Iím not an expert, nor do I pretend to be but I figured Iíd try to get a post together and it possibly be made a sticky, to help guys starting out with predator hunting. For the record, most of the information I've received from members on this site over the years. I wanted to make that clear. There are tips / tricks I've learned on my own too.
Iíll try to cover the basics and reference old posts, if possible. Guys can feel free to add their opinions and advice, in fact; I encourage it. Just remember these are my opinions and Iím just trying to help out.
There are quite a few guys on here that know much more than I do. Iím hoping this could be a ďone stop shop postĒ for guys wanting to get into predator hunting. Even if it turns into 20 pages of info., itís better than having to search back through old posts. Please donít turn it into a place to argue, though.
Iíll try to post information based on questions that arise every year and think of a way to relay the information for someone that has never hunted foxes or coyotes and make it understandable.
Where should I hunt?
This question should be answered before you even think about a gun, call, light, etcÖ. Just as hunting for deer, it is good to get out and scout. Me personally, I do not have the knowledge of ďscatĒ as most. I see a pile of scat, itís just a pile of poop to me. I do know if there is hair in it, good chance it is a predator of some sort. The best time to scout for me is when there is snow. Iíll often scout an area, to find tracks, the same day I plan to hunt. Here are a few pictures I found, of tracks and scat to help with scouting:
Gray Fox Scat:
Red Fox Scat:
Gray Fox Track: (A red fox is similar - just a little longer and thinner IMO). I couldn't find a good red fox track picture.
When Iím hunting grays, the rule of thumb is ďwhere would I hunt rabbits?Ē In my opinion, gray foxes like thick, brushy areas (basically anywhere you would hunt rabbits). I like to find an area I mentioned, which borders a field. I personally, like to hunt fields. You can also hunt thick areas that have paths or logging roads. Find a spot where the road is the straightest Ė where you can see the furthest. Foxes, like anything else, will use the path of least resistance.
When Iím hunting reds, which I donít do very often, because the population isnít evident where I hunt; I look for tall grassy fields or ďopen woodsĒ near a field.
Where to hunt for coyotes? You hear them or see their tracks, thatís where you hunt them. I havenít called many in, but the ones I have, were on ridges, in fields, on mountains and even 150 yards from an area with houses. Coyotes are pretty much everywhere at any given time. I have found if coyotes are on a mountain, a good spot for foxes are on the ridges at the bottom of the mountain. The foxes seem to move out when the coyotes are around. JMO.
What clothes should I wear?
If hunting during the day, wear the obvious: camo to match your surroundings from head to toe. Facemask is definitely necessary. Hunting at night IMO isnít as much of an issue. I took a guy with me last year and he had on jeans and a bright green sweatshirt and we called in two foxes. I usually wear camo or if it is a night with no moon, Iíll wear black. Hunt a full moon night as if you were hunting during the day. Sometimes that is what it feels like. What you wear during the night, isnít as important as keeping your movement to a minimum and making sure your light isnít casting a halo back on yourself or your gun.
What calls should I use?
This is a question that has hundreds of answers. You can use a call that is 100% free Ė kiss the back of your hand or lip squeak. You can use a $2.00 mouse squeaker and have results. You can use a $10 hand call and have results. You can use a $500+ electronic call and have results. I personally use a Foxpro Fx-3 and never leave without my KCC Backstabber. I like to use the Backstabber at the same time of using my Foxpro. It works for me. Here is a list of sounds I have found to work in relation to the predator: Again, Iím sure there are many more other guys use.
Screaming Gray (Foxpro) (play continuous)
Gray fox fight (play continuous)
Gray Fox Pup Distress (Foxpro or KCC Grizz-n-Gray)(play continuous)
Cottontail distress (play continuous or intermittent)
Bird Sounds (Flicker seems to work best for me.) (play quiet and intermittent)
Cottontail Distress (45 seconds at first and wait 5 minutes or so between calling). I like to mix a howl or a couple barks in with the cottontail distress.
Gray fox pup distress (Foxpro or KCC Grizz-n-Gray)
Screaming gray (Foxpro)
Coyote vocalizations: (howls, barks, coyote pup distress) Ė Depending on the time of the year.
I have no clue.
Never called one in.
What light should I use?
As with ďwhat call should I use?Ē there are many different light options. You can shoot a predator with a $2.00 flashlight. I prefer a red lense on my light. Some guys do not use a red lense or filter of any kind and have great results. Here is a good post, which talks about the color of light you use:
The colors a predator actually sees.....
