Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Coyote Night Hunt

Author's son with his first coyote
December 17th, the coyote night hunting season begins and it remains open until August 31st. For those who have access to heated hunting shacks, the cold nights can be spent in relative comfort, peacefully reading, listening through ear buds to a ball game or playing video games on your cell phone. Whatever the choice, hunting from a heated shack isn’t nearly as physically challenging as pursuing coyotes at night, without the protection of some form of enclosure. 

I rather enjoy the extreme nature of setting up on the evening of a full moon, on the edge of a desolate and deserted frozen pond and attempting to call a coyote in close enough for a shot opportunity. Don’t expect however to see one of our crafty Maine coyotes recklessly charging into a call across the empty white expanse of ice. Instead, coyotes will creep in, 15-20 feet inside of the timber, exposing themselves to the barren lake surface only after closing to within easy striking distance of the perceived “prey”. Hunters who set-up back from the lake surface 20-30 yards in the woods will frequently enjoy more success than hunters who sit right on the lake edging. Coyotes are crafty and unwilling to give away their position unless it is absolutely necessary. 

This is where a motion decoy and remote controlled calls work wonders as they can be set out on the lake surface to draw coyotes into the open for a shot opportunity. For those using handheld calls, once a coyote is spotted working the tree edging, the hunter stops calling and allow the motion decoy to do the rest of the work. A motion decoy can be something as simple as a piece of fur or feathers tied to a stick with a short length of cordage and allowed to blow in the breeze.   

Predator hunting experts will tell beginners that the most important piece of equipment they can bring on a coyote hunt is a length of thread tied to the end of their rifle barrel. The thread moves in the slightest breeze and serves as a reminder to hunters to always be extremely cognizant of wind direction. This simple device is so helpful, I tied a short length of string on my son’s rifle, so he can visually see how the wind is blowing and know how that might affect his hunting chances. 

Hunters fail to succeed in shooting coyotes because they simply have not taken the proper measures need to adequately control their scent profile. When the stakes are high and we are chasing whitetails, it is easy to invest the time and energy required to control our scent. When hunting coyotes, however, maintaining that same level of discipline can be difficult. Even a basic level of scent control, when hunting coyotes, will often go a long way in allowing hunters to put more fur on the ground. No-scent soaps and deodorants are effective but should be used each day 3-4 days before hunting to ensure that residual smells from scented shampoos and body washes are eliminated. Also, wear hunting clothes no more than two outings before rewashing in no-scent laundry soap, drying and then storing in sealed plastic bags with spruce or pine boughs. Done right, more coyotes will see their last Maine winter. 

Experts say to call for 30 minutes maximum then move on but I have enjoyed success on shooting coyotes and fox in calling sessions lasting over an hour. I prefer these longer calling sessions, especially during the legal hunting hours between sunrise and sunset, as on several occasions these longer calling sessions have convinced a tentative bobcat to investigate.  

The upcoming full moons for December-March include: 12/22, 1/21, 2/19, 3/20. Hunters can improve on their night sight by understanding that our eyes adjust to the dark at intervals. After just 2 minutes our eyes partially adapt to the dark but take fully 20-30 minutes to reach 80% visual capacity, the remaining 20% can take up to 2 hours to obtain. This means, that when hunting at night, it is critically important to maintain light adaptation because once lost it takes a long time to reobtain. If having to turn on a flashlight or predator flood light, be sure to close one eye to maintain light adaptation. 

If a coyote steps out onto the snow white surface of a frozen lake with a full moon shinning down, his silhouette will be immediately apparent and a good shot opportunity possible. However, if that coyote sticks to the wood line, hiding in the shadows, shots become much more tricky. Predator flood lights are a handy tool that allow hunters to take shots that would normally be exceedingly difficult in low light situations. High powered predator lights like the “Wicked Hunting Lights” are durable and relatively cost effective, with scope mounted models starting at around $150. 

 Hunting coyotes is an exciting sport. To get in on the action, check out Dresden Bog (Map 13, E-1) off Route 22 in Dresden Mills. The bog is part of the 862 acre Erle R. Kelley Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and includes a nice mixture of wetlands and woodlands. 

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