Teaching An Old Dog New Coyote Hunting Tricks
By Justin Shireman
I have always been an avid outdoorsman. It was instilled me as I was growing up. Deer season was always much anticipated, sitting next to Dad on a frost covered hill somewhere in western Oklahoma. We all know the drill, getting up well before dawn, sleeping in the passenger seat all the way there, and then following Dad to wherever he thought the deer would be.
Things changed as I became a little older into my mid teens. I wanted to hunt with my buddies and we all thought we were smarter and could get around better without the help of our “old men”. It took us a while to learn the ropes!
Fast forward to my college years. Hunting was still a priority but so were a lot of other things. Right before my senior year of college, I was dating my future wife, so I wasn’t getting into quite as much trouble. I seemed to have a little more time to hunt. I became interested in coyote hunting. Dad had done it years ago in the back of a truck with a tape recorder, but never took it very seriously. So I had to learn.
I ordered a couple videos, and rented some books from the library to start my studies. Mom and Dad told me that for graduating college they would buy me any rifle I wanted (within some limitations). So I ordered a heavy barreled 22-250 with a 6.5 X 20 on top, and started shooting. I got a pack of calls for Christmas and was ready, or so I thought!
Dad was right along with me as I was learning the ropes. I tried to tell him what all I had read and watched on my videos. Of course he listened to some of them and thought some of the other pointers were crazy, and he could do them better. And so we were off to call some critters, so we thought! Take in mind, that all of these instances were when we were hunting together. When he couldn’t go, I would go by myself and learn different things on my own. I would tell him about them and then we would go together again.
The very first stand we made, after about 20 minutes of calling, nothing showed. As we stood up and decided to leave, there was a nice young coyote sitting on his haunches about 40 yards behind us trying to figure us out. He ran off over the hill before we even knew what hit us. As we were walking to the pickup we could hear him about 300 yards away barking to all his buddies. Lesson # 1: Watch the downwind side, always!
One of the big pointers that Dad thought I was wrong on was carrying binoculars. He insisted on it, and I am totally against it. It is just more movement for them to catch. But it took Dad one instance to realize I was right. After me calling for about 15 minutes and nothing had showed, he was glassing across a canyon when a young pup popped up right in front of him at about 40 yards. Dad’s gun was lying across his lap and his binoculars up to his face. Even a pup knows something is up at a time like this and he was gone. Lesson #2: Never take binoculars with you. If you see something that may be a critter, keep watching and if it moves, it is alive. Dad never takes binoculars calling anymore!
What about the time I was in the local gun shop to pick up some reloading supplies when I stumbled upon a top of the line 22-250 with a beautiful wood stock, a 4.5 X 14 on top, and a perfect 26 inch fluted sporter barrel out of it? The rifle was on consignment for what I considered a “steal”. I didn’t need it, but knew Dad would jump all over it, and he did. He is sort of like me, meaning when a new toy comes home to the collection, you cannot wait to draw blood with it. Well, the timing wasn’t the greatest as we were all very busy. He wanted to go calling with it before he shot it thinking that it would be sighted in. After all, who has a rifle lying around that isn’t ready to go?
Dad pleaded with me to go with him, but I insisted, “NO! Not if you’re using that gun. All it will do is make us angry in the end because we screwed up!”
He went off without me and I believe my exact words were, “Call me when you get back without any fur because you missed.”
When I picked up the phone that evening, all I heard was, “Well, you were right.”
Need I say more? We both knew what would happen; it is Murphy’s Law. He got caught up in the moment, and with the time restraints of not being able to go hunting the next couple of weeks, he gave in to temptation and the coyotes won. I don’t think I ever told him that I couldn’t have gone anyway because of a family commitment. I just wanted to be able to say, “I told you so!”
Have you ever taken someone that has never been calling before and try to convince them that they have to be ready with gun up at all times? Try teaching a grown man that has taught you everything about hunting and shooting to do this. You will be surprised. It will go something like this:
You will set up and call for about 10 minutes when a coyote will come circling from behind to your partner’s side. The coyote will peg your presence but cannot wind you. He will trot around trying to figure out what he needs to do while you are lip squeaking to keep him interested. It will be at this time that your partner, (Dad) will try to ease his gun up to his shoulder and get a shot. The young coyote will start trotting off in a path so as not to expose himself to a running shot. The partner will unload his weapon and never scratch a hair on the young coyote, who is now a whole lot smarter to a call. Yes, you guessed it, Dad now has a couple bipods of different nature and always, always has his rifle shouldered and prepared for a shot.
Not only are we talking about learning from the hunting side of the spectrum, but of course these coyotes are also taking all of this in. When we first started, there were not near as many callers as are out there today. The sport has exploded! You did not used to be able to find more than maybe one or two calls in your favorite sporting goods catalog. The more people that are introduced to hunting, the better, but it does indeed make it tougher. This will probably weed some of the weaker minded out of the equation, but we “die-harders” have to get better, or there will be some long winters ahead.
Now, this may sound like I am just pointing out all of the times that Dad has screwed up while we were calling. That is not the case whatsoever. I still to this day have a couple screw-ups each season while I am out calling. That is the beauty of calling predators, the unknown. We can learn something from our mistakes every year. The moral of the story is that no matter how much you have hunted different species, or have shot numerous animals, there is always something to learn.
In this case, I hope that I have been a student of the game, in order to teach someone something new and say thanks for all of the things that Dad has taught me. I may be the better predator caller, but I’ll never match the archery deer kills that he has notched in his belt! It is always possible to teach an old dog a new trick; for you know the coyotes are learning.
Justin Shireman was raised in western Oklahoma near the town of Elk City. He graduated college with a Biology degree and is now employed in the oil and gas industry. He is a devoted outdoorsman, enjoys hunting any kind of game, whether it be archery, shotgun, or rifle. Justin is also an avid shooter and reloader. When he is not out hunting, shooting, or fishing, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter where they now reside, just south of Oklahoma City.