Hunting Coyotes An Alternative To Deer In Winter

By: Gary Engberg

Coyote and predator hunting has been gaining in popularity in Wisconsin over the past decade.

Coyote numbers and their range have continued to expand despite continued development and encroachment on the coyote’s territory. The ability of coyotes to live close to humans and adapt to ever- changing conditions has allowed this predator to survive, grow, and even thrive in rural and now even urban locations.

People in Wisconsin basically hunt coyotes two ways; one — and the most common — is to drive the back roads in agricultural and open areas and scope the countryside with a good pair of binoculars and/or a spotting scope. The best time to look for these varmints is early in the morning or just before sunset because these are the times coyotes are out feeding.

Get the best binoculars you can afford and take your time driving the open farm land while scoping the countryside. If hunting this way, be sure to have permission before entering any private land. Most of these shots will be long ones with more shots over 200 yards than 100 yards.

The months of January and February are the best for hunting because it’s mating season and the animals are active and out looking for females much like rutting deer.

This time of year, you have the best chance of getting close to a coyote. It’s possible to find numbers of coyotes together because of the mating urge that they are now feeling. The sunny and south sides of hills are the best spots 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 a large tract of land and drive around it in trucks or ATV’s until you find tracks and then let your hounds and dogs run the tracks and until they find some fresh scent. It’s important to have hunters scattered around the land that have a knowledge of its layout, so that if someone gets a shot, if you locate or call in the animals to one of the hunters.

Two-way radios are important once a coyote is spotted for hunter communication. It’s also becoming more popular to use electronic callers (legal in Wisconsin) in coyote territory and use the calls (Western Rivers and Wildlife Dimensions make a good ones) to bring the predators into shooting range. The most common and best call is that of a crying rabbit, but the electric calls have many different sounds programmed into them.

A hunter needs a rifle that is capable of making long shots. A .223 or .243 caliber is perfect when loaded with a 50- or 55-grain bullet. A good scope is necessary because the target that you’ll 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 5 X 15 are ideal. Remember, coyotes are small, averaging between 20 and 35 pounds and make challenging targets at long range.

Hunters need a small game license, but the season is open year-round except for 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 deer season.