Keys to Successful Predator Calling
By Major L. Boddicker
Key #5: Managing People, Vehicles, and Things
Sam was a nice guy, from another state. He was excited and gung-ho. But as he climbed a fence, I stared down the hole in his gun barrel again, after I had requested that he be careful about it. His friend was equally careless about where he pointed his loaded gun. Since they were from out of state and I had two more days to hunt with them, I felt I had to do something to reduce the hazard.
When we got back to the truck after an unsuccessful stand, it was time for a pow wow.
“Just a suggestion, guys,” I said. “The gun barrels pointing at each other has not improved. I know you fellows are excited, but you have to be more careful.”
“I guess we didn't notice—too excited about killing coyotes,” Sam said.
“New rules for everyone: Unload your guns before we get up from the stand, keep them unloaded until we sit down on the next stand. No loaded guns until we are sitting on a stand and the calling begins,” I ordered.
“Sounds like a great idea,” said Jim.
So, the next three days went by safely and friendly. My original thoughts were to yell and get grumpy with them to make a point, but that might have lead to hard feelings and bad days ahead. Be nice! Generally it pays, but get the safety rules laid down and obeyed.
Most callers hunt with buddies. That can be great or can be miserable. Generally speaking, somebody has to be the boss. Because of age, experience, and disposition, generally when I am on a predator hunt, I run the show. Whether or not the rancher or a friend is along, generally I choose the stand locations, direct where we stand to take advantage of the wind, and guide the other hunters to their stands.
Coach the other guys on how they should act, when to move, when to shoot, where to look for predators, etc. It is great if they can also help with the calling to spell you. Suggest a time limit on a stand and what to use for sound. For example, you might suggest that a stand has been a great producer with a jackrabbit squall for 20 minutes. If a coyote gets within 100 yards and you have a good shot, take it. If the coyote drops with one shot, immediately start a coyote yelp for a couple of minutes, then resume the rabbit sounds.
Talk to each other. Don't assume your partner knows what he is doing unless you have had some time with him. Most partners are very glad to have you with them and have no problem discussing tactics and taking suggestions.
Once in a while you run into a real loser partner, and the answer to that is politely get through the day and never take him again.
Back in 1980, coyotes were bringing $100 each. My partner and I were driving back home from checking our trapline late in the afternoon on a cold, gray, and windy day.
“Jeez, there's a coyote!” Stan said, pointing to a song dog standing 50 yards off the ranch road on my side. He slowed down, I rolled down the window, stuck my Ruger mini-14 out the window, took careful aim, fired, and the coyote ran off.
“Blast it, blame it, shucks, shaw, how the Hell did you miss the SOB?” Stan exclaimed, teed off completely. He got grumpy.
“I don't have a clue,” I said dejectedly.
Stan proceeded to lecture me on the merits of being a good shot, having the rifle sighted in, etc. He was not at all diplomatic, but my ego was surviving.
About three miles down the two-track road, I looked over to my right and a red fox was sleeping on a bale of hay about 70 yards from the road.
“Hey, Stan, stop, there's a red fox on a bale back there on my side,” I exclaimed.
“No, you can't shoot him, I am going down, turn around so I can shoot,” he said sharply.
So, we drove over a hill, turned around, drove back, and stopped. Stan rolled the window down, and he raised his Remington Model 788 in 6-mm Rem. The fox was asleep, laying dead center on top of a small bale of hay.
When Stan shot, the fox jumped four feet straight up in the air, and then sprinted off. The bale of hay exploded. Stan had shot both bale strings in two, under the fox.
“Blast it, blame it, shucks, shaw, how did you miss the SOB?” I exclaimed. Enough said!
Do what you can to have your partner ready with a good gun, sighted in with the proper ammo, and know what to expect. Tell him.
Alternate who drives, or agree who drives, the other caller buys the gas or returns some equitable favor for the pleasure of driving your vehicle. (Remember, if you drive, he has to open the gates.)
I have a friend who is worth $2 million at least. He and I have hunted together for 26 years. Never in the 26 years has he brought lunch. Not only does he not bring my lunch; he doesn't bring his either, so he eats mine. So? I plan for lunch, and if I want to eat any I bring lunch for him too. Generally speaking, it is almost his only fault so we get along great. When we call by ourselves, we do a cool, professional job of killing predators. When we go together, normally it is a stuff-up from the beginning to the end. However, it is great fun to hunt with the sorry stuff-up guy. Now that coyotes are worthless to $12.50, it is even more fun.
Plan! Bring water, lunch for whomever, and remind others to bring lunch and drinks. Bring extra in case of emergency. Bring an extra rifle for you and your partner in case of a breakdown. Sight the gun in often and shoot it frequently at targets. Target practice at prairie dogs, jackrabbits, crows, woodchucks, and other varmints keeps your shooting skills sharp.
Drinking and predator calling don't go together. Save the alcohol consumption for story time after the hunt. Predator calls are not fun to listen to with a throbbing hangover.
