Long Range Hunting Online Magazine

South Dakota's Public Land Coyotes

Cluff generally sets up below the rim of a cliff or a hill where he can look over miles of rolling prairie or a canyon or draw. This allows him to see approaching coyotes long before they come within rifle range. He places his FOXPRO FX3 Digital Game Call 30 yards upwind of his position.

South Dakota's Public Land Coyotes

“Hunter-wise coyotes will try to circle downwind 90 percent of the time,” Cluff said. “You have to nail them before they get far enough to wind you.”

Cluff’s remote electronic caller emits dozens of different sounds, including the cottontail and jackrabbit distress calls that most hunters rely on. Cluff uses rabbit distress calls, but he often fares better with something different, such as woodpecker in distress, starling in distress and coyote pup in distress.

Whatever call Cluff chooses to send across the prairie, he always avoids a rhythmic cadence. This is a common mistake, he believes. For example, if you repeatedly call for 10 seconds and then pause for 10 seconds, the regular cadence sounds unnatural no matter how realistic the tone. It could prompt a hunter-wise coyote to skedaddle.

Constantly change the length of your calling sequences and your pauses, Cluff advises. An irregular pattern better mimics what happens in the natural world.

“I can see a long way with my binocular in prairie country,” Cluff said. “If a coyote doesn’t show in 20 minutes, I’m outta there.”

When Cluff spots a distant coyote that’s lukewarm to his calling, he studies it through his binocular while trying different calls. Sometimes a coyote is more interested in mousing than responding to any call, and it eventually loses interest.

South Dakota's Public Land Coyotes

Then again, Cluff often comes up with something that pulls the coyote within range. That something might be as simple as letting the electric call run continuously at a higher volume. Or, you might need to try several different calls until one grabs the coyote’s attention. There is no set rule.

Switching calls did the trick when Cluff was hunting public grasslands near Pierre, South Dakota, during the month of February. He spotted a female coyote at 1,000 yards. She was curious about Cluff’s woodpecker in distress call, but wasn’t closing the distance.

“Then I tried the coyote pup in distress call and she came in on a beeline,” Cluff said. “I killed her at 25 steps.”

South Dakota's Public Land CoyotesWith his tricked-out H-S Precision rifle in 6.5x284 Norma, Josh Cluff feels confident taking shots at coyotes out to 600 yards or more. If you can overlook the yellow gloves, this photo nicely shows off the rifle’s fluted barrel and muzzle brake.

Cluff also has a few rabbit in distress calls on a lanyard around his neck. He prefers the electronic call because of its louder volume. But, there are times when mixing in a mouth call makes good things happen.

On a typical South Dakota public land hunt, Cluff sees five or six coyotes and bags one or two. He has taken as many as six coyotes in one day. The best late season hunting happens on miserably cold winter days. A wind prevents the coyotes from pinpointing your calling location, Cluff adds.

“Give me 10 below zero and a 5 mph wind,” Cluff says. “The coyotes have to eat more when it gets that cold. They’re hungry and likely to come charging in.”

The VARMINT HUNTER Magazine, a 208-page publication put together for shooters by shooters. The Varmint Hunters Association, Inc. hosts several 600-yard IBS matches, a coyote calling contest, and an annual Jamboree in Fort Pierre, SD. The Jamboree is a week-long shooting event known as "a summer camp for shooters".

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