Keep it Simple: Tips for Calling Coyotes More Effectively
February 01, 2016
Dawn came quickly, frost hanging on the sagebrush and growing in my beard. At the first traces of shooting light, I pressed the button that activated the Primos Alpha Dogg electronic call placed 50 yards away down the slope, sending a series of locator howls drifting down the draw. To my delight, coyotes lit up in all directions, three different groups cutting the air apart with yips, howls, and barks.
A few minutes later, I followed up the howl sequence with a great sounding — to me, anyway — series of electronic jackrabbit distress calls. To my dismay, that was the last I heard of the coyotes, and none of them ever showed.
Coyotes today are more educated than ever. At first blush, it seems that hunters no longer need skill to call coyotes — quality electronic calls do most of the hard work. However, even electronic calls are losing effectiveness because every predator hunter in the country, from expert to rank amateur, is employing one, and coyotes learn fast. Traditional rodent and rabbit in distress calls — you know, the ones everybody tries first — no longer work particularly well in many areas.
So how do you successfully hunt educated coyotes? I recently visited with Al Morris — who, along with his hunting partner Garvin Young, has won the World Coyote Calling Championship three times — and picked his brain on tactics for call-shy coyotes.
The good news is that Morris doesn't believe any coyote is uncallable. But he rarely uses traditional distress calls any more, opting instead to use various coyote vocalizations. He believes that successful callers should become proficient with three tools.
"You can't go fishing with just one lure," he said. "I use a FoxPro, a diaphragm mouth call, and a hand howler every time. I'm trying to sound like multiple coyotes, and I accomplish it with multiple calls."
According to Morris, the question he hears most applies to coyote language. "How do I know what to say and when to say it?" folks ask.
His response: "Coyote vocalizations are simple, and I think that's what people get wrong — they think coyotes have a very complex vocabulary. Keep it simple. An Oregon study showed that coyotes use only 11 to 13 different vocalizations to communicate with. Howling does not have to be hard."
Morris is partial to non-aggressive male coyote howls and female yodels, and he pointed out the importance of understanding not only the rut, but also the gestation period and following pup-raising months. Typically, peak breeding occurs in February, followed by a 62-day gestation. For conversation's sake, let's say most pups are born mid-April, and they stay in the den for a month or more.
By July, pups are already learning to hunt, and their parents are very protective. According to Morris, at that point just about any pup distress call will draw attention.
In September and October, breeding pairs kick the pups out and push them out of the family territory. Winter and another breeding season is approaching, and they don't want their young competing for available food in their area, let alone the young kicked out by other pairs that wander into their territory. Adults become the opposite of protective and will come running to give trespassing adolescents a drubbing. So pup sounds are still a good choice.
Morris's year-round go-to sound is a wounded dog, specifically a pup distress or canine distress. That said, he does change it up a lot, usually using four or five different calls per stand.
Unlike many successful hunters, Morris isn't shy about sharing his favorite sounds and sequences.
"I start off with electronic male coyote howls," he said. "Then a female yodel, then a non-aggressive diaphragm howl. A few minutes later, I'll do a distress call, grey fox, something in distress. I go from that into coyote pup distress, pup screams, and finally pup death howls. The entire sequence takes about 12 to 15 minutes. I tell you what, that series triggers something in a coyote that seems to just make them come take a look."
Many hunters believe that coyote populations differ from region to region, asserting that dogs in the East present dissimilar behavior to those in the West and respond differently to calls. Morris disagrees: "As far as I'm concerned, a coyote is a coyote is a coyote — you've just got to have a full set of tools to consistently call them. It's really cool to go out there with a hand call, an electronic call, and a diaphragm call and get the reactions you can get'¦. It's really cool."
However, he pointed out that unpressured populations don't require nearly the calling proficiency.
"There's no reason to throw the kitchen sink at them," Morris noted. "If a rabbit distress call works, stick with it."
Importantly, when going into a new area, scout at night to learn where the coyotes are and move in to set up the next day.
"Drive at night, stopping every two miles or so to run a group howl sequence on your electronic call," he said. "Within three nights in a new area, I can tell you how many coyotes are there and just about what they are — old dominant males, groups, and so on."
I didn't come right out and ask Morris if he has a "secret weapon" sound — I didn't have to. He admitted without being asked that he's been working on mastering a female sound that he says some hunters are calling an "estrus chirp." He saw it on a hunting video — one of Randy Anderson's — wherein mating action is captured on camera, and the female makes some unique vocalizations. Seemingly, the sound brings out a very aggressive territorial response in coyote females.
