It was late summer, and as I jogged over the gravel logging road, getting in shape for upcoming big-game hunts was the only thing on my mind. As I rounded a bend, a coyote stood, ears perked, looking into the brush. He glanced up as I continued toward him. Then he went back to tuning in his quarry in the brush.
I pushed on up the hill, and the coyote reluctantly hopped into the briars. Twenty minutes later I returned on the same route, to find a covey of quail scurrying about. As I ran by, they flushed, and the coyote was hot on their tails.
At the time, I didn't think much of it. But in an effort to increase late summer coyote shooting opportunities, I reflected on that experience and have used it to secure a fair number of dogs. This approach can prove fruitful, even for archers.
Upland Bird Factor
Summer is perhaps the toughest time of year to lure in coyotes. Vast populations of rodents abound in harvested fields; young mammals scurry about, and late born big game animals can even be a primary food source. Insects, grasses and other vegetation also add to a coyote's diet well into late summer. Getting a 'yote to commit to a squealing rabbit call or fawn bleat this time of year makes competing with nature's food supply a challenge for even the most skilled caller.
Over the past few years I've found upland birds to be an important food source for coyotes in pockets around the West. The past decade has been ideal for upland birds throughout many western states; mild winters combined with dry nesting seasons have led to solid survival rates. Not only does this lead to good hunting for man, but for coyotes as well.
From late July through September, many upland bird species begin congregating with their own kind, creating huge, noisy, uneducated flocks. I've encountered valley quail coveys of over 100 birds, and groups of chukars not far from that number. This time of year, most upland bird seasons are closed to scattergunners, but the coyote knows no such restriction.
Coyotes key-in on upland bird flocks and will actively seek them out. Archers can use this to their advantage to sneak within range of unsuspecting coyotes. Success can also be had by utilizing bird calls to draw in or hold curious coyotes.
I recently ran into a huge flock of chukars. Grabbing my camera, I pursued them up a dry creek bed. Recalling that I'd seen a coyote kill from this flock two days prior, I encouraged my partner, Cameron Hanes, to tag along with his bow.
Snapping away with my zoom lens, the chukars grew nervous. Skidaddling up the hillside they began calling, and several took wing. We repositioned for a better camera angle and ran smack into a coyote who was hunting the same flock, from the opposite side.
The dog turned tail and sprinted up an open hillside. A series of chukar calls stopped him in his tracks. It was obvious his urge to dine outweighed his fear of man. I ranged the target with my Bushnell Scout, and Hanes used his PSE Mach 10 to place a perfect shot and secure the dog.
Rarely do coyotes give you a second chance like this one did. I'm convinced it was because he had not been
educated to chukar calls, other than what he'd heard in the wild. In this instance, our timing was right.
While bugling for elk late one evening, I set off a rumble of coyote calls in three different valleys. It was too late to go after them, so I marked the spots for the next day. Returning to one gulch, I happened upon a flock of some 75 valley quail, feeding beneath thick groves of willows. I discovered two coyote dens, the perimeters of which were littered with quail wings and feathers; obviously a source of fun for the pups, and food for the pack.
The next gully put me on more quail, and a herd of elk. Focussing on the elk, I moved through the covey of quail, which sent them into the brush where two coyotes awaited. At less than 20 yards, the shots would have been easy with a bow, but I couldn't bring myself to sacrifice an elk. Had I returned to that valley and hunted it for coyotes, blowing on quail calls to excite them, there is little doubt in my mind that I would have gotten a shot.
Finding flocks of upland birds and sticking with them -or checking them out on a frequent basis- is critical for success. If hunting early archery seasons, or scouting for big game in the summer, take along some bird calls to match what you anticipate coyotes may be feeding upon. I've seen coyotes react to quail, chukar, turkey and pheasant calls.
Calls of this nature are not the norm in most predator hunters' bags of tricks. Anything that's offbeat to a coyote's ears will increase the odds of attracting his attention. It stands to reason that calls emanating from birds upon which they feed will draw the curiosity of hungry coyotes.
When pursuing coyotes in the land of upland birds, I like sticking to canyons and creek bottoms. Not only
is this where most birds hang, but there's ample brush to hide in while calling, making it tougher for
coyotes to spot me. Such a setting is critical for bowhunter success, where prey has to be in very close
quarters for a shot.
When entering a gully that looks ideal, I'll glass to see if any birds or coyotes are around. Often times binoculars reveal what's ahead before I get there, allowing me to better plan my attack. If I see a flock of birds, I'll move in, call at the ready, arrow nocked. Often times coyotes are so tuned in to capturing quarry, hunters can sneak within bow range without even calling.
If you're looking to hone your bowhunting skills and expand your predator calling repertoire, turn to the birds. Late in the summer, when little else works, game bird calls may be all that's needed to close the deal.
Scott Haugen was born and raised in the outdoor world. Before he was old enough to walk he was carried into Oregon's blacktail woods on the shoulders of his father. At age four, he caught his first limit of steelhead. Haugen's journeys have taken him to Africa, Australia, New Zealand and throughout Asia. He's traveled to over 20 countries and has chased wild game throughout North America.
Haugen's recently released book, Hunting the Alaskan High Arctic
, is available directly from the author. To order your copy contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.