Stand Selection  
 

Selecting your stand location is one of the most simple yet sometimes sophisticated aspects of predator calling. It is simple because the most important part of predator calling is just imagining where the coyotes might be, and then getting out to call! If you don't, I can guarantee the you will not see any coyotes. If you do get out and there are coyotes in the area, despite the fact that there may be a gazillion things wrong with your stand, there is a good chance you are still going to see Canis latrans (even if she is sitting 800 yards out laughing at you, or what is far more common for me, running away at high speed). It can be extremely sophisticated because there is alot of nuance to selecting your stand that can stack the odds in your favor.

In this section of the CoyoteCanada website, we are going to explore some of the many variables that can make the diffence between calling until your cheeks (and ego) feel bruised beyond the capacity to heal, and hardly having to squeek before you are face to face with a coyote staring at you, trying to find the rodent!  
 
 

Where do you find a coyote?
So where do you go to call a coyote?.
 
 
 
A process that works for me...  
 

The high angle satellite photograph you see at the beginning of this page is the city of Calgary. At the time of writing, it is a city just shy of a million people. The rocky mountains thrust up to the west and the great plains stretch out to the east. Located on the fringe of these two biomes affords a guy a great deal of variety with respect to the type of terrain you can go try to call a predator. The most difficult thing about this area (believe it or not) is securing landowner permission to hunt. It seems that many landowners in the near vincinity of Calgary are adamantly opposed to either hunting or firearms (even in the so-called Republic of Alberta!), and as a result trying to secure permission is an interesting and more often than not extremely frustrating socio-political experiment. So I try to be extremely selective about choosing the type of terrain I like to hunt before heading out to try and secure permission from landowners. By knowing exactly where it is I would like to hunt, I can drastically reduce the number of negative encounters I have with local landowners. There are several prongs to this process, and many of them happen in parallel...it is almost like a snowball effect. Once you have a foothold in an area and begin to build a reputation as being a responsible and conscientious hunter, it becomes a little easier to expand hunting territory. This all begins with one simple premise...I am extremely selective about the type of terrain I like try to hunt. For me this process starts in front of the computer; gazing over aerial photographs.  
 
 
Terrain Selection  
 

You are undoubtably thinking "This guy is nuts!"...however I am not. Go to www.pixxures.com and have a look around some of the areas that you might like to hunt. I have some key beliefs that I apply when scouring these photographs for possible candidates. The coyotes around here are pretty wary with respect to the human animal, and tend to make a hasty retreat whenever they either see or smell one. Compounding this "problem", they seem to have uncanny instinctual abilities with respect to using terrain to mask their movements and do so with regularity even while going about their daily routines. So I look for funnels and fringe areas of terrain and vegetation that afford a coyote safe travel corrodors, the ability to mask their activities from Mr. Homo sapien, and a place where they might quickly retreat in times of urgency. I also look for places where I can use these variables to my advantage. I will need to exploit these same principles of terrain in my attempts to prevent the predator fom identifying me as a human while I attempt to draw him into either gun or camera range. If I am to be at all successful, the predator will have to be fooled into thinking that there is a free meal waiting at the source of the distress call and that is definately not going to happen if the coyote either smells or sees me.  
 
 

Aerial Photo
Careful stand selection can dramatically increase your success. You might laugh, however aerial photography helps me narrow down which tracts of land I might want to try to secure permission to hunt on.
 
 

Take a look at the above aerial photograph...it represents a 1.6km-by-1.6km tract of land that contains several excellent terrain related features. A small coulee runs down the west side of the section, parallel to a major secondary Alberta highway. The coulee is masked by both topography and vegetation, a textbook example of excellent cover. Many different coyotes use this coulee as a travel corrodor, and as a result, stands on this section produce again and again and again. In this particular case, the travel corrodor is clearly defined....a fence runs N/S through the middle of the west half of the section. Bordering it on the west side is all the cover you see, and on the east side of it is a large pasture. It is the fringe area between the coverless open pasture and the thicker brush that lines the coulee. Along this fringe there is a trail that is often so covered in coyote track I have difficulty trying to interpret how many animals may use it on a regular basis.  
 
