Available habitat can make or break your coyote hunting experience.
But knowing what coyotes need to make a living is only part of the equation. Identifying land features that optimize hunters’ ability to remain hidden before, during and after the hunt make up the rest. Using an easy scoring system, here’s an in-the-field look at the arrangements you need to quickly assess the landscape in every situation.
Sign (3 points)
No matter how good a location appears if you’re not seeing coyote tracks around you are wasting your time. The best locations to set up can be found by following tracks through the snow. When you find a spot where it looks like every coyote in the county is crossing mark it. Then figure out the best way to approach the location using the best available cover to your advantage to get to an elevated vantage point.
Other signs like a recent kill or a place where a local rancher is dragging carcasses from dead cattle can be a gold mine. But don’t set up right on the bait. Find trails coming into the bait site as far away as possible to avoid spooking coyotes.
Cover (2 points)
You already know that cover is necessary to help you remain hidden but it’s also needed for call-shy coyotes to come closer. When you can find a location that provides concealment for you and the coyotes as they work into a stand, you’ve got a near perfect situation.
A made to order stand location overlooks a valley bottom that’s about 300 -500 yards wide. The bottom has brush with enough open spots to pick a coyote out as he comes from right, left or straight at you but enough cover that you’ll lose sight of him and be forced to scan the valley looking for movement for a minute or two at a time. But there’s got to be opportunity to shoot. This type of location is also necessary for concealment while approaching the stand location.
Approach (3 points)
Getting into the calling location undetected is the hunter’s biggest challenge and most overlooked aspect of coyote hunting. The location must provide the terrain necessary to park your vehicle and get you and your gear in position without being seen or heard before you start wailing away with a call.
If you can see the calling area when you park the pickup truck your chances of calling in a coyote just went down.
A shiny window, rattling engine or clanging your gun case off your door can’t be avoided 100 percent of the time. But by picking out good approaches with heavy timber or hills will keep you from view and help block sound. With that said some of the best locations are just off main roads where heavy traffic and road noise dilute any sounds you make and are the reason coyotes can be spotted there.
Use the available land features to remain hidden from the time you leave your vehicle until you are in position to hunt. Taking a few extra minutes to choose your approach based on wind, concealment and elevation can pay dividends.
Elevation (2 points)
One of the most important things to look for in coyote terrain is elevation. Getting above predators will help you see further and keeps your scent above their approach. Many coyotes are taken each year by deer hunters who sit on ridge tops and wait. If you know there are coyotes working an area sometimes it is best to sneak in from above and glass. If the terrain supports coyotes it likely provides good spot and stalk cover too.
If you’ve got an electronic call set it up below you so that you can see the coyotes coming and use the elevation to your advantage.
Putting It Together
When it comes to choosing a location to hunt whether you plan to sit it out, glass and stalk or call try to get as many of these arrangements working in your favor as possible. Approach and sign are the two biggest factors but try to pick locations that achieve at least 8 points to maximize success.
The easiest way is to evaluate every situation in the order they are presented here. Find tracks and scat if possible and determine if there is enough cover for concealment. Next determine if you can approach the location undetected and pick a route. Once you’ve got those elements you just need to choose a good vantage point.
Just look at what the terrain offers you and do the math to make accurate assessment s quickly. Eight points is good, ten points is perfection.