How to Hunt Coyotes at Night
Pre-Scout: Don’t expect to find good locations in the dark! Spend time during the day marking stands to hunt at night. As you travel the area, or hunt it in the daytime, make notes of places you’re saving for hunting coyotes at night. It’s really hard to drive around and spotlight places you want to hunt during the night. Scout it out beforehand!
I prefer to stand while night hunting, unless I can hunt from atop a vehicle, which is illegal in most states. In fact it’s almost too difficult to acquire your target without standing. Yes, that’s right, hunting at night almost requires that you stand up in order to see the predators better.
With the darkness as your camouflage you don’t need to sit in front of a bush or tree to conceal your body’s outline, unless you’ve got some moonlight shining on you.
A lightweight carbon fiber tripod will allow you to get your shooting position up off the ground. To mount your weapon safely, you’ll need something like a hog saddle or pig saddle. This will allow for quiet and easy rotation from left to right. You can leave your gun on a system like this to scan with lights, night vision, or thermal devices.
I cannot recommend a tripod system highly enough, they are almost essential to your success. Stand in an open spot away from trees and brush, but keep something behind you when hunting under moonlight to breakup your outline. If you’re using a light, it can hit trees and branches around you making them noticeable to approaching animals. A large white barked tree can act as a reflector and shine light onto you. It’s quite the opposite of day hunting in some regard.
Calling Coyotes at Night
Sound travels farther at night than during the day. The wind usually calms at night as well allowing your sound to get max sound projection. Because of these things we play our distress sounds on lower volume. Coyotes are very vocal at night most of the time, you can howl and locate, then move closer to play distress sounds. We usually stick to higher pitched sounds at night, and howl a little more than in the day to get responses and determine where they are at. Coyotes tend to come slower at night and work down wind. We usually set up on the downwind side anticipating the dogs will work toward us.
Lights, Thermal, or Night Vision?
My favorite way to hunt at night is with thermal. It’s like cheating honestly. With high quality thermal devices you can see animals hundreds of yards out in complete darkness. I’ve even used a pair of $80,000 binoculars that let us identify animals at damn near a mile!
No matter what your budget or local laws allow for, you need to account for a hand scanning device and weapon mounted device. Scanning with your weapon isn’t practical and you’ll wear yourself out on the first stand. It’s also very loud and an approaching predator will pick up on the noise you’re making as you stumble around your tripod scanning.
For thermal, I use a monocular and I prefer this Pulsar monocular, and then I have a thermal scope mounted on my rifle. If I’m using lights I have this Wicked Lights Kit that has a hand scanner, and weapon mounted light. It also solves the light color debate by combining all three common colors into one light.
Night Vision is nice, but to get a high quality image you’ll need a high powered IR scan light to illuminate your subject. Take a look at the new Sightmark Wriath setup if you want to go the budget night vision route, with a hand scanner like this monocular. Night vision can see through glass, where thermal can’t. You can drive down the road blacked out with night vision, and scan fields as well. Thermal requires rolling the windows down and that can get nippy in the winter time. It may not matter because some states make all of that illegal, remember to follow your local laws so that you don’t lose your hunting privileges.
Tips For Using Predator Hunting Lights
What’s the best light color? Ask three hunters and you’ll get four answers. I’ve started using white. I film my night hunts, and I’ve noticed that coyotes, fox, and bobcat will come in to a white light. White is ideal, but I know some prefer green or red. You can see a little better with green vs. red. Eyes pop with red. Red is more traditional. Green is more popular. See, now you’re even more confused. I say choose what you’re leaning toward. Watch the preview below, and see they’re using white light, and a lot of it.
Scanning Tips: While hunting with Texas night hunters you learn real fast how to scan at night. Do it quickly. Scan back and forth really fast. You’re objective is to catch eyes, not see an animals full body. If you realize your goal is to hit something reflective, you’ll understand that quick scanning is best. If it takes you more than five seconds to cover a field, you’re going too slow! When scanning with a partner, split the field in half, then don’t overlap your scanning until you see something.
Halo the Animals: Once you’ve identified a pair of eyes, use the edge of your light as a “halo” effect to follow the animal. Most of the time you want to avoid shining the brightest part of the beam directly into their eyes. Once you get light on them, don’t take it off. Some don’t care about using a halo method, the video above shows that it doesn’t matter much. Not all coyotes respond the same, no two dogs are alike. Treat them different as you watch their body language. Remember, the light is your camouflage!
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Wiggle the Light: When hunting with a partner and especially with a cameraman, let them know you’re on an animal by wiggling the light every once in awhile. The person with the light can see the eyes reflecting, but a person standing five feet away might not be able to see the same thing. Let them know by wiggling the light that you have something in your line of sight. This also prevents you from speaking, it’s best to use non-verbal communication when you can.
Shooting Distance at Night: Judging the distance at night can be hard to do. Make some mental notes before you start calling as to what you think the range is in the area you’re calling. Talk to your partner about range estimates and familiarize yourself with the terrain. It looks a lot different at night. I will not shoot much further than 125 yards at night. I don’t feel it’s ethical to take long range shots at night. You never know if it’s the neighbor’s dog, a deer fawn, or what’s behind the animal that could cause potential harm. Be safe and make good shooting decisions at night. Don’t do something that you’ll regret later.
Article by Grand View Outdoors: Judging Distance at Night
Moon Phase: Most night hunting occurs around a new moon. Canines can see really well at night, and a moonlit night is perfect for them to hunt and peruse for food. This is why you need to use the light as your camouflage. The light forces their eyes to adjust to the brightness. They can’t see as well because it “blinds” them to anything in low-light. You’ve created a new contrast, and their eyes won’t pick you out like they might have done under the moonlight. Just like when a cop approaches you at night with a flashlight, it’s blinding because your eyes have to adjust.
Final Wrap Up
101. Have Fun! Here’s what you should do next!
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- Get Out: Get off your backside and go out and hunt! Stop watching videos, reading books, this article, and get out there and just do it. Learn by doing. If you fail, learn from it. I’m not the ultimate expert, but I will be better after each time I go hunting.
- Take Time: Share this sport with your friends and family. Take your kids out and teach them something they won’t learn in a classroom. Take a friend out who spends his days stuck in an office. We’re supposed to be a part of nature, it rejuvenates the spirit, and too many people miss out on the outdoors! Every time you go out you will find new places to hunt turkey, deer, and many other critters along the way.
- Be Thankful: Take the time to thank whomever and whatever it is that allows you to exercise your right to bear arms and explore this green earth. Don’t forget those who put up with you being in the hills all the time, and might have food hot and ready when you return.
- Be Safe: Don’t put yourself in a compromising position. Take the pre-flight list seriously. Always have a plan, and let other know what that plan is. Be safe around guns, don’t let a little carelessness ruin your day, or your life.
- Respect The Animals: Some “predator hunters” feel like a coyote is nothing more than a bug that needs to be squashed. Take the high road, respect the animal. They are a unique species, a survivor, and an opponent that should be commended for their resilience!
- You Tell Me: What did I miss? What do you do different? What technique helped you or might help another hunter? Add your comment below.