 
Preliminary Scouting and Securing Landowner Permission  
 

While the aerial photograps give an excellent indication of the types of vegetative cover a particular tract of land may offer, one aspect that is sometimes a little lacking is their ability fo afford an understanding of some of the more subtle nuances of the topography. This is an important consideration, as it has been my experience that in addition to the heavy use of fringe areas between thick and open vegetation, coyotes will also make excellent use of the natural topographical cover. Walking into stands, I have stumbled within bow range of several coyotes that were mousing out in a open pasture, yet completely shielded via terrain until I was almost right on top of her. Careful study of the aerial photographs can sometimes unveil this a little, but nothing beats walking the land in question to study the terrain.  
 
 

River Valley
This terraced floodplain of the Bow River provides many excellent habitat features and fringe areas. An excellent spot to call.
 
 

If I don't yet have landowner permission, I tend to try to drive by the property in question and take a peek from it's edges. If I get a good feeling about the general topography, I will then put the effort into trying to contact the landowner and secure permission. Pulling the county maps is the best way to start this effort in securing landowner permission. The maps typically contain a host of valuable information...they show many property boundaries as well as list the names of their owners. Some of the county maps even post the location of residents and occupants. Here comes the hard part. You will need to contact the landowner and ask for his/her permission. I have not had much luck outright asking for this permission over the telephone...if I do wind up initiating contact over the telephone, I will introduce myself and attempt to line up a meeting where I can meet the landowner face to face to present my request. None of this works as well as simply knocking on doors to ask. When you do this, make sure that you are not dressed in your camo with weapons littering the seats of your vehicle. Taking a little extra time to make yourself presentable goes a long way in the public relations department and has more than once been a decision tipping influence in my efforts to secure land. I make sure that I am always polite and respectful, even when afronted with angry and outraged reactions at my request.  
 
 

Prairie Draw
This draw is on the cusp of the foothills...right where the prairie meets the mountains. An excellent spot to try and call.
 
 

Once you have secured premission on that little piece of a coyote highway, it's time to race out and start calling in earnest, right? Wrong! I like to visit all the surrounding neighbours to introduce myself and give them the courtesy of knowing who I am and what I will be doing on their neighbours land. People appreciate this and it goes a long way to avoiding those awkwards encounters with law enforcement officers responding to people complaining that there is a camouflaged maniac running around the woods with a rifle. Visiting neibouring properties has other benefits as well...sometimes despite an initial rejection for permission for the right to access, once I have been out a few times, waved the friendly smile, and made the effort to talk with people, their attitudes shift a little. For me operating so close to the urban center of Calgary, building these types of relationships is a critical part of the process.  
 
 
Serious Scouting  
 

Now that you have secured permission to hunt from the landowner and have visited all the neighbours to let them know what you are going to be up to, it's time to walk the land in question. I like to do this several times at different times of the day and during different seasons, as it is always an educational experience. It is important for me to do this outside of the hunting experience, as sometimes when I am out calling I become very focused on the mission at hand. Sometimes, this focus comes at the expense of developing a more intimate relationship with the terrain. Just getting out to walk without the mindset that accompanies the purpose of the hunt has opened my eyes to many things that would have otherwise gone un-noticed. On these scouting trips, I like to walk a little slower, and sit down often to take in what is happening around me. I see more animals and learn about them this way than any other method I can think of. When you see animals, pay attention to what they are doing and what types of things are in their sphere of awareness. Take note of tracks and other sign you might encounter, and spend the time to investigate aspects of this sign that catch your interest. Remember, you are already at your destination, and it is now about a journey of exploration.  
 
 

Natural Funnels
Topographic funnels...excellent spots to try and call.
 
 

Despite trying to take in the whole experience (something I cannot emphasis enough), there are some specific things that I look for when I am out scouting. Sign is probably the most important. Once the snow flies, this becomes easy. I look for subtle undulations in the terrain. I try to feel how it is the wind like to play with the terrain and how the light makes the shadows dance across the land. I investigate many aspects of the terrains' inherent visibility, and not only to I spend considerable time sitting in the places I am considering using as stands later on, I walk many of the trails that have sign on them and pay attention as to how my potential stand location relates to them. I cannot stress the value of this type of experience...I continue to practice these types of observation techniques way into the predator hunting process..even as I move from stand to stand while hunting.  
 
