Getting Into Coyotes
It's the perfect time for your first predator hunt. Here's how to get started. PLUS: Exclusive skinning tips
Fool one of these superwary predators and you earn the rank of expert hunter. Here’s how to do it:
Focus on areas that hold small game, birds, mice, and vermin. CRP fields, brushy creek- or riverbottoms, swamps and marshes, and young clear-cuts are all excellent choices. Most farmers will gladly give you permission to hunt. Pinpoint your spots by looking for tracks and listening for barks, yips, and howls at dawn and dusk. The ideal conditions for a hunt are cold, calm days. Windy days are the worst.
Stealth is the first priority: no slamming vehicle doors or talking to your partner. Settle into a comfortable shooting position on a knoll or field edge that offers good visibility, and wait five to 15 minutes before calling.
Coyotes have extremely keen eyesight and, like any animal coming to a call, are looking hard for its source. Make sure your camo is good and that your hands and face are covered. A cushion to sit on helps you keep still.
If no coyotes come to your calls, sneak back out and drive to another area at least a half mile away, and repeat the process. You should be able to cover eight to 10 good spots in a day of hunting.
The Ideal Coyote Setup:
Wind is key, but other factors can help put the odds in your favor. Click the picture below for to enlarge and see directions.
You don’t need much to start, and you may already have it
Calls Mouth-operated rabbit squealers are a must, but don’t rely on them alone. Also use other distress calls and coyote howlers.
Decoys These act as a closer to your calls. One of your kid’s beat-up stuffed animals can suffice, though battery-run motion dekes work best.
Guns Flat-shooting rifles in .223 caliber work best in open terrain, but your deer rifle will do the trick. Shotguns rule in thick timber or on night hunts (where legal). If you hunt turkeys, you probably already own the right setup: a tight-choked 12-gauge that throws a dense pattern out to 35 yards. Use No. 4 buckshot in magnum loads.
Web Exclusive: Caring for Your Kill
Coyotes sport beautiful coats that can be tanned and used as rugs, sewn into clothing (I’m still searching for the perfect pelt to make a mountain man hat), preserved as a taxidermy mount, or sold to a fur buyer. For a rug or mount, it’s best to take your coyote whole to the taxidermist. If you plan to sell your hide or make some kind of simple clothing from it, here’s how to skin the animal yourself:
Get to the task as soon as possible. Don’t let the animal freeze, and bring it to a warm basement or shed to keep the hide flexible and supple.
- Tie a section of rope around one of the coyote’s hind legs, just above the paw. Then tie the other end around a nail, peg, or beam on the ceiling so the animal is hanging upside down with the tail at about eye level.
- With the belly of the coyote facing you, make a slit in the hide at the base of the tail and continue up the inside of the leg that’s tied, stopping at the rope. Cut the hide all the way around the leg at this point (it’s not important to leave the back feet attached if you’re going to sell the hide) and skin this hindquarter. Return to your original cut and repeat the procedure on the opposite leg.
- Make a 3″ to 4″ cut through the hide on the underside of the tail (just above the anus) extending toward the tail’s tip. Peel the skin back on each side of this cut until you can run a finger (under the skin) completely around the tailbone. Grab the base and with some steady pulling, you should be able to peel the tailbone awayy from the hide surrounding it.
- Make a circular cut around the anus to free the hide where it attaches there. At this point, you’ve freed the hide from the hind legs and tail. Continue to pull the skin off the animal down to the shoulders, as if you were removing a shirt. When you reach the legs, peel the hide down until you reach the “ankle” joint just above the paw. Cut the legs off at this ankle joint, leaving the paws attached to the pelt.
- Continue working the hide down over the animal’s body until you free it. You’ll need some extra patience around the ears, face, and mouth. Coyotes have thin skin and are very lean, which means careful skinning is required to avoid tearing the hide. The first dog you skin will seem tricky, but the process speeds up with practice!