This article will deal with the type of gear and equipment you will need to begin hunting the hunters. Predator hunting is a relatively cheap sport to get started in but like anything else, the sky is the limit on what a guy could spend. There are a few high tech digital callers out there that are darn near $1,000, but dont let that scare you off because if you already have a decent rifle and some type of old camouflage you can pick up a decent closed reed mouth call for around $10 to $20 and your are ready to start calling
What Gear Do I Need?
Most predator hunters are the rugged individual types and feel strongly about the methods and gear they use. This is perhaps the most contentious topic you can discuss among predator hunters….If you ask 10 callers what is the best caliber rifle for coyotes you are likely to get at least 9 different answers.
The following is my take on what every predator hunter will need to be successful in the field as well as what types of equipment, in my opinion, are best and what options are available for the various predator hunting gear I will be discussing. This is not a comprehensive accounting of every type of call, rifle, knife available but rather I will give you the basics and try to cover the important differences so you can make informed decisions.
The very first thing you need to do is to review and understand your state and local hunting regulations related to predator hunting and calling. The second step is to make sure you are in compliance….it would be a real bummer to get fined, loose your hunting rights or have your firearm confiscated which some states do for even minor violations.
You also want to know the area you are considering for your calling ventures and be aware of any special hunting laws or restrictions. Is the land private, county, national park or forest, protected? This is very important for the same reasons above.
If the land is private or you suspect it is then you will need to get explicit permission from the owner or representatives. Depending on the area you live in, some land owners would welcome a depletion of the coyote populations but they are also concerned about the safety of their livestock and property so you will need to present yourself as a responsible sportsman. There are some callers that have business cards or flyers that explain the benefits of their services with contact info so the owner knows how to reach them if there was ever a problem.
I will break this section up into categories to make it easier to reference but as I stated above this is not going to cover every single possibility but rather what I feel are the best options for the various calling scenarios.
This section covers the type of products and gear that we will need to insure we are not detected was we get to our calling locations. The most obvious item is clothing and this is one of those areas that almost every hunter disagrees on but I will give you my take on the important stuff.
Before I go any further I want you to know where I am coming from on this topic. I am of the opinion that a lot of the real fancy high priced camouflage clothing is unnecessary. How we (humans) perceive camouflage patterns is very different than how coyotes see it. I wont get very technical here but coyotes see the world very differently than we do and patterns and colors that seem very effective to us may actually work against our efforts to not be seen by predators. Bottom line is you want to have clothing that has neutral matte earth tones and be made with a high percentage of cotton with no treatments like water proofing, etc. Some fabric treatments leave a shine on the clothing which is not food and will stand out in the eyes of the coyotes. If you real want to get fancy you can purchase special detergents designed for hunting cloths that dont leave any scents or shine on the fabric…I have never used these products but it makes sense and Im sure it may give you a little more of an edge.
Dont get me wrong, most of the high end, and even some of the economy camouflage available works just fine and will not be any kind of disadvantage I just think this is the area that we need to focus on our spend a big percentage of our hunting budget. Just pick up something that will cover all of your exposed skin and meet the criteria above. Gloves and a face covering are a must. I like the loose fitting thin mesh masks that have mouth and eye openings. I see more and more adds for military style ghillie suites and one of my hunting buddies wears a ghillie head covering and I have to say it really makes you disappear but again I doubt it gives you that much of an advantage.
In summary just make sure you are not wearing anything that will stand out as unnatural and use natural cover and shadows to conceal and breakup your outline.
Everyone has an opinion on this one as well but in reality just about any center fire caliber will work on predators and it comes down accuracy over distance and whether or not you want to preserve the pelts.
If you are hunting in thick cover with very little long range visibility then you will want to consider a scatter gun. I use a camouflaged 20-gauge Winchester Model 1200 with a 22 barrel and #3 shot or bigger for close in action out to 25 or 30 yards. Some companies like Hevi-Shot make shotgun ammunition specifically designed for predator hunting, and I have heard of guys taking coyotes out to 50 yards or so but that would be pushing it in my opinion. Another advantage for shotguns, if you live in California like I do, is that there is a lot of non-lead options available in the heavier shot sizes, but mostly in 12 gauge.
Shotguns would not be my first choice when taking animals for fur. It doesnt tear up the pelts as bad as some hyper fast fragmenting rounds but it gives you a lot more holes to try and hide.
