It was going to happen eventually. Spring turkey has come to an end almost nationwide. Yeah, there are a few stragglers like Washington State, my state of birth. In Washington you can go after three species of turkeys all the way until the end of May. And Washington hunting tends towards the epic in many ways when compared to other states.
That, however, is not the point. Summer is upon us, spring turkey and bear are ending – well, spring bear runs a bit longer – and many of us are going into a holding pattern. I have a freezer full of turkey and bear meat as well as fans and a hide that needs to be tanned. Now what?
This is the part where I ask why you aren’t calling coyotes or chasing hogs. If you’re in a state like Pennsylvania – yes, Ken, I’m looking at you – groundhogs are year-round. Oh, armadillos. Bobcats. Rabbits. Disclaimer: check your state’s regs; knowing the regs for every single state and county and relaying them to you here isn’t part of my job (surprise!).
There’s no reason your summer should be devoid of hunting. There are options; learn them. Coyotes tend to be the obvious choice nationally since feral hogs have yet to fully invade every state – note I say “yet” – and if you think calling coyotes is boring, guess again.
Calling coyotes in the summer months does pose its challenges, but that just makes it more fun, in my admittedly twisted opinion. And hey, once you’ve seen a coyote eating the back end out of a live lamb or calf, any comparison to pet dogs should fly right out the window. Their genus may be canid but they are varmints through and through. Pests. Opportunistic predators. Here are a few things to consider while calling summer coyotes.
Like hogs, coyotes don’t like the heat. In summertime that means making an extra effort to hunt in the cooler, early morning hours. Can you get one when it warms up? Possibly, but your chances go way down. It’s also a solid excuse to invest in some thermal; if hunting coyotes with thermal is legal in your state, I highly recommend it. Not only is it wildly successful, it’s crazy fun.
Coyotes tend to react to the heat of summer by sticking to the brush. Watch the tree line and keep an eye out for yotes skulking at the shadowy edges of fields.
Prey-in-distress calls are often an easy option during the summer. Since the adults are keeping growing pups fed, they’re likely to be interested in wounded food. Although rabbits are a fan favorite – check out MFK’s Ruthless Rabbit – using other species distress calls such as fawns or birds can also work (MFK has a new Bunny Bird diaphragm that covers you for rabbits, birds, and fawns).
In the same vein, pup-in-distress – like MFK’s Pup Screamer – works well, especially during the earlier days of summer. Many grown coyotes will come running at the idea of a pup in trouble. This is even more effective if you know where a den is located. Just set up nearby and hit the sounds.
Torry Cook, owner and call designer for MFK Game Calls – and 2013 World Distress Champion, by the way – has some advice for summer calling. “Move in close the next morning while the temps are still cool and use lone howls combined with pup distress,” Torry said. “That’s usually all it takes to put them in your lap.”
Adult coyote vocalizations tend to be situational and depend on your own knowledge and experience. Hit the wrong sound and you’ll scare them off; nail the right one and they not only howl back but come running. Choose howls with care rather than just randomly punching a button on your e-caller.
Location, Location, Location
This one’s fairly obvious: shade, things that provide shade, and water. You’ll have better luck calling summer coyotes when it’s cooler out, yes, but you also increase your chances by hunting in the right areas. During the hot summer months coyotes will be hanging out in shaded areas near water, so set up accordingly.
Another factor of location is considering doing locater howls prior to your hunt. Torry said he regularly incorporates locater calls into his hunts: “For summer coyotes I think locating them with group howls the night before your hunt really ups the odds. They’re typically still in family groups and will still be hanging close to or using the den site.”
This is worth mentioning because…ethics. The issue of the presence of pups seems to divide people in two camps, one side of which will shoot pups and parents and one that won’t. I fall into the latter category. I refuse to shoot pups and prefer not to drop a bitch clearly nursing a litter. Of course, I am not a rancher; their desire to kill every coyote they see regardless of age is understandable.
If you’re concerned about orphaning a litter of pups, keep in mind that they’re technically capable of being self-sufficient by eight weeks of age. Pups are born between mid-March and May depending on the region, so the eight-week mark will depend on where you live. You can always check with a local rancher or seasoned caller who knows when pups were whelped and make a judgment call from there.
My bottom line here? Have fun. Calling coyotes requires patience and experience, so you have to get out there and do it to learn and excel. Personally I use both e-callers and diaphragms; both have their uses and an e-caller can be fantastic for distance and variety. There are quite a few brands out there. I mention MFK Game Calls here because I’ve had success with their sounds and respect the skill of the guys who own and work for the company. They live what they sell – it’s more than a job to them.
As for choice of firearms, I’ll leave that discussion for another day.
Summer doesn’t mean you can’t hunt, it just means you need to shift your focus. Predators are unequivocally my favorite classification of animals to hunt. Who doesn’t love a unique challenge?