WMA Coyote Season Runs May 16-31

How to hunt springtime song dogs during daylight hours.

Brad Gill | May 6, 2024

Darrell Hudson, of Thomaston, does his fair share of coyote night hunting with thermals on big fields but also enjoys getting in the briars and thickets and calling them up close and personal.

One more crack at it!

If you rely on public land to fill that inner desire to hunt, the last two weeks of May will be your final chance until Aug. 15, when squirrel season opens and the hunting cycle begins anew.

WRD in recent years has allowed WMA hunting for coyotes and hogs from May 16-31. While you’ll need to check the WMA regs before heading out during this springtime season, you’ll find that many of them will offer this opportunity.

“The two-week May season is a direct response to hunters asking for more opportunity to pursue hogs and coyotes,” said Tina Johannsen, WRD’s assistant chief of Game Management.

Coyotes can be killed incidentally during all hunts on WMAs, but only with the weapons lawful for harvesting the game species in season at that time on that area. However, for the May 16-31 season, you can blow the dust off the .270 deer rifle if you choose to do so. Or you can use a .22 magnum or a shotgun. There are a few rules to know before you go:

• Coyote season is May 16-31 on all WMAs with any legal weapon, unless otherwise specified in the WMA specific area listings. Buckshot in shotguns is legal for this season, unless otherwise specified in the WMA specific area listings.

• Hunters are required to wear fluorescent orange (500 inches).

• No night hunting or baiting is allowed.

• Electronic calls may be used.

Ready to go? Great!

I spoke with coyote hunter Darrell Hudson, of Thomaston, to get a few daytime hunting tips. Darrell said most of what he does now is nighttime thermal hunting on private property, but before thermal hunting took off, he did his share of daytime hunting for coyotes. In fact, he still does some daytime hunting for the sheer thrill of it.

“It’s a lot of fun to get down there in the briars and thickets and call them up close and personal,” said Darrell. “Shooting a coyote in the woods is almost like shooting a nice deer with a bow to me. It never gets old, I get pumped when I shoot one.”

One of my take-aways from talking with Darrell is that this style of hunting is one where you need to be on high alert and ready for fast action. I’m picturing myself much like when a turkey is gobbling right over the hill and I have my gun on a knee pointed where I think he’ll pop into view.

“Most times when we hunt at night we’re hunting big fields, and we can see a long ways and get away with a little movement,” said Darrell. “But if you’re in the woods and you call one up 20 or 30 yards, they’ll pick you out real quick.”

For this reason, Darrell said his go-to choice of weapon for daytime coyotes is a shotgun.

“For me, I like No. 4 buckshot and a modified choke,” said Darrell.  “A lot of times they are running, and you need a scattergun.”

One thing about so many WMAs being open to this daytime opportunity is that you can find plenty of places to set up and call.

“I would try to find the thickest spot around,” said Darrell. “You may kill one in a real open hardwood bottom every once in a while, but they are like a big old buck. They are going to be in the thickets.

“I’d set up with the wind to my advantage—not blowing into where I think they are—and I would set up on the edge of a thicket with just a little bit of a clearing where I could shoot maybe 30 to 40 yards off that thicket.”

Much like hunting a big buck, Darrell watches the wind forecast before he ever goes hunting.

“We use the Weather Channel app,” he said. “If you know where you are going to hunt, you’ll know what wind you need for that area. If the wind is bad that day, I’m just going to wait another day to hunt him. If you just go in and educate them, it’s not going to be a good outcome.

“A Windicator would be an awesome tool to carry and use before calling. Even though your phone app says a certain wind doesn’t mean that’s what’s going on down in that particular thicket where you’ll be hunting.”

To call coyotes out of thick cover, Darrell opts for a MFK Edition FOXPRO X24 electronic call.

“I like e-callers because it gets the attention away from you,” said Darrell.

The X24 comes with a speaker he will place within shotgun range near the edge of the thicket he is hunting. The e-call comes with 100 premium MFK Sounds plus 200 high-quality FOXPRO sounds, with the ability to store and access up to 1,000 sounds. What Darrell chooses to play on his e-call will vary based on the time of year, terrain and whether he’s hunting day or night.

“For daytime hunting, bird distress calls work for me,” said Darrell. “When you’re in the woods, you’re always hearing a bird raising cane. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a rabbit squealing (a common distress call used by coyote hunters) in the woods in the daytime.

“A fawn distress call is fixing to get real good. Coyotes are really vocal, too. With it being denning season, a pup distress call is good this time of year.”

If trying to locate coyotes before setting up, Darrell may play what MFK labels as “Hello Howls.”

“You could locate them an hour before daylight and pretty much know the area where they are going to be,” said Darrell. “Or you could go the evening before you hunt the next morning. If you could get some to answer you on some group howls, you would know where they were hanging out, and that would help you a lot.”

Once you locate an area you believe coyotes are at and the wind is right, get as close as you can without alerting the dogs.

“Coyote hunting is a lot like turkey hunting,” said Darrell. “The closer you can get to a gobbler on the roost without spooking him, the better off you are. Same thing when setting up on a coyote.”

This advice could really pay off now since coyote denning season coincides with the May 16-31 WMA season.

“They are going to hold tight to those dens. The closer you can get to where you think they are without spooking them the better,” said Darrell.