I feel more comfortable with the red lense. Scope mounted lights are legal and in my opinion, are the best way to go, when using a rifle. Some guys can hold their light in one hand and shoot. I canít. Some guys mount their light on their monopod. The preferred method seems to be use a headlamp to scan and another brighter light to shoot. This is where the Kill Light comes in. The light you use to scan with doesnít need to be very bright. You would be surprised at how far you can see eyes with a light, which isnít very bright. To test, take your light at night and go outside. Find something reflective and shine your light on it. If it ďglowsĒ, thatís how far you can see a foxes eyes, IMO. A note on scanning: try to use a light that does not light your body or gun. If needed, place something over the end to direct the light forward. I have used black rigid plastic and duct tape in the past. You want to scan rather quickly too, in case you are scanning to the right and something comes in the field on your left and picks you out.
How should I set up?
As I said earlier, I like to setup in fields. I like to see their eyes coming from a long ways off. For me, thatís what makes it exciting. Keep the wind direction in mind, and depending on the wind direction, think of setting up in a manner which allows a shot downwind of you. In other words, think of what a fox would do to get downwind of you. In my opinion, gray foxes donít worry about the wind as much as reds or especially coyotes. Iíve had grays come in and almost literally jump in my lap, not worrying about the wind at all. I have yet to see a coyote or red fox that didnít try to get downwind. I personally sit about 50 yards from the edge of the woods, depending on the terrain. Iíve started sitting further from the woods and brush. I usually put my call halfway between me and the woods. Again, depending on the wind will dictate the left and right location. You donít want the call to be too far from you though, because the predator, as it approaches, will be looking towards the sound. It doesnít take much offset to not be able to see their eyes. IMO
Before you start calling, scan the field with your light. Make sure there are no ďdipsĒ in the field you canít see. A lot of times, foxes and coyotes will use these depressed areas to come in to your call.
What gun and ammo should I use?
AAAahhhÖ. Hereís the big question. Iíll list the guns I can think of and as said before, Iím sure the opinions and results are different for each guy. Iíll try to post as many links as possible to previous posts on different gun discussions. Here is a link to a discussion on rifle or shotgun for foxes:
Rifle or Shotgun?
Shotgun: I started using a shotgun last year and had great results. I used a 3Ē copper plated turkey load and it worked great. As you probably know, there are Dead Coyote Loads, Hevi Shot and pretty much anything else you can think of available. The important thing is to pattern your gun. This is very important. My Mossberg wouldnít shoot buckshot worth a darn (with the factory choke tube) and I didnít realize it until I missed two grays at the 10 yard mark. If you are using buckshot, I think #4 is the largest shot size you can use. You can get different choke tubes and have unbelievable patterns. Maybe Beagler can post some pics or links to his findings. A drawback I personally have with using a shotgun is the closeness of the shots you sometimes have on gray foxes.
Rifles: (These are the ones that came to mind).
(Would not recommend for coyotes IMO). I actually sold mine because I was having too many foxes get away.
(I personally would not recommend for foxes, unless you can have someone slow down the load for you)
Here are a few old posts, talking about a couple different rifles:
17 vs 17 Fireball
17 vs 17 Fireball
Rifle Choice 1
Which rifle 2?
17 Fireball vs 22 Hornet
17 Fireball vs 22 Hornet
Walking in to your setup:
This is probably the most important thing before you even turn on your call. Be as quiet as possible especially on a night that is very quiet and no wind. If there is crunchy snow, setup as soon as you can. When walking in cornfields, walk WITH the rows if possible. Youíll find out how quick some foxes will respond to your call. If it only takes a few seconds for you to see them, they definitely can hear you walking in. I was lucky enough to be taught by my Dad to be quiet, when hunting. Iíve hunted with guys that sound like a herd of elephants walking in and you feel like turning around before you even turn the call on.
How long should I call at one spot and how often can I call the same spot?
