Muzzle Loader Coyote
Muzzle Loader Coyote
The sight of a distant coyote provided a surprise break in the routine of the morning muzzleloader pronghorn hunt. While watching the distant dog prowl for rodents, it suddenly dawned on me that instead of sitting back and watching, I should be taking advantage of the opportunity. Digging into my daypack, I pulled out a well-used predator call and began a series of high-pitched squeaks mimicking the prey the coyote sought. Perking its ears, the coyote riveted to the sound 300 yards in the distance and purposefully marched in my direction.
“Uh-oh”, I thought to myself. Instead of getting into a shooting position, I stayed sitting upright on the hillside. What was worse, I was wearing a blaze-orange hat to abide by big-game regulations. As the coyote’s path dipped into a small ravine, I dropped down. Using my daypack as a rifle rest, I waited for the coyote to reappear. When it popped out of a swale in front of me, my scope targeted the focused animal instantly and a sharp bark stopped the coyote solidly for the shot. A cloud of smoke signaled a successful coyote setup.
If you’re looking for more muzzleloader opportunities or wish to increase the challenge of hunts, try pursuing coyotes with a muzzleloader. Your current big-game gun will work fine. Add a mouth or electronic call and you’re in business. You won’t find a more challenging adversary that a coyote and the critters provide additional hunting opportunities in a traditionally slow time of year. To achieve one-shot success, try the following tactics.
Set up on high location, elevation allows you to see a coyote approaching and anticipate its moves for a one-shot hunt. In the west, bluffs and hills provide great elevation. In the Midwest or east, improvise. Use haystacks, junked machinery, hay lofts in abandoned barns-even tree stands- to give you needed elevation.
Coyotes, without fail circle downwind to scent-check the location of where the sounds presumably made by prey originate. Remember this and be sure to have an opening downwind to allow you a shot. Ideally, set up with a barrier that blocks a predator such as a coyote from circling downwind. Put a creek, cliff or bluff downwind at your back, and predators can’t circle and catch your scent. Scout for such features before the hunt, or scout from home with the aid of a topographical map or internet aerial photos. If you can’t find a natural feature, don’t overlook manmade barriers. Old barns, farm machinery and metal windbreaks can provide concealment from circling predators, especially in an open pasture.
For setup success, make sure to belt into the backdrop. Wear camouflage and choose a pattern that matches the terrain and time of year. Plus, don’t forget about covering the head and hands. Don’t forget to camouflage your gun. Use camouflage tape on the barrel and other shiny rifle parts to eliminate reflective surfaces that might warn an approaching coyote.
Finally, for the best setups, scout for potential coyote bedding sites and approach then stealthily. Focus on rough terrain, thick timber pockets and week-choked coulees. Then, select an elevated position own wind from the site with the sun at your back or side. After getting into position, follow your typical calling routine. Call for a few minutes, and then wait in between sessions for a few minutes.
Close the Distance
A center-fire loaded with the right bullet can tip over coyotes at 400 yards or farther. A muzzleloader hunter doesn’t have that luxury, and you goal is to coax a coyote to within 100 yards for one-shot success. After getting into position, start out with a soft squeaker to lure in any coyotes bedded within 200 yards, using a sound they naturally hear. Squeaks and chirps won’t alarm a bedded coyote, and such calls provide a curiosity-arousing sound that even a coyote with a full stomach might check out. If, after 15 minutes of squeaking, there is no response, increase the volume with a prey-in-distress. Cottontail, jackrabbit, woodpecker, rodent or other distress calls provide an invitation few coyotes can resist. If you plan to hunt in areas where coyotes might have received a degree of calling pressure already, vary the calls.
If a local sporting goods store doesn’t offer a variety of mouth calls, switch to a modern electronic call that features digital sound quality. Sound chips and expanded memory produce a medley of sounds that can be played alone or paired together to create a commotion in the field. Electronic calls, such a Hunter’s Specialties Prey-Master are enticing, but they also induce confidence by mimicking sounds coyotes associate with an easy meal.
Two birds that have no qualms about being in the company of coyotes are magpies and crows. All coyotes, particularly young pups, know that sharp-eyed crows and scavenging magpies often have the inside scoop on the next easy meal. While using prey-in-distress calls, consider adding fighting crows or yakking magpies to make coyotes drip their guard in the race to beat the scavengers to the good parts.
A wide variety of prey-in-distress calls should be complemented by coyote vocalizations. Coyotes have a wide range of howls, barks, yips and whines. For the most part, steer clear of barks, which represent a warning. The howl is the most helpful. Use a mellow, drawn-out howl to help other coyotes zero in on your field location. Howl several times, and then wait five minutes before commencing with a series of distress calls.
To make sure a coyote travels within range of your muzzleloader, allow it plenty of time to get there. Ignore the 15-minute rule and instead wait patiently for 30 to 45 minutes for a coyote to make its way to within range of your gun.
Make the Shot
Utilize any and all tools to make sure your one shot counts when the opportunity is presented. Shooting aids such as bipods or shooting sticks are essential. Bipods, such as those manufactured by Harris, attach and detach in seconds to the front sling swivel and fold down for an ever-ready, bench rest-shooting platform. Folding shooting sticks, such as the original sold by Underwood Rests, or traditional shooting sticks, such as Hunter’s specialties Quick-shot sticks, fold out and accommodate shooters resting on their rump by steadying the forearm of a muzzleloader.
The appearance of an incoming coyote can be unnerving. Just take a breath, focus and follow these shooting steps. First, remember that once the calling starts you should move only when necessary and at slow pace. Since coyotes rarely run straight in, you’ll need to make slight aiming adjustments as the coyote closes the distance.
When adjusting a muzzleloader, move when natural cover such as hills, tall grass or trees obstruct the coyote’s view. If the coyote is crossing open country, move slowly while the animal is trotting. A loping coyote is less likely to spot slight movement, but will easily spot a hunter attempting to make a major adjustment. You’ll be surprised by how fast a coyote can turn and run.
Unless you have perfected shooting at pint-sized running targets, only shoot at standing coyotes. It’s easy to stop an incoming coyote. Keep the scope’s reticules solidly on the coyote and bark sharply. Few coyotes can resist the temptation to stop and look for another canine, providing all the time you’ll need to fill the air with smoke and fur.
Since it’s not uncommon to call in two or more coyotes to a setup, consider toting two loaded muzzleloaders along on a hunt. Many of my friends tote a rifle and shotgun into the field to take advantage of near and far shots, so carrying a second muzzleloader isn’t impractical. Besides, “speed loaders” not withstanding, nobody can shoot one coyote, reload a muzzleloader and expect a second coyote to wait around for the shot. You have a better chance of winning the Power ball Lottery.
As for taking a coyote with a muzzle loader, you won’t need Power ball luck. Refine your coyote hunting skills and you’ll always be prepared for on-shot success.