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By MIKE ROUX
Calling and shooting predators is one of the things that help hunters get from the end of the fall season to when the turkeys start gobbling. Severe winter weather is almost essential for a good predator hunt, but many other things add up to make shooting coyotes, foxes and bobcats lost of fun in the new year.
I think we should take just a few minutes to look at some of these factors.
Some people frown on predator hunting as a waste and as needless killing. That could not be further from the truth. In fact these people are the actual cause of predator overpopulation.
Misguided tree huggers succeeded in destroying the fur industry and subsequently the sport of trapping. No trapping means that some predator populations, specifically coyotes, are out of control in some places. The good Lord gave us the responsibility of stewardship, and hunting is a great tool to help us accomplish that task.
NO. 1 – THE LAW
State regulations on predator hunting vary. Always check the regs to make sure of season dates and bag limits. Also check to see if the predators you are hunting fall under special “fur bearer” classifications. Find out which weapons are legal and what legal shooting hours are in your area. Above all, take the time to read the rules and then obey them, including the use of electronic calling devices.
NO. 2 – THE SHOT
As a teenager, I hunted coyotes with a high-powered rifle. The ability to reach out and touch a dog at 200 yards was very appealing. My .25-06 has put holes in a bunch of coyotes. I have taken a couple of coyotes and a red fox with my bow, but lately I have enjoyed hunting predators with my Thompson/Center .50-caliber Pro Hunter muzzleloader.
The optics you choose for a predator rifle are very important. I demand clarity and expect durability. I have tested dozens of scopes from as many manufacturers. The best scope I have found currently sits upon my Pro Hunter. It is an Apex 3×9 from Alpen Optics. Alpen makes a full line of premium sporting optics.
Regardless of your weapon of choice, you must practice enough to know your maximum lethal range and then never take a shot beyond that range. Safety must always come first.
NO. 3 – THE CAMO
Concealment for hunting wintertime predators is very important. The absolute absence of foliage makes hiding from sharp eyes very difficult. Most often it is not possible to hunt predators from a blind because it takes too much time and is too cumbersome. You must choose a camo pattern that cannot be seen at close range and is invisible at a distance.
I prefer a snow pattern in the wintertime when snow is on the ground. This pattern has the perfect look for midwinter hunting. I am sure there are many more great applications for this pattern, but its ability to blend in to the snowy brush is excellent.
NO. 4 – THE CALL
There are as many predator calls on the market as there are predators on which to use them. Traditionally, mouth-blown calls have led the way to coaxing coyotes and foxes into range. These calls vary from reed-type to diaphragm calls just likes the ones used by turkey hunters. These calls are effective, but imitating a wounded rabbit or coyote pup is not as easy as it may seem.
My best advice to learn to call predators is to buy a tape or get online to hear and mimic the sounds that bring your prey in close.
NO. 5 – THE ANIMALS
As we look at hunting predators by the numbers, this is the last one. Knowing what might come to your set-up when calling predators allows you to be prepared for the unexpected. Most commonly, coyotes will respond first to your calls. If a coyote is coming, it will not take long. Often, coyotes appear in the first minute or two of calling.
Bobcats and foxes will come to the sound of a free meal as well. The red fox is a bit more wary than his gray cousin, but both will come.
Other critters that may respond to your predator calls are hawks, owls, crows, raccoons and even curious deer. Do not take shots at movement. Be very sure of your target before you shoot. The neighbor’s dog may come looking for the free meal, too. This is no time for a careless mistake.
If you add up all the numbers, you can see why wintertime predator hunting is a growing sport. To beat the cabin fever this year, get out and try this fun and exciting way to expand your hunting season.
Mike Roux can be contacted at mikeroux.com.