By Art Isberg
The predator hunter is always practicing something no other sportsman does. Predator callers are consistently trying to lure animals that are expecting to kill. That is the only reason why they’re coming in. This sets us apart from all other hunters. Am I saying we are all in mortal danger of being attacked by a coyote, cougar, wolf or bear? In today’s world of expanding predator populations and new restrictive regulations, I would say that answer has to be a very possible yes.
In the last two and a half decades coyote populations have rapidly expanded their numbers from their original home range in the west and southwest, eastward to include every state in the nation to the East Coast. There are endless instances of them moving and living in major cities to hunt there while raising new litters of young who know no other home. This has bred a generation of animals with little or no fear of man.
A single determined coyote coming in to your calling can be handled by a well-placed shot, but two or three on the run is something else again. Faced with multiple animals, the wise choice to make is not let them come close, but take them at a distance putting down the nearest animal first. This way if following animals do not break off at the shot you have valuable time to line up on the others. What constitutes “distance,” for that first shot? That depends on cover, terrain, snow, ice or what have you. I say take that first shot when you know you can accurately place a killing shot whether it is 50, 75 or 100 yards. Stand up after your first shot making it clear what you really are and not a prey animal in distress. By standing you’ll also have a clearer view of animals still on the move toward you and a better shooting lane, too. Sometimes this sudden maneuver will stop running coyotes in their tracks giving you an even better chance to place extra shots on them.
The urban coyote now lives among us, and wildlife departments seem paralyzed or politically muzzled to do anything about it. These are the kind of animals we are bringing to our calls today. Coyotes are the most numerous of all predatory animals. I firmly believe they must now be viewed in a far different light than previous times. There can be real danger involved.
In the last dozen and a half years from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast, wolf populations have spilled out of Yellowstone National Park in the disastrous wolf reintroduction program fostered by the National Park Service. They moved with flank speed beyond park boundaries into Idaho, Montana, Washington, eastern Oregon, and are showing up even in northern California. Reports of wolves seen in
Colorado and Utah only prove they will form packs there. Northern Nevada is next on their list. They hunt and kill by working in numbers. They are smart enough and strong enough to take down deer and elk. They will take on even buffalo when conditions favor them.
Any predator hunter out calling in these states could find himself bringing in wolves at a run and not just one or two but half a dozen. To make matters worse, foolish and restrictive laws have been rushed through state legislatures protecting these apex killers with stiff fines or jail for anyone who dares harass, shoot or kill a wolf. Think about what choices you have facing determined animals that can weigh between 125 and 150 pounds?
Only three states allow the taking wolves by permit during a limited season: Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. What about all other states where wolves are now forming packs were no permits will be allowed for years or if ever? I say it’s imperative that when calling coyotes in wolf country to seriously consider doing two things. First is to use a decoy of some kind placed out in the open and well away from your calling location. A fawn deer decoy is a good choice or even a tail wagging rag or feather decoy atop a calling box. Even using a full-bodied coyote decoy is another good choice for wolves hate coyotes and will either kill or run them off anytime. These decoys fix the wolves attention on them and not your calling location. If you must fire warning shots to turn wolves away then do so. You’re doing nothing more than protecting yourself and there is no law against that.
Mountain lion populations are healthy and strong wherever they are found. California is estimated to have over 6,000 individual cats but a public initiative passed over two decades ago banned sport hunting of the big cats. That ban has led to deaths and maulings unparalleled in history. Why have these horrors suddenly escalated? Because lions no longer fear man and view us as easy prey and protein. A big male lion can weigh up to 160 pounds and he knows how to use it.
When predator calling in lion country some serious consideration should be given. Understand that lions are stealth killers. By this I mean they sneak quietly in on a suspected victim and only rarely come at a run like wolves or a coyote would. They make their moves in secrecy then spring the last few yards. The first rule is you must see them before they see you. Lions live in high country timber and rimrock country fronting arid deserts and everything in between. That means it’s imperative you make your stands surrounded by a good deal of open country they must cross and expose themselves as they come closer. You may be out calling for bobcats or coyotes, but in lion country this is a cardinal rule. You cannot set yourself up in cover as you might in other situations.
A second rule is to always hunt with a partner. No hunter, no matter how proficient, can watch 360 degrees around himself all the time when on stand. Two men back to back can cover everything around them and cover it well. It’s a safety factor too important to pass up. I’ve even used this when bobcat hunting and had pals startled when I took a shot at a cat they did not know was sliding in close on us.
Bears will certainly respond to predator calls. They know what that shrieking cry of death means. Black bears are found in almost any environment. Bear numbers are either holding steady or in many states increasing. On one hunt I made into a rugged area several years ago I counted seven bears in one day. If I’d been using a predator call I would have had my hands full.
Bears can hear far better than humans and detect sounds of struggle from extraordinary distances away prompting them to move toward it for a meal. Electronic calls in bear country make good sense for more than one reason. These units can be placed well away from a hunter on stand, some as much as 100 yards concentrating the animal’s attention on the call and not you. When you couple this by adding the tree stands that deer hunters use, you have a solid advantage on any approaching bruin. The stand gets you safely up in the air off the ground, keeps any scent high above the bear, and gives you the best view possible of all surrounding cover and anything moving through it. Bears can move through heavy cover without making a sound. It’s very likely you won’t see one until he shows himself at the call. When he does you’ve got all the advantages and safety in your favor. You can shoot if you have a tag, or pass if not.
USE ENOUGH GUN
The popular .22, .23 and .24-caliber rifles using bullets with weights of less than 100 grains, should be considered too light for the large, big boned aggressive predators I’ve outlined in this story. I own several of these fast rifles and love using them. But using them effectively on coyotes is not the same as using them on wolves, mountain lions and bears. I would strongly suggest using your regular deer gun and matching bullets as a primary or back-up rifle.