December 11, 2015
I cut my teeth predator hunting alone, learning how to strategically pick my calling locations to maximize success for a single shooter. In other words, I had to try and set up where coyote, bobcat or fox couldn't spot or wind me before I could get a shot off. Trying to avoid being winded or spotted by a predator is a tough but important proposition when you're selling furs to help pay the rent.
Fact is, there's rarely a perfect spot where one shooter can cover everything. No matter how good my setup, it seemed predators would still occasionally circle downwind or run in from behind or the side, sending the stand south in a hurry. I still tried to shoot these predators even though they were aware of my position and getting the heck out of Dodge. Even though this was not ideal, I'd take a shot, because every critter that got away would be educated, making it that much harder to get that animal the next time around.
To increase my odds, I started taking friends with me whenever possible. I found that the increased fur harvest by tandem predator hunting was well worth it. Also, more predators than I could have imagined were slipping in and out of sets without ever being spotted when I was hunting alone. To learn what you're missing, just try calling on a fresh snow sometime. It will break your heart to spot tracks of a fox, bob or coyote that crept in downwind and you were never the wiser.
Twenty years later, after predator hunting for all types of predators in multiple states over all types of terrain, I still believe the double team is the most effective way to put more fur down. The key is to double team the predators by covering the front and back door so to speak.
It's natural to want to sit close to your buddy, or even in sight of him. And in some cases that may be your best bet. However, depending on the situation based on wind direction, cover, terrain and where you think the animals may come from, I occasionally am 100 yards or more from my partner.
When I hunt tandem, I like a "call hunter" and a "downwind" or "concealed approach" hunter. The first is pretty obvious. The "call hunter" sets up with the wind in his favor and a good field of fire that is ready to shoot any predator coming into the call from their predicted route.
The "downwind" or "concealed approach" hunter's job is to cover basically everything else. To do this efficiently, you have to be able to identify travel routes that animals will likely utilize. For example, almost all predators will use available cover in their approach. A brushy fence line, draw, creek bottom, tree line etc. Bobcats and fox will usually take a more direct route, often holding up if cover runs out. Coyotes are more apt to circle a large area to come in downwind, especially if they have been educated.
Tandem Predator Hunting: Scenario 1
While in a 24-hour coyote contest in Texas where we wanted as many dogs down as possible, my buddy Jeff and I paired up. Setting up on the old two tracks was the right way to go because of the heavy cover. Our setup was an obvious one in the thick south Texas brush, but also a winning combination for a sharp coyote that showed up and came in downwind. Had I been predator hunting alone, I would have never known that coyote was there. He would have winded me before crossing the east two-track.
This setup was around midnight and it was a dark, dark night. Jeff and I were armed with ATN night vision scopes and they allowed us to hunt predators all evening. Safety is a big concern anytime when you're hunting anything, but at night, where it's easy for people to become disoriented, it is even more important to not only be safe but to discuss safety with your partner.
One thing I do for safety when predator hunting at night is to set up so that neither shooter has to move at all. I prefer having shooters sit close together and shooting down narrow open areas. Shooters should agree not to move and to only cover their agreed upon area.
Sometimes it is best for the downwind hunter to be a long way from the e-call or mouth caller depending on the terrain. This next scenario took place in Colorado with another friend, Larry. He was set up watching my e-call and the upwind direction we were hoping a coyote would approach from.
I went downwind about 100 yards from Larry and covered two open areas a coyote would have to cross to circle downwind of the call. I was covering the back door, when I caught a sneaky coyote trying to confirm that this easy meal was legit. It wasn't, and a .223 Hornady ended his skeptical search. We had been predator hunting in this area a lot in the past and the dogs were educated. Had Larry been hunting by himself, he would have assumed it was a slow day and that he just had not called anything in. Without me covering the downwind side, it is doubtful Larry would have ever seen the coyote.
Predator hunting in pairs also gives you the advantage of having multiple weapons for different scenarios. For example, in areas where the cover is thick and shots may be close I will often have one shooter use a shotgun. In these situations, I usually set up side-by-side or back-to-back, so if it's a long shot the rifle shooter takes a crack. If it's close and fast the shotgun hunter takes over. I try and set up where both shooters may have an opportunity or can cover each other's side.
The hunt this last sketch depicts took place in Florida when I was predator hunting with my buddy, Al. The cover was thick but we found one small open meadow where we could see 100 yards. I set the call up in front of us and figured if a coyote held up in the meadow, I would shoot it with my rifle. If one came in close and fast, Al would have a better chance with the shotgun. We had a swamp to our back, so we had a natural block behind us — an animal sneaking around downwind was not an option.
I turned on the FoxPro and not one but two coyotes barreled out of the thick palmettos and ran toward the call. Al made a great snap shot and rolled one coyote and the other disappeared in the thick brush as quick as he appeared.
In this scenario, had I been by myself with the rifle or had we both had rifles, I am sure we would have been coyote-less on the walk back to the truck.
Tandem calling is a great way to enjoy predator hunting with a friend or family member. The shooter covering the downwind side usually gets almost as much shooting as the one covering the call and the upwind side of the setup. It seems that no matter how much I hunt, sometimes the predators are going to come in where you least expect them. That's why tandem hunting works out so well.
Anything we can do to keep from letting those animals get away and get educated, especially if we can shoot the smart ones!