Hunting Coyotes at Night and Under Darkness

  • Written By Eric Crouch on September 28, 2020
    Last Updated: January 31, 2021

Coyotes can be nasty varmint and they are a massive problem for farmers all over the country. They go after livestock and they do not stop at just one kill either. Coyotes kill for fun and if they get into a chicken coup, they will kill the whole flock and only take one to eat. Most landowners that own livestock will jump at the chance to rid their land of the pesky coyotes that threaten their livelihood.

If the farmers and landowners aren’t killing them themselves, then they will find someone that will wipe them out effectively and efficiently.

So, how do you dispatch a bunch of angry coyotes?

One of the best ways to hunt coyotes is to draw them out and shoot them at night. Coyotes are generally more active at night when they live in close proximity to humans and you will rarely see them in the daylight. This is why it is more effective to hunt them during the dark hours. There are a few different tactics you can use to hunt coyotes at night, and they can be extremely lucrative if you set up in the right place. In this article, we will be looking at how to hunt coyotes at night and some of the best tactics to use when your out hunting in the dark hours.

Scouting for Coyotes

When you head out to hunt coyotes at night the best place to start is in the daylight. This may sound strange but you first want to locate where the coyotes are and pinpoint their movements in the day so you know where to set up at night. Without fully scouting out your hunting area before you head out at night you are walking into trouble and finding a coyote will be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Look out for signs that coyotes are in the area and once you have confirmed their presence, start to look into their movements. Look around tree lines, crop lines, grassy areas, and creeks on the edges of the fields you want to hunt. In these areas, you will likely find trails that the coyotes use to crossover when night falls. Try to get into the head of a coyote and think as they do. Where would you enter and what kind of areas would you hunt for rodents, rabbits, or livestock?

Once you have mapped out an area, you can start to observe your surroundings and get an idea of the places you will set up for the duration of the night. Look for areas of cover and places where you can wait without being seen. Find some locations that have a backdrop to your back and a trail or crossing point in front so you can start your night hunt with your best foot forward.

How to Spot Coyotes in the Darkness

Spotting coyotes in the dark takes some skill and some killer tactics. The best way to do this is by lamping. Lamping is when you use a light source to detect the eyeshine of animals during the dark hours of the night. You must use your lamp wisely and ensure that you do not spook the predators with too much shine. The key to this is developing the skill to use the edge of the beam while keeping the main beam high off the ground. Once you have mastered this technique you will be able to spot eyeshine effectively without spooking the coyotes before you can take aim.

When you are out lamping, you will usually go in pairs so one hunter is on the gun and ready to take fire, while the other hunter is on the light scanning for coyotes. The other option is to use a weapon-mounted light that you can use to directly scan the area for eye shine while ready to pull the trigger. These lights are mounted above the scope so you can quickly transition from scanning to firing.

Weapon-mounted light sources limit your scanning abilities and they definitely slow you down when out in the field, they are also much dimmer than a hand-held lamp. Handheld light sources allow you to scan the landscape for eyeshine quickly and they have a lot more power, which means they are more effective over long distances. The only drawback to using a hand-held light source is the fact that you will need a hunting partner or a way to support your weapon while you scan. Solo hunting with a handheld lamp can be a juggle and you will often miss potential kills from trying to get on your weapon in time.

Which type of light source you use for lamping will ultimately depend on your circumstances and the area you are hunting in. If you are hunting over open areas where long-distance kills are likely, then a handheld would be best. If you are hunting in closer quarters on your own, then a weapon-mounted light source is much more practical. You may even consider using two light sources, so you can scan large areas quickly with the handheld and locate eyeshine with the weapon-mount when you are sighting up to your target.

Your other option is to use thermal imaging gear such as a pair of night-vision goggles or a thermal scope. This is arguably the best way to locate coyotes at night because you can get a clear identity on the species other than just relying on eyeshine. The main issue with thermal kit is the hefty price tag. A good set of night-vision goggles that are suitable for hunting situations will set you back over 5,000 dollars and a thermal scope over 3,000 dollars!

