Half day fox hunt

I had a chance to get out this Thursday and took a good friend with me. He is an Arizona native and has hunted every corner of the globe, but never harvested a gray fox. I told him that there was very good chance that I could put him on a pair of them if he could spend the day with me. We both had things to do early that morning so we got out there around noon to hunt through the afternoon. I took him out to an area where I have called in a half dozen foxes during the scouting season, but never run them off or taken a shot.

The first stand was a blank, but we didn’t really have a good wind and the sun was high. The second stand was a great setup overlooking a big riverbed and we called in a coyote at about 10 minutes. But the coyote never came closer than about 200 yards and there was no way for me to reach out there with my shotgun.

The next few stands were blank as well, but we were in some amazing country and a light rain blew in cooling everything down about 20 degrees. We then hiked about a mile through a small canyon that was absolutely covered with tracks. Mule deer, coues deer, javelina, fox, bobcat, coyote, and some very fresh mountain lion footprints. All these tracks right on top of each other covering every inch of the wash. Our blood was pumping and our voices were low as we positioned ourselves on a steep hillside overlooking the dry wash running through the bottom of this canyon. We were hunting foxes but we both had mountain lion on the brain.

With the natural rock piles, low cover, and steep hills I was really expecting to see a fox here. But at about 10 minutes into this stand a coyote appeared out of nowhere directly behind the caller and decoy. For the second time that day I couldn’t reach with my shotgun and my buddy was not interested in shooting a coyote. The coyote stepped downwind of the decoy and did not like the smell at all. He quickly headed off up another big hillside to our right. I switched sounds to a coyote distress yelp and the coyote froze looking back at the decoy. I told my friend to take the shot but when I looked to my friend he was still scanning the bottom of the wash. The sun was setting out in front of us and he had lost sight of the coyote in the shadows.

My partner got a look at where I was pointing but still had no interest in shooting a coyote, so he handed me his AR and told me to take the shot myself. By the time I got seated the coyote was at the top of the hill looking back over the valley for a final glance before heading out. I placed the cross hairs over his chest and pulled the trigger, just as the ‘yote trotted off. The shot scattered the rocks on the hill right where the coyote had been standing.

We both climbed over to the top of the hill where the coyote had disappeared just to be sure, and realized that in a way it was a good thing I had missed. I had not brought all of my gear with me and I would have needed to carry the coyote all the way back to my truck, which was at least a mile and a half away. The coyote was pretty good sized and 40 pounds of dead weight would not have been fun. We stayed up there on that hill and watched the sunset, it was pretty dramatic with all the storm clouds in the sky and everything in the desert had come alive from the rain. I took some pictures with my phone couldn’t quite get one to do it justice. I love this desert more every time I go out, even more when spending time with an old friend that I had not seen in ages.

It was a day I won’t soon forget. We never did see a fox but sometimes hunting success isn’t measured by the fur in the back of your truck.

The sun just starting to set through the storm clouds from high on the hillside on the last stand of the day.

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Back into the desert

Well it finally happened, my old blue hunting truck decided it wasn’t going to go freeway speed anymore. With that, I have not been able to get out coyote hunting for the last few weeks and barely been able to make it to work. I spent two weeks shopping around for something that I could use out in the hills and as a daily driver. I finally decided that I needed a Jeep Cherokee. After spending several hours on different websites I narrowed it down to a 1999 Cherokee for a number of reasons. Saturday I finally found one with relatively low miles and a perfectly straight body.

my new jeep

My new daily driver and coyote hauler

I bought the Jeep around noon, spent 3 hours getting it registered, and got home around 4pm. The Sun is setting pretty early these days so I had to race across town to get into position before dark.

I headed deep into Unit 22, in an area I had been four wheeling and seen lots of sign the last two years, but had never been calling. I found a spot off the main trail to park and hiked into the sunset. I crossed four or five hills before finding a place to setup. I was on a big rise, with a giant cholla behind me. I was positioned just to the west of where two washes joined in a Y. I set the caller and decoy on my side of the Y so that nothing would be able to sneak in without me seeing it. The Sun was at my back and the wind blowing up the wash in the direction I hiked in from, so I knew I was pretty clear for anything coming in anywhere except from due North.

