You likely know landowners and small farms operators who have complained of an increase of coyote attacks on their sheep, goat calves, and other livestock.
In Ontario, the coyote population has steadily increased from 2000 to 2011 (the last available data), according to Brent Patterson, a field research scientist for the Ministry of Natural Resources who specializes in coyotes.
It seems, for those looking to try their hand at coyote hunting, great predator hunting opportunities exist across the province.
Mating season is about to start for these animals, making late January, February, and March the best time of year to hunt them. This is when coyotes are most susceptible to calling tactics and decoys.
For those looking to coyote hunt, as with any form of hunting, getting land access is the first step.
The next step is determining how you are going to hunt the land. Total acreage, treelines, fence rows and wandering livestock are factors to consider when determining your set-up.
If you are expecting a crafty coyote to wander past your concealed hunting location, think again — that rarely happens. You need to be on your game to outsmart this natural predator in its own backyard.
Many rookie hunters set up at the edge of a field facing the bush lot, expecting an easy target to appear. Coyotes often travel well-used trails and farm roads, even in daylight, so being in the right place before that happens is often luck — not planning. Sitting along a fence line or treeline near a corner with open fields on one side and bush on the other is ideal, as this will allow you to spot a roving coyote.
Setting up at first light or later in the afternoon are your best options as that’s when coyotes travel most. Try to avoid having the sun in your face to prevent flash.
After 20 or 30 minutes, if you haven’t seen or heard anything, change locations and move at least 200 yards away. Avoid skylining your silhouette across a hill. Stay low, move slowly, and keep watch for any movement. Be prepared to shoot off hand.
Coyotes often prefer to check out distress calls by standing deeper in the woodlot and checking for scent and movement before committing to the hunt.
I have tried predator mouth calls but find there is a bit of a learning curve to use them properly. They do have their place when coyotes are close by, however, when someone makes noise of any kind it attracts attention directly to that location, thus running the risk of the hunter being detected.
I prefer setting up a battery operated digital game call (where legal) about 50 to 80 yards away from my position to draw a coyote’s attention towards the sound instead of me.
Using a remote selective transmitter with a variable number of calls — from screaming rabbits to squeaking mice — works very well. When used in conjunction with a movable decoy, such as a fluttering bird or ground squirrel, it acts like a magnet. The coyote is transfixed on that set-up and not you.
Firearms and accessory options
Rimfire rifles or shotguns can be used on smaller tracts of land when there are buildings in the area. These choices will keep your range under 200 yards. If you’re sitting in a field that is 200-yards wide and you’re in the middle, it’s critical that you ensure the trajectory will be in an safe direction.
For a rimfire rifle, I would suggest using a .17 HMR caliber over a .22 long. Longer distant shooting requires larger calibers like .22-250, .243, or .25-06. Consider using a bipod or shooting stick when shooting longer distances. This will allow you to hold rock-solid.
For shotguns, you can use a rifle-barrel shotgun, which will shoot a sabot accurately to 100 yards – longer if you have practised and have a good scope, rest, and conditions. You can also use a shot shell with predator loads for short-range shooting.
Be sure to check the hunting regulations for a clear definition of which firearms, calibres, and shot sizes are permitted during the time of year you’re coyote hunting, and what applicable licences and tags are needed for the wildlife management unit you are hunting.
Using a high-quality scope on your rifle will increase your chances of shooting accurately every time. Often the price of a good scope is more than the price of your rifle.
Properly sighting in your rifle and knowing how it performs at set distances is key to downing your prey with one shot. Using a rangefinder on bushes and trees is one way to determine the distance to your coyote when it is travelling towards you.
Making the shot
Hitting a coyote in the vitals is essential for a clean, quick kill. You have to hit the animal in the lungs, heart, or liver, especially when using such a small caliber. When using buckshot with your shotgun you have a larger kill zone, but accuracy is still important.
Predator hunters help out farmers and landowners when coyotes start to take over a property. In most cases, it’s only 1 or 2 coyotes that are the habitual culprits. A healthy coyote population is still needed to control vermin, rabbits, and other critters.
Spotting a coyote is not difficult, but hunting them is. Once a coyote experiences a little hunting pressure, they become a lot craftier and more of a challenge to hunt.