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Hunt Coyotes Now
While most are dreaming of deer season, a few have found that equally exciting hunting can be found right now.
By Mike Bolton
Originally published in the July 2018 issue of AON
A chair with a movable gun rest allows Kevin Caudle to sit comfortably for hours without holding his heavy, specialized coyote hunting rifle. He can aim and shoot with very little movement.
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It was an unusually crisp June morning in Morgan County. As daylight broke, wisps of fog swirled eerily above every pond on every farm along Kevin Caudle’s drive from his home.

Kevin could have been just another farmhand going to work in this farming-based community of Eva, but his clothing spoke differently. He was dressed head-to-toe in camouflage and wearing long sleeves.

The Morgan County native does some farm work like most there, but his work is quite unlike the farm work of others who toil the fields. In this community where getting permission to hunt deer is so difficult, farmers beg Kevin to hunt their property.

Kevin, you see, is a coyote hunter.

Coyotes have received a lot of publicity in Alabama in recent years because of their migration to the suburbs, but they have been a thorn in the sides of Alabama farmers for many years. Their migration to the East is legendary, but in Alabama, their journey was hastened by fox hunters who brought them into the state in the 1920s. The July 1929 edition of Alabama Game and Fish News reported coyotes being killed in Barbour, Autauga and Marengo counties.

Coyotes are opportunistic feeders, and opportunity abounds in this rural county about two hours north of Birmingham. For coyotes here, the newborn calves, chickens, ducks, family pets, fawns, quail, rabbit and turkey are like an all-you-can-eat buffet on the Las Vegas strip.

Jim Armstrong, an Auburn University wildlife researcher heading two coyote studies, says coyote populations in Alabama have mushroomed on both farms and the suburbs because of that eat-anything attitude.

“Coyotes are 100 percent opportunists,” Armstrong said. “They’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive, and they will take the easiest meal they can get.”

The farmers here despise coyotes.

There are many accidental coyote hunters in Alabama who take potshots at coyotes during deer season. Few have the willingness, the tolerance of heat and a specific plan to hunt them in the heat of the summer like Kevin.

“There are a lot of farmers all around here who cut hay all summer,” Kevin explained on his drive to a tract where a farmer was eagerly awaiting his services. “The coyotes have learned that when the hay is cut, it reveals a ton of mice and rats that no longer have any cover. A freshly cut hayfield is easy pickings for coyotes. A lot of times you can see them chasing mice and rats in the field while the farmer is still in the field cutting. The running tractor doesn’t bother them.”

It might have been a safe bet that Kevin was the only Alabamian hunting on this day where the temperature was expected to reach 90 degrees. This was definitely not a day for a winter woods camouflage pattern. Kevin’s camouflage looked better suited for a tropical rainforest. He says to effectively hunt coyotes in Alabama during the summer, it not only takes special camouflage, but special equipment and tactics as well.

“Coyotes are the smartest and wariest animals in the Southeast,” he said. “Their eyesight and sense of smell are incredible. If you hunt them, you educate them real quick. If you shoot one, you might as well pack up and go home because you’re not going to get another one to come out. You can’t hunt the same spot but once about every month. You can’t say some place is a good spot and hunt it every few days. They are way too smart for that.”

Kevin says he’s unsure why coyotes in the Southeast have a different mindset than coyotes in the West, but it’s obvious that they are much more warier whenever in the open. He speculates that trait might be attributed to the fact that there are so many deer hunters in Alabama who take shots at them when they come into food plots.

“You see videos of coyotes out West eagerly coming 500 yards across an open field to calls,” he said. “Coyotes here are different. It’s much harder here to get coyotes to come out in the open.”

It’s obvious from Kevin’s equipment that he’s serious about coyote hunting. His weapon is a camouflaged Remington R-15–VTR Predator Magpul MOE chambered for .223 ammunition. It is outfitted with a noise suppressor and a Leupold variable scope.

“This gun is great for getting off quick shots that you need while coyote hunting,” he explained. “The suppressor is primarily for hunting coyotes at night. You don’t want to shoot at night and scare everybody around you at neighboring farms that may not be aware of what you are up to.”

Also among Kevin’s equipment is a Caldwell Dead Shot Chair Pod that he takes on all of his coyote hunting trips. The chair, which is outfitted with a movable gun rest, allows him to sit comfortably for hours at a time. The rest also allows him to make long shots accurately.

“This gun of mine is extremely heavy,” he said. “This chair allows me to put my gun in a rest that moves easily. It prevents me from having to hold that heavy gun for long periods at a time. It also helps me to cut down on my movement, and that’s very important with coyotes. All I have to do is lean over and put my eye on the scope.

“Many times more than one coyote will come running into a field. Having a gun on a movable rest gives you more chances when coyotes are running everywhere.”

Kevin’s other equipment proves that coyote hunting has gone high-tech like most everything else in this world. A case in point is the device he uses to call in coyotes. Long gone are hand-made mouth calls made from shotgun shells and altered crow calls. He uses a Primos Alpha Dogg caller designed strictly for predator hunting. The $395 device is loaded with predator calling technology. The Alpha Dogg is pre-loaded with 75 animals-in-distress sounds and howls and has a USB port where 1,000 more sounds can be downloaded. It has two adjustable cone speakers and one horn speaker powered by dual 25-watt digital amps.

Most impressive is that it has a wireless remote control that has a range of 200 yards. The  sound list is displayed on a full color LCD screen, and sounds are organized by species such as coyote, fox and bobcat.

“Different calls work at different times,” he explained. “This caller even has a rodent in distress call that works well, but you have to mix it up at times with something they like a rabbit in distress call or something else. You never really know what will attract them. Sometimes they will come to coyote pups in distress calls or even a coyote howl call.”

