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Bobcat Hunting Tips
Hunt Him in His Kitchen
Smoke Pole Coyotes
Bobcat Hunting Tips
Varmint hunting, especially bobcat calling, doesn’t require long walks through rugged country, it just takes a sharp eye and a good setup. It does require that everyone sits still so the incoming predator focuses on the movement of a turkey feather bouncing in the wind.
By Asa Merriam
The myth: trappers catch most bobcats. The truth: they are usually shot by veteran coyote callers. A coyote may show up in less than 15 minutes while bobcats are difficult to call and might not show for a half hour. Why? A bobcat is not as aggressive as a coyote so he is not planning an attack on what is making a prey animal squeal. He is coming to check out the commotion, being very leery but willing to pick up any leftovers.
This little cat’s behavior was difficult for me to understand so I came home with coyotes, after hunting a lot of good places, but never saw a bobcat. That changed when a friend explained, “If you expect to kill bobcats, you need to slow down. You are moving way too fast, not just between calling locations but also in your setup and take down. Shift down to lower gear and you will get bobcats. You are doing the work, you just have to wait a little longer. I am certain that you have already called bobcats in, it is just that when they got there, you were gone.”
I have never been a cat person. We grew up with dogs, but through an adoption, ended up with a cat in the house. Now I now have a bobcat-testing program. After watching the cat I learned they are extremely agile animals and extremely alert to their surroundings. Their sense of sight, smell, and hearing is second-to-none but being cats, they never hurry for anything. Getting their wild cousins to run headlong into my varmint call was out of the question. Cats only show their speed when chased or when their prey is within easy reach, then they are lightning fast. As for strength, their fighting over something a coyote caught might leave the coyote injured but the bobcat would probably end up dead.
A bobcat is a lot smaller than most people think. It is not much bigger than an adult housecat averaging 12 to18 pounds with the occasional big male reaching 30 pounds. Bobcats grow into one big coordinated muscle that works with precision. They are very good swimmers, even better climbers and can see equally well both night and day with light-sensitive eyes.
They mate around early March and the males will travel up to 15 to 20 miles in a single night to search out a female in heat. The resulting litter size is two or three kittens following a gestation period of 50 to 60 days. The kittens are born around the first of June when feed is plentiful. The mother rears the young while the male takes no part in the process. The kittens are weaned within two months and are experienced hunters by winter and reach close to 75 percent of their adult weight the first year. By age two they are out on their own and have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. That long life is probably why they have learned to come so slowly to a varmint call and wreak revenge on coyotes by letting them take the bullet instead.
They are an efficient predator, burning little energy while hunting. Their lightweight build and strength makes them very efficient on smaller prey but large toms can take down a whitetail deer by jumping onto its neck and holding on while chewing the jugular. This is usually an exception but does happen especially in deep snow with winter-weakened deer. A match between a fox and a bobcat is a push and both usually turn away knowing that if they win they will receive injuries.
A strongly nocturnal recluse, they will only leave cover to feed. Their main food source is mice, rabbits, and small ground nesting birds, which are mostly nocturnal, meaning we only see tracks after daylight. The cats are close-range hunters so a den area will be located where there is ample prey. Like rabbits, they are placed in the middle of the food chain meaning a drop in the rabbit, mouse, or quail count has the bobcat population following about one year behind.
How did this background help me? My friend was right; in many cases the bobcat, fox, and coyote populations overlap so you are never certain what will come into your call. The benefit of using a rabbit call is the variable volume allowing the sound to carry a longer distance than the other injured animal calls. Over time however, I found injured birdcalls are better for bobcats.
My best advice: use the rabbit call, wait 30 minutes for a coyote, followed by fox, while the bobcat waits. Don’t move and the bobcat may come in to check on his fellow predators. Keep an eye focused on distant movement as the cat can very well sit 200 yards away watching. If you move, he will slip away unnoticed.
The bottom line: calling success has a lot to do with patience and how many setups you made. You’re not going to be successful sitting home watching TV. The more hours you put into varmint calling the more success you will enjoy.
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Hunt Him in His Kitchen
By Dave Price
Calling and hunting coyotes can be similar to hunting big whitetail bucks. Coyotes calculate their moves to arrive in a position where they can ambush their prey. Predator hunters (and coyote hunters in particular) must locate where their prey eats if they intend to call him in for a “meal.” Bedding and hunting areas often overlap so find an area that serves both purposes.
Calling locations are determined by many different variables. Coyote populations, calling pressure, the time of year, natural or artificial food sources, terrain, wind direction, the sun’s position and landowner permission are some of the main variables.
Coyote sightings help us determine if an area is “hunt able” or necessitates moving to an area that has a higher coyote population. The number of coyotes in an area can be determined by observing signs such as tracks and droppings. Also, getting coyotes to howl can give you an idea of how many live in a given area. This is best done in the early morning or late in the evening by using a howler call. Talk to farmers, game wardens and others in the area to see where they have seen them most often. Farmers and ranchers are usually happy to have you shoot the coyotes on their land. Start your own scouting in the area to confirm what you’ve been told.
