. You own your land, and in most states it’s okay to shoot coyotes on your own land if they’re preying on your livestock.
On the other hand, this can put you at a disadvantage. Hunters generally have lots of an experience, and relish buying new gear the same way automotive enthusiasts love to trick out their cars with new accessories. How can someone who’s not a hunter hope to succeed?
No worries. Whether you’re hunting for sport or to kill varmints, here’s all the advice you need to have a successful hunt.
Are Coyotes Hard to Hunt?
If you’ve watched some coyote hunters on YouTube, you may get the impression that hunting coyotes is as easy as going out in a field and waiting for one to show up. The fact is that these people put a lot of work into what they do. And some of the most prolific hunters – the ones who bag five or six coyotes in a day – are using dogs, which is illegal in most states.
There are a few things that make coyotes a uniquely difficult animal to hunt. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Animals – including humans – have two types of receptors in their eyes: rods and cones. Rods send their signals in greyscale, and are ideal for sensing motion. They’re also very sensitive, and allow animals to see in very low light. Cones, on the other hand, are responsible for sensing color. However, they’re less sensitive to motion, and are downright useless at night.
Humans have mostly cones in our eyes, with only a small number of rods, mostly in our peripheral vision. This allows us to form an incredibly detailed picture of the world, but it makes us relatively poor at spotting motion, and causes us to be almost blind in the dark.
Coyotes, on the other hand, have a preponderance of rods in their eyes. While this means they have poor color vision, it also means that they can easily spot even the slightest motion. Furthermore, it gives them excellent night vision, about equal to a human who’s wearing night-vision goggles.
As a hunter, this means you’ll need to be extra still when a coyote’s scoping you out. Keep your weapon ready to fire when the coyote comes into view, but don’t move a muscle until you’re taking your shot.
If their superhuman eyesight wasn’t enough, coyotes have another weapon in their arsenal: exceptional hearing. We’ve heard stories of hunters flicking the safety on their rifle, and a coyote stopping to look from 200 yards away. They’ll pick up the sound of a call easily up to 2 miles away.
Needless to say, a smart coyote’s going to steer clear of any “human” sounds. If you’re making any noise that’s louder than a soft whisper, odds are you’ll never even see one.
Coyotes’ tawny coats blend right in with tall grass, and they can hide in even a small cluster of brush. Remember how we talked about how good their vision is? Combine that with their camouflage, and they can scope out your location while you’re staring straight at them, wondering where all the coyotes are.
If you’re familiar with hunting bobcat, bear, or other predators, you’re probably nodding your head right now.
Most of the animals we hunt are prey animals in nature. Deer, rabbit and elk don’t hunt other animals – they get hunted. As a general rule, predators have to be much smarter than their prey, and coyotes are no exception. This is just as true for coyotes as it is for any other predator.
They learn to recognize familiar vehicles, which are often parked in their area. But when you show up in your vehicle, they immediately know something’s up. They can even learn the sound of popular coyote calls, which is why most hunters recommend having three or more calls with you in order to change things up.
What is the Best Time to Hunt Coyotes?
Your odds of a successful hunt and the methods you’ll use will depend both on the time of day and the time of year you’re hunting.
Time of Day
Like most animals, coyotes are most active in the early morning in the late evening. That said, they’re opportunistic hunters. A hungry coyote will often investigate a wounded rabbit call at any time of day.
From dawn to around 11 AM, they’ll be actively hunting, and willing to socialize. This is the best time of day to use an interrogation howl or a group howl. Sirens and locator calls are also a good choice. You may even hear a response call, which will give you a heads-up that they’re on the way. Make sure to get out before dawn and set up downwind of your target area, though. If they catch a whiff of you, no amount of calling will bring them out.
Evening is the next best time, from around 4 PM to sunset. Again, interrogation howls and group howls are useful here. Between 11 and 4, focus on distressed prey calls. They’ll give you your best chance, since coyotes that aren’t hungry will be resting during this time.
Night hunting can also be fun, and is legal in most states. Of course, you’ll need a night-vision scope to get this done. Full moons are their most active period, since the lighting is better. That said, hungry coyotes can be extremely bold on a dark night, since they don’t expect to be seen. Provided you’re downwind, this is your best chance to catch one in full profile at relatively close range.
