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VARMINT HUNTING – AN OFF-SEASON CHALLENGE   Leave a comment

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A piercing sound breaks the early down silence.  It continues until you think it will never end.  It is the sound of a rabbit in distress that goes on and on.  Actually, the sound emanates from an electronic game caller.  The purpose is to attract a hungry coyote, raccoon or fox.

Suddenly from across the field a coyote appears with his nose to the ground.  He lopes along in search of the easy meal promised by the sound of the call.  He just appears on the edge of the brush and silently moves along it toward the sound.

These electronic calling machines lure hungry predators into more open areas and close proximity to hunters.

There are two kinds of calls, electronic and mechanical.  The mechanical call requires a bit of wind power supplied by the hunter.  The electronic caller is easier on the hunter by producing an electronic reproduction of recorded sounds.

Electronic calls have powerful output, a longer duration of play, more accurate sound, a wider variety, can be operated hands free and usually use distress calls to attract the predator.  An advantage to mechanical calls includes that they are lighter weight, compact, inexpensive, have a more variable pitch and offer great personal satisfaction form their successful use.

Both types of calls also have disadvantages.  The electronic call is a more expensive investment, has more weight to handle in the field, is larger and requires maintenance as well as the re-charging of batteries.

Mechanical calls can have too much or too little volume according to the skills of the user.  The require movement of the caller which can call attention to his location.  They take some practice and in cold weather can freeze up due to saliva accumulation.

A key to varmint hunting is to set up in a good habitat situation.  It might be brush near a creek.  Many animals use waterways as highways to their feeding areas from a den or bedding area.  The caller sets up downwind of the direction from which he expects the prey might come.  Hunters must be ever mindful of his concealment until it is too late for the predator.

An ability to remain motionless is vital.  Therefore, good optics and warm clothing are a must.  In cold weather without warm clothing the hunter can be miserable.  The good optics enables the hunter to see the quarry long before would otherwise be the case.

Unlike calls for waterfowl, turkey and deer, the predator call is not a type of communication between members of the same species.  The imitate food species in distress.  Most common is the sound of a rabbit in trouble.  The shrill, high pitched call can be ear-splitting.  As the predator approaches the sound he will become more keenly wary of his surroundings.

One way of coaxing predators the last few yards is to implement “squeaker” or coaxing calls.  Usually those are ones that make a squeak of a mouse, softer sound.

Normally a nocturnal animal, coyotes can be lured into range in the early morning or late evening.  On cloudy days, the sound of a call can stir hunger pangs in the predator at most any time of the day.

Land owners welcome coyote hunters as a way of controlling the predation of their household pets and farm animal such as chickens.  Hunting predators benefits ground dwelling wild birds and upland game by eliminating a major source of predation on their numbers.

By learning the daily habits of the quarry, studying vocalizations that attract them and exercising some practice, the hunter can find himself in possession of a fine trophy in the off season.

DOG DAYS OF WINTER   1 comment

coyote/south dakota

Coyote hunting is a great off-season hunting experience.

The cold crisp days of winter, cause canines (fox and coyote) to look for sunny and protected exposures out of the wind.  Dogs love sunshine and will curl up in protected areas.  They are particularly vulnerable to hunting during winter.

As with all types of hunting, the hunter who learns all he can about his quarry will be the most successful.  In Illinois, there are two kinds of fox, the red and the gray, as well as coyotes.  Gray foxes are less widespread and tend to be more nocturnal.  Hunters are less likely to encounter them.  Grays are probably only about 20 percent of the total fox population.

Your chance of seeing a Red fox is more likely. They possess a well developed sense of smell, hearing and eyesight.  Their senses help them to locate food as well as provide protection from other predators.

Coyotes range throughout the state in ever increasing numbers.  Often mistaken for the domestic dog, they are really easily distinguished.  Domestic dogs run with their tails in the air.  Coyotes always have their tail pointing toward the ground.

Coyotes are the largest of Illinois dog population with the red fox second and the gray fox the smallest.

The wild members of the dog family feed on small rodents, rabbits, birds and eggs.  They will also eat fruit, berries and other vegetation as well as carrion to survive.

The fact that they love sunny exposures, in sheltered places out of the wind, is an established fact.  Fox hate the wind.  It makes them nervous and they will leave a sunny area is the wind becomes a factor.

Hunters can scout out an area on a sunny winter morning with a pair of binoculars.  Carefully look over possible bedding areas along wooded edges.  Other places to check are brush, stumps, known den sites, and sheltered ravines.

Once you can see fur, it is time to stalk.

Stalking canines is the same as stalking any other animal.  One moves out of sight of the animal and into the wind.  These two actions conceal the hunter from the keen senses of sight and smell.  By walking quietly, you thwart the sense of hearing.  Once in position for a shot, the rouse the animal from his slumber by a single call from a predator call.