Don’t spend a lot of time in an area with low coyote numbers unless you are limited by where you can hunt. Artificial or man-made food sources are prime attractors in an area because the amount of food is far greater than nature can provide. These areas are real sleepers once you know about them. Agriculture is changing, but the waste it provides is always there. My favorite spots are cattle feed lots, grain bins, old buildings, weed and grain patches, water sources and areas where small game such as mice dwell in the ecosystem. Other livestock such as poultry and hog operations attract coyotes. Natural feed areas include prairie dog towns, wood chuck colonies and thick rabbit warrens. Coyotes are like other predators - if they’re successful in an area they’ll add the area to their regular rounds.
Full camouflage is a must when hunting coyotes. The second most important camouflage is for your rifle. A bright and shiny rifle with a glossy black scope creates reflections and flashes that can be seen at great distances. Camouflage your rifle and your optical equipment before you go predator hunting.
Open country seems to produce best during the early part of the season. Coyotes can be anywhere, and the young are just getting out on their own and learning to hunt as a pack.
These young coyotes haven’t been shot at yet and they are naturally curious. Later on in the season we tend to hunt closer to cover. Wooded draws, ravines, river and creek bottoms are all excellent locations. Coyotes tend to congregate in these areas to escape the bitter winter wind and a lot of their food sources are there.
As you gain experience calling and observing coyotes coming to the call, you get a feel for their habitat and where they are at during different times of the day. This is one of the skills that will make you successful time after time – you have to call them in close enough to shoot them which means spending time in coyote habitat.
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Smoke Pole Coyotes
As a Muzzleloader hunter I seldom use any other type of rifle. Coyotes are a long season target but that doesn’t leave out raccoons and deer when the season is right. Get good with your muzzleloader and soon it will be as comfortable as your right hand.
By Matt Maurice
Have you ever thought of putting a new twist on hunting after the deer season ends? Try your favorite muzzle loader for coyote’s - it’s a blast! Several years ago I bought a Knight Ultimate Long Range Hunter in .50 caliber. I mounted a Nikon 4x12x40 Monarch scope on it, and used 290 grain Barnes TMZ bullets with 150 grains of 777 pellets. I was able to group three shots close together at 100 yards. I decided to throw it in the case one morning on the way to a coyote hunt.
On the morning of our hunt it was a very crisp 20 degrees with a slight breeze. The ground was so dry that I could hear my feet crunching through the alfalfa field like I was walking on a box of Cornflakes. I settled down in the center of a brush pile and let out a couple howls with my Cass Creek game call, and a coyote answered. I turned in the direction of the coyote and offered up some “yip” calls back to the coyote. He sounded like he was about 300 yards from me, and I could feel the adrenaline surge as he approached. All of a sudden I had one coyote yipping from behind me and another one howling from the woods.
I turned around and found the coyote running toward me at full speed at a distance of 400 yards. I let him get closer, tried to stay calm and concentrate on my sight picture and trigger squeeze as he approached. Suddenly, he stopped, turned broadside and looked back at another coyote in the distance. I estimated the range to be less than 300 yards and settled the crosshairs on the top of his back and squeezed the trigger.
When the smoke finally cleared I looked through the scope where he once stood and couldn’t see anything. I thought that I missed him. Just as I started to beat myself up over missing the shot I heard the coyote in the woods howl again. I hadn’t reloaded the muzzle loader yet so I scrambled through the reloading process and hit the “howl” button on the call as I put the new primer in the bolt. I was amazed when the coyote started yipping as he moved closer and closer. I steadied the rifle on the branches in front of me. About ten minutes went by and nothing happened so I hit the pup yips on the call and got out my distressed rabbit call and started working it for all I was worth. The coyote started cutting loose. I put down the rabbit call and offered more pup yips and he came running out of the woods. I let him get to within 200 yards so I would have an easier shot. I whistled at him and nothing happened so I tried stopping him with a deer bleat, but he kept coming. I had to stop him somehow. So, I settled the cross hairs on his torso and slowly squeezed the trigger. At the sound of the rifle’s report I heard a loud “whack” that was lost in a cloud of smoke. I was confident that I’d hit him this time. As the smoke cleared I could see the coyote lying in the field. I leaped out of the brush pile and ran over to him. I finally did it, and I hollered like a kid with his first deer. After admiring him and taking a few pictures I decided to pace the distance back to the brush pile and discovered that it was 250 paces. I walked back to where I shot at the first coyote and decided to pace it off to see how far I had missed on the first shot – it was 175 paces. But, I saw the first coyote lying in the alfalfa field and found out that I hadn’t missed after all. Both shots were farther than I thought were possible with a muzzle loading weapon. I was excited, and shooting my muzzle loader at coyotes is now my favorite winter time sport!
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