As the winter months pass along, mother nature usually provides snow and/or frigid cold air. Being from the Midwest this usually happens during the month of February and sometimes goes into early March. With the cold arctic air and snow on the ground it is easy to find ourselves wanting to stay in bed where it is warm. That’s nice, but over the years I have learned this is actually a great time to be out predator hunting.
There are a few tips and tactics I would like to share with you in hopes of improving your odds next time you meet a good winter snow fall. One of the most important factors while hunting in the snow is your call choice. Food source calls seem to be the most successful for me. I think coyotes are kind of like us. When we are stuck inside when it is cold out, we get bored and we get hungry. When there is a deep snow on and the temperatures are cold a coyote does the same. They don’t get out and explore like they would on normal conditions. After awhile they get hungry, so they start hunting. This makes them respond to rabbit in distress, rodent distress, or any other food source calls better than normal. Naturally it is going to take more food for them to stay warm and survive, so they are ready to eat.
With all this being said, this is why food source calls are my favorite during this time. In my experiences I have found that I have more success the 2nd or 3rd day that a snow is on the ground. Again, I think it takes a couple of days of food being harder to find to get coyotes cold and hungry. Another reason I think food source calls work good in the cold snow is most generally snow falls in January or February. During these two months it is normal for a coyote to lose focus on finding food because they are more focused on the breeding season that occurs at this time. As hunters, we often slack off of using such calls like rabbit in distress call. Instead we try using a lot of the coyote vocals, such as estrus whimpers, whines, pup in distress sounds, etc. What I’m meaning here, is it seems that a coyote re-develops that want to eat again.
The other tactic I like to take advantage of during the snow-covered grounds is probably one of the most important factors anyway. That is scouting. I’m a big believer in scouting your hunting area before hunting. If there are no coyotes in your hunting area, why waste your time in calling there? This is why I look for tracks, droppings, or actually getting a visual of coyotes while scouting. It is the best way to find out if you have coyotes. Snow covered grounds can make this really easy. Finding tracks in the snow is obviously going to be easier. But, even better if you go a couple of days after a snow fall you know the sign is fresh, assuring that there are coyotes close.
Coyotes tracks in the snow can also tell you if a coyote is just passing through or hanging around. If you find one set of tracks in a straight line through your area it is more than likely that the coyote is just passing through. If the tracks are zig zagging, going to every brush pile, tree top, etc you know that a coyote is looking for food, or other coyotes. If you find this, you better be trying to call them in.
My last tip for hunting in the snow is be ready with the right equipment. I wear good warm clothes–a base layer, follow by a couple more layers of a good insulated clothing. You want something that will keep you warm all day if you’re moving or sitting. The most important part of your body is your feet. I wear Lacrosse rubber boots with good wool socks. The rubber boots keep my feet warm, more importantly dry in all the wet snow, as well as being comfortable while covering a lot of ground.
The last thing is my calls, I bring my Johnny Stewart electronic calls as well as my diaphragms and hand calls. Just in case one was to freeze up, I’m not caught without any way to call. I have even brought along a couple of hand warmers and placed them on the bottom of my electronic calls to keep the battery working strong while the temperatures are cold. Just remember, don’t put them directly on the battery, just on the outside of the call. This will keep them going strong all day.
Coyote hunting in the snow is one of my favorite ways to hunt. Hopefully you can take these few tips that I have learned from many hours of trial and error to help you be more successful on your next predator hunting adventure.
– Heath Wood