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Hunting Predators

Red Fox are an excellent challenge for Predator callers

Hunting Predators


As hunters many of us are always looking for a challenge to test our skill. As whitetail hunters and turkey hunters, we also have a dedication and to some degree a responsibility to manage our herds and flocks.

While the rise of coyotes in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia is well documented, this is only one of the numerous predators hunters need to be aware of, and control to assist our deer and turkeys. There is no better time than now, to make a plan, and to begin to reduce the numbers of predators on our properties.

For challenge and fun, calling predators is about as fun as it gets. Setting up and calling coyotes, fox, bobcats and even raccoon’s is exciting, challenging and rewarding. And reducing their numbers will have a significant impact on our deer and turkeys.  While there are many methods to calling and killing predators we will only cover a few here.

First and foremost, get knowledge of your local game laws about seasons, weapons and whether the use of electronic calls are legal. Here in South Carolina, we may use electronic calls for coyotes only. This can pose a bit of a problem for some, because by law, if using an electronic call for coyotes, and a grey fox comes bounding in, you cannot kill it. Same is true for bobcats and raccoons. Only coyote (hogs and crows) may be hunted with electronic calls. The best method is, if you suspect a healthy population of fox and cats, skip the electronic call and use a hand held call to make sure  you are legal.

We will deal with each species specifically as while the techniques are similar, there are subtle differences. First we will focus on Fox:

Grey Fox are often the first to respond to calls

I must admit, I am partial to calling fox. Perhaps its because I have been hunting predators long before the coyote took up residence in our state. While grey fox prefer a more wooded habitat and red fox more open terrain. I have had a lot more success on both species in agriculture areas. For the inexperienced, a fox is a small animal rarely weighing more than ten pounds. But what they lack in size, they more than make up for in aggression. A good method for fox, is to set up near over grown pastures, or along field edges. I prefer to get where I can see well, and arm myself with a shotgun since many times the fox will be in your lap before you see him.

A few years back while hunting fox in Newberry county, I sat in some broom straw near a two track that cut through the field. After setting up, I began blowing a cottontail distress call, before I completed my first sequence, a grey fox was trotting along the road directly towards me. I completed hunt when he was four feet away. Needless to say I was hooked forever for fox. While this experience isn’t normal, its not abnormal either. Fox will come and very often come quick. If there is one thing to know, its to keep the volume from getting out of hand. While I wouldn’t recommend calling softly, don’t scream the call either.

Patience is critical when calling bobcats

The opposite of this is the slow approaching bobcat. If ever there was a practice in patience its calling cats. While the fox prefers more open terrain, I like to call cats along swamps, using a hard edge to funnel them to me. Setting up in the woods, but where I can see at least forty yards or more if possible. Shotgun’s are a must here, cats will come, but they will come in slow. Sitting still and continue calling. A good sequence is to call for about two minutes, sit quiet for a minute and repeat. It will often take an hour or more for a cat to come in. A benefit of calling cats, is that many, many times a fox, or coyote will respond long before a cat will. And even when they come, they come slow.

Last season, while hunting with my daughter, we got ready to call some cats, ironically, within ten minutes a large bobcat came into the long lane looked in our direction and sat down. We sat motionless, knowing the cat was looking in our direction. I made a few soft squeaks with my lips and the bobcat laid down looking directly at us. For the next forty five minutes he didn’t move. Then like he had enough, he got up and trotted in our direction. Unfortunately, before he got within range, my daughter moved a bit and he picked it up and was gone. This experience made me wonder how many times a bobcat had done this, and I hadn’t seen him. This experience taught me that patience is indeed key.

As for sounds to call cats, many prefer and I agree, with bird sounds, wounded lark, woodpecker in distress, and rodent squeaks all are preferred for cats. Working with them will work well.

Now for coyotes – The coyote is without a doubt the apex predator in our states, and in many regions. Calling in and killing a coyote is a great thrill and experience. Regardless of what you may think, all areas of our states have a very healthy population of coyotes, and killing them will definitely help your confidence as a hunter, and will help your deer herds. Where legal, I prefer to use a combination of electronic calls and hand calls. Using the electronic calls for volume and to reach out and touch them, hand calls when it gets closer. When calling coyotes, I use the vernacular that trout anglers use. Match the hatch – look what the coyotes are feeding on and use that sound. If hunting near poultry farms, a distress chicken will put them in your lap. But if you are miles from poultry farms, stick with rabbit, bird and the like to call coyotes. While they often will not respond immediately, they seldom take as long as bobcats. A normal stand will start with an electronic call and a howl to see if there are any interested. Usually if I get an answer from a howl, I think I can call that coyote to me. Then setting up, I will go with a distress sound (again matching the hatch) rabbit, chicken goat, bird or even go straight to the distress puppy sounds. Call for a minute, sit for two, and repeat. If a dog hasn’t responded within thirty minutes, I get up and move a quarter mile and repeat.

Calling Raccoon's provides a lot of action

Raccoon’s is seldom thought of as a predator, but truth be told, they are the number one threat to our turkey populations. If a raccoon finds a turkey nest, they will eat every single egg before moving on. One raccoon can decimate a turkey nest. Removing raccoons from your property will have an immediate impact on your turkeys. While calling them is a different game all together, its possible and exciting.

While we have discussed how to hunt predators, the next installment will cover how to aggressively remove them through a trapping program on your property. Trapping will make a much more significant impact on your predator population and help much more than hunting will ever will.