After catching my breath from the hike up the hill, I started running the call at about 30% volume. Within about two minutes I saw a coyote coming in hard over a hilltop about 400 yards to the South-East. The coyote was headed straight to the West and turned heading North when he reached the wash bottom that the caller was setup in. at about 80 yards from the caller he slowed up, pausing a few times behind bushes where I couldn’t see. But when he came into the open in front of the caller he was moving pretty quick. I had the coyote in my sights and was just about to bark to freeze him, when he raised his head, looked at the decoy, and paused.

The coyote was right at 100 yards from me and I pulled the trigger with the crosshairs right behind his shoulder. Usually this drops them like they have been hit by lightning, but this coyote took off running like nothing happened. I have been worried that my scope might be a little off and cursed myself for not seeing where the bullet hit. I tried to pick up the coyote in my scope but he was moving too fast, then he turned and started running straight up the hill toward me. I dropped my AR-15 and grabbed the pistol at my hip, but he was too fast. Before I could clear my holster the coyote was 5 yards in front of me moving top speed.

Then the coyote collapsed, sliding through the dust, coming to rest short of 8 feet from my boots, stone dead. It’s funny, you think that you play through every possible scenario in your head, but when you get out there something totally unpredictable happens every single time. I had setup the stand with about 10 minutes before sunset, and had a coyote in my hands with 5 minutes to spare. I hiked down to pick up the caller and spent a few minutes enjoying the sunset.

sunset in the desert after coyote hunting

Enjoying the sunset at the end of a great day.

 

 

First coyote with the new jeep

This coyote almost ended up right in my lap.

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Called one in

So Wednesday I had a late start in the office and decided to go call an area where I had heard some coyotes, but never pulled the trigger on one. I headed out from home at about 4 am, set off the locator call before first light, had some responses and snuck in within about 300 yards of where I was hearing ‘yotes.After dawn I was running some quiet rodent distress calls when I heard a vehicle coming down the road behind me. I muted the call waiting for the truck to pass, It was about a half mile off but made a bunch of noise. After a few minutes of silence I was about to start running my call when I heard a FoxPro Bay Bee Cottontail about 80 yards behind me. I still don’t know how i missed them coming in but I was sitting pretty much in the open within what had to be line of sight to their caller. I thought it might be funny to tear loose with some bark howls on my caller which was about 30 yards from me. But was actually worried that I might get myself shot on accident. Instead, I sat stone still while they ran through about 10 sounds in 8 or 9 minutes. Then they got up and left. When their SUV was headed back down the dirt road, I took off my camo, gathered my things and hiked out.Last season I called in the same two quail hunters twice on the same day, about 10 miles apart, but this was the first time I have run into another predator hunter in the field.

It was a few miles from where I was parked back to the Highway, but when I got there I saw the same white SUV parked on the south side of the road, for a minute I thought it would be fun to sneak up on them and start blasting my caller, but I headed home instead.

Anyway, if any of you were hunting Cow Creek wash north of Lake Pleasant Wednesday morning, you almost got me.

Arizona sunrise

Didn’t get any coyotes, but I caught this great Arizona sunrise.

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First Coyote of Fall – Hunting Coyote in Unit 6a

Well I guess calling it Fall is a little generous. It is still well over 100 degrees in the valley so I have been spending my weekends in the tall pines. Either with family at our cabin in Pine or up on Willow Springs Lake with friends. This weekend was spent with the family and, as usual, I couldn’t sleep. At about 4:00am I decided to give up on sleep and go do some calling up on the rim.

Calling for yotes in 6b

Calling for coyote in 6a. This area burned in the spring which is why everything is orange, but it is recovering fast with all of the rain this season.

Early one morning last fall I had seen a big dark coyote crossing the 260 outside Camp Verde. Back in January I had tried calling that area but in 3 feet of snow nothing was moving. About 2 weeks ago I was able to get in a quick stand in the area between cloudbursts and called in a dark coyote like the one I had seen on the highway. But I didn’t notice it until it had seen me and it was gone before I could get my scope on it.