Time of Year
Let’s start with summer. Summer is the off-season in most states, but can be a good time for shooting coyotes that have become serious pests. Be careful at this time of year, though; this is when females are nursing their young. If you shoot a nursing female, you’ve effectively killed all of her pups as well. Unless she’s decided to use your chicken coop as a buffet, the best thing to do is wait until fall.
In fall, there will be a rash of inexperienced pups striking out on their own. This is the best time of year for catching them before they’ve become used to being hunted. Use more prey calls at this time of year – the more naïve coyotes will come running every time.
Winter is peak fur season. Coyotes grow thicker coats at this time of year, so this is when you want to shoot them for fur. By now, they’ll be wary of prey calls. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use them in the mid-day, but stick to social calls as much as possible. The cold air will make you harder to smell, and you’ll also have an easier time spotting coyotes in the snow than you will against grass or scrub.
By spring, coyotes are breaking off into pairs and building dens for the breeding season. The males in particular will be very territorial, so use this to your advantage. Social calls will get them coming in a hurry. Move your stands about every half hour if you haven’t heard or seen any activity. If you haven’t gotten a response in that amount of time, chances are there’s no coyote in the area.
What is the Best Weapon For Coyote Hunting?
Coyotes are significantly smaller than most game animals like whitetail. While we wouldn’t dream of hunting deer with a .22 LR – even if it were legal – a coyote hunt is a great opportunity to break out your beginner plinking rifle and put it to good use.
Before we go any further, let’s point out the obvious: unless you’re very lucky or very skilled, you’re probably looking at a 100-200 yard shot. This means you’ll need a good scope, and you’ll need to take it to the range and sight it in properly. Consider this standard advice for all calibers.
The rule of thumb is that smaller calibers are better. This goes against most general hunting wisdom, where people oftentimes use a larger caliber than necessary to guarantee a quick kill.
The reason is that anything larger than a .22 is going to leave a large exit wound, doing severe damage to the pelt and lowering its value. A .22 will get the job done and still preserve the coat, which is what you want if you’re hunting coyotes for their fur.
If you’re varmint hunting, none of this applies. Get your favorite big hunting rifle and blast away with your .30-06, your .308, your .300 Win. Mag., or your 6.5 Creedmoor. This type of “hunting” is mostly just work, so use the gun that’s easiest for you.
Most fur hunters who aren’t using a small-caliber rifle opt for a shotgun. This is a risky choice, but the risk comes with the reward of a much cleaner pelt.
So what’s the risk?
Simply put, you’re going to need that coyote to get close. The maximum range for most .00 buckshot loads is about 75 yards. They’re still lethal beyond that, but the spread is far too wide to guarantee a reliable hit. If you choose to go this route, make sure to wear clothes that you’ve prepped – first by washing them, then by storing them in a bag with dirt and leaves from the area you’re hunting.
A powerful, .22 caliber air rifle is enough to bring down a coyote. As with a shotgun, though, you’ll need to get within about 50-75 yards for it to be reliably lethal. The less powerful shot is unlikely to go all the way through, though, meaning you’ll have a small entry wound and no exit wound whatsoever.
There’s no advantage to the pelt from using a broadhead. It’s going to go through, and it’s going to be messy. But in terms of sheer sporting fun, there’s nothing quite like a bow hunt. Stay away from mechanical broadheads. A fixed blade will be more than enough to score a kill, and will save more of the pelt than a mechanical blade. As with shotguns and air rifles, you’ll need to get relatively close.
What Essential Gear Do You Need For Coyote Hunting?
Other than your weapon, what else should you be bringing with you on a coyote hunt? Here are some essentials.
We’ll talk about coyote calls more in a minute. Suffice it to say, they’re an indispensable part of coyote hunting. The last thing you want is to get out in the field and realize that you left your calls at home.
Coyote hunting involves a lot of hiking. Not just in and out, but moving from one stand to another as you figure out where the game is. Bring some waterproof hiking boots with plenty of ankle support, and your feet will thank you.
For coyote hunting, concealment is everything. Since these dogs see as well as a wild turkey, you’ll need to cover as much of your body as possible. Find a pattern that matches your local foliage, as well as the time of year you’re hunting. A fall pattern will do you no good in the dead of winter.
A camo balaclava will conceal most of your face, and a hat or ghillie suit will break up your profile even more. If anything, use a darker pattern than you think is necessary. If you set up in tall grass or scrub, you’ll blend in better, particularly in winter.