Famous words: “Heck yes, we can make it!” So, Stan jammed down the accelerator, flew out into the middle of a 100-yard, three-foot deep snow-filled buffalo wallow and stopped like a mouse on a glueboard.
“Ah, why didn't you just drive around the edge of this stinking pit on the grass?” I asked politely.
“You get out and scoop this miserable, dad-blamed useless truck, you knot-headed ignoramus SOB!” I followed up quickly just to let him know that I knew we were stuck just at dark, 43 miles from home, six miles from the nearest help, with one shovel, and his wife demanded he be home for a Christmas party.
Amazing how fast a guy can shovel snow when he is looking at extreme wife sanctions. He never shovels that fast under normal circumstances. A good farmer's scoopshovel is the best for serious snow removal.
Frankly, it is better and smarter to be cautious. If some long mud hole, muddy road, snow-filled ditch, or snow-filled buffalo wallow looks impassible, go around it or turn around and find a different route.
“Yeah right, Boddicker, I know you and you try to make it through,” says anyone who knows me.
“Yeah, and I get stuck a lot. Just take my advice, don't do it like I do it.”
Park your vehicle as close to the stand as you can get it and still have the truck hidden and downwind from the approaching predator. Frankly, I have called coyotes and fox from vehicles often. It is quite possible to camouflage the vehicle with a cover or paint, creating an optical illusion, and call coyotes up to the truck. At night, calling predators to a dark-colored truck is no problem whatever. Just keep the moonlight and spotlight reflections down by covering or painting chrome and glass reflective surfaces.
How Many People?
How many people are best to take on a calling trip? A great tactician caller is best by himself because there is a lower chance the predator will detect the hunter and then leave. When I am hunting for pay to kill serious livestock killers, I usually hunt by myself. A partner who is as good as you, can actually increase the success with the extra eyes and backup with a shotgun or rifle. A stuff-up partner can drive you nuts as well. But remember, predator calling generally is not for $100 fur, it is for fun. Stuff-ups on the scale of 8 to 10 are remembered longer than efficient kills, so it is fun to screw up. Enjoying the outdoors makes calling the special treat it is.
Sometimes I take 3 to 6 people with me. Once at Springfield, Colorado, I put 30 people on the side of a bowl-shaped sand dune, and then called a coyote up to ten feet away. In front of 30 cowboys and trappers, I missed. I never have been able to live it down either. After 25 years, I run into people who were there, and they always remind me of it.
The key to having several or many people is that they sit still, don't talk, and don't smoke. You arrange them so that the coyote cannot see them until it has exposed itself. Put them behind a low ridge, back behind the hill or vegetation, so that the predator is close when you see it or it sees you.
My first stand was in 1952 when I was ten. I got a Herter's Model Perfect Predator Call, my Remington Model 341, .22, and went out to get a fox northwest of Shellsburg, Iowa. I called in a crow. I’ve been hooked ever since. Over those 49 years, I have made every screw-up in the book except shooting someone or livestock. Accidents happen, even under the best of intentions. With varmint rifles, accidents are seldom funny.
When I was in Africa several years ago, I was teaching a course to 23 African farmers. We were showing them night-calling techniques for jackals and caracal (African lynx). My friend was in a different truck using an electronic caller. I was using a red lens spotlight (1 million candlepower) looking over the veldt (shrub-covered desert), when one of the guys spotted eyes glowing back at us. “Lynx,” he exclaimed in a forceful whisper.
I scoped the eyes with a 16-power Lightforce scope. It looked like a big lynx with the typical black lines on its face and ears, but the body posture was not right. It was about 275 yards away.
“I'm not sure it is a lynx, its body posture isn't right,” I reported. The owner of the place looked at it through my scope. “Shoot it, it's a caracal for certain,” he said.
So I drew down on it and touched off my friend's .25-06. “Toowhoop,” came the sound of the impact back, and the lights went out.
“Great shot!” The guys exclaimed as they jumped out of the truck to retrieve the lynx. We went to the area and searched for it with no luck. I suggested it might be further out and went for a look.
“Do lynx have cloven hoofs?” I asked.
“No, they have claws,” was the reply.
“Then this ain't a lynx,” I said rather dejectedly. It was a steenbok, a small antelope the size of a greyhound dog. The steenbok has facial markings that give it the look of a lynx, probably an evolutionary development to ward off eagles and other predators.
The point is this: Be sure of what you are seeing before you shoot. Make sure that is clear to your partners. The black guys helping us were really happy because they got to eat my mistake.
What to Do With the Animals
“Hello, Joe speaking.”
“Hi Joe, Major, a couple of years ago you mentioned you wanted to go coyote calling. I'm going out tomorrow; would you like to come along?” I asked.
“No, I don't think so, I have had a change of heart, I have decided not to hunt anything that I can't eat,” he said.
“Well Joe, tell you what, you can eat all the coyotes you shoot, and I will give you mine to eat too,” I responded.
He got a big laugh out of that, but decided he probably couldn't eat a coyote. I've set out to try, putting a fresh fat coyote up on the gambrel to skin, then butcher to eat, but I never get past the bung hole and smell before I change my mind. I ate coyote baloney once, which wasn't too bad.
