I grew up in the woods. The smell of ozone after a storm, the sound of pine needles softly breaking under the pressure of my boots, the stillness in the air as I quietly hoped for a successful hunt. This was my bread and butter. Growing up on a homestead, one of my most common kills was coyotes.
If you live in a rural area, keeping the coyote population culled is just a matter of protecting your livelihood. Keeping you cattle and your family safe. If not, it can still be pretty exhilarating to put your wits up against such a clever creature. If that sounds like you, then you’ll want to keep reading. There is a lot of advice floating around online, but I’m here to teach you how to hunt coyotes at night, the way it ought to be done.
What You’ll Need
Food and Water
It may seem like over-planning, but some water and granola can make the waiting much easier in the stand.
This will help to break up your outline and provide some much needed camouflage, making it harder for wandering eyes to spot you.
While there are decided benefits to e-callers, both types of caller have their place in a successful hunt. Consider a squeaker or similar.
Electronic callers (e-callers) provide high-quality digital sound libraries. These give you easy use, and the speaker can be placed strategically.
Placing a decoy near an e-caller can give shy coyotes the confidence to dart out from the underbrush and attack, giving you a cleaner shot.
A good pair of gloves will not only keep your hands protected, but prevent coyotes from noticing you as moonlight hits your skin.
Seat or Chair Pad
Sitting in damp ground just isn’t an option, and standing for hours can leave you limping. Try to find a small tripod stool or even a chair pad.
Coyotes are incredibly wary creatures, and the bold outlines of a human face can spook them before you even see them. Try to cover everything but your eyes.
Placed at any new spot before your hunt, trail cameras will give you a more accurate picture of the wildlife activity in the area.
Coyotes have a powerful sense of smell that can put tracking and cadaver dogs to shame. You need to be upwind if you want to bag a kill, or three.
Unfortunately, we can’t see as well as our prey. Choosing a red or green light can help illuminate eyeshine without spooking shy coyotes.
This is a process. Unlike the edited clips on TV, you will be here a while. Embrace that, and remain calm. An itchy trigger finger will get you nowhere.
How To Hunt Coyotes At Night- One Step At A Time
1. Scout Ahead
What you never want to do when hunting at night is to scout your location in the dark. You need to decide ahead of time where you plan to go, and then search the area for signs of activity to determine where you will set up your stand. Tracks, fresh scat, and proximity to a water or food source are all good signs.
This step is where trail cameras can be especially useful, helping to pinpoint which areas have the most nighttime coyote activity. You may also want to (subtly) clear a path to where you plan to stand, in order to minimize any noise during your approach.
Pro Tip: Using Google Earth to scout can save time and help you find topographically favorable locations that may not be easily spotted other ways. If your desired hunting ground is on private land, try seeing if your area has a digital GIS record, which will provide you will contact info to request hunting permission from the owner.
2. Kit and Camo
Take some dedicated time the morning before a hunt to go through your kit. Make sure your guns have been properly cleaned, that you have enough ammo, and that all your tools are packed for easy access and minimal noise. Remember, hunting in the dark means that needing an item and having to root around for it will take twice as long.
It will also create lots of extra noise(as will metal tools/guns banging together) which will scare off any animals in the area before you even make it to the stand. Similarly, it’s a good idea to put on your ghillie suit or preferred method of camo when you get to the hunting ground, but before beginning your approach. Your stand is supposed to be your invisible outpost; it’s the last place you should be fussing with a ghillie suit.
3. Eyes Wide
Even before you set up your stand, you ought to be vigilant, looking for signs of activity. Use the trek from your car to the stand spot to scan the surrounding areas for eyeshine, and listen for howls or other noises. Getting a rough idea of where the coyotes are hiding out can help you decide where to place your e-caller speaker and your decoy, focusing your strategy for a more successful hunt.
Pro Tip: If you align the e-caller speaker with your line of sight toward the coyotes, you’ll get improved visibility of incoming animals as they’ll look toward the noise which provides a stronger eyeshine than if the speaker is placed laterally to your position.
4. Master The Call
While coyotes are most active at night, making it the best time to hunt them, humans have generally poor night vision and so we usually need prey to be a lot closer to us in order to kill it in the dark.
This is why it is crucial to make sure you know how to use your callers. With hand callers there is a bit of a learning curve as you work out proper techniques to get the desired sounds, and if you have a poor lung capacity these may not work well for you. There’s also some controversy around electric callers when it comes to how often you should change calls, or if you should even change them at all.
Here’s my take on this issue: it’s perfectly fine to change calls as long as you do it in a way that makes sense. Sounding a pup in distress call for a few minutes and then following that up with the call of local prey for the coyote can be helpful because you’re appealing to multiple reasons that they’d come out to investigate. However, if you use 5 different calls in a 60 second span, that’ll sound more like a fire alarm and send them running.
Pro Tip: If you’ve got a curious coyote in your sights, but don’t want to risk a moving shot, try a quick bark or squeak. This can get them to stop and perk their ears, opening up a clean shot.
5. Take The Shot
Which option sounds better: non-fatally shooting a coyote and having it tear through the underbrush, forcing you to track it half a mile into the thick; or, remembering the all-important virtue of patience and waiting for that perfect shot that results in a instant kill, dropping the coyote where it stands?
Unless you particularly enjoy getting scraped and thorn-pricked from running through the woods at night after limping, blood furballs, most of you would pick the second option. That means that you cannot simply start squeezing the trigger as soon as your objective make an appearance. You’ve waited this long for one to show up, wait just a hair longer to ensure a clean kill.
6. Don't Celebrate
Congratulations! You successfully dropped a coyote, in the middle of the night, without scarring the forest away by making it run. Hold your applause, folks. If you want a good chance at a double or triple kill, this is the time to put down your shotgun and pick up your AR-15. Coyotes can travel in small groups,despite their reputation as loners, which means if you keep your cool after that first kill you may get a chance at another one--or two!
Pro Tip: When trying to turn a clean kill into a double or triple, trying using a kiyi call. It may draw nearby coyotes out into the open more quickly.
Ready To Give It A Go?
Hopefully this guide has given you a better sense of what’s required for a successful nighttime hunt. For me, hunting’s in my blood and I’ll probably be doing this ‘til the day I die. If you haven’t gone out on your first hunt yet, there’s no shame in that--just get to it soon!
Did you like this guide; do you feel like you learned something? Leave me a comment at let me know! If you’re a seasoned coyote hunter and you think a missed a step--tell me that too! Everyone can always improve, after all.