Today everything was wet, but not raining. The area I was hunting had burned this spring and with the rain it was easier then usual to hike in without making any noise. I set up my first stand just outside of sight from the truck right as the sun was rising. I called for about 20 minutes without seeing anything but angry woodpeckers.

I picked up all my gear and went in for a hike. I had never hiked into this part of the forest and ended up going a few miles across the forested plateau over to the rim looking North. Being this close to the rim I was glad to have a lion tag in my pocket and hoping to get lucky.

I set up my second stand looking South in the shadow of a big ponderosa pine. I set up my caller and decoy about 70 yards in front of me, made it back to my seat, checked the screen on my remote for the sound I wanted, put my finger over the volume button, and looked up to see a coyote about 20 feet from my decoy standing broadside staring right at me. I was so shocked I just kept on with my routine, instead of lifting my rifle I hit the volume button on my remote. The caller screamed out at 80% volume and the coyote bolted in top gear. I raised my rifle and watched it disappear into the trees. It did pause about 250 yards out, but not long enough for me to pull the trigger, then it was gone.

This was the first time since about February that I had a clear shot at a coyote and my heart was pumping. I sat there sweating and shaking with my pulse beating in my ears like bongo drums. I was totally thrilled, and kicking myself at the same time.

It took a few minutes to get my heart rate under control while scanning the trees in case he circled back. Then I turned the caller down, ran it for about 5 more minutes. Then changed to a higher pitched distress call and turned it back up.

About 90 seconds later I saw a flash of blonde in the trees a few hundred yards out. Raised my scope and waited. The coyote stepped clear about 50 yards from my decoy in a trot, then bolted right at it. I let loose about 2 seconds later and dropped it dead at 110 yards. He was probably the biggest coyote I have shot, but still smaller then the other two I have seen in that area. He is also the first yote I have shot in unit 6a. I will definitely be back.

coyote stand arizona 6a

View from the stand, you can just see the coyote on the ground 110 yards out to the right of the big pine.

Unit 6a | Coyote M | 8/18/2012

 

 

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greening up in January

I had a late start this morning counting against me but with a little cloud cover on my side I figured we might have a good chance at seeing some action today. I was with my buddy Don who was hoping to get a shot at something with a new 20ga over under that he had received as a birthday gift the night before. We were heading into an area that I had some success with the previous week and figured at the least we would get a shot at a fox or two.

The other thing up against us on this morning was the fact that this was the long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The road on the way out that usually is totally empty, aside from some cactus and snakes, looked like a gypsy camp. The first mile of the forest road looked like it had a higher population density then most cities in the Phoenix area. I was starting to doubt my decision to come out here.

Eventually we had to drive about 2 miles down the river bottom further from the highway then I had planned just to get free of the campfires. This took us into the far end of the canyon where I had not been before, but I felt like we were sufficiently clear of any campers.

Our first stand was in my typical coyote cover. A mix of cactus, creosote, and thin mesquite. I had a half dozen open shooting lanes from where I was sitting out to a slight incline 50 yards in front of me. My buddy set up on the other side of the low tree I was using to break up my silhouette and my caller was setup about 35 yards right in front of me.

Started the stand with the DSG cottontail, then switched to Platinum Fox, about 8 minutes in I changed to the Bay Bee Cottontail. Just as I was about to shut off the caller 15 minutes in a small Coopers Hawk buzzed my decoy. I usually see that as a good omen, and I really love watching these birds so I let it run a few more minutes. He circled all around us a few times making some noise and trying to figure out what it was looking at.

Still running the call 5 minutes later, watching this hawk, I saw some movement on top of the rise about 80 yards in front of me. A reddish coyote was coming in and froze on the hillside looking right at my decoy. In a smooth motion I shouldered my R-15, put the large reticle of my Nikon Coyote Special right over its shoulder and squeezed the trigger.

I had run the call longer then I had planned and it paid off big time. A coyote on the first stand, my day was made no matter what. As I was standing up to collect my prey the hawk that had been circling dropped out of the sky and sunk its talons into my decoy. The big bird wrestled with it for about 30 seconds and even flapped it wings a few times trying to pick it up. Don and I both started laughing and the bird took a few hops towards us before flying away.