Electronic Wind Checker
This is helpful for making sure you’re downwind of your prey. Otherwise, you’re stuck with the old, stick your finger in your mouth and hold it up in the air method.
How Do You Bait a Coyote?
The good news about baiting coyotes is that it’s not as expensive as you might think. Find a local butcher who handles venison, and offer to buy the scraps and bones at a discount. Since these are often going straight to the landfill, you can get loads of bait for very cheap.
Set your bait in an area where you’ve seen coyote activity, and don’t worry about your scent. In this case, it’s actually an advantage; if the coyotes learn to associate your smell with food, they’ll eventually start ignoring it.
The best time for baiting is in winter, when there’s not a lot of food and the coyotes are hungry. Bait in the mid afternoon, starting with a few pounds a day and working your way down to about a softball-sized pile of scraps. Coyotes will know where the bait is, and they’ll start getting competitive, taking more and more risks in order to be the first one to get there.
At that point, it’s as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
Check with your state laws first, though. Some states ban baiting.
What is Coyote Calling and How Long Should You Call For?
There are two types of coyote calls: mouth calls and electronic calls. We’re not going to talk about mouth calls much here, because they’re hard to explain and even harder to imitate. The best way is to learn from a friend, or to watch a few dozen YouTube videos while you practice along at home.
If you’re going to use mouth calls, you’ll want at least three: a prey distress call, a social coyote call, and a crow call. Why a crow? Because carrion attracts crows. If you blow the prey distress call a few times, wait a minute, then switch to the crow call, coyotes will get very curious.
Electric calls can play several calls, up to dozens depending on the model. This is more expensive than a hand call, but it gives you more versatility. More importantly, it’s impossible to screw up either by mistake or through inexperience.
An electric call gives you the opportunity to select a variety of calls, depending on what your local coyotes are used to hearing. Are you in deer country? Try a distressed fawn call. Jackrabbit country? A wounded jackrabbit will bring them running.
No matter what kind of call you’re using, it’s best to stay in the same stand for no more than 30 minutes. Generally speaking, either you’ll be attracting coyotes or you won’t. If you are, 30 minutes will give them enough time to come into range. If not, there’s no point in wasting your time. There probably aren’t any coyotes in the area.
Below is a great youtube video with an expert teaching coyote calls.
What States Can You Hunt Coyotes In? Do You Need a License?
Coyote hunting is legal in all states where coyotes are currently found. That said, there are significant differences in how these animals are hunted. The main distinction lies in whether they’re treated as furbearers – protected animals – or as varmints – unprotected animals.
In states that consider coyotes to be furbearers, licenses are required, and you’ll most likely be required to take a hunter safety course if this is your first time hunting them. Hunting season generally lasts from mid-fall to mid-spring, but this can also vary by state.
On the other hand, some states consider coyotes to be varmints. In most cases, varmints can be hunted freely, without a license, and without a limit. In some states, there’s a hybrid system, where private landowners are allowed to shoot coyotes freely on their own land, but where they are otherwise protected.
Bottom line? Always check your local laws before you shoot a wild animal. No amount of excitement is worth the fines and other penalties you’ll have to deal with if you’re caught poaching.
As you can see, coyote hunting is a challenging, demanding activity. No matter your reason for hunting them, you’ll need to have your wits about you, and remain 100 percent focused throughout the entire process. This means leaving your cell phone on silent, and keeping your earbuds in your pocket.
There aren’t many activities in today’s world that require this kind of intense focus. We’re used to being distracted by our phones, our social media, and the demands of everyday life. Sitting in a blind, working your call every couple minutes, and keeping your eyes and ears open is a Zen, almost spiritual experience that everyone should have at least once in their life.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll enjoy it so much that you’ll go back for more every year. In that case, make sure to invest in some new gear during the off season. A new call or an upgraded rifle sight will give you even more to look forward to.
And remember to spend plenty of time on the range. The best lure, the best blind, and the best woodcraft won’t do you any good if your first shot misses. Remember, these are smart, fast animals; you’re not going to get a follow-up shot.
We write these guides because we love hunting, and because we want to share our experience with as many people as possible. So we certainly hope all of this information was helpful. Now that you’ve read the guide, there’s one thing left to do. Get out in the field, and start hunting!