I also asked Morris about his favorite calls. He's on FoxPro's pro staff, so clearly he leans on them heavily. He was candid in admitting that there are many good electronic calls on the market today but was staunch in maintaining that FoxPro has them all soundly beat in one critical area: coyote vocalizations. FoxPro's "Platinum Grey Fox" is a high-pitched sound that cuts through wind well, is particularly frantic sounding, and works really effectively.
For hand calls, I was interested to hear that Morris really likes hand-turned wood calls made in my home state of Utah by Kerry Carver, who also just introduced a rubber call that is "the most amazing call" Morris has ever used.
I'm pretty sure that coyotes will continue outsmarting me more than I outsmart them. But with at least three arrows in my quiver — diaphragm, hand calls, and a good electronic call — I'll stand half a chance on the call-wise song dogs of central Utah.
Morris offered a parting tip for beginners: "When you're starting out, don't be afraid to push the button, to blow the call. Try various sounds. It may not work today, but down the road you'll find a sound that will work, and it'll be dynamite."
The Advantage of Handmade Calls
One-of-a-kind, handmade mouth calls aren't just cool to look at — they offer several real advantages. First, they're individually tuned, so you won't get a call that "breaks" badly or just sounds wrong. Second, since the soundboards are handmade and every call is individually tuned, no two are exactly alike, preventing coyotes from "recognizing" the sound from previous encounters with other hunters with the same-brand production call.
These pictured (above) are handmade by Kerry Carver of Ephraim, Utah, and, according to Al Morris, work magic on electronic call-wise coyotes. Impressively, Carver sells his works of art at workingman prices: ranging from $20 to $40. From right: buckeye burl Ruthless Rabbit distress with brass inlay, cocobolo Pup/Female howler, and cocobolo Big Dog howler.
Barnett | Predator Ultralite
More and more, we are seeing coyotes pop up in urban areas. So if the dogs are invading your backyard, check state laws, and take them on with the Predator Ultralite
. This crossbow delivers arrows on target at 375 fps. An illuminated scope allows for better accuracy, and the bow comes with three 22'' HeadHunter arrows.
Benelli | Performance Shop Super Black Eagle II
It's been stomping out spring Toms for years, but we like the Performance Shop Super Black Eagle II
for silencing the dogs too. Benelli's 3 ½-inch, 12-gauge is an inertia-driven coyote killer, delivering ultra-tight patterns with the included Rob Roberts XFT choke tube. It also comes with a sighted-in Burris FastFire II. The ComforTech system also takes the edge off those hard-kicking predator loads.
Browning | X-Bolt SSA Predator Hunter
Accuracy and carry weight, these are the tried and true definitions of the ultimate varmint rifle (and good optics). Browning's X-Bolt SSA Predator Hunter
features the Feather Trigger for precise shots afield. The three-lever trigger provides predictable pulls every time with no take-up or creep. Offered in .204, .22-250 and .223, the Predator is just a shade over six pounds without scope.
Burris | C4 Plus
We all miss, but you can be more confident in the shot with Burris' C4
scopes. The optics offer a custom shooting experience, providing an elevation turret that matches your ammo's velocity and drop. And a Wind Map, which you view through your off eye, calibrates proper hold-off on your cartridge of choice. Simply click over to the right yardage, and the scope dials you right in. The C4 comes in a variety of models from the 3x9x40mm to the 4.5x14x42mm.
Cabela\'s | Merino Base Layers
We wore it on an Alaska Dall sheep hunt, in Hungary for fallow deer, ibex in Spain, Montana for mulies and a SoDak predator and bird combo in late season. So yes, it works. The Merino base layers
were designed with three fabric weights, so when the temp dips you're warm and cool when that mid-day sun heats things up.
Cabela\'s | Speedy '˜Yote Kickstand
No more sitting in the mud or hauling heavy packs, the Speedy '˜Yote Kickstand
vest keeps you dry and mobile. The vest has multiple pockets for calls, e-caller remote, ammo and anything you might need afield, including a one-quart mesh water bottle pocket. Cabela's also included a kickstand to create a comfortable place to sit, and the 3-inch-thick Memory Tech keeps your butt dry. Available in three camo patterns: Zonz Western, Seclusion 3D Winter and Zonz Western Snow.
