Weather invades nearly every decision you make on a daily basis so much so it has invaded popular culture and even overtaken hit song titles.
Humans aren’t unlike their animal ancestors when it comes to the importance of weather and survival. It affects every living thing, especially behavior. If coyotes are your targets then you’d better be paying special attention to drastic changes in the weather. Have a weather plan in place for coyote success.
JOHN DENVER, SUNSHINE ON MY SHOULDERS
Sunshine on your shoulders may not cause sunburn in the middle of winter, but today’s coyote hunter is hard at it 365 days a year. If you follow the fur market and hunt coyotes when hides are prime, a sunny day oftentimes means coyotes will be soaking up the sunshine. Calling strategies won’t change, but a mild day with little wind allows coyotes to nap anywhere. Be wary since they’ll oftentimes bed in a position where they can snooze and survey intermittently.
This means you need to alter your entrance plan. Keep a low profile and use canyons, coulees, creeks and other terrain features to hide your approach. Once you arrive onsite, stay off the horizon and set up in the shade to shroud shiny features, and your movement. Now try and wake up a napping coyote for your afternoon delight.
If you hunt summer coyotes and don sunscreen then your mission is to find areas of shade where coyotes may seek relief from the Al Gore weather phenomena. First and last setups should always concentrate on the cooler periods of dawn, and dusk. In between, try to call coyotes from cooler areas like under tree canopies and near flowing water. Shade, hydration and cooler temperatures all add up to more coyote encounters during summer.
BURT BACHARACH, RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING ON MY HEAD
Bacharach’s hit from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” had little effect on the duo’s outcome, but real rain can turn any coyote hunt into a challenge bigger than a bank robbery. If Al Roker hypes flood warnings, you may be better served by staying home and watching coyote hunting on TV. On the flip side, if the weather report only forecasts showers and drizzle you can formulate a plan for coyote success.
First, check weather outlets like ScoutLook Weather (www.scoutlookweather.com) to see how long the moisture is forecast to last. If you see breaks in the rain or an ending, plan setups for those windows of opportunity. Coyotes, like many animals, hunker down in the rain, but immediately go back to hunting for food when showers dwindle.
In the event of extended showers consider hunting interior woodlands. Pine, oaks and other trees provide some rooftop protection depending on the season. This means a timbered area doesn’t experience the dousing of an open-country environment. Plus, rain helps with scent elimination. Showers help de-scent your hunting attire and decrease human odor. Rain drizzle helps pull molecular scent down to the ground instead of allowing it to drift on the wind as well. All of this combined makes you almost invisible, and in calm conditions you can call coyotes from nearly every direction without fear of them nabbing a nostril full of you.
BING CROSBY’S WHITE CHRISTMAS
Snow embodies the spirit of Christmas, but even Bing Crosby can’t serenade a coyote if a major winter dumping shows up on the Doppler. There’s been ample research on what makes animals move. Unfortunately various elements taint many of the studies including the region of the country, moon phases, barometric pressure swings, heat waves, cold snaps, wind, insects and other unforeseen factors. If you want the short story: coyotes will move to hunt before and after a blizzard barrels its way into your zip code.
There’s little doubt that coyotes sense the barometric changes associated with a storm. This is the key weather indicator that makes most animals move. When the barometer begins nose-diving like an out of control drone, be on the lookout for predator and prey movement. The same is true of a rising barometer after the passing of a major front. Animals realize they have a window to recuperate and take to the fields to fill their paunch. If the storm lasts for days, rather than hours, expect the prey animals to feed extensively afterwards. Coyotes will also be on the hunt for unsuspecting quarry.
Don’t wait until the first snowflake falls if you hope to take advantage of coyotes trying to fill up before a storm. They know hours beforehand what’s in the forecast and will be on the hunt to find food, and shelter before winds whip up. During the storm they may get out and hunt if it is an extended blow, but generally they’ll hunker down since they understand extended exposure could lead to death. Nature has taught them to reserve energy and continue the hunt when weather moderates. Follow that rule and you’ll increase your hunting success as well.
DUST IN THE WIND BY KANSAS
The pop song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas may have been a 70s hit, but there’s usually limited success when trying to call coyotes on a windy day, even if you hunt coyote-rich Kansas. A Mississippi State University’s carnivore ecology research project clearly states this fact: “During fall-winter, movement rates were most related to wind direction and wind speed. Movement rates generally increased with wind directions from the south, but decreased with increasing wind speed.”
To increase your odds of calling in a coyote when the wind howls scout for deep canyons, brushy draws and other geographic features that act as natural windbreaks. Coyotes will seek out these protective landscapes and if you can set up in a sneaky, downwind fashion, you might be able to call in a coyote despite a hurricane-force gale.
Depending on the ferocity of the wind, you may need to creep in close and hunt thick cover. This means starting a setup with moderate volume and increasing between intervals if nothing shows. Don’t begin a set with your caller on high as you may accidentally set up within shooting distance of a coyote. A blaring sound is as spooky as your scent hitting a coyote’s olfactory security system.
This is also the time when you may want to leave your rifle at home or at least back up your AR with a shotgun. Coyotes may appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. A shotgun loaded with BB or buckshot, like Hornady’s Heavy Magnum Coyote, can optimize your window of opportunity with a stinging swath of nickel-plated lead.
WATCH: Predator hunting tips to help you manage them for deer hunting
FOREIGNER’S COLD AS ICE
Like a blizzard, a subzero forecast gets the attention of every living critter including wily coyotes. As a front approaches and coyotes sense the impend- ing drop in temperatures, your best bet is to set up near favorite hunting grounds. Coyotes will be trying to cram in as much food as possible before the arctic temperatures arrive.
Although coyotes can and do hunt when the temperatures plummet, they tend to minimize movement and conserve energy like many animals including whitetail deer. When they sense a change in the barometer, a southerly shift in winds and other warm- ing factors, expect coyote activity to again surge.
Most predator hunters note an increase in calling success after a major cold snap passes. It just makes sense. Coyotes have been holed up waiting for the environment to favor limited caloric burning.
Days like these favor a bold prey-in-distress charade to call in hungry coyotes. My first coyote of 2016 came on a sub-zero morning, but the forecast called for a warm, southerly breeze by midday. The coyotes must have been monitoring the National Weather Reports as well. At sunrise they were vocal and within 15 minutes I had an angry coyote challenging me with persistent howls.
Unfortunately it wouldn’t step from the tall sagebrush for a clear view through my Nikon Monarch 7 riflescope. I sent my dog Sage out to make a teasing sweep in front of me and the coyote took the bait. The coyote wasn’t about to engage the dog, but it didn’t have to after stepping into the open. One successful shot later from my Bergara in 6.5 Creedmoor and the sub-zero morning didn’t have quite the sting as it did at the beginning of the setup.
This story originally appeared in the DDH sister publication Trapper & Predator Caller and is published to help deer hunters interested in predator hunting and management. Subscribe now to improve your predator management.
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