For most hunters, this is too big a price to pay just to take out a few coyotes. However, if your budget allows it and you do have the spare change to purchase some thermal kit, this is one of the best ways to locate a target at night. There is a reason they are used by the military for missions in darkness.

Drawing Coyotes in With a Calling Setup

One of the best methods to get coyotes into range is to use a calling setup. Without the same noise pollution as there is in the daytime, sound travels farther and sounds louder at nighttime. This means you can play calls at a lower volume and expect them to cover a long distance, especially if the wind conditions are calm.

Using calls to draw in coyotes works brilliantly, especially at night when they are far more active. Coyotes like to hunt during the dark hours so using calls that mimic distressed prey is a killer way to attract their attention and draw them into shooting range. Coyotes are extremely aggressive and 9 times out of 10 they will flock to the noise of a screeching cottontail without a second thought.

There are some other noises you can relay though, such as howling and barking. Theses types of noises work well all-year-round, but they are especially lethal during the coyote breeding season when they are particularly confident and aggressive. Using a howl as your locator is the best way to start your night calls. When you get a response from a coyote or two you can gauge how far away, they are and whether they are homing-in on the sound and moving closer to you.

Once you have called the coyotes in closer using the howling call, you can start to draw them into your field of view by using distressing sounds. This will “seal the deal” and hopefully draw your target into view ready to be lamped, sighted, and culled.

Setting up Your “Trap”

It is extremely important to set up your kit downwind or hunt a crosswind. Wherever you expect the coyotes to enter your shooting range you should position yourself downwind from this area and your caller. Doing this will make sure that the coyote’s sensitive nose doesn’t pick up your scent and put them off.

Use the darkness to your advantage and avoid the moonlight at all costs. Find a good vantage point where your outline cannot be seen against the skyline and your body is protected from the moonlight, so your shadow is not cast ahead of you. You should also avoid setting up in the moonlight to avoid blowing your cover. Try to find a dark spot with good cover behind you at a vantage point with an open, unbroken view ahead of you.

Always think about where you will set up your caller and how you will scan with your light. Will your beam be disturbed by foliage in front of you or broken up by a tree line? Try to set up with an open view ahead of you so your beam is working most effectively, and you can clearly see eyeshine with quick sweeps. Having an open area ahead of you makes it much easier to pinpoint exactly where the coyotes are to make the shot.

Once you are set up in a good location with the wind on your side, the moonlight in your favor, and an open undisturbed range ahead of you, you should set up your caller. Place the caller in a covered area around 20 to 30 yards ahead of you. The ideal spot for your caller is in long grass or the cover of a crop. Once you are set up, retreat to your vantage point with your remote.

Now you are all set up you should start using the caller to create vocalizations. Your calling strategy comes down to your location more than anything, and it is an art rather than a science. Your best bet is to start with some howling and wait for a response. If the coyotes in the area are responding, continue until you hear them drawing in closer. A few quick scans with the light source can be useful at this point to check for eyeshine in the distance.

Once you are confident the predators are drawing in, change your vocalizations to distress sounds to attract their attention further. Frequent fast scans with the light will reveal any coyotes in range. Once you have drawn one into range keep the lamp on it while your partner makes a shot (or yourself if hunting solo). The coyote will stun from the light for a few seconds and then bolt, so be quick on the trigger and make every shot count.

As the hunt progresses, use periods of silence in between vocalizations to listen out for activity in the area. It can be useful to slowly increase the volume of your calls as time goes on to reach coyotes that are further afield. You will likely spook animals in the area into cover after every shot of your rifle or shotgun, so expect to experience periods of calm after a kill. Be patient and stick to your strategy, if there are coyotes in the vicinity and you scouted well beforehand, you should come home with a good bag of pelts.

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