By Travis Osmond
There is a lot of literature and instruction out there on calling various kinds of critters. The majority of it is on the wiley ol’ coyote. Little is written on calling the elusive, sneaky felines, known as bobcats.
When most people think of hunting bobcats, they think of trapping, baiting, snaring or treeing them with dogs. There are however, a few of us screamers out there who prefer our lungs and a little plastic tube to hunt bobs. Although not frequently seen, these cats exist in great numbers, especially here in the west. Bobcats are found from South America to Canada and from California to New York.
Bobcats can offer some exciting calling action to callers who are used to calling other furs such as coyote and fox. There are certain things that callers must know before calling for bobs. The first thing is to understand bobcat behavior, diet, and habitat.
Bobcats are opportunistic feeders much like coyotes. They must be in order to survive. They aren’t going to pass on a free lunch, unless their paunch is still full from their last meal. Bobcats usually hunt by night, but will hunt during the morning and evening hours when prompted by weather or hunger. Their diet consists mainly of rabbits, but snakes, lizards, birds, rodents, fish, insects, and even other bobcats are on its menu. This is good to know for callers who like to imitate the distress calls.
Screaming for bobcats is not much different than for coyotes. However, those who set out to call coyotes, seldom call in bobcats. This is largely due to the type of country being called. Calling coyotes often is done in open country with low lying brush. Cats aren’t found in this type of country. All the bobs I’ve met are found in the thicker brush with rock out-croppings that provide more shelter, food, and protection. It also allows them an escape from lions, coyotes, and even other bobs.
Many bobcats go on living because of a lack of hunter patience. Most callers I know will leave their stands after 15 minutes or so. This might be adequate time for some bobcats but most will take their time and sneak in patiently. I learned this lesson the hard way as will most of you.
A couple years ago, a friend of mine and I were out screaming in some of our favorite hills. We had picked a beautiful canyon to call that contained a lot of thick brush with lots of rocks. This spot had produced almost every time we had called it. We called for about 15 minutes and hadn’t seen anything so we decided to head back to the truck. When I was almost to the truck, I turned around to take one last look at the canyon when I spotted something sitting on the same rock I had been sitting on. I pulled up my field glasses and couldn’t believe what was there. A bobcat had come in and was now sitting in the exact spot I had been sitting. We had missed our opportunity. That Robert was lucky, not all bobcat calls have ended on such a happy note.
Stand selection is essential when screaming for cats. The perfect bobcat set up will have enough brush to allow the cat to relax and come in to investigate and still be open enough for the hunter to shoot through. Calling in brush that is too thick will allow the cat to sneak in and sneak out while still attached to its hide. Unfortunately, I think this is what happens most of the time.
Bobcats hunt the same way as the normal house cat. They have excellent eyesight but their sense of smell is not as well developed. They move very slowly and carefully with their head and body close to the ground, moving only when their prey has its head down. This method of sneaking around often causes many to come to a call and leave undetected.
Bobs will respond to a variety of calls. I have called bobcats with plastic reed calls, metal reed calls, tubes, and with the electronic variety. The cottontail is my go to call, but they will respond to the hoarser jackrabbit sounds as well. The bird sounds are also quite popular among bobcat callers. I start my stand with a low volume whaling sound. I call for about 15 seconds and then stop to let the critter decide if it’s hungry or not. I usually wait for about 2 minutes or so and then start calling again usually a little louder each time as I’m striving for distance. I repeat this sequence for about 30 minutes or until I feel nothing is coming.
Bobcats are not as easily frightened as are their neighbors the coyote. From my experience, bobcats will not always haul the mail out of there after being shot at once. Most hunters, who miss a first shot on a called-in bob, will usually get a second shot. I don’t know what to attribute this to other than the fact that he is convinced there is dinner there and he doesn’t want to leave without it. I had a unique experience that illustrates this point.
My hunting buddy and I were out for a day of calling fur in one of our favorite areas. We had set up over-looking a large wash that had areas of dense cover where we’ve had some previous success. About three minutes into our call, my friend whispered to me that there was a bobcat on the opposite side of the wash. It took me a second or two to see it, but sure enough, there it was. It was standing motionless on an old road about 250 yards out. When kissing and squeaking couldn’t get him to come any closer, we elected to take the shot. My friend is an excellent shot and seldom misses, but on this occasion, he missed. I watched through my scope as his bullet hit just below the cats passenger side rear foot, throwing dust and rocks up onto the cat. I thought surely the cat was going to head for the hills, but to my surprise, all it did was raise its foot like he had just stubbed his toe or something. The second shot did the job and that is the end of that story.
As for bobcat tackle, the same equipment used for calling coyotes or fox can be used when calling bobcats. Bobcats carry a beautiful hide that you don’t want to mangle. I recommend the smaller calibers that provide controlled expansion. The .17 Remington does an excellent job on bobcats. The .22 WMR has also taken its share of bobcats. The .223 and .224 all do well on bobcats as well. Shotguns also have their place when taking bobs.
I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of the sly ol’ kitty known as the bobcat. Remember, bobcats are not open for the taking and require a permit or license to hunt in most areas. Good Luck and Happy Hunting.