For me, coyote hunting is just an excuse to wander around exploring the big lonely high desert areas. Something about the endless two tracks to nowhere that don’t see two vehicles in a year, the vastness, the solitude, the sage brush, it’s in my blood and brings me joy.
So, with great anticipation I made plans for a two day trip to head out there amongst ‘em! I’d been looking at a big remote valley I’ve never been to on the maps for awhile, thinking I’d like to see what the calling is like out there and figured this was as good a time as any.
So after Thanksgiving dinner, I loaded up the Jeep and went to bed Thur. night full of anticipation, so much anticipation I slept poorly and was ready to fly out of bed when the alarm went off at 3:30AM. The Jeep likes the high desert as much as I do, so once I got it lined out in the right direction I just cranked up the tunes and let it run.
Several hours later, I pulled off the blacktop. There was a solid snow cover of about 6”, light breeze and the temperature was 14 degrees below zero.
Saw these guys soon after leaving pavement.
The snow was at least several days old and it allowed me to read the tea leaves as I drove. Not much sign. About 20 miles from pavement, I came to a turn that led to some country that had looked good on the map. I was delighted to find the road I’d chosen was a rarely used two track that nobody had been on at least since it snowed and probably a lot longer than that.
Some miles further I started getting into a decent amount of coyote sign and the country was starting to look good for making stands. It was mid morning by then and the sun was shining with stunning brightness on the white snow. It had warmed up into the positive teens.
I started making stands. And not having any luck! I was seeing just enough coyote track in the snow to give me reasonable hope that coyotes were hearing my sounds, but conditions were not what I’d consider ideal. It had been a brightly moonlit night on snow and now it was the kind of blindingly bright day that makes sunglasses mandatory. A million glittering tiny diamonds in every direction. And while the temperature was only in the teens, with the bright sun shining and not much wind, it felt warm. I imagined the coyotes curled up on a south facing hillside with their tails over their eyes, sleeping off the night before. After making five or six stands the only creatures I’d seen besides jackrabbits and birds were a small band of mustangs.
I was happy as a clam though! Had not seen a person all day. Had been cutting fresh track in the snow most of the day. The country I was seeing for the first time was stunningly beautiful and I was in my happy place. I figured a coyote would have to come to my calls sooner or later. And of course, one did.
Now that I was on the board, I was REALLY in my happy place and didn’t care whether I got another coyote or not. But, as these things will happen, two stands later, I did get another one.
I got them both skinned while they were still warm and it was still a sunny 17 degrees outside. I made one more stand after that. But the sun and the temperature both drop quickly this time of year so I started looking for a flat spot to pitch the tent. I chose a spot on a small ridge, avoiding the more protected and hospitable looking bottom of the draw, knowing the cold air would settle in those draws overnight.
It was a balmy 10 degrees when I setup the tent and cooked my dinner of ribeye steak and fried cabbage.
After dinner I put on all my warm clothes and sat out sipping rye and smoking a cigar to watch the stars come out and listen to the coyotes howl. I’d driven nearly 100 miles since leaving pavement, most of that cutting new track in the snow and of course had not seen another person. The stars were beyond amazing. Then the moon came up and washed out the stars, but the moonlit desert was amazing too. The distant hills like crinkled white paper. The coyotes did not disappoint as they lit up group yip howl after group yip howl from all points of the compass. I noted one group yip howl in particular, for attention in the morning. With a profound sense of happiness I crawled into my sleeping bag and went to sleep.
When I got up and broke camp before dawn the next morning, it was 3 degrees below zero and dead calm. I could hear my coyotes down in the next draw and smiled, despite my painfully frozen fingers. Camp was stowed, coffee was brewed and I was ready to roll before first light, so I sat in the Jeep with the heater running and sipped coffee and puffed a cigar for a bit waiting for shooting light. When the light came, I drove less than a mile down into the next draw where I’d heard the coyotes howling. I took note of the fact that I had chosen wisely to camp on the ridge, where it had only been 3 below zero, as when I got down in the draw and climbed out of the Jeep to make my first stand it was 9 below zero.
Only two minutes into the jackrabbit blues, a customer approached and I collected my first coyote of the day.
The coyote sign in this draw was pretty heavy. The most I’d seen on the trip by far. So, I was fully expecting action on the next stand. But, other than a bunch of howls in all directions, nothing happened. The next stand after that though…
By now the sun was all the way up and it warmed to 2 below zero. Few minutes into the jackrabbit I saw a coyote coming in from the thick brush off to my 2 o’clock. I tracked it in the scope as it bobbed and weaved through the tall sage and came all the way into the caller, then bobbed and weaved through the tall sage all the way back from where it had come, without ever getting the sight picture that automatically causes my trigger finger to take up the last few ounces on the trigger. I muted the call for a minute, then hit Lone Howl. Instantly, two coyotes stepped out from the brush line atop a small ridge and stood in the open 100 yards directly in front of me. As I moved my rifle into position, one of them came down off the hill into the thick brush below and I lost sight of it. The other still stood in the open so I shot it. The one that had ran down the hill, now ran back up it, leaving town. It stopped at the dead one though and I shot it before it had time to pay it’s respects.
Started the jackrabbit again and about one minute later another coyote came galloping in from my hard right, all the way to the caller were it stopped to look at the Foxpro from 3 feet away, slam dunk, down he went.
A nice little triple!
Have to admit, after I got that third one down I was really, REALLY hoping for another one to come in and let me get a quad. As I’d somehow managed to get quads on my previous two hunts in a row. Three trips in a row with quads would have been beyond amazing. Not to be though! The triple did make four hunts in a row with either a triple or a quad, so I best not be complaining. Eh?
Over the next five stands, I took two more singles. Putting me at six coyotes for the morning.
Then the calling just went flat. I made four or five stands in a row without a sniff. I was still in heavy coyote tracked ground, I knew they were out there and hearing my sounds. But it had REALLY warmed up. It was in the mid 20’s, dead calm, bright, BRIGHT sun. In my long woolies and down coat, I was feeling actually too warm and feeling drowsy with the sun on my shoulders as I sat on stand. I figured the coyotes were likely done for the afternoon.
I had plenty of skinning to do. By the time I finished, there wasn’t but two hours of light left in the day. My fuel gage was telling me I’d dang well better be turning around and heading back for civilization too. So, with regret, I called it a day and a trip and headed the Jeep back towards pavement. When I got back to the blacktop at the same spot I’d left it the morning before, I had driven just over 200 miles offroad without seeing another person. And killed 8 coyotes. And had one HECKUVA GREAT TIME!
I just love this stuff…