Predator calls are an effective way to get a shot.  The plan includes a good call, camouflage clothing, and some type of cover scent to mask human scent.  As the hunter moves, it is important to work into the wind and not make any unnecessary noise.  Wear camouflage from head to toe.

Choose a pattern of camo that blends into the area.  If there is snow, then white is the color.

To camouflage the hunter’s scent, a cover scent or scent elimination spray is used.  Do not put the cover sent on clothing but rather on a cotton pad placed slightly downwind from the hunter’s location.  Most cover scents are natural to the environment and will not spook the quarry.

Both electronic and mouth calls can be used when hunting a small grain field surrounded by woods.  In larger areas, the electronic call may be better.  The sound from an electronic call will travel greater distance as the call volume is adjustable.

Wild canines are opportunistic feeders.  They will come a running at the sound of a wounded rabbit.

Begin with a soft call.  By starting with low volume for five minutes and then increasing the sound, a dog concealed near by, will not be spooked.  Blow the call for about 30 to 30 seconds and then wait four minutes.

Gradually increase the volume and repeat the action.  If nothing appears in 30 minutes, move to another location.  If one is spotted, continue to use the call.  This will maintain his interest.  Slightly lower the volume as the animal gets closer.

Typically, they will not come directly to a call.  By circling the area they insure that there is no danger.  But, if the hunter has done his homework, the quarry will approach.

Wild members of the dog family are crafty animals.  Hunters have pursued them for hundreds of years in an attempt to wipe them out.  Still they flourish and expand their range.  A hunter who pursues them and is successful in taking one, has a trophy that is one of which to be proud.  Hunting them in winter is interesting and challenging.  Give it a try this year.

 

BEST WAY TO FOOL COYOTES IS WITH SCENT CONTROL   1 comment

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One of the best and least used tools in hunting coyotes is scent.  Volumes are available on the subject of scent as it relates to deer hunting.  The following is an attempt to clarify the picture as it relates to late season coyote hunting in Illinois.

Predators rely heavily on their sense of smell to lead them to food as well as to keep them out of harms way.

There are two basic types of scents: cover scents and attractant scents.  Cover scents conceal the natural odor of man and the odors his body can absorb.  Cover scents divided into mild and strong scents.  Examples of mild scents are the scent wafers that generally smell like acorn, pine or cedar.  Such scents are for use in areas where such scents occur naturally.

Strong scents come from the urine of other mammals, such as deer, fox, skunk or bobcat.  As the name implies, the odor from such scents is strong.  Never place it directly upon the hunter or his clothing.  To do so may cost you your happy home.

Apply strong scents to cotton, cloth or a pipe cleaner and place downwind of the hunter.  Dip the absorbent fabric into the scent and place downwind because coyotes tend to approach their prey from that direction.  They rely on their nose to tell them exactly where the prey is located and if some other animal is in the area.  The strong scent blends with and camouflages the scent of the hunter.

Hunters should also attempt to make themselves as human scent free as possible.  The best way to keep a coyote from becoming alarmed due to human scent is to eliminate the human scent before ever entering the field.  But, it requires dedication, commitment and extra time.

The first step is to wash all hunting clothing with a scent‑free laundry detergent.  One such product is Scent‑A‑Way by Hunter’s Specialities.  Dry the clean clothing without using any scented fabric softener.  Using those scented sheets in the drier add fragrance which defeats the purpose of using the scent‑free detergent.

The clothing must then be stored in a bag that will keep them from absorbing other odors.  Early attempts usually involved placing them in plastic garbage bags with such things as dirt, leaves and other assorted items that smelled like the hunting area.  Today, you can use the commercial bags and include with earth scent wafers.  It keeps the clothing odor free and still clean.

Just being scent free or just using an attractant alone is not enough.  Combine the two to produce a certain effect.  Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and will prey upon young deer.  Using a doe urine product can fool them into believing that there is an easy meal in the area.  The attractant scent of doe urine, combined with a fawn bleat can fool ole wily coyote even though the does are not dropping fawns at that particular time of the year.

The hunter himself should also take care to avoid absorbing odors.  Natural body odor comes from bacteria release by the body in perspiration.  It is a good idea to take a shower just before going into the field.  It helps to use an unscented soap such as Ivory or any of the other commercial products on the market.  Some of the odors we absorb from our environment are cigarette smoke, gasoline fumes, after shave, hair spray or oil, and cooked foods such as bacon or other animal products.

To avoid the food and other odors, there is just no other way to go than to avoid them.  Do not smoke prior to going into the field and once there definitely do not smoke while calling.

The combination of lack of human scent, addition of attractant scents or cover scents; coupled with an effective predator or fawn call, can fool coyotes.  They have fantastic senses you can be fool.

 

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