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Snow cover makes predator hunting a bit easier

Foxes are plentiful in Pennsylvania and their pelts are bringing decent money
Foxes are plentiful in Pennsylvania and their pelts are bringing decent money
by Bob Danenhower

There couldn’t be a better time to go predator hunting with all the snow we have on the ground. The snow covering allows hunters to more easily see a coyote, fox or bobcat approaching from a far distance compared to snowless surroundings where these critters blend in.

Coyotes are the prime predators in Pennsylvania
by Nick

If you’d like to try predator hunting and missed Cabela’s recent standing room only predator hunting seminar featuring Kirk McKendree of FoxPro’s pro hunting staff, his two-hour presentation was full of helpful tips and techniques for taking the aforementioned trio of predators.

Even if you’ve tried predator hunting, McKendree’s first suggestion to make you a better hunter, is to learn your quarry. Know their habitat, food sources, breeding seasons (ie.. Jan-Feb for grey foxes) and ask landowners if they’ve seen predators and where on their land. Be in-tune with their personalities he advises.

McKendree says you should know that coyotes hate red foxes but can co-exist with grey foxes. And that grey foxes can climb trees whereas reds can’t. Knowing their breeding seasons makes them more vulnerable to calling as whitetail bucks are during the rut.

Foremost in calling, McKendree says, is being at the right time and place. B using a rabbit call, he can call in any of these predators as they all respond to a possible meal of rabbit.

“Calling trends differ though between a grey fox and a red. You can get real aggressive with a grey fox and run the volume up high using hand calls, rabbit, bird or grey pup in distress calls. Gray’s are good for shot gunners as the come in fast. Sometimes they’ll run you down,” he explains.

McKendree goes on by saying red foxes by nature are meeker than grays, so you need a more subtle approach in calling. He’ll often uses a lip squeak, a squeaky dog toy, even a kids Happy Meal squeaky toy to call foxes in. “A little calling, he says, goes a long way.” McKendree claims to have called in as many as 60 reds in a day.

Incidentally, coyotes hate reds. “Coyotes will outrun a red fox (40 mph vs. 30 mph) so they’ll kill and often wipe out a red fox population in a specific area. Reds will then abandon the hardwoods and seek shelter in suburbia and around homes.”

Bobcats: They use their nose to bust hunters. Yet their curiosity gets them in trouble despite their keen noses. Don’t ever leave your stand less than 45 minutes when hunting bobcats, McKendree stresses. He prefers a rifle for them as they come in slow but can check up on you. Most bobcats are around 22 pounds but he’s already taken a few weighing up to 40 pounds. Bobcats are typically a solitary creature that prefer living alone and are more carnivorous than a coyote, which will eat anything including watermelon.

McKendree says bobcats lose interest quickly so after calling, wait 15 minutes before calling again. He prefers to use high-pitched electronic rabbit or birdcalls to lure them in. “And when you do, shoot quickly.”

Coyotes: Coyotes come in brown, black and a rare chocolate coloration with most having an average weight of about 36 pounds. They are the premier predator, McKendree contends.

Coyotes are in all 67 counties of the state with 19 different species and 16 subspecies. In March or April, Coyote females normally have 4-5 pups per year. And even if hunters take out 70 percent of them, they’ll never be wiped out. “You can even put $25 on their head and try poisoning them and you still won’t wipe them out,” McKendree opines.

A lot of McKendree’s coyote opportunities come when family dogs, cats or farmers’ chickens and calves are killed. Then he gets calls to take them out.

When hunting coyotes he urges hunters to keep in mind they like to circle downwind. His quickest calling time so far was 3 minutes and the longest was 1 hour, 5 minutes. But most of the time coyotes come in late.

If hunted too hard, coyotes will become overly stressed and will quickly become conditioned to calling. And the five reasons they come into calling are: hunger, curiosity, territorial, breeding and competition from other coyotes or predators.

The alpha male, he points out, is the resident and main howler. Up to 70 percent of the coyote population are the young of the year and as omega’s they don’t want confrontations with the alpha's.

CALLS: Mouth calls come in closed or open reed models and they’re versatile. They can sound like a rabbit, bird or a barker. But the pro urges hunters to put emotion calling but don’t sound like a 200 pound rabbit. The only drawback to open reed mouth calls is that they don’t produce deep calls. When he has a double coming in, he blows a shrieking whine-like call – similar to the sound when stepping on a dogs’ tail.

McKendree said to get good with mouth calls, hunters must practice. He practices his calling while waiting for red lights, at home watching TV and anyplace that won’t bother someone.

Hand operated shaker calls, he says, are great for a beginners as they’re simple to operate. But they’re not for long distance calling. When using one, it helps being a quick shooter as there’s too much motion involved with a shaker. When he uses a shaker he shakes it behind his leg so the coyote can’t see motion. The other shaker problem is that all the calls sound alike, there’s no deviation.

Electronic Calls: When using a FoxPro electronic caller McKendree places it about 80 yards out from his location. And he’ll often use a hand caller at the same time to mimic two coyotes. The advantage to electronic calls is that the sounds are unlimited. On the down side, if you’re in an area with other predator hunters, everyone sounds the same. So he’ll mix in some hand calls with the electronic generated tones and pitches. With electronic calls, a jackrabbit call, for instance, can be selected even though they’re not indigenous to our area. But a coyotes’ curiosity will bring him in.

Scouting: McKendree advises hunters to talk to farmers, landowners, rural mail carriers and WCOs to determine where predators are. Then, scout by checking back roads, trails, fencerows and edges of cover. Predators, he explains, use the same trails and back roads we do.

His last words of wisdom are that hunters should use camo, a quiet approach, stay still and ready, set up in the shadows keeping the sun at your back and during a full moon, and to use the wind and terrain to your advantage.

As a footnote of sorts, Jevon Ahnert of Northampton, used a .454 Casull caliber handgun to shoot a 40-pound Slatedale area coyote while deer hunting this past season. Ahnert shot it at a Hail Mary 300 yards using a Leupold red dot scope atop the handgun. Ahnert said he put the dot a little below the coyote’s body but the first shot broke one of its legs. The second shot tumbled it.

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