Todd Koehn of Antigo with a long range coyote. / Gary Engberg/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
Coyote and predator hunting is growing in popularity in Wisconsin and across the Midwest. One of the main reasons for this is that coyote numbers and their range have continued to expand despite manís continued rural development and encroachment. The coyote has the ability to live close to man and adapt to ever-changing conditions which has allowed this predator to survive, grow and even thrive in rural, and now, urban locations.
The coyote hunter in Wisconsin basically hunts predators in one of two ways: the most common is to drive country roads in agricultural and rural areas while scoping the countryside with a good pair of binoculars (Nikon, Vortex) or a spotting scope.
The best time of the day to look for predators is early in the morning or just before sunset because these are the times that coyotes are out feeding. Grab the best binoculars that you can afford and take your time driving the open farmland while 'glassing' the countryside. If this is how you do your hunting, be sure to have permission before entering any private land. A majority of the shots youíll have will be long ones with more shots over 200 yards than 100 yards.
The months of January and February are the best months for hunting because this is the mating season and the animals are active and out looking for females. This is the time of the year when you have the greatest chance of getting close to a coyote. Itís also possible to find numbers of coyotes close together because of the mating urge that they are now feeling. The sunny and south sides of hills are some of the best locations for locating coyotes because they will often be out sunning themselves in the cold of winter.
The second way to hunt coyotes is to have access to a large tract of land and drive around the land in trucks or ATVs until you find tracks and then let your hounds and dogs run the tracks and scent. Itís important to have hunters scattered around the land that know the land and its layout. If someone locates a coyote or fox, they can contact the other hunters and let them know where they saw the predator. Two-way radios are important once a coyote is spotted for the hunters and for safety reasons.
Itís also becoming popular to use electronic callers (theyíre legal in Wisconsin) in coyote territory and use the calls (Primos and Fox Pro make good ones) to bring the predators into shooting range. The most common and some hunters say the best call is that of a crying rabbit, but the new electric calls have many different sounds programmed into them.
A predator hunter needs a rifle that is capable of making long shots. A .223 or .243 caliber rifle is perfect when loaded with a 50 or 55 grain bullet. A good scope is necessary because the target that youíll be shooting at is only 6 inches high and 18 inches horizontally. Hunters want a higher magnification scope, ones with a 4 x 12 or a 5 x 15 magnification are ideal.
Remember that coyotes are small, averaging between 20 and 35 pounds and make challenging targets at long range.
Hunters need a small game license to hunt, but the season is open year-round except for the 19 days in northern Wisconsin during the gun and muzzleloader deer season. There is no bag limit. Coyote hunting is another way to get outdoors after most hunting seasons have closed and it will definitely improve your shooting for the next deer season.
The Wilderness Fish and Game store in Sauk City, Wisconsin is having a Predator Hunting Clinic on January 18 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the store on Water Street in Sauk City. Gil Arndt, a member of the Primos Pro Staff, will be on hand to give a presentation and will help anyone who is a predator hunter or who wants to try the sport. Arndt will be at the Wilderness store all day to help you with your predator hunting, calling, tactics, and answer questions. Wilderness Fish and Game also has anything the experienced or beginning hunter could want in clothes, guns, manual calls, electronic calls, and scopes from all the best companies that there are in the hunting world.
If youíre interested in this kind of hunting and want another way of spending more time in the outdoors, then this is an event you should attend.
Plus, fur prices can bring a hunter a few extra dollars with prices remaining relatively steady. Like I said, the coyote season is open year-round. The raccoon season is open until February 15, the bobcat season in Period 2 is open until January 31 and both red and grey fox season stays open till February 15. Coyote prices ranged from a low of $24 to a high of $55, raccoons prices ranged from $15 to $30, bobcats brought $126 to $165, red fox prices ranged from $35 to $51 and grey fox prices brought $21 to $36. This data came from the Wisconsin fur buyers reports for the 2012-2013 season.
I have friends who have harvested over 40 coyotes locally by scoping the rural countryside and not running dogs.
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Gary Engberg is a professional tournament angler, fishing guide, and writer. He began fishing tournaments in the early 1990ís and has fished the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT), North American Walleye Association (NAWA), Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC), World Walleye Association (WWA), FLW, and Mercury Nationals in the years since. Gary has hosted the Outdoor Horizons radio show weekly for 14 years in Madison on WTDY 1670 AM and WTDY 106.7 FM Saturdays at 8:05 am. and is also a correspondent for the Wisconsin State Journal for the last 12 years. Visit http://www.garyengbergoutdoors.com for more from Gary Engberg.