Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pre-season Checks for Success

The time for coyote calling and predator hunting is getting near. As our summer transitions into fall, the predators will become a lot more active. Instead of bedding down and avoiding the heat of the day, they will be out doing a little hunting and foraging for food. The coyote pups will have grown quite a bit and the little bobcat kittens are learning the ropes from their momma. I have even heard some coyote pups sounding off in our neighborhood, much to the chagrin of my dog.

After Labor Day, when all of the summer activities slow down, I begin to devote my time to coyote hunting and predator hunting preparation. I usually start with my hunt rig, a 1981 Full sized 2-door Jeep Cherokee Chief. I do all of the usual preventative maintenance checking: Tires, hoses, belts, batteries, fluid levels, chassis lube, oil change, radiator flush, brakes, new plugs, clean the K&N air filter, check under the hood for any abnormalities like oil leaks, etc. I then run the rig down to my Jeep mechanic and have him look it over.

All of this preparation may sound obsessive to you but I hunt coyote way out in the barren Mojave Desert of California and Nevada. There is no cell phone coverage and if you get stuck, help is not forthcoming. It may be a long, hot walk out to a paved road and even after getting there, you may not see a soul for hours. I feel a lot more comfortable knowing that I have done everything possible to make sure my rig is reliable.

Next I check out all of my coyote calling gear. I begin with my mouth calls and coyote howlers. I check the reeds on all of my calls and make sure they all sound like they should. If they need attention, I change the reeds or address whatever other issues need attention. The same goes for my coyote howlers. I check each one out for sound quality, check lanyards and when I am sure they are good to go, I pack them at the ready.

My electronic MP3 coyote caller is next. I happen to like the Minaska “Ultimate One” predator caller because of the volume potential when calling in open country. It features 2-speakers and they can be used independently or together. The sound quality is second to none and it even has a built-in, remote controlled decoy. I know there are a load of devoted Foxpro fans out there but sorry guys, in California lingo, I say Minaska “rules”. Just my opinion, use what you like. They will all call in animals.

At the beginning of each new season, I install a brand new 12-volt battery in the Minaska ($10.00) and I also purchase a spare battery and pack it in the caller’s backpack. I replace the battery in the remote, pack some 9-volt spares and then take the coyote caller out for a field check in a nearby park.

The screams of dying rabbits and other horrific sounds emanating from my Minaska coyote caller drive all of the park yuppies nuts (love it). One lady even threatened to call the police and report me because she claimed I was “harassing the squirrels”. I offered her my phone if she would let me listen in as she made the report. I would love to have heard her describe what she witnessed to the police. That would have been funny…

The Minaska Coyote caller is re-charged using a 110-volt plug-in charger. I have two ways to charge my electronic predator caller when in the field. I can plug the 110-volt charging unit into a small 100-watt inverter that I run off the Jeep’s auxiliary battery or, the Minaska caller can be charged from a solar panel that I adapted just for that purpose. Solar charging is quick