Hunting Coyotes — The A.J. Way
A master predator hunter shares his tips and tactics for hunting Georgia’s most wanted game thief.
Farmers hate coyotes because of occasional losses of livestock. Homeowners hate coyotes because of occasional losses of pets. Hunters hate coyotes because they prey on game animals, sometimes having a significant impact on the same populations hunters like to prey on.
A.J. Niette is one of only a few hunters in Georgia who do not hate coyotes. He loves coyotes… Well, he loves to hunt them.
A.J. may be Georgia’s most dedicated coyote hunter. Most deer or turkey hunters read about, plan and think about their sports year-round; A.J. brings the same kind of passion to predator hunting. He hunts predators as much as he can, and when he is not hunting, he attends outdoors shows to promote predator hunting. He sells a few predator calls and predator hunts and offers predator control, but he primarily enjoys conversing with and sharing information with other predator hunters.
While deer hunters may find it difficult to find a good place to hunt, A.J. has a hard time deciding where to hunt coyotes! This is because he has so many choices. There aren’t many deer or turkey hunters who wouldn’t welcome a master coyote hunter on their land.
He is a member of a deer lease in Alabama, primarily to predator hunt. He does a little bowhunting for deer, but his primary concentration is predator hunting. He hunts on multiple properties, both in Georgia and Alabama, free of charge, because of the valuable service he provides. Some landowners and hunting clubs pay for predator hunters or wildlife-control agents to come on their properties and remove coyotes and other predators. A.J. does it for free, for the privilege of hunting predators. He thinks it’s a fair trade, as the landowner gets someone without charge to remove game-robbing varmints that prey on quail, turkey and deer fawns. Although research on the effect of removing predators to benefit game species is mixed, there is one thing known for sure. When one coyote is removed from a property, it won’t be dining on any more quail, turkey or fawns.
A.J. says hunting coyotes is not like going to a good dove shoot where there are lots of targets. Coyotes are smart and cunning, with great eyesight and a keen sense of smell; thus killing one is usually not easy. He says many Georgia hunters get the wrong expectations from watching western hunters on DVDs or television, where they pop coyotes across wide distances.
Out West, predators must expose themselves in the open because the short grass is their natural habitat. In Georgia, heavily wooded forest land is the norm, and often a coyote must be within 50 yards for the hunter to see it. That short distance, stressed A.J., puts a lot of factors in the coyote’s favor. He’s a lot more likely to see you or smell you at close range, and he can slip in and away without you even knowing he was there.
That’s why A.J. says his success rates normally run about 20 percent. For every 10 times he hunts coyotes, he shoots them on two hunts. Compared with deer hunting, a 20-percent success rate on a WMA hunt would be considered above average. The message, says A.J., is not to get discouraged if you don’t call in a coyote after just a few hunts, as continued effort will lead to success. Here is how A.J. hunts coyotes. His tactics may help you achieve success.
One of A.J.’s principles of coyote hunting is to have multiple blind locations on many different properties. The goal is to spread out the hunting pres- sure and to not let the coyotes get too educated to your hunting methods. If he shoots a coyote from one location, he might let it rest for a month or more before he returns. Another key is to get the blind off the ground, but not too high, to improve distance visibility. A.J. likes a short, 6-foot-high, two-per- son, ladder stand because it is stable, roomy, and he can hunt with a friend or guest without a problem. Most deer stands are too high, he says, and squeak when you move. That little bit of noise is often enough to alert an incoming coyote. He places his stands along the edges of fields or powerlines for the best long-range shooting opportunity and presently has about 20 ladder stands out on different properties.
The choice of calls is also critical to success, and A.J. has a preference for FoxPro calls www.gofoxpro.com used with remote control. This allows him to put out his Jack In The Box rodent decoy, which slowly moves and jerks around, along with the caller in the same location. A.J. can then move about 100 yards away to his ladder stand. This way, the coyote is hunting the caller and fake rabbit. It is focused on the location of the decoy, which draws its attention away from A.J. This provides a huge advantage over mouth- blown predator calls that involve hunter movement and divert the hunter’s attention away from incoming coyotes.
To spice up his decoy presentation, A.J. often will place a coyote decoy a few feet away from his Jack In The Box. This adds to the coyote’s sense of curiosity, drawing him into the setup. In addition to those decoys, A.J. often sets up a hen turkey with a remote turkey caller about 200 yards from the other decoy setup. Although he could run both at the same time, he prefers to alternate the setups, running one for 20 minutes or so, then the other.
A.J.’s coyote thunder stick is a Colt AR15 rifle in .223 caliber. He says it shoots flat out to 250 yards and is sighted to be 1-inch high at 100 yards. He uses Hornaday Custom Match ammo with 52-grain bullets. He likes the possibility of a fast follow-up shot, but says he normally only gets one shot. His back-up rifle is a heavy barreled Remington model 770 in .223 caliber with Nikon optics.
In addition to the regular coyote- hunting techniques above, A.J. recommends going the extra mile for success and brings a little African-style bait hunting to Georgia. You have probably seen African leopard hunters tying a small dead antelope up in a tree to lure the big predators into range. A.J. has found the same method works in Georgia for coyotes with a little different twist.
He uses the remains of deer killed during the hunting season (after processing) or road-killed deer in other times of the year to pull in coyotes. He takes the deer into the woods and straps it against an upright tree, usually about 4 feet off the ground. Coyotes and bobcats can reach it at that height, but not vultures. He can watch the bait’s vicinity from about 150 yards in the early morning or evening and use his remote FoxPro caller to pull in coyotes that are normally hanging around the area and feeding on the carcass, and that works. But he has discovered another nifty way to tag a coyote with the bait.
Prior to hunting, he sets up a trail camera a short distance from the bait. Hunting just after dark, he gets in a good vantage point and settles in his blind. When a coyote comes into the bait it triggers the trail camera and its strobe light flashes. Then A.J. flips on his red light to spot the coyote. Bang — the coyote is history! Most coyote hunters have not tried this method because of the work involved, but it’s one of A.J.’s best ways to stretch out a coyote.
On May 7, I met A.J. to try for some Taylor County coyotes, near Butler. To make a long story short, we hunted hard around powerlines, fields and good woodlands, but we never saw a coyote. We did see numerous turkeys and deer, and I had a great day afield learning how to coyote hunt.
As A.J. says, coyotes are smart and the dumb ones get culled out of the population quickly. Coyote hunting is not all about pulling the trigger but also about enjoying the outdoors and the pleasures of the day. It was a great day, and I see more coyote hunting in my future.
In fact, I was on Oaky Woods WMA on May 12 walking around looking for a wild pig when I heard a coyote howl only about 150 yards away. I was using a CVA blackpowder rifle, which is legal for turkeys on WMAs during the turkey season. I decided to move in its direction to see if I could get a shot, since the wind was favorable. As I eased through the woods I suddenly saw the coyote coming at me and froze. I took a shot at 30 yards as it trotted by through the under- brush, but I missed, dang it!
A word of warning, check the state hunting regulations to be familiar with all rules. Generally, there is no closed season on coyotes, no limit and electronic calls may be used. Electronic calls may only be used on WMAs to hunt coyotes from Aug. 15 – Nov. 30. On private property any firearm can be used for coyotes, but on WMAs only big-game weapons are allowed during the deer hunts and only small-game weapons can be used during the small- game season dates listed for each individual WMA.
If you have a coyote problem, try some of A.J.’s techniques. They may just lead you to some success thinning out that pack of coyotes on your hunting land. Besides, they sure are fun to hunt — just ask A.J.!
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