Iíve literally turned my call on and seen eyes within a couple seconds. Always have your light on, when you turn the call on. Donít turn the call on and be messing around getting your gun ready, etcÖ In my opinion, 90% of the foxes Iíve called in, come in within 10-15 minutes. Last year I had a couple grays that I called for over Ĺ hour before they came in. I stuck with it because I knew they were there and might take awhile to get to me. Coyotes are the same way sometimes; although, I usually wait 45 minutes to an hour when hunting coyotes during the day. I think coyotes will travel further than a fox. IMO. I usually call for 15-20 minutes for foxes and move on to the next spot. Iíve called one end of a large field and seen nothing. Iíve moved to the other end and called in a fox (only a few hundred yards from where I originally was calling). This will also depend on the wind. If it is a windy night and the sound isnít carrying very far, you can move a few hundred yards and get results.
Iíve called a field, seen a fox but didnít get a shot and come back the same night to the field and shoot a fox. Same one? Who knows?
Iíve also had luck actually moving to where I last seen a fox. In other words, if you have one hang up, wait awhile and move to where you last seen eyes. This seems to really work with grays. Again, where I hunt, doesnít have many reds but Iíve heard other guys doing it for reds.
Iíve hunted the same fields two nights in a row for foxes. Red foxes are a little more hesitant than grays IMO. Coyotes are a whole other story, I think. Iíd give a coyote a week or so if you think you were busted.
How long do I play the sounds or call?
In my opinion, when hunting gray foxes, I leave the call on from the time I turn my light on until I'm ready to leave. Red foxes, pretty much the same thing but I like to pause every few minutes. For coyotes, I think the less calling, the better. I will play a sound for about 45 seconds and stop. Wait another 5 minutes and play the sound again.
The thing with mouth calls is you need to put emotion into it. Pretend you are that rabbit laying there on the ground, trying to get away from something chomping down on your hind-end.
As I said before, I use a mouth call some but its hard to hunt for 5 or 6 hours and keep blowing on a mouth call. It makes my head hurt.
Same as an electronic call, though.... I will call for 45 seconds or so and wait 5 minutes. I do have good luck using the Backstabber (coaxer end) and gray fox pup distress at the same time. Not sure why.
How long should I leave my light on?
In my opinion, your light should be on BEFORE you turn your call on and leave it on the entire time. I like to keep scanning the field, even when I'm leaving. I've seen a few foxes that are on their way in and you are on your way out.
A fox will a lot of times run in to your setup and if your light isn't on, you may miss it. I think you definitely need your light on the entire time, when hunting coyotes. I've seen them come into the field and hang around for a couple seconds and they are gone. Your light could have been off and you would never know something came to your setup.
Where should I aim when shooting a fox or coyote?
Again, this is just my opinion. Iíve shot fox in the head before with a rifle (aimed between the glows) and got a few. Iíve also lost fox because my shot was a little off to one side or the other. I like to aim for the body (shoulder), when using a rifle.
Using a shotgun, I aim for the head /neck area. Depending on how bright your light is and how steady you are, shooting a fox or coyote in the head wouldnít be an issue. IMO.
Again, this is one of those things that are dependent on your faith in what you / your gun can do. If you are unsure of your shot steadiness, aim for the body.
I personally don't use decoys, mainly because I don't have any and don't hunt during the day. I think if you were hunting during the day, a decoy would be a good tool; especially if you are using mouth calls. A decoy with natural movement would keep the attention off of you. I've heard of guys using only a feather tied to a stick. Some type of movement to get the eyes off of you. I keep telling myself I'm going to shoot a squirrel in small game season and keep the tail to use, but I always forget.
After you shoot something:
1. Take a picture.
2. Take it to the taxidermist. This post is for beginners, so more than likely it is your first coyote or fox. Get it mounted or the fur tanned.
As far as skinning them yourself, I always used to bring my fox to work and give them to a guy that had a fur business. I'm not an expert at all in skinning. I've done it and I think it is a pain in the butt.
Red and gray foxes are especially difficult because their neck is so skinny and their head is so big. I'm sure other guys can post some skinning information or GOOGLE it.
I do know one thing: It is easier to skin foxes, when they are warm.
3. Have the skull bleached if you don't have the money for a mount or a tanned fur. Chasintail does a great job!
Well, thatís all I can think of. I am off today and figured Iíd spend some time trying to help the new guys. As I said earlier, these are just my opinions and suggest other guys to help out and post information, links, pictures or opinions they have.
Again, please donít turn this post into a place to argue.
Good luck and have fun! Thatís the important thing. Donít sit at home and wonder what to do. Get out and experiment and find what works for you. The worst thing that can happen is you donít see anything or better yet, see something and donít get a shot. At least you were hunting ďThe PredatorĒ.