Before beginning his calling sequence, Darrell will slip out within shotgun range and place the speaker of his e-call.

“You have to be real mindful because I have lost coyotes when they came running in and smelled me on the call,” said Darrell. “They will smell where you walked, too. I wouldn’t let them fool around the speaker too much. I’d be trying to take them before they get to it.”

When Darrell sits down to start calling, he’ll generally start with his caller on a low volume setting.

“I may start with a single coyote howl before bringing in some sort of distress call,” said Darrell. “I really don’t ever cut my call off. I will start on low volume. I don’t want to bust his ears wide open if he is at 100 yards. Then every three or four minutes, I’ll bump it up on the volume.”

Darrell said a key to his success is to change the call type.

“We like to break it up, you may have something playing and get no results, and you change one sound, and he was there all the time and just comes running in. He just liked that sound better,” said Darrell.

If you’ve turkey hunted and had a gobbler that wouldn’t talk or work and then you switched calls and he hammered all the way to gun, you get what Darrell says about changing up sounds.

“I’ll hunt an area for 30 to 45 minutes and then move on. I don’t like to burn their ears too much,” said Darrell.

One of Darrell’s favorite coyote hunter’s to watch on YouTube is Torry Cook. I watched some of his stuff on his channel, MFK GameCalls, and he’s the real-deal predator hunter who does daytime hunting and offers up great tips.

“I would definitely check out Torry Cook,” said Darrell. “He does the type of hunting these guys (WMA daytime hunters) could benefit from. It’s a blast to watch his hunts. I have learned a lot from watching his videos.”

Although Torry and Darrell opt for hunting on the ground, WMA hunters are required to wear orange and may consider using a climbing stand.

WMA Coyote Hunting Without The Bells & Whistles: It makes sense to me that having an e-caller with multiple sounds, along with the best gun, choke and shotshell you can buy will up the odds for success. However, Darrell is an advocate for those without the fancy equipment to get after it!

“You can get out there with your granddaddy’s shotgun and some turkey shells and try it,” said Darrell. “You can do it with hand calls, too. I’ve killed a lot of coyotes deer hunting. I always kept a Primos Mouse Squeaker in my pocket for when I saw a coyote.”

While scouting will up the odds even more, many folks juggle work and home life and don’t have time to scout for a predator.

“Most of my coyotes have been killed on total blind calling,” said Darrell. “Just set up in a spot you think has potential and give a try, as long as the wind is your favor. Just being in the woods is fun enough. If you kill one, that’s icing on the cake.”

The Food Plot Plan: While hunting a thicket is Darrell’s bread-and-butter method for daytime coyote hunting, you may consider hunting a WMA food plot or opening.

“If they are going to hunt a food plot, it might be beneficial to use a decoy,” said Darrell. “The only thing with a decoy is you better be on your toes. They will come in there charging after that decoy.”

The Biological Bonus: So there you have it! An opportunity to scratch that late-season itch before summer sets in. In addition to the cool opportunity, don’t forget the wildlife benefits you’ll be offering up.

“Aside from coyote hunting being a rewarding recreational quest in its own right, removal of coyotes when turkeys, deer and many other wildlife are rearing young may benefit those prey populations,” said Tina. “Like many domestic canines, coyotes are not picky eaters and will take whatever unlucky bird, mammal or reptile they can eat.”

The Prize Bonus: If you find yourself standing over a dead coyote later this month, grab your May issue of GON and snap a photo of you with the dog. Enter it in GON’s annual Coyote Cull where you could win a cool prize. Flip over to page 70 for more on that contest.

Coyote Dens

Since the WMA coyote season takes place during the coyote denning season, we had a few coyote denning questions for Summer Fink, a PhD student at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Where do coyotes prefer to den? “Coyotes will den in just about any stable structure, such as live tree trunks, fallen tree trunks and rock structures. They do like to make ground burrows in hillsides. Typically, when they do this, they use something on the landscape that will provide a strong roof and then burrow just under it. We have seen them do this with discarded concrete slabs, large boulders and even abandoned boats.

“They choose locations where they feel the most comfortable/safe. Generally, that does tend to be in thick cover, but this is not always the case if the den is relatively far from human activity.”

When are coyote pups born in Georgia? How long will pups be in the dens with mama before they venture out? “Pups are born anywhere from the third week in March to the last week of April here in Georgia. They will stay inside or within a few yards of the den for approximately six weeks. After that, they will start to explore the environment with their parents. At around six months, the brave ones will start to venture off on their own, but they may not fully leave their family group until they are 2 years old.”

Any idea how far mama coyotes will travel when pups are in the den as they seek out food? “I have not had a chance to look at this yet. However, moms are really restricted to the den until they (pups) are about three weeks old just because they are vulnerable to predation and need to be fed regularly. After that, she still will not use her entire home range until the pups are probably about three to four months old, but that is just an estimate on my part.”

Do males help raise or bring food to the females in the dens? “Yes. Coyotes are monogamous and pair up for life, so males put quite a bit of effort into each litter. When the mother is restricted to the den, the males will hunt and bring back food for the mom. When the pups start to eat solid food (mice, lizards, frogs), then she will also help hunt and bring back food.”

Become a GON subscriber and enjoy full access to ALL of our content.

New monthly payment option available!


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.