 

I shot from the yellow spot in the upper right. I am tagging the coyote on my GPS.

We drove up the canyon a few hundred yards after this and hiked in for our second stand. I repeated the same call pattern and at about 10 minutes I saw the back of a coyote coming in to the call. I got my rifle ready and waited for it to clear the horizon but it never came. I tried turning down the caller and cranking it back up, but never had another response. The only thing I can think is that it circled down the sleight wash we were sitting above and winded us. Still I was pretty happy seeing 2 coyote on 2 stands.

By now the campers were waking up and we were starting to hear machine guns and motorcycles in the distance. It sounded like they were filming another sequel to Mad Max. There was plenty of room between us but to be safe and to increase our chances of calling something in we headed even further down the canyon away from any traffic. Also to be safe I decided to trade in my 223 for my 12 gauge, I really can be paranoid.

Another mile down the road it started to look like we weren’t in Arizona anymore. The river bottom here had a canopy of mature mesquite with thick green grass coming in below. The tree cover was thick enough that it was easily 15 degrees cooler here and we were in shade the whole time. The thick grass muffled any noise from our boots and I was fairly optimistic about our next stand although it was only about a 100 yard walk from where we had parked the truck.

The thick green grass under the mesquite kept us cool and muffled our footsteps on the way in.

Started the same song on the caller, DSG, Platinum fox, then bay bee cottontail. During the bay bee cottontail I saw some movement to my left. There was a good sized coyote that I could just make out on the other side of a big cat claw bush. It stop just opposite of the bush from me and I could see was its head. It took a quick look at the decoy then turned and looked right at me through the thick cover. I had not moved an inch at this point and have no idea how he made me. The only thing I can think is that he was suspicious of me before I saw him and was just double checking.

Until he looked at me he was on a beeline for the decoy and that would have put him right in line with my buddy and his new 20 gauge loaded with #3 buck. But he froze looking in my direction and looked like he was about to back out of the area. I raised my 870 and fired at him with a load of Hevi-Shot Dead Coyote T shot. This dropped him in his tracks.

Coyote number two. Taken with the 870 and T shot just under 30 yards.

Over the next hour or so we put in two more stands and called in another small coopers hawk and three big angry bulls, nothing to shoot at.

By the end of the morning I had two ‘yotes, and between stands Don shot a good sized jack rabbit. It took us about an hour and a half to get them all skinned out and cleaned up. Nothing beats time spent outdoors with a good friend. All in all a pretty great day.

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on the run

So the past month I have seen more coyotes than I have since moving to Arizona 13 years ago. But between sitting out a deer hunt and poor judgement on my part I have yet to lay one down this fall. The hesitation on the last one in my sights was still weighing heavy on my mind and I couldn’t wait to get out in the field again.

After working another night shift I went home slept for about 4 hours then started planning my afternoon. I didn’t get out the door until after 2pm and knew that I would only have a few hours until dark . The sun is going down at about 5:30 now and it is dark by 6pm.So I knew that I would not be able to hit any of my regular hot spots. My plan was to park on Four Peaks Road and race into the hills a few miles away from all the dirt bikes as quick as I could.Instead I found a new road that took me back a few miles.

When I felt I was a good distance from the daily traffic in the area I parked and headed into the hills. I set up for my first stand in a less than ideal area and called for about 20 minutes. I realized at some point during the stand that I would not be able to see most anything coming in from where I was sitting and packed it in.

second stand location with Four Peaks in the background.

My next stand was much better. I had a good view of about 3 hills within range of my 223 and could see just about every route that a critter could take to get to my decoy. My only blind spot was the back side of the little rise that my decoy was sitting on.

Sure enough, within about 15 minutes of calling I heard something coming in, and a nice reddish coyote busted right out of the blind spot and was about to run off with my decoy. I guess that it didn’t like the taste because it let go and shifted into high gear.

It actually came right at me full speed but was within 30 yard when I first saw it and covered that ground in about a blink. There was no way to get a site picture with the 223 so I dropped the rifle, stood, and pulled my 357 from my hip. By the time I grabbed my pistol the ‘yote had come within 10 feet of me and by the time I drew the gun he was already about 45 yards away. I sent one shot off at it missing the back of his head by about a half inch and blowing a nice sized crater into the desert 15 yard ahead of him. With this he made a hard left and vanished like they do.