 
Wind  
 

In my opinion, a coyote's nose has to be the eighth wonder of the world. I have watched coyotes respond aggressively to a call, comming running in hard from over a thousand yards away, come to a gravel-skidding halt at around six hundred yards, gingerly work the air for a second, and then slink into the bush never to be seen again. The particular example haunting my mind as I write this was especially amazing, as the air was just about still, yet gently shifting a bit as the sun raked across a large coulee. What I would not give for just one minute to be able to process the air like I have seen these coyotes do many times....  
 
 

Mixed Forests Fall
This mixed forest in the foothills provides a great many more challenges than calling the open plains. The limited visibility and varied terrain make for some extremely challenging predator calling. It is worth it though, as a coyote might not be the only thing to show up to investigate the call!
 
 
 
Mixed Forests Fall
Another view of the same mixed terrain...this time a little closer. Notice the great variation in vegetation types....animals (especially predators) are experts with respect to the most effective utilization of this type of terrain.
 
 

A coyote's nose is to him what our eyes are to us. This does not mean that his eyesight is any worse than ours, infact I believe it to be better. What I am getting at here is that despite the fact their eyes probably see way better tham mine ever will, a coyote's nose is such a seriously sophisticated instrument that they they literally have the ability to see extremely long distances with their nose. This is why a careful consideration of air movement is critical in any stand selection. On his website, John-Henry of the CoyoteGods has penned a concept that bears a meaningful relation to the matter under discussion. He describes wind behaving as defined by the laws of hydrodynamics. That is, it flows and behaves like fluid. I imagine water flowing like a stream, sometimes gently...pooling in areas of deep relief, and sometimes turbulently and violently...spraying chaotically like the mist cast from a waterfall or from the crest of a wind driven wave as it breaks. The same way that a wide variety of ways to get wet apply to us (ie: walking through fog, sprayed by the waterfall, or going for a swim), there are a ga-zillion different ways that a coyote might be misted, sprayed, or drenched in your scent. By trying to become aware of the wind and utilizing it as best you can, hopefully you can mask your proximity to the subject predator long enough to get your camera or gun settled.  
 
 

Rivers
Many of my best experiences have been along draws feeding larger water systems, such as this one.
 
 
 
Camouflage & Movement  
 

Despite the fact that we have a separate page devoted to the subject of camouflage, it is worth mentionning here in our section on stand selection. When you pick your stand locations, it is often advantageous to try and situate yourself such that when the predator is inbound, there is some cover behind you. When the predator is coming, it is critical to observe one of the most important aspects of camouflage discipline: to remain still. The eyes on that coyote are as least as keen as yours, so me assured that if you can see him out to a thousand yards, given the right conditions he is sure as hell going to see you. Situating your stand where you can keep your sillhouette off the horizon, minimize movement, introduce some clutter into your background and immediate surrounding, and play the light such that you make it as difficult as possible for the predator to see you is just as important as paying attention to the wind. For the majority of us who call with mouth blown predator calls, this is especially important, as when that coyote comes running in he has his multi-faceted radar searching frantically for the source of that free lunch.  
 
 
Approaching and Occupying your Stand  
 

Hopefully you have picked a stand location where there are some nearby coyotes soon to be enticed by the screams of a dying rabbit and now you are ready to get in there and start calling in some fur. Remembering that there are more than likely coyotes nearby, I try to enter my stand location as if I am already hunting. Slowly, quietly, and as alert as I possible can be. There have been more than one occasion that I have bumped coyotes on my way into the stand, and sometimes I am lucky enough to become aware of them before they become aware of me. Thundering down the path chatting it up with your calling partner is certainly not going to help and I would bet money that in this situation, the coyote will be on to you and long gone long before you get to your stand. Hunt on your way in. This strategy has paid huge dividends for me on many different occasions. I have had multiple opportunites in the spot and stalk department, and while the odds are not as great as when you are calling from a well concealed stand, many times has hunting between stand locations put fur on the stretcher.  
 
 

Seizing opportunites
This photograph was taken from my shot location towards the opposite side of a draw where I caught a coyote mousing. A dead coyote lays in the center of the circle on the opposite side of the bank. Hunting into the wind while walking from one stand location to another, I saw her about 800 yards out and a gruelling 45 minute crawling stalk on her to get a decent rifle shot. I made four stands that day without seeing any fur, but still wound up coming home with some!
 