Another item in his arsenal is an electric decoy designed to attract the attention of coyotes. His MOJO Super Critter decoy is a fur decoy that flops and swirls. In conjunction with the distress calls from the other unit, it gives coyotes something to zero in on and makes them less wary of their surroundings. It is also remotely controlled, allowing Kevin to turn it on and off from his position in the edge of the woods.

Coyote experts will tell you that trapping coyotes is a much more effective way of controlling coyote populations than hunting them. Kevin agrees, but he says trapping is not nearly as much fun as hunting them. He is an avid hunter who loves to hunt deer and other species, but he says nothing is more challenging than hunting coyotes.

“They can see better than deer and can smell better than deer,” he said. “You have to use different tactics. When you are deer hunting, you want to get downwind of them. You can’t do that coyote hunting because they always circle downwind of what they are after. If you get downwind of a coyote, you’ll never see him and never know he was there. You have to set up trying to figure out where he’s going to come and try to catch him circling around to the downwind side.

“Like deer hunting, you may have to be patient and sit awhile before you see one, but unlike deer hunting, you might have two or three come flying into a field at once that might only be there for a few seconds. You have to try to be ready to try to shoot as many as you can.”

Kevin said hunting yotes does help keep the population down, and it also keeps all of his hunting and shooting skills sharp.

“These things are fun to hunt, and you are doing some good when you hunt them,” said Kevin. “You aren’t wiping them out, but you are making an impact. Everything around here suffers because of them—the deer, rabbit, quail and turkey especially. The quail were the first to go. I remember growing up here, and the quail were everywhere. You never see one anymore. I’ve seen coyotes chasing full-grown deer, and everybody knows they kill fawns.

“They are really hard on people’s pets around here. I had one to kill a 6-month-old puppy of mine. They are really hard on cats and kittens. There is a farmer here who said they killed all of his baby goats. People around here had a lot of ducks and geese on their ponds, but not anymore. Coyotes attack the nests and eat the eggs. If the eggs do hatch, they kill the babies before they can fly.”

Another thing Kevin enjoys about coyote hunting is that it allows him to hunt year-round and at night.

There is no bag limit or closed season on coyotes in Alabama. They can also be hunted at night—something you can’t do with most other wildlife species—if the landowner obtains a special nuisance coyote permit. That is an option that Kevin often takes advantage of in the sweltering days of summer.

“The landowner can contact the regional wildlife office for a nuisance coyote permit, and they will send the information to the local game warden for approval,” Kevin explained. “The hunter can’t get the permit. The landowner has to. With that permit, the landowner can designate three other people who can hunt coyotes on that property at night. The permit is good for a year.”

According to Alabama Conservation Law Enforcement, a landowner can obtain a depredation permit by claiming damage to melons, chickens, calves and other farming products. The crop permit arose from a court case in the 1940s (Cotton versus Alabama) where a judge ruled that the state couldn’t prevent a farmer from protecting his crops. Most recently, the permit criteria were amended to include wildlife resources as “crops.”

Under the permit the landowner may be allowed to utilize weapons or devices, such as guns outfitted with night vision scopes, not normally allowed in hunting. This may vary depending on local conditions and safety concerns.

Permits are usually limited to a specific time period of weeks or months and only during off deer season except under rare circumstances. Permit participants are limited to those named on the permit, and the number varies depending on the size of the property. Permits are usually obtained from a local Conservation Law Enforcement officer,  a state wildlife biologist or a WFF district office

Kevin says night hunting coyotes adds an exciting wrinkle. He also likes to hunt freshly mowed fields at night during the summer.

“When you night hunt you use what is called scan lights,” he said. “I like a red light. They are necessary to identify what you are looking at. It can illuminate a coyote’s eyes up to 700 yards away. They also have green scan lights, but the green ones must be too bright because they seem to make coyotes more wary than the red ones.  

“It is also possible to hunt coyotes at night using an infrared scope, but I haven’t tried that.”

Farmers grow and cut hay for cattle all across Alabama, and the fact that coyotes love freshly mowed hayfields is well known by summer coyote hunters across the state.

Jordan Ashe, of Killen, is also a summer coyote hunter. He hunts farms in Lauderdale and Colbert counties in extreme north Alabama.

“I got started when my buddy brought an old call that you could plug into a speaker,” he said. “He had a baby sheep in distress call, and we started killing coyotes in hayfields.

“It was a learning process. Coyotes are the smartest animals on planet, hands down, and they are tough. When you shoot one you had better hit it right.

“You had also better set up where there is a crosswind, or you won’t kill one. They are geniuses. They’ll come across a field behind a berm or terrace, and you’ll never know they are there when they are right in front of you.

 “I’ve learned a lot.”

Farmers in Lauderdale and Colbert counties where Jordan hunts are constantly seeing profits and pets effected by coyotes.

“I’ll come home sometimes and have 20 or 30 messages from farmers wanting me to come hunt coyotes on their property,” he said. “Coyotes are extremely hard on chickens and guineas here. There are a lot of fawn kills. Coyotes are really bad on wild turkeys. They love to eat the eggs out of the ground nests, and if some do hatch, they’ll eat the poults. Up here they are really bad on baby pigs. That may be their No. 1 food source here.

“They’ll absolutely kill a calf. We lost two calves to coyotes when I was younger. My mama tried to run them off. The first coyote I ever killed was a 250-yard shot on one that was trying to get in our catchpen.

“And it is not just coyotes killing everything up here, either. I kill 30 to 40 gray foxes a year, too.”

Ashe says this is his 13th year of hunting coyotes and few others in his county do it. He says some try, but most quickly give it up when they discover the work involved and the equipment needed to do it right. He says anyone thinking they will have instant success will be disappointed.

“It’s a lot of trial and error,” he said.
© 2018 Alabama Outdoor News