Want to help your deer herd and improve your deer hunting? Getting started in predator hunting isn’t as tough as you might think.
By David W. Kaprocki
How do you call? What do you use for a light? What type of gun do you use? How long do you stay at each location? Do you call from a tree stand? Do you use an electronic caller? Don’t they see you?
Those are just a sample of questions folks often ask me. What amazes me is even friends who have been hunting for years often ask these same questions. This leads me to believe most have heard of predator calling, but simply don’t know how to start. I’m hoping when you’re finished reading this, you will have the basic understanding of how to answer these types of questions.
These techniques are what I’ve used for the past three decades of calling with good success. As in anything, there are many ways of doing it. I should also point out that most of my predator hunting is in the Northeast region of the country.
Get Yourself a Call
Which one should you get? An electronic call or a handheld call?
Since this article is geared toward the first-time caller, I suggest we keep things simple, with a minimum of cost. Buy a quality closed-reed handheld call. They range from $10 to $15, and are simple to use and easy to carry around in the field.
The purpose of a basic call is to simulate the sound of a dying rabbit. A lot of companies make calls, and I’ve used many of them with success. Don’t get hung up with which company you should buy from. They will all call a fox or coyote in. The important thing to learn is how to use the call. That’s what convinces predators you’re the real deal if they’re within hearing distance of your call.
How Do You Use the Call?
Your goal is to produce a sound lasting 10-15 seconds. But here’s the tricky part: You must learn to control the tone of the sound by using your stomach muscles when blowing air through your call. Don’t just blow on the call; use your stomach muscles to force air through it. Think of it this way: If someone were about to punch you in the stomach, you would tighten up your muscles. That’s how you work the stomach muscles when blowing on the call.
To produce a sound lasting 10-15 seconds, you emit a repetitive series of calls that make up this time frame. Think of a fox that just caught a rabbit. The rabbit starts squealing over and over. That’s the sound you’re attempting to emulate. It usually starts out low, peaks high, then ends low again. Each squeal lasts only one second. So you would repeat this squeal 10-15 times in a row. Remember to put some passion into the calling (using your stomach muscles) just as a rabbit would do.
Start by holding the end of the call just past your thumb and index finger. Then close all your fingers on the end of the call. It’s like you’re trying to cover up the end of the call in your hand. When you first start blowing, keep your hand closed. Quickly open your fingers, allowing the sound to transmit, then quickly close your fingers over the call again. This should only take about one second.
After you feel comfortable doing this, combine this sequence into a series of calls lasting 10-15 seconds. This will require you to open and close your fingers 10-15 times in a row as you blow into the call.
This is the sound that will get you started down the predator-calling trail.
What Kind of Gun Should I Use?
This is a difficult question to answer. First, look at what type of predator you’re hunting. Foxes in the East? Coyotes in the West? Also, at night or daytime? Here in the East, I hunt at night mostly for foxes with an occasional coyote thrown in. Therefore, my shooting is
done at close range (approximately 30 yards) so I prefer a 12-gauge shotgun with No. 4 shot shells. This setup performs very nicely for my type of hunting.
Our friends out West who hunt coyotes during the day need a flat-shooting rifle that will reach out more than 100 yards. A .222 or .223 works well for this type of hunting.
I would like to add a personal observation. Foxes are small animals and anything larger than .222 will damage the pelt. I shot a red fox once using a .223 and the exit hole was several inches. Not good when you’re going to sell the pelt. I prefer using a .22 magnum when not using a shotgun. This will stop any fox on the earth with a well-placed shot.
Do I Need a Headlight?
As in the previous section, it depends on whether you’re hunting in the daytime or at night. The answer should be obvious. You definitely need a light when night hunting! Since I hunt at night, I use a helmet-light connected to a battery pack that straps around my waist. You’ll want to choose one that will sustain a battery charge long enough for your needs. I can hunt several nights on one charge with no problem.
You can buy lights that are smaller and the charge will last four to six hours before starting to expire. If that’s all you need it for, they are much cheaper than the larger units. The smaller voltage lights are about $50 while the larger ones are more than $100.
The choice is up to you. Always carry a spare bulb just in case! I learned that the hard way.
I also suggest using a red filter over the lens. This will generally prevent spooking the predators while shining the light on them.
How Do I Set Up?
For most situations, set up along the edge of a field or fencerow where you have the most visibility. I especially like sitting at the edge of cut cornfields. A friend once said he climbed a treestand and called for foxes. That’s too much work and unnecessary!
Whether day or night hunting, you still want to find some cover to conceal yourself. You don’t want to be silhouetted or be spotted moving around.
Your goal is to see the predator approaching before it’s in range. This will give you time to move the gun into shooting position. Don’t forget to clear any obstacles from under your feet so you don’t make sound when calling.
Your First Hunt
Now that you have all the gear, it’s time to go on your first predator hunt.
Drive to your spot. When you get out of the vehicle, don’t slam the doors and start talking loudly with your buddy. This could alarm predators that are nearby. Close doors quietly and whisper if you must talk.
After you’re settled into a stand, start by blowing a softer series of calls. Remember that 10-15 seconds is fine. Wait quietly for 20-30 seconds. If hunting at night, turn your light on for the entire time you are at your stand. Keep shining your light all around looking for the glowing eyes of an approaching predator. After 20-30 seconds of waiting, continue with another 10- to 15-second series, this time louder.
I personally call for 10 minutes using the above sequence, and if nothing shows up, drive to the next stand. When I spot a predator responding, I actually put the call in my pocket and start kissing quietly with my lips instead. The key here is to keep it real soft to make the predator hunt you. They have no problem hearing this kissing sound out to 100 yards. Prepare for your shot in advance to them getting too close to your position. You don’t want to be moving around while they are in close. Their hearing is excellent!
If you shoot a predator before the 10 minutes is up, don’t stop calling. Continue calling and you might be surprised with another one responding. One night, I called in four red foxes from the same stand. Don’t quit until the time is up.
The length of time you call at each stand is entirely up to you. A friend of mine stays for 20 minutes. My experience is that predators respond in less than six minutes. Most come in within two to three minutes.
Some folks also say that if you’re hunting bobcats, you will need 30 minutes. I was calling predators in Alabama and on the first two days of calling, two bobcats came in. Both responded to my calls within two minutes. Last year, here in Pennsylvania, I called in a pair of bobcats after only calling for four minutes. The point is if a predator hears your call and is interested, it will generally respond fairly quickly. You’ll have to find what works for you.
I’ve given you some basics in which to start. Get out there and give them a try. See what feels good for you. Keep practicing with your call and don’t make it complicated. You might drive your wife and kids crazy, but that’s OK!
Work on the mechanics of the call — the actual calling sequence. You’ll soon find that you truly can control the tone of the call by using your stomach muscles. Don’t be afraid to use your hand over the end of the call to produce different sounds.
Dave Kaprocki is a Trapper & Predator Caller field editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any predator hunting questions.
Interested in predator hunting? Check out these great items in the Deer & Deer Hunting store.