Friday, March 5, 2010

Texas Style Night-Time Predator Calling

There was very little moon and it was a somewhat cloudy misty type of night. The darkness settled in on the two of us standing in the back of my truck. We would stand motionless and quiet for several minutes to let the sounds of us driving to the spot and climbing into the back of the truck settle into the night. I set my E caller on top of the truck cab, chambered a round and laid my shotgun beside it. My partner quietly bolted a cartridge into the chamber of his rifle to be ready for the shot we hoped would come. I picked up the red lens Q beam and turned it on to make a sweep of the area before pushing the play button on the caller. The panic stricken scream of a cottontail rabbit rang out in the darkness as I scanned 360 degrees around the truck watching for those shining eyes that would let me know a predator was coming to the call.From a distant oak mott came the unmistakable bouncing eyes of a Texas grey fox. It was heading directly downwind to try and get the scent of whatever was involved in the process of making the rabbit scream. I reached for the shotgun and at about 35 yards I pulled the trigger dropping the fox with a load of #4 buckshot. I immediately pumped the shotgun putting a new shell in the chamber and kept scanning with the red beam. About three minutes later I picked up eyes around 150 yards out on the other side of a Prickly Pear Cactus flat. It was a coyote and he was headed downwind. I knew when he got our wind the game would be over and he would disappear into the night. I lip squeaked to make sure my partner was on the coyote with the rifle and made a loud woof sound. The coyote stopped frozen in time looking directly at us and instantly dropped to the ground as the .223 bullet hit home. We continued to call for another five minutes before giving up on this location. We picked up the fox and coyote, unloaded the guns, climbed back in the cab of the truck and headed for our next location to call.

I started calling out of a vehicle at night about 45 years ago with my uncles, dad and grandfather in the Texas Hill County. I have repeated calling scenarios similar to the preceding one thousands of times. The thrill and suspense of what is going to come to the call is still just as strong today, when it is no longer there I guess I will have to do something else, but I am not too worried about that. The great thing about night calling in Texas is you never know what kind of critter may show up. I have called the typical coyotes, bobcat and fox along with javelina, feral hogs, raccoons, ringtails, feral cats, deer, hawks, owls and dogs. I am still hoping that some day those eyes coming in will be a mountain lion as the Texas population is increasing.

Most Texas callers hunt pretty much the same style out of trucks or special hunting vehicles with spotlights. Some have elaborate platforms or shooting chairs for the truck and I too would love to someday have one, but for now I just stand in the back of my truck or sometimes on a tool box and use the top of the cab as a table for my E caller, rifle, shotgun and light. Even when calling by myself I have a rifle and shotgun handy as you never know what will come and how close or fast it will come in to the call. I prefer a red lens spotlight but others use white, green or blue. I like the red as it does not light up my truck or shooting partners like the white light does.

The technique is simple; I drive to my calling locations and sit tight for a few minutes to let things settle down. I then call with either a hand or E caller and scan for eyes. I do not turn the light off and on but leave it on the entire time I am calling and scanning all around the truck with the light. I allow about fifteen to twenty minutes for calling at a location. If nothing comes in that amount of time I drive to the next location and call again. This allows me to cover a lot of country in a short time and have more chances of success. Some of the key things for me are changing sounds if nothing comes in during the first five minutes. Scan 360 degrees around the truck as animals can and do come from any direction. Once a predator is spotted keep the direct beam out of the animal’s eyes until you are ready to shoot. Develop a signal between partners to let each other know when a predator is spotted or you are ready to shoot. I just lip squeak to let my partner know I have spotted eyes. Be ready to bark, woof or lip squeak to stop the animal for the shot. The one technique that has really helped me to pick up animals is to keep calling after shooting another animal. I have discovered that many times another coyote, a bobcat or a fox will come in to the call even though I shot just a minute or two before. I have had three fox come in less than two minutes total time and act like they did not even hear the other shots. If I kill something I usually call for at least five minutes more just in case. My success rate on bobcats is much better at night and I believe it is because I see more of the cats called at night. A cat can be in the brush or just stalking behind every piece of cover and in the daytime I just sometimes don’t see them. At night the one thing a cat cannot hide is those big shining eyes. One of the most important things at night is after you cut the truck off, BE QUIET! Don’t slam doors or kick things around in the truck bed getting ready to call. When I have everything ready to start a set I still stand motionless and quiet in the back of the truck for several minutes just to let the area settle before calling.

If you want to see how hunters in Texas hunt at night there are some great DVDs out with Texas style night predator hunting. There are two I really like and recommend. I don’t have any connections to these boys but they did good work and I think you will enjoy their DVDs. The first is “Hunting the Night Shift and the next is “The Ultimate Predator, Rulers of the Night”.Always make sure night spotlighting for predators is legal in your area. It is also good to let landowners and the local game warden know that you will be out predator calling with a light. I have been stopped by game wardens many times that would have much rather been at home asleep than checking on someone spotlighting that was doing everything legal. Of course don’t be surprised if the game warden stops by just to see how you did.

Have a great time, make sure of your target and stay safe, Wild Ed

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Chris Miller said...

Great article, Ed! Thanks for sharing with us....

Pink Camo Gal said...


bigchambers said...

is this legal in all parts of Texas? I am new to hunting and would like to try this.

Wild Ed said...

It is legal in all parts where it is legal to hunt or discharge a firearm. I always try to give the game warden in the county a heads up on where I will be hunting just as a courtesy. That way if somebody calls in and reports some idiot waving a red lens spotlight around in the night and making terrible screaming sounds he will know it is me. :)