Calling and shooting predators is one of the things that help hunters get from the end of the fall seasons to when the turkeys start gobbling.
Severe winter weather is almost essential for a good predator hunt, but many other things add up to make shooting coyotes, foxes and bobcats lots of fun in the new year.
I think we should take just a few minutes to look at some of these factors.
Some people frown on predator hunting as a waste and needless killing. That could not be further from the truth. In fact, these people are the actual cause of predator overpopulation.
Misguided tree huggers succeeded in destroying the fur industry and subsequently the sport of trapping. No trapping means that some predator populations, specifically coyotes, are out of control in some places.
The Good Lord gave us the responsibility of stewardship and hunting is a great tool to help us accomplish that task.
• #1 THE LAW — State regulations on predator hunting vary. Always check the regs to make sure of season dates and bag limits. Also check to see if the predators you are hunting fall under special “fur bearer” classifications.
• #2 THE SHOT — As a teenager I hunted coyotes with a high-powered rifle. The ability to reach out and touch a dog at 200 yards was very appealing. My .25-06 has put holes in a bunch of coyotes. I have taken a couple of coyotes and a red fox with my bow, but lately I have enjoyed hunting predators with my THOMPSON/CENTER .50-caliber Pro Hunter muzzleloader.
The optics you choose for a predator rifle is very important. I demand clarity and expect durability. I have tested dozens of scopes from as many manufacturers. The best scope I have found currently sits upon my Pro Hunter. It is an Apex 3×9 from ALPEN OPTICS. ALPEN makes a full line of premium sporting optics.
Regardless of your weapon of choice, you must practice enough to know your maximum lethal range and then never take a shot beyond that range. Safety must always come first.
• #3 THE CAMO — Concealment for hunting wintertime predators is very important. The absolute absence of foliage makes hiding from sharp eyes very difficult. Most often it is not possible to hunt predators from a blind because it takes too much time and is too cumbersome. You must choose a camo pattern that cannot be seen at close range and is invisible at a distance.
I prefer the “Dead Fall” pattern from SHAMAN CAMOUFLAGE COMPANY (www.shamancamo.com). This pattern has the perfect look for midwinter hunting. I am sure there are many more great applications for this pattern, but its ability to blend in to the dead, lifeless look of the winter timber is excellent. This pattern also works great in snowy conditions.
• #4 THE CALL — There are as many predator calls on the market as there are predators on which to use them. Traditionally, mouth-blown calls have lead the way to coaxing coyotes and foxes into range. These calls vary from reed-type to diaphragm calls, just like the ones used by turkey hunters. These calls are effective, but imitating a wounded rabbit or coyote pup is not as easy as it may seem.
I like the new electronic calls that are now available. As previously mentioned, make sure you can legally use electronic calls in your area. Just like the pneumatic calls, there are a variety of battery operated predator calls on the market today. My personal favorite are the small calls made by CASS CREEK CALLS. (www.casscreek.com)
The CASS CREEK calls are small, durable and produce lots of volume when needed. They are self-contained, using no tapes or discs. There are no external speakers with wires to tangle or lose. These handy little calls make predator hunting a breeze.
• #5 THE ANIMALS — As we look at hunting predators by the numbers, this is the last one. Knowing what might come to your setup when calling predators allows you to be prepared for the unexpected.
Most commonly, coyotes will respond first to your calls. If a coyote is coming, it will not take long. Often coyotes appear in the first minute or two of calling.
Bobcats and foxes will come to the sound of a free meal, as well. The red fox is a bit more wary than his gray cousin, but both will come.
Other critters that may respond to your predator calls are hawks, owls, crows, raccoons and even curious deer. Do not take shots at movement. Be very sure of your target before you shoot. The neighbor’s dog may come looking for the free meal, too. This is no time for a careless mistake.
If you add up all the numbers, you can see why wintertime predator hunting is a growing sport. To beat the cabin fever this year, get out and try this fun and exciting way to expand your hunting season.
By Mike Roux
(Mike Roux is the Midwest Regional Director for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Outdoor Ministry. To become a Home Team Member of this new ministry, call him at 217-257-7895.)