Hunting and Outdoors

Predators: Offseason Action


A few years ago, I was very frustrated during the deer season. This particular year, I had a hard time fitting in hunts because of work and family obligations. As deer season approached, I was feeling the pressure of getting to hunt the rut for the best possibility to bag a nice buck and put venison in the freezer. It was coming close to taking the fun out of hunting.

Coyote standing in front of a rock pile
Once relegated to the American West, coyotes can now be found throughout most of North America. Coyote hunting is a critical management tool throughout much of their range, especially where larger predators are in decline.

By Bill Mooney

I bought new binoculars and a great range finder with plans to put them through their paces that season. A new stainless steel .308 bolt-action rifle and expensive high-performance 3-15×50 scope was mounted and zeroed, sitting in the gun safe, and ready to go. The season started in early October and the weekends were passing by like a 5.56 NATO round out of an 18-inch barrel. I had zero hunt days on the books. There was no way I could get out during the week either.

The aggravation was building. I would regularly talk to my friend about hunting, politics, and other guy things. He was patient listening to my whining about how I had to rush out of the house with my new expensive gear (designed to used just a few times a year) packed in my 4Runner at the crack of 3 a.m. Saturday morning to travel to my favorite hunting spot and be ready to pull the trigger around sunrise. Then, hunt all day; come home late at night, get chores done the next day, and back to work on Monday.

The couple times I was able to get out and hunt, I came up empty—no venison in the freezer. Sure, I enjoyed being outdoors, but it wasn’t a relaxing experience. Hunting began to feel like work because the schedule wasn’t my own, and I probably wasn’t as successful because my patience was very short. The end of the season was coming fast and the deer seemed to know the closing date as they were in hiding.

A conversation I had in late fall that year with one of my hunting buddies opened up my eyes to the possibility of hunting all year long and solving my time problem. Since this critical conversation, our talks have turned into many quality hunting, strategy, equipment, and shooting calls, texts, and emails adding enjoyment to my new hunting obsession.

Trijicon Accupoint Coyote
Trijicon’s Accupoint mounted on a Mathews’ Z7 proved more than a match for this coyote when it appeared in front of a bowhunter’s deer stand.

Bottom line, I wanted to use my quality equipment all year long and hunt when I wanted to hunt.

Seeing equipment sitting in the gun safe or on the garage shelves is frustrating. I’ve invested in expensive low-light performance binoculars and quality rangefinders to enhance my experience. Using my Garmin GPS unit more often would help me understand all the features instead of just finding where I am at any given moment. Scopes… yeah, I’ve got a lot of money tied up in scopes. Most collect dust until the fall.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to could hunt all year long and not worry about time constraints?

My not-so-famous conversation with my hunting buddy was quick and dead on accurate. He must have been tired of hearing me whine. At one point in the call he said, “Bill, you need to learn how to predator hunt. The skills you developed deer hunting will transfer over nicely.

“Get out and hunt coyote and feral hogs. You can do that all year long. Problem solved.”

It’s not like I didn’t know about nuisance animal and coyote hunting. I just never thought about it as an enjoyable hunt and skill building experience. I was so brainwashed to believe to be a “real” badass hunter you had to only hunt the cool and trendy animals such as deer, elk, Pronghorn, etc. Coyote hunting isn’t as sexy or alpha-male-like as hunting Pacific blacktail, mulies, or whitetail hunting—or so I believed.

Wildlife Research Center's Coyote Juice

Boy was I wrong! In some ways, I enjoy coyote and hog hunting even more than deer hunting.

It’s less predictable. The action is usually much faster and requires very good rifle skills. Also, there is really no limit (depending on where you live of course.)

Best of all, I can hunt coyotes and hogs 12 months of the year in my area!

A Disaster Hunt

My first coyote hunt was a disaster. I didn’t really know much about these predators and their habits. I remember sitting on a tree stump while trying to call in these elusive beasts from a clear-cut area. I wasn’t very stealthy and didn’t pay much attention to the wind pattern. It’s no wonder the only thing I called in were a couple of annoying crows.

After my first few unsuccessful predator hunts, I had the opportunity to join Dave, my black-belt predator hunter buddy on an adventure. This proved to be a great experience for me. Following his lead, I quickly figured out why I hadn’t called in a critter on my hunts.

I was being far too loud. Wrong set ups. Wrong side of the hill. Moving my body too much. Wrong wind. I can write a book on “How to mess up a coyote hunt” with all the mistakes I made before going hunting with Sensei Dave. Maybe it would sell…

My First Kiss

One late afternoon, Sensei Dave picked me up and we headed out to the desert. We arrived at one of his best spots and called as the sun was going down. We did not get much action that evening. My new mentor also brought night vision and thermal equipment with him. Calling in the dark in the middle of the desert was a trip. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone. Try night hunting.

Hunter holding a dead coyote
Late winter is prime time for coyote-hunting success… as long as you have the proper gear.

It wasn’t until the next morning I truly caught the coyote hunting bug.

We arrived at Dave’s secret spot about 40 minutes before sun up. Very quietly, we hiked about a mile to his lucky rock outcropping. This trip the Sensei decided to use his Foxpro electronic caller (as opposed to hand-calling with his Sceery calls) and set it out about 25 yards in front of us on his camo backpack. Dave was on my left, I was covering potential targets coming from the right. About 15 minutes into the calling, I heard a soft whisper “left.”

As I turned my head, Dave fired off a shot and took down a mature coyote running to the caller as if he was late for breakfast. Dave made an incredible shot on the running ’yote about 75 yards away. Dave’s AR-15 was set up with an ACOG 3.5 power and Aimpoint T-1 offset. This is the perfect coyote killing machine. His set up is for quick target acquisition and a quality follow-up shot with his 2 stage Geissele SSA trigger. I’ve since converted my favorite rifle to a perfect, quick-acquisition predator-hunting machine. It’s also a great self-defense set up.

From that point on, it’s been a passion of mine to learn the coyote’s daily habits and traits and get out to hunt in the “off-season.” Where do they live? What gets them to react to a call. Is an electronic call better than a hand call? It’s a lot of fun.

And yes, it has helped my deer hunting skills and patience.

Sensei Dave was absolutely correct!

I can’t tell you about the amazing feeling and adrenaline rush I had when I called in the first coyote…and missed.

Challenging a Predator

Thinking of giving coyote or hog hunting a try? First, check your local and state rules and regulations. I bet you’ll find them very favorable for hunting all year. Next, find some ranchers or farmers in areas close to you and ask if they have any animal control issues. Approach them correctly and you should get plenty of opportunities to hunt.

For me, deer season is becoming an “off-season” exercise for my hunting exploits. I do enjoy deer season more now because of the opportunities gained through predator hunting. I’m far more successful with my hunts now too.

Get out and give coyote hunting a try. You’ll enjoy the experience and help some ranchers or farmers at the same time. Your equipment will appreciate the time in the field too!

Do you hunt year-round? What species do you hunt? Share your answers in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (2)

  1. So you start out wanting to fill your freezer with meat (venison) for the season which I’m fine with. You finish with killing anything you can all year long. Did you eat the coyote or hogs? I’m sad that CTD published your article.

    1. doug,

      Everything gets eaten in the wild. Maybe not by the hunter, but the cycle of life via other scavengers including certain birds, varmints, bears etc. Second, do some research. There is a reason why the department of wildlife does not regulate varmint hunting like it does game hunting… ~Dave Dolbee

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