Anyway, decide what you are going to do with the animals. In the past, we would skin and sell the hides and split the proceeds after expenses. Lately, anyone who wants the critters gets all of them. We make an effort to not waste the animals, but there is a point where the work, dirt, and pain are more than the pleasure so the shot-up coyotes get tossed. Be careful to toss them in a place that is out of public view and acceptable to the landowner.
Think about the landowner as you hunt. Be on your best behavior. Just some tips: Hide your long hair, tattoos, nose and belly-button rings, and silver nipple piercings. They don't go over too well in ranch country. Introduce yourself, ask permission each time, or get long-term permission. Let him know you are coming, tell him the kind and color of the vehicle you will be driving. Let him know when you leave and what you shoot.
Don't offer the rancher a tug on your Jack Daniels before noon. Don't leave a pile of dead coyotes by his mailbox unless he's a Greek sheep rancher. If he is, then be sure to pile them there. Don't sight your rifle in on his windmill or stock tank. If the gate is closed, close it again. If it is open, leave it open. If it is locked, get a key; don't tear the gate or fence apart to get through. If you shoot a wire in two, fix it. If you shoot a pig, llama, goat, sheep, cow, or horse, cut its throat, gut it, then go tell the owner and get out your insurance company's address or checkbook. Face up to it and take the flack. It is better than county jail. If it is a good calling place, you got a chance of getting back.
If you shoot a llama or an ostrich, the rancher might pay you for the ammo and send you back out to shoot the rest of them.
Calling now is just not what it used to be. Vehicles are expected to start now, even after sitting 1/2 hour in -30° F. weather.
Cell phones make emergencies, long hikes, and extraordinary mechanical repairs a thing of the past. One no longer gets that near-death experience when the fuel pump goes out in a blizzard five miles from the nearest ranch, at dark. GPS units can tell you exactly where you are and exactly where to find the great stands again.
All of the clothes and equipment are better and more reliable than the old stuff. Us old-timers can remember calling in the pre-Sorel boot days when calling meant frozen feet every time. Life for us is split between the before Sorel life, and after Sorel life.
Always take something to sit on as you call. I use a 36x40-inch piece of ivory colored brown flecked carpet to sit on. That keeps ants, cactus, and sundry beasts away from the see-dar-rumpus. That end of the anatomy is particularly vulnerable to cactus, rattlesnake bites, and spider bites, so protect it with a sitting pad of some kind.
Bring a roll of paper towels. They make great toilet paper and serve for several other purposes as well. Put the roll in a heavy plastic bag so it stays in good condition.
Bring large plastic bags to put the predators into to keep your vehicle clean, if that matters. Bring flea spray for killing the fleas that are common on fox, coyotes, and cats. Keep the carcasses cool and out of the sun so they don’t spoil before they can be skinned.
People-management on stands needs to be done with the thought clearly in mind of bringing in the predator so the shooting is safe and the predator is in a position to kill. When calling, one finds out in a hurry that animals can size up a situation quickly and somehow escape, like Houdini, from impossible situations.
A partner and I were calling in a contest in SE Colorado. A guide was assigned to our team. The guide was great but dressed like he was going to church. When he sat down at the first stand, he fired a round off next to his foot. Why? I guess to see if his rifle would shoot. Anyway, his gun handling made us real nervous. We called through the morning with not a lot of luck. Our guide had lots of glints from the sun off his rings, tie tack, belt, and gun. He had no camo, and his colors stood out like a sore thumb.
About 11 A.M., we sat down just under the rim of a high butte, overlooking a wide valley that ran to the north. My partner sat about 30 yards to my left. The guide sat at a right angle to me to my right. He looked straight north. My partner and I faced east.
I started calling. After 5 minutes, we spotted small dust clouds kicking up about one-half mile away, four coyotes were running in. They were headed straight at us, coming upwind to us—perfect. They ran hard, three coyotes about 50 yards back from the leader. When the leader got about 50 yards below and to the front and left of my partner, the lead coyote stopped, gazing with a smirk on its face at our guide. I waited for my partner to shoot. He didn’t. He was waiting for the three coyotes to catch up.
After a minute or so, I slowly brought my rifle up to shoot because the lead coyote obviously wasn’t going to stay much longer. It leaped the instant I was pulling the trigger, so I missed.
What did the coyotes do? Instead of turning around and running off so we could shoot at them, they kept running at us, turned and ran between my partner and me. So, neither of us could shoot, nor could our guide shoot. The coyotes topped the butte and dropped into the only depression they could get into to escape.
My partner creased the last coyote as it topped the butte, but we did not catch up with it.
It was an unbelievable escape! The only way those coyotes could have escaped out of an infinite choice of escape routes was the very route they chose. Was that new? No, it has happened before, too often to be chance.
Those remarkable escapes are just part of the fun, and they keep your perspective and expectations in line. Just when you get cocky and sure of yourself, El Coyote teaches you a new trick.
Next: Key 6—Tactics of Predator Calling