Cabela\'s | Extreme Pac
When it's cold, predators need to kill and you want to be there when the dogs start moving. Stay on stand with the Extreme Pac
boots, outfitted with 1200-gram Thinsulate and 9mm Texel liners, which warm your feet and draw moisture away from the surface of the skin. Waterproof, the uppers are full-grain leather and the EVA midsoles soak up ground shock.
Cabela\'s | 113 Ranger Skinner
The 113 Ranger Skinner's
S30V steel blade is made of metallic powders fused together under intense pressure, heat-tempered and cooled in a cryogenic freezer. There, now you can school your buddies when they ask what that 'œdang good skinnin' knife' is made of.
This meat cutter will outperform blades made of lesser metals, and there's just something about the rosewood handle that makes it feel good in hand. The blade is 3.125 inches long.
We love to make the fur fly, but there are not many predator hunters who don't also hunt more edible creatures like turkeys, pigs and deer. The outdoor'‹ cookaholic wizards at Camp Chef
have created an electric pellet smoker grill so simple to use you can check your brain on the patio and still make perfect food. Fill the hopper with pellets, set the digital temperature gauge, choose hi or low smoke settings, stick in the digital meat thermometer and forget about it.
We like to double down on beer can chickens (with actual double-bird rack) or whole geese or boar hams, so when we come in off the coyote patrol in full carnivore mode we can sink our teeth into perfectly smoked fare. Only problem is you may have to dust off those old Tae-Bo cassettes to keep your waistline in check.
Federal | .30-06 Vital Shok
Remember that scene in 'œThe Three Amigos,' when Jefe tells Ned: 'œYou wanna die with a man's gun, not a little sissy gun like this?' Well, you want to hunt with a man's gun too when chasing 200-pound super wolves, and Federal's .30-06 Vital Shok
is the right cartridge to slam down the barrel of your best rifle. These rounds feature a tipped bullet cavity for consistent expansion and grooved bullet shank for increased accuracy.
American Eagle | .22-250 50-Grain Jacketed Hollow Point
The debate rages, but .22-250 is a damn fine coyote caliber, and American Eagle's 50-grain jacketed hollow point
will do the job on any jackal. Effective as it is affordable, the AE .22-250 Rem was made for high-volume shooting. So whether you're infested with '˜yotes or just miss a lot, this is the premium bullet for your bolt-action.
American Eagle | 5.7x28mm 40-Grain Cartridge
is the perfect round to go on a raccoon killing spree. Constructed of Federal brass, the American Eagle 40-grain cartridges have quality primers that ensure consistent ignition. There aren't a ton of rifles chambered for the offering yet, but how cool would it be to load that PS90 bullpup with a 30-round mag and take on the dumpster divers? Sign us up!
Garmin | fenix 2
We get pretty sick of digging through our bag for the cell phone, just to check on shooting time. The fenix 2
has become our watch of choice, because it stands up to the elements and has a litany of options hunters will find useful. With a built-in barometer, you can keep an eye on the weather, and the altimeter tracks elevation if you find yourself on the side of a mountain. A three-axis compass marks stands or campsites, and there's also a temperature sensor. The fenix 2 operates remote Garmin devices wirelessly, like the Virb.
Garmin | Virb
Killing a big cat at long range after an even longer day afield brings indescribable satisfaction. Now imagine catching it all on video. Garmin's Virb
will mount to just about anything (we recommend your AR rails or rifle scope) and is easy to operate, just slide that big black switch forward. It also integrates with a list of other Garmin devices. For you tech gurus, the Virb delivers 1080p HD video, has Wi-Fi connectivity and GPS.
Never spook another wary bob again. The GhostBlind
is nearly invisible to quarry and works in any location. The reflective panels mirror your surroundings, while the patented design eliminates sun reflection. Made of a lightweight, poly construction, the four foldable panels can be set up in minutes, so no brushing in.
Grate Chef | FireStarters
Our last deer camp of these season is followed by a coyote tournament with buddies and a belt-busting rib cook-off back at the cabin. To get the charcoals burning, we use FireStarters
. Just light one of the packets up and it will burn for several minutes up to 1,500 degrees. Non-toxic, the packets are not combustible.