 

Once I am in my stand, I like to sit for 10 to 20 minutes, trying to sink into my environment to the best of my ability. It allows things that may have been disrupted by your entry to the stand location to settle down a bit and perhaps approach or return to their pre-disturbance condition. I then begin by calling softly. For more information on calling techniques, check out the section on calls.  
 
 
Time of Day  
 

Much of the conventional dogma surrounding the most appropriate time of day to hunt predators seems to suggest the hours at the beginning and the end of the day. While useful as a general guideline, this has not been my experience. It seems to me that there are too many other factors that enter into the grand equation. During the dead of winter, there have been some extremely cold mornings where I have not seen a single coyote on the move until the sun is well up. Sometimes it has not even been that cold and this has been my experience. Other times, activity first thing in the morning is hot with the coyotes bedding down only a few hours after sunrise. My thoughts? Weather seems to be one of the more potent variables in trying to understand what time of day is going to have the highest degree of action.  
 
 

Porcupine
Quite often, when am depressed from having spent the entire day crawling through the bush all day without seeing a single coyote, I will notice something that makes the trip just a stunning success. On this particular occasion, I was walking between stands and noticed a TON of sign of a variety I had never seen before...I looked up and saw this porcupine giving me the evil eye.
 

One word of caution here....I tend to do most of my predator hunting in time chunks of either half days or full days. I have by far been more successful when I have committed an entire day to predator hunting and surrender to the knowledge that there are going to be some hours where nothing is on the move. This is not a negative thing. The more time I spend outside, the more I realize that I don't spend enough time outside. Get outside and try it for yourself...don't be dissapointed if you spend days without seeing a single coyote...the experience is cumulative and extremely educational. Try it...  
 
 
Weather  
 

It has been my observation that weather is the single biggest variable influencing whether or not animals will be on the move, or more specifically, when animals are going to be on the move. I say when because it never ceases to amaze me just how many animals are out on a given section of land on any day...my ability to find them is to a large extent determined by the degree to which they are out and about. If they are hunkered down, I can just about walk right over top of them without seeing them, whereas when they are on the move detection is much easier.

It has also been my observation that many animals seem to have an intuitive understanding of weather. As fronts are fast approaching, the animals seem to be extremely active. I have read and heard rationalizing explainations for this along the lines of "well...they understand that they won't be eating for a while as a storm moves through, so they are working hard to make up for it!" How much of this is true I don't know, but it is amazing to check out animal activity on both sides of a drastic change in the weather. If a stable weather pattern has moved through, animals seem to adjust their daily routines to other pressures. For example...the fall and early winter of 2002 was extremely mild up here in Alberta. For the first part of the fall, coyotes were responding to calls on a fairly regular basis. As time moved on, we had no snow and many of the fields I have been hunting in were subject to serious grazing by both deer and cattle. Coyote activity related to calling tapered off to nothing. In fact, there was an entire month where I hunted hard yet did not put a single piece of fur in the freezer.

Then one day I looked out west and the sky was black. I got out to call that day and while the coyotes were not yet responding to calls, I saw coyote after coyote. I was able to put the stalk on one and ended my most prolonged dry spell ever. We got snow the next day and the temperature settled in a good 10 degrees C colder than it had been. Within days, the coyotes were responding well to calls.  
 
 

Changing weather - fallen coyote
It was -26 degrees celcius and had been for over a week when I shot this coyote. I was moving from one stand to another, practicing my stalking techinques when I saw a coyote off in the distance. He was in plain view and mousing his way slowly towards me as I quickly set myself up. I squeeked him into the open and put some more fur in the freezer.
 
 
 
From dead coyote to improvised stand
This is what it looked like from where he fell down dead to the focal point of his attention...me! It was only because I was moving slowly and masked by terrain that I was able to remain undetected long enough to be ready for him.
 

So just like I prefer to select stand locations in fringe areas of the terrain, I like to call the fringe areas of the weather. The tip or tail end of any storm is an excellent time to call. Once again, getting out and putting in the time is the best medicine. You can read all you want, but until you experience it firsthand, everything else is just somebody's words.  
 
 
 


 
 
image linking to 100 Top Hunting Sites