Rim fire ammunition is generally thought to be under powered for coyotes and I would agree that you dont want to use .22 LR on coyote size animals but I have had very good experiences using the .17 HMR on coyotes. This is a very fast and flat shooting round that takes them down with ease, however, I would not recommend this round for novice hunters as shot placement is critical to making a clean kill. While the .17 HMR is very fast and accurate it doesnt carry its minimal energy very far down range so I keep my shots well under 100 yards and start thinking twice about any shots beyond 75 yards. The benefits are almost no recoil, very pleasant report, non-existent pelt damage.
For center fire calibers you have lots of choices in the varmint class and light deer calibers but I believe the two most common are the .223 Remington and the 22-250 for a little more performance. With the 22-250, unless you are trying to reach out to 400 yards or so I would go with a heavier bullet at lower velocities. These rounds are real screamers and some of the higher velocity light soft nose bullets tend to explode on contact without fully penetrating. The .223 is a good all around performer and the ammo is very reasonable and available everywhere.
As for calibers above .223 you start to get into real over kill. I do take my 25-06 once in a while if I think we will get some real long shots but this round just devastates the pelts (big exit holes!).
You can also use handguns for some extra challenge but this is more for fun than practical. I have taken a few with my trusty three-screw Ruger Blackhawk .357 and I have to say it is a real thrill but I miss more than I hit.
No matter what type of call(s) you choose, you will be using a few basic prey sounds when going after predators. The idea is to sound like an injured or distressed prey animal which will entice the predator in for, what they believe is an easy meal. There are other sounds that can be used primarily on coyotes which mimic their vocalizations to try and fool them into thinking that there is either an intruder in their territory or get them to respond letting you know they are in the area. I dont have a lot of experience with using vocalizations with coyotes so Im not going to discuss this much in my series.
The top prey sound by far is the injured rabbit sound which is a scream or cry they make when hurt or under stress. Interestingly this is the only time rabbits make any sounds at all. These come in two basic varieties, the cottontail and jack rabbit. The cottontail is softer and less raspy with a higher pitch while the jack rabbit is a bit louder and more gravelly. The do sound pretty different but have the same sort of cadence.
Other popular prey sounds include birds (woodpecker is a good one) rodents, house cats, fox or coyote pups, chickens, piglets, lambs, and anything else the predators might prey on. For electronic calls, you can purchase recordings of real animal distress sounds but Im not convinced that these are necessarily more effective then artificial sounds made with mouth calls. I have done a little non-scientific testing with mouth calls to see what coyotes will respond to. My conclusion is if you are making a sound that has a pitch and duration of the prey sounds they will come in, perhaps just out of curiosity but the point is you dont have to do a perfect recreation of the prey animal sounds to get them to come in…but it doesnt hurt to constantly improve and refine your call technique.
You have one big decision to make here….electronic or manual (mouth blown or pump). For brand new predator hunters I recommend going the electronic route at first then if you find this is a sport you really are passionate about then begin learning to use mouth calls. The reason I say this is that you can forgo the trial and error period when first starting out with mouth calls and getting discouraged before you start having any real success. Also, it removes a variable (making the right sounds) when you are trying to troubleshoot if you arent having success.
There are a lot of choices out there for electronic calls ranging from home made and relatively cheap to the very high end Foxpro models that could set you back near a $1,000.
For most of my calling career I used mouth calls but a few years back I decided to try my hand with the electronic calls. I didnt want to spend a lot of money so my first unit was a home made contraption using a music MP3 player, an amplifier and loud speaker. There are many free downloadable calling sounds out there ranging from great to crappy….if you use sounds downloaded from the internet you want to make sure they are clean and dont have a lot of background noise, and sound natural.
If you dont want to build your own, I would suggest a lower end model that has the ability to add and play your own sounds. One model that I like a lot is the Mighty MP3 by Expedite. This is a very versatile unit that comes with 16 or so pre-programmed calling sounds and a SD card slot to add your own MP3 calls. You can pick these up for around $80 and are well worth the money. Most calls in this price range dont allow you to use your own sounds plus the sound quality is excellent. When you move up from here you start to get into wireless features which are great because you can locate the speaker up to 50 yards from your calling location to focus their attention away from the spot where you are sitting allowing you a little more freedom to move around a bit when you are raising your rifle to get a shot.
