Just before dark, on my break, I stood at the edge of the parking lot of where I was working. I had been reading magazine articles on predator hunting, about old timers using simple tactics such as lip squeaking to lure in predators.
Past the edge of the parking lot, the land dropped down into a small field surrounded by pines and thick brush. I looked around to make sure no one was watching, and started to practice this “lip squeaking” thing to see if I could even remotely mimic a distress sound that may call in a predator. A couple minutes of squeaks, and I catch a glimpse of something running out of the brush straight towards me. A grey fox!
The grey fox ran right to the bottom of the hill below me, less than 20yds away. It looked at me briefly then turned around and ran back into the woods. Holy cow! It works! I was hooked.
That moment sparked my next hunting passion.
I began reading articles and getting on online forums in earnest, learning everything I could. I ordered a set of hand calls (closed reed wood distress calls) that came with a VHS tape on calling predators, that I watched several times. The rest of that fall I took the hand calls out often, wailing away on them, waiting for a predator to come in at any second, with no success. I then picked up an inexpensive electronic call, a simple device with 6 sounds and a 50 foot cord that went to a speaker about the size of a softball, I used that for quite a while, again without success.
I eventually picked up an upgraded speaker, and a simple MP3 player with some free sounds downloaded from a website. Success! I called in my 1st coyote. It took me several years to accomplish this, and as I later learned, it wasn’t a fault of my equipment. It was a flaw in my tactics.
The seasons leading up to that first successful hunt were trying, lots of time spent in the field, occasionally hearing them move through the brush, or hearing a howl in the distance.
One September evening, I sat in a tripod stand overlooking a large field, with the call out in front of me. I was watching some deer across the field and happened to turn and see a coyote bounding through the field coming to the call. As soon as it stopped, I got the dot from my red dot sight on it and pulled the trigger. It started spinning, indicating a hit, but was still moving so I sent a couple more shots its way.
Talk about an adrenalin rush! My first called in coyote!
I waited a bit, and then climbed down out of the stand to go locate the coyote. By that time, it was starting to get dark, the grass was tall enough to hide it if it was laying down. I wasn’t sure if it was dead, and looking back, man I wish I would’ve had a thermal scanner like the OTS or soon to be released TICO back then. After a short nerve wracking search I found it—dead—a beautiful reddish large adult male coyote!
I still have the fur from that one in the house today.
After that successful hunt my enthusiasm only grew, but I still had only hunted in the daylight. I eventually met up with a guy named Dwight, who shared the predator hunting passion that I did, but had been doing it far longer. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot over the coming years.
One of the things he got me into was night time hunting. Now mind you, back then nighttime and I didn’t always get along. Honestly, I was very nervous being out in the woods at night, it helped to be out there with someone else along for the hunt, but still made me uneasy. At first we used red lights with a traditional glass scope mounted on either a .22 mag or 12g shotgun as that was all we could legally use here in Michigan back then. But, I quickly developed an interest in night vision and ended up buying an ATN Aries series 1st generation night vision scope that I mounted on my .22 mag rifle.
Not long after that I had my 1st successful night time coyote hunt.
I was out with Dwight, set up along the brush edge overlooking a large open area. He sat to my right, running the caller. Our tactics back then were to scan with a red light and shoot using the scope. A few minutes into the set, I looked to my left and could see a coyote coming along the brush line straight towards me. I watched it in my night vision scope until it started to turn away, and I pulled the trigger. As with the other coyote I shot, it started to spin, so I kept shooting until it stopped moving. We went to recover it, and found it only 25 yards away from where we were sitting. This one turned out to be one of the largest coyotes I think I’ve gotten and, based on its tooth wear, was a very mature coyote. Back then I never thought to weigh it.
The addition of the night vision scope to my hunting equipment made a huge impact. Not only my success and confidence, I still hunted with lights and traditional scopes as we will discuss later, but in my comfort level of being in the dark. I was now able to have a larger field of view, and see my targets and surroundings better through that black and green screen of the ATN night vision optic than with lights alone.
A lot of hunters continue to evolve in terms of their techniques, equipment and different facets of the sport. I was well on my way to what would become a long term evolution that continues to this day.