At this point I was kicking myself yet again for not bringing my shotgun along, but remembered that there was a spot with some lighter cover and bigger hills a few miles from there. I packed up my gear and headed out.

I settled on a high ridge with my FOXPRO SpitFire about 50 yards out. Beyond that was a ridge top about 200 yards from me. 15 minutes into the stand I saw a yote coming in fast over the ridge toward my call. Not wanting to repeat my errors from a few days before I put the scope on him and left it there. He came all the way down to within about 50 yards on the far side of the call before clearing the brush and giving me a clear broadside shot. I squeezed off a round and lost my view of him in the recoil. I looked over the top of my scope and saw a yote headed back up the hill about 15 yards from where he had been and quickly lined him up for another shot which ended up being a clean miss.

Within a second he was gone over the top of the ridge that he came from. I lowered my rifle dejected,  just in time to see 3 other yotes race back over the ridge. I had been so focused on the single yote in my scope I had not seen the other three that came with him. Four coyote in one stand was a new best for me. I played a ki-yi for a few minutes and watched the ridge but they were on the run and moving fast. There was still enough light for me to move to one more stand but I figured missing a total of five yotes in a day was enough. I hiked down, collected my caller and my decoy and decided to wander over to where I had shot at the yote.

To be fair it had been nearly three weeks since I had fired my rifle, but I was hammering a dime at 100 yards and there is no way my scope was that far off. I just had to go see if there was any hair or blood over where that yote had been standing. It moved off pretty quick but I didn’t think I could have missed that bad.

I got my bearings, headed off to where I thought he was standing. Stepped past a creosote bush, and imagine my surprise to find a shot yote laying right in front of me. I had actually called in five yotes on that stand, and was right: There was no way I missed that first one.

A big fat male yote with a white tipped tail. Starting the season off with a “two pointer”, it really felt good. The Hornaday 40 grain 223 had done the trick. There was not a drop of blood on him, the bullet left all its energy in its heart and lungs with no exit wound at all. My first yote with a 223 and it couldn’t have gone better, aside from the mile and a half back to the truck, that wouldn’t start, and skinning him in the dark while I was waiting for the cavalry to come pull me out.

Aside from that, a perfect afternoon.

First yote of the season with the FoxPro

 

 

 

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hesitation

I had some time to kill today after work so I went out to the four peaks area in Unit 22 to do some hiking and predator calling.

I hiked about a mile from 4 peaks road and setup in an area where I had some success last season. I started the first 10 minutes of the stand with the DSG Cottontail on my
FOXPRO SpitFire
with a Mojo Critter setup about 30 yards from me. I had my back to a cliff and the wind in my face so I knew from here I would be able to see anything coming in. After about 10 minutes I switched to the Bay Bee Cottontail sound and within about 30 seconds saw some movement on the hill directly in front of me.

The hill was about 120 yards out and I could see the back of a ‘yote heading left to right just on the other side of the hill. After about 50 yards the ‘yote stepped over the crest of the hill and stopped, facing directly toward me but looking at the decoy. I had my cross-hairs right over the center of his chest. I have not shot a ‘yote since spring and my heart was pounding. In my head I was thinking that it was obvious that the ‘yote was still coming in and I didn’t really want to have to hike all the way up that hill to pick him up. Much less carry him all the way back down to a good place to skin him.

So I didn’t pull the trigger.

But sure enough he came racing down the hill and was within about 5 feet of my decoy. The ‘yote paced back and forth trying to figure out what there was to eat but always stayed in just enough cover that I didn’t trust my shot with a 40 grain 223.

After a few minutes of checking out my decoy he just disappeared. From where I was sitting I should have been able to see him leave the valley I was in, but he found a way out. I spent the next 30 minutes running about every sound I had trying to get him to stick his head out again. But he was long gone. That would have been more than enough time to hike up the hill and skin him out if only I hadn’t hesitated.

Lesson learned, when you have the shot, take it.

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