The important features in an electronic call are sound quality which you are not going to find in sub $70 units because of the cost of the components needed to produce loud crisp sound quality, quality and variety of call sounds, ability to load and play your own sounds, large display screen that is not effected by sunlight or glare, and well placed large buttons that can be found and operated by feel with gloved fingers. Wireless features allowing the ability to place the speaker a distance away from the stand are a big plus but not essential. The loudness of the unit is not real critical but you do need the ability to get the sounds out there when calling in open areas and on windy days. I dont know what the decibel level cut off is but typically the units costs is proportional to the wattage output and distortion filters at high volume…so, I guess like everything else, you get what you pay for. I will cover electronic call technique in later chapters.
Mouth calls come in two basic types, open reed and closed reed. This distinction has to do with the thin metal or plastic reed component that vibrates when air is passed around it. The open reed type of call has the reed enclosed within the body of the call and requires the user to just blow through one end of the call. These open reed calls are easier for the beginner to start with because they are somewhat tuned for the pitch of the intended sound and only requires the user to vary the volume and pressure of air into the call to get the desired sounds. If you are new to the sport and end up using an electronic call to start, I still recommend getting a couple of closed reed calls, like the Quaker Boy Screamin Cottontail, to practice with. To keep in practice I blow the call in my truck on the way to stand locations. Once you get to a point where you can produce believable call sounds with the mouth call you will want to start using it because calling in predators with mouth calls is much more rewarding because it is directly related to your skill and techniques.
The open reed is much more difficult to master but the upside is they are capable of producing much greater range and variety of sounds. The open reed is just what it sounds like, the reed component is exposed on top of a tapered half barrel and is placed in the mouth where you vary the pitch by applying pressure at points along the reed with either your teeth or lips. The length of the reed end beyond the pinch point dictates the pitch of the sound. As I said these take a lot more practice and I dont recommend them for beginners.
There are other reed type calls that are operated by squeezing or pumping. Most of these are mouse or rodent squeakers and are used after you have called in predator but they require a little coaxing to bring them within range.
Again, I will cover the actual call operations and techniques in later chapters.
Decoys are starting to get more popular with predator callers. A number of companies are offering decoys designed specifically for predator hunting like Edge by Expedite. Most of these resemble rabbits or birds but there are also decoys of full size coyotes and foxes, some with motion and others are just static.
I have just recently started using a motion decoy , the Quiver Critter, and its too early for me to say how effective decoys are but I have read where a number of callers are having real good luck with them.
If you are going to sell or keep the pelts you will need to carry skinning gear at least in your truck. Skinning knifes are somewhat of a personal preference although I recommend knives specifically designed for skinning rather than just any old hunting knife. Skinning knives have deferent steel and blade configuration. The blade material is typically softer steel allowing you to quickly clean up the edge and keep it razor sharp in the field. I also carry a folding razor knife like the Gerber Blades EAB. These are handy because when they get dull you can just flip the blade over or put a new one in. You have to be real careful when skinning with one of these because the blades are just a straight edge and very sharp so it is difficult to do intricate cuts without cutting through the pelts.
You will also need to carry a length of rope or cable to hang the coyote to make pulling the skin easier once the rear leg area is cut and pulled away. Gloves are a must as well, fish filleting or mechanic gloves work well but you may also want to wear medical grade rubber gloves underneath to prevent transfer of disease which is a possibility. Keep a couple gallons of water on hand to wash up afterwards.
I will post a tutorial on skinning at some point but there are a few out there already if you need instruction on how to do this.
When Im out calling I rarely travel more than a few hundred yards from my truck so I dont carry any water or survival gear to the stand by I do in my truck. Even if you only plan to be out for a few hours its a good idea to have some basic first aid supplies, water, warm clothes, matches, granola bars, etc. in the event something happens and may be there overnight.
You will want some type of bag or backpack to carry your gear in. I use a little camouflage range bag with a shoulder strap to carry my calls, decoys, etc. to the stands. If you hunt in areas with little or low cover you may want to buy a section of camouflage material (burlap or other cloth) to drape over you for additional concealment.
Buy a couple of good lanyards for your mouth calls to keep them handily around your neck. Whether or not Im using an electronic call I still carry my mouth calls on a lanyard with a long range, short range, and a squeaker call just in case I need to change it up.
Ok, well that’s the basics for the types of gear needed to start coyote calling. If you want more detailed articles on predator hunting please visit our website () and look for our article section.
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