9 (six packets)
Western Rivers | Stalker 360
Cover more of the big wide-open with Western Rivers' Stalker 360
. This e-caller has two speakers, which have dual-call capabilities out to 250 yards, that can be rotated in different directions. Each speaker can emit different sounds, so if a predator gets hung up in the brush line, you can hit him with a quick finishing call. Equipped with 4GB of memory, hunters can add their favorites, and a back-lit LCD screen on the unit and remote make night hunting a snap.
Hard Core | Layout Gun Rest
If you shoot the big dogs up close, then Hard Core's Layout Gun Rest
is a must-have. Made to compliment HC's popular Run-N-Gunner blind, this heavy-duty powder-coated rest keeps your shotgun at the ready when the '˜yotes come creeping in. A rubber coating protects gun barrels from scratching.
Hard Core | Adjustable Lanyard
Keep go-to calls close at hand with this adjustable lanyard from Hard Core
. With room for six, there's plenty of different call options, from close-in finishers to wide-open sqaullers. The paracord lanyard is virtually indestructible and will last for seasons to come.
Husky Liners | X-act Contour
Shooting coyotes is dirty business, literally. And trying to take the wife and kids to Sunday brunch is a no go when your truck's full of mud. X-act Contour
floor liners protect carpet by conforming to the contours of your ride. The Form-Fit Edge traps anything that falls off the bottom of your boots, and the liners have a lifetime gaurentee.
iON | CamoCAM
Plenty of bragging goes on back at the barn, but now you can back up those awesome doubles your buddies scoff at with the iON CamoCAM
. Camouflaged in Realtree Xtra, the CamoCAM easily mounts to your shotgun barrel, capturing all the heavy varmint action. The camera also integrates with existing iON mounts, and is Wi-Fi capable, so video and still images can be uploaded to social media sites and shared with friends.
LaCrosse | Quick Shots
We run into some pretty nasty terrain chasing dogs coast to coast. Whether it's a soggy Iowa cornfield for '˜yotes or a spring black bear hunt in Arizona's White Mountains, our pair of LaCrosse Quick Shots
are up to the task. A waterproof suede upper combines with rugged 900D nylon to hold up in any weather we run in to. The Quick Shot is available in uninsulated or 600-gram Thinsulate.
LHR Sporting Arms | Redemption Composite Muzzleloader
Somewhere between the difficulty of archery and the murderousness of centerfire bolt guns, there lives in the predator hunter the quest for a unique challenge. We took this incredibly innovative, sleek and sexy muzzleloader
out to chase Kansas coyotes last year, watching over bait carcasses and calling when it was too hot and windy and we knew it. What could be cooler than punching a .50-caliber slug through the chest of a coyote that's running in and then suddenly has that 'œoh'¦crap' look on his face right when it's too late?
This genius gun design has a striker-fired push-to-cock firing mechanism, alleviating the need to awkwardly try to cock a hammer, reaching up under the scope and trying to make it work. It also has a smart un-threaded breech plug design that eliminates all those old corrosion problems from in-line muzzleloaders. We never got to pop a coyote but drew down on a big Kansas whitetail and sent him to the freezer with just one shot. These guys thought of everything.
2014 Nissan Titan
Let's face it. If you want to keep your Man Card, you need a bad-ass truck, and the 2014 Nissan Titan
is certainly that. Featuring the powerful 5.6-liter DOHC Endurance V8 (317-hp and 385 lb/ft of torque), the Titan has a max tow capacity of 9,500 pounds. It also features the Utilitrack cargo-carrying system, which allows you to securely clamp anything to the bed of the truck.
A spray-in bedliner is available, and a convenient lockable beside storage compartment is and excellent place to store jumper cables, ammo, etc. Oh, and if you only buy American, this truck is assembled in Mississippi, and a little birdy told us there are more American-made parts on the Titan than the other full-size pick-ups coming off U.S. assembly lines.
Pattern Master | Code Black Big Game
Put a thumping on the big dogs with Pattern Master's Code Black Big Game
choke. Delivering ultra-tight, constricted patterns, this kill tube is death on coyotes. With the right load, Code Black is effective at some incredibly long distances. Just hit the target boards first and you'll be amazed at the consistency in these patterns.
Pelican | Storm Case
Protect your favorite varmint death ray with the Storm Case from Pelican
. A specialized molded foam interior is designed for bolt-action rifles with an optic. There's room for accessories too, and the six press-and-pull latches ensure your gun stays put. This hard case is perfect for travel; the in-line wheels make it a cinch to walk with and four hasps are padlockable, so the gun is secured in transit.
Pelican | 2760 Headlight
Pelican's 2760 Headlight
is the perfect complement for varmint hunts after dark. It has an LED high-beam function for the walk in, then switch over to the night vison red once you're on stand. Low, downcast and flashing modes are also included in this lamp, and the sunken on/off button prevents the light from turning on in your pack.
Realtree | Max-1
is billed as one of the best Realtree camo patterns for all the places deer and antelope roam. And since predators love to chase these two animals too, it makes it an effective camo for varmint hunters. It's perfect for sage-covered hillsides, mesquite flats, ag fields and wide-open prairie.
Sitka | Blizzard
Yes it's pricey, but you don't cheap out on parkas and bibs. And the Sitka Blizzard
system will likely be the last pair of jacket and pant you ever buy — they're that durable. What we like most about Sitka is the flexibility in their gear. You don't feel any constriction when you're walking from stand-to-stand, or when a dog pops up close and you have to reach for the shotgun. Both bib and jacket are waterproof, and the WINDSTOPPER shell is as advertised.
699 (jacket); $
Steiner | Nighthunter XP
Western hunters know the difficulty of locating coyotes in the sagebrush at dusk. It's near impossible at longer distances. Steiner's Nighthunter XP
binos bring your quarry closer and brighter with more contrast and natural HD color than most human eyes have ever seen. Several facets go in to making this possible, but basically the 10x42 power binos make your eyes more nocturnal, so you can see more clear in low light or even darkness.
Steiner | GS3 4-20x50mm
When you miss, most times it's 'œthe equipment.' Well, when it comes to rifle scopes, there is some truth to that. Cheaping out on glass is a big no-no. Make sure your bolt gun is sighted in with Steiner's GS3 4-20x50mm
with Plex S-7 reticle. The S-7 makes trajectory compensation simple with hash marks calibrated for dead-on accuracy from 100 to 500 yards. This scope is also equipped with Color Adjusted Transmission lens coatings, which effectively separate quarry form brush and shadows.
Sure-Shot | Predator Call
Coyotes are smart, but have one fatal flaw — they can't resist an easy meal. Sure-Shot's Predator Call
mimics the distress sounds an injured rabbit makes. Wild dogs just can't stop themselves from coming in, which means more pelt on the sled for you.
Under Armour | Ridge Reaper Barren
In the wild, we need every advantage, so that's why Under Armour's Ridge Reaper Barren
series is so appealing. The new camo uses irregular shapes and angles, making hunters practically invisible. The 23 jacket is water resistant and insulated with PrimaLoft Siler Down. UA's Field Pant is 100 percent nylon with reinforced overlays and added protection at the knees and seat.
250 (jacket); $
Under Armour | Brow Tine Hunting Boots
When winter comes, you don't want to be on stand with a shoddy pair of boots. UA's Brow Tines
have 1200 grams of PrimaLoft insulation and a Leather/900D nylon exterior. The boots are waterproof and wick moisture away, so you don't suffer the dreaded frozen toe once you're on stand.
Winchester | .17 Super Mag
If you're a believer in light loads for fox and coyotes, then Winchester's .17 Super Mag
just might be your new favorite. The .17 has a muzzle velocity of 3,000 fps, making it one of the fastest rimfire cartridges on the planet. Ballistically, the 25-grain bullet delivers 150 percent more energy than the .17 HMR and .22 Win Mag, performing more like a centerfire caliber.
Yamaha | Viking SxS
More stands, more ground, more kills. That's what we're all looking for, and you can make it happen with the Viking SxS
. Yamaha's new offering is roomy enough for three, and powered by a 686cc engine. Three-way On-Command allows the driver to select between 2WD, 4WD and 4WD with differential lock. The dump bed can handle up to 600 pounds, a two-inch receiver hitch is rated for 1,500 pounds and the Viking has 12 inches of ground clearance at its lowest point.
Yeti | Hopper 30
The only flaw we could ever find in a Yeti Cooler was they just weren't very mobile, unless you're chasing grizzlies with Hulk Hogan. But Yeti has fixed that problem with the Hopper 30
, which is just as indestructible and keeps things just as cold as its more stationary big brothers. You can take it anywhere, and the Hydrolok zipper keeps the cooler air tight, which allows a hunter of any size to use it as a seat.