Song Dogs: When You Are The Hunted
Man the predator, the top of the food chain. That's a comfortable place to be. You don't have to worry about a deer, duck or rabbit attacking you for its dinner.
Sometimes it's a good lesson in life to be the hunted, to make yourself if not vulnerable, at least the object of stomach-growling desire. Exciting doesn't half describe it. "It" being the act, and definitely the art, of predator hunting. Coyotes specifically in this case.
We're not talking about chasing them with dogs, either. While this style of hunting is a load of fun, and any chance to enter "Le Grande Chase" should be heartily joined, it is not nearly as up close and personal as hunting them alone.
Locating a prospective hunting area in Michigan is as simple as looking for deer or rabbit tracks. While tracks make a weak soup, they foretell the presence of other animals who like to eat the track makers. The more tracks, the better chance that a coyote, or a fox or bobcat for that matter, is in the vicinity.
Another part of this sport that tends to send the willies up and down your spine is that the best hunting is often after dark, and yes, that is perfectly legal. Imagine sitting with your back up against a tree or fence row, sending out pleading calls on a rabbit squealer, straining your eyes to cut through the darkness, straining not to shiver and expose your location, and never knowing when a coyote is coming to dinner much less, if.
Snow cover will help you see the song dog as it approaches, often at a trot. Add a good moon and it will feel like you are in high cotton.
Coyotes have a highly developed sense of smell. More often than not they'll come into the call on the downwind side or at least circle the area to pinpoint its source and ensure the area is safe. Scent suppression is a must now.
Their eye sight is also nothing to sneeze at. Don't move at all. Not a shiver, not a scrunch if a yote is around. Don't forget the camo, either. Even at night. Something else that you'll want to help you encourage that critter to come in close is a decoy. They sell foam rabbits just for this but an old rabbit skin or piece of deer hide laying in a heap on the ground works just fine, too.
Now for their ears. No coughs allowed. And use that call. A rabbit in distress is one of the most popular calls among coyote hunters. When a coyote hears such a call he thinks there's an easy meal awaiting. But it also makes them come in with caution, not knowing why that rabbit is in distress.
Don't think that you have to stay in one place for an extended period of time. After 30 to 45 minutes its time to move if a yote hasn't come in yet. Before the night of your hunt get out and find four to six spots that look likely. Each of the spots should be a good mile or more away from one another as it's no use calling again over the same area.
If you've made three or four series of calls and nothing shows one of two things are certain. You may be in an area where the coyotes aren't working that night. Or, you messed up and the coyote saw, heard or smelled you. It's time to move.
While the night is a personal favorite of mine when it comes to hunting song dogs it is by no means the only good time. Daytime can be just as good and you don't need to rely on the moon and stars or a cumbersome light to detect the animal moving in on you.
Remember what we said about the coyotes sense of smell, his eye sight and his hearing. Just like you and me, his eye sight is much better in the daylight and while I can't prove it, I'd swear that the nose and ears improve, too.
What this all means is that your camo had better be perfect. You had better be absolutely motionless think turkey hunting. And, anything that carries a foreign scent is absolutely forbidden. Bring that decoy, too, its even more important during the daylight hours.
Regulations for hunting coyotes and the other predators like fox and bobcats are a bit complicated. You must read the regs carefully.
The coyote population across the state has exploded. They're found from the suburbs of Detroit to the hinterlands of the U.P. Picking a place to hunt is easy. All of the State Game areas will have some, and then there's the state and national forests and commercial forest lands.
Written by Dan Donarski, a professional outdoor and travel journalist, January 2010.
To get clued in on good hunting areas in your area contact the nearest DNR field office.