Predator Hunting | A Late Winter Past Time
For many hunters, the late winter months can really be hard to handle for many reasons. For starters, many of the game species that we look forward to pursuing all fall are no longer in season. That fact alone can send most of us into withdrawals. On top of that, the late winter months can often be downright unpleasant. Cold, brutal north winds and snow often dominate this time of year, and while the gray overtone of the late season may put most of us in a bit of a funk, there is a little light at the end of the tunnel, and it is called predator hunting! Predator hunting has continued to grow in popularity over the last several years, and with many states having abundant predator populations, liberal bag limits, and long seasons the late winter months can be the best time to predator hunt.
Predator Hunting Gear 101
There is a popular misconception that predator hunting is a gear intensive sport, which requires a significant investment in equipment in order to be effective. While there are plenty of predator hunting accessories for hunters to enjoy, predator hunting generally requires very little investment to get started. In all actuality, the predator hunting gear needed to effectively call and hunt predators is really very minimal when compared to other game species, and there is often a good chance that you may already possess most of the gear that you will need.
Aside from your actual weapon of choice, probably the most crucial piece of equipment that someone needs to have to effectively predator hunt is an excellent pair of optics. Predator hunting typically takes place in open landscapes, where having excellent visibility can make all the difference. Being able to see a great distance, and monitor your targets response to calling as well as how they respond to other techniques such as using a decoy can certainly help you adjust your set up which will ultimately increase your chances for success.
Late season hunting can be very hard on your gear and equipment, so it is very important to not only have an effective set of optics but also a durable set as well. Nikon brand spotting scopes and binoculars are extremely durable and dependable, can take any amount of abuse that late season hunting can dish out. If you plan to chase game that prefers more secluded or wooded environments such as bobcats, coyotes or various species of fox, investing in a pair of Nikon 10×42’s will more than address the need. If you find yourself predator hunting in a more open landscape such as the black hills or the western prairie areas, then it will be important for you to have the ability to see a great distance as well as close by. In this case, a pair of Nikon 10×42’s will help you to quickly identify any potential targets that slip in within a few hundred yards while a Nikon 16-48x60mm Field Scope will help you keep a keen eye peeled at greater distances. Predators are very wary by nature, and in many cases success hinges on your ability to spot them before they spot you, and a great set of optics will certainly give you a leg up every time.
It is undeniable fact that concealment is the name of the game when you hit the woods for big game, and predator hunting is absolutely no different. As the name implies, predator species have very refined senses and this is especially true when it comes to vision. Predator hunting is often a sport of opportunity, and because of this fact, you need to be able to rely on your camouflage to do the trick in a wide range of landscapes and cover types.
For us, there is no better camo pattern than Realtree AP. This camo pattern has worked for us, regardless of the terrain or the game we are after. Predators can often make out the outline of a hunter, especially if you are making a set in open country. This is one of the most common situations that results in your target hanging up just out of range. A camo pattern like Realtree AP has the contrast and tones that you need help break up your outline and keep you concealed, even in the wide open! Do not fall victim to eyes of your target by underestimating their ability to pick you out. Face makes and gloves are often a necessity in the world of predator hunting.
Weapon of Choice
One of the most challenging and exciting facets of predator hunting is the fact that it provides the hunter with the opportunity to take game with a wide range of equipment. In many states, you can legally harvest predator species by any method you wish. If you prefer to stick with the traditional high-powered rifle or shotgun as your method of choice, then you are good to go! If you like to spice things up and break out the handgun, rifle, or Bear bow then you are free to do so as well, which helps to keep things interesting!
Selecting the right weapon for the job is really dependent upon which game species you are after and the conditions you will be hunting in. More open landscapes clearly call for more tactile firepower such as a .243 or .22-250, however, when you start getting into close quarters is when things start to become very interesting. With the right wind, and the right set up it is not uncommon to coax various predator species such as coyotes and foxes into close range, at which time a shotgun with buckshot or a heavy load or even and high powered air rifle can be very effective and still very challenging. A benefit to hunting predators with light caliber equipment is it allows youth hunters the opportunity to get out and enjoy this very exciting sport as well! At the end of the day, it is ultimately about selecting a weapon that you feel comfortable with and that can ethically do the job, however, it is very nice to have options!
Predator Hunting Accessories
The tactic of predator hunting is continuing to evolve with new calls and decoys being developed each and every year. If you are a hunter who really enjoys trying something new, and picking up a few small accessories here and there that can really help make a difference in the field, predator hunting can certainly scratch that itch!
When you think of decoys the first thing to come to your mind is likely not predator hunting, however, utilizing a decoy can be lights out when calling and hunting predators. There are typically two types of predator decoys that are used by most predator hunters. The first is the “distress decoy”. This is a decoy such as a rabbit that when used in conjunction with distress calls give the impression of a wounded or trapped animal. This is a set up that most predators are completely unable to resist. Decoys like the Stray Cat or the Sit-N-Spin from Primos can trigger an immediate response from predator species like coyotes, fox, and even bobcat and really are a must have for any predator hunter.
The second and likely less utilized predator decoy is simply a confidence decoy. These decoys are designed to be used with group vocalizations of specific species and are designed to keep the target animal content and comfortable, bringing them to within range. While this method of decoy set certainly has its place and can be very effective it does have its limitations as opposed to the wounded animal set.
If you were to ask a turkey hunter or a waterfowl hunter what they truly enjoyed the most about their respective sports, most likely the response would be “tricking them into coming in”. Predator hunting is no different! In fact, many who have tried it would tell you that successfully calling a coyote or fox into range might just be on par with a hen’d up gobbler or a late season flock of mallards.
There are a couple of different methods for calling predators. The first is utilizing a mouth style call to either exhibit social vocalizations. Utilizing a call such as the Mini-Howler from Primos can be very effective in this regard. The second technique is to utilize a mouth call to exhibit a distress call which would be intended to mimic a fawn deer or rabbit that is in distress.
The challenge that most hunters appreciate with these types of calls is that there is a level of skill or technique required to use the effectively. Much like calling turkey or waterfowl, you are the operator of the call so there is a sense of satisfaction when you outsmart a slick old coyote, not to mention the certain appeal that exists to when you hit the field with your baby howler hanging off your C4LL!
The second method of calling predator employs the use of an electronic caller. This method is very popular simply because it can be very effective, and most electronic calling systems can also be used for other species (snow geese, crows, etc.). At the end of the day, it really is hard to beat using the real vocalizations of the game you are after. While both calling methods allow you to be mobile, the electronic predator call is always on point and never wavers as far as quality and volume are concerned. This reliance offers a certain appeal to many who hunt predators. The electronic predator calling systems such as the Boss Dogg or the Dogg Catcher from Primos are excellent when used in large landscapes or when the wind and other conditions may limit your ability to effectively utilize your mouth caller. These electronic predator calls a very versatile when it comes to the type calls them make, and can often be used in conjunction with a mouth caller, offering you the best of both worlds!
The best thing about predator hunting, whether you are using a decoy or just hitting the woods with your predator calls is simply that you can literally hunt them anywhere. From your own property to public land, there are hunting opportunities are abundant everywhere you look. Predator hunting not only provides you with an opportunity to kick the winter time blues but controlling the predator population only benefits a wide range of other species that we as sportsmen and women care deeply about! So grab your gun, and lace up your boots and put a few miles on the truck and a few coyotes in the truck bed this winter!