Calling Coyotes: Why Didn’t They Come In?

Calling Coyotes: Why Didn’t They Come In?
I have been a wolfer for many years now, and it continually amazes me how elusive coyotes can be. Here is the situation….

A friend of mine (whom we will call Jim) received some information from a farmer that he was having problems with coyotes chasing his calves. He called me, and we decided to investigate and look for coyote sign. The area was a mixture of sage and juniper. Slightly rolling hills made seeing long distances rather difficult. The fence lines were being used extensively as coyote trails and we were amazed at the amount of sign. There were fresh tracks on both sides of the dirt road we were traveling.

We continued driving until we came up over a little hill in the road and there, out in the brush, lay a dead cow with three coyotes feeding on it. We stopped the truck and raised our binoculars. They were beautiful coyotes. Coyotes are usually paired up this late in the winter so we expected to see a fourth coyote but we never saw him. We put the truck into reverse and headed back out of that country before we disturbed it too much. On the way out, we noted several nice areas that would make great stands to call from. They would give us adequate concealment while allowing us to see great distances.

We let a couple days pass and decided we would go back and try to call those coyotes in close enough for a shot. On the way to the area, Jim explained to me that he loved to call coyotes but he never seemed to have much luck. I had never hunted with Jim before so I told him that I would watch his technique and tell him if I thought he was doing anything wrong.

It was just starting to get light when we arrived at the area. I stepped out of the truck and checked the wind. It was perfect, just an ever-slight breeze from the south. The temperature was a blistering 20 degrees Fahrenheit. We made sure the truck was hidden and briskly made our way to one of the stands we had noted before.

When we got to the stand, we set up quickly. It was light enough now to see the whole area we were calling. I decided to let Jim call the first stand. When he started calling I was shocked. His calling sounded more like a rabbit mating call than a distressed rabbit. I elected to let him continue to call hoping that there might be a lovesick coyote that felt like mating up with a jackrabbit in the area. He continued to call at a constant rate for the next 15 minutes when I eventually leaned over and ended the calling. On the way back to the truck I tried to explain (as nicely as possible) that a coyote will respond to a rabbit in distress more often than to a rabbit singing the lovesick blues.

We decided that I would call on the next stand. We slipped onto a little high spot in the sage that overlooked the cow carcass and the area where we had watched the coyotes feeding. We both felt confident about this stand. I started calling softly using one of my favorite Circe calls. My eyes scanned the sage vigorously for any movement or sign of an approaching coyote. After a minute or so of silence I began calling again, only this time it was a little louder. We waited and still didn’t see a coyote. We continued this pattern for about 20 minutes.

When I was through calling, my friend and I looked at each other in disbelief. We were both so sure that we were going to get a coyote to come in on that stand. On the way back to the truck, we discussed our strategy and decided to howl first on the next stand to see if we could get a lonely coyote to come in, or to upset the ones that were already paired up.

We found another spot overlooking a large sagebrush valley that looked ideal for calling coyotes. The sides of the valley contained three or four juniper covered draws. I checked the wind again and made myself comfortable against a dead juniper tree. When we were both set, I howled. We waited for a couple minutes and didn’t have a response. I then resorted back to the rabbit call. Only this time, I used a Sceery call. I like to mix my calls up a bit so that the coyotes don’t get used to hearing the same call over and over again. We stayed at that stand for another 15 to 20 minutes with still no sign of a coyote.

This pattern of calling continued throughout the day. I think we made 12 different stands that day. Jim’s calling was sounding much better by the end of the day. When the day was over, all we had to show for it was an empty stomach and a long walk back to the truck. We couldn’t figure out what we had done wrong to cause every coyote in the county to ignore us. With the amount of sign, coupled with the fact that we actually saw them a few days earlier, we were sure we were going to get them coming in. The question on our minds was, “Why didn’t they come in?”

The next couple days, I consulted many of my calling friends and ran the events past them. I was amazed at the amount of the possibilities that I heard. I could write an entire article about why those coyotes didn’t come to my calls that day. I would like to list several that were told to me.

I was told that I had spooked the coyotes out of the area when I had seen them. I was also told that I didn’t have enough camouflage, that they saw my truck, that I needed to call differently, that Jim’s love call scared every coyote in the county away, and that I used too much aftershave and they could smell me for miles. I even had one old boy tell me that the atmospheric pressure wasn’t right for calling coyotes.

The truth of the matter is that no one knew for sure why those coyotes didn’t come in. Callers might claim to know why a coyote didn’t come in, and sometimes they might, but I have not yet found the secret as to what is going on in the brain of a coyote. If the truth were known, they either came in to our stands and we didn’t see them, or they were just not hungry after their buffet of beef, to come to a skinny jack rabbit dinner.

As I was thinking about the conversations I had had with the other coyote callers, I became overwhelmed with the amount of reasons there are for not having a coyote come into your stand. As I mentioned earlier, I could fill a whole article on the reasons coyotes don’t respond to a caller’s call. These are good things to think about. They help callers become better callers and trappers to become better trappers.

When calling, hunting, trapping, or whatever it is you like to do, keep in mind why you might not be having success. The key is, to try to eliminate as many reasons as possible. Doing this will put the odds of being a successful coyote caller in your favor. By eliminating the reasons a coyote won’t come into your stand, you are increasing the reasons he will.

This will be a lifelong process for callers. It has been for me. I am constantly thinking of things I can do to decrease the reasons why coyotes don’t respond to my calls. I know that if you keep these things in your mind, you will find your successes will increase, and your failures will decrease. You need to remember that even though conditions might be perfect, a coyote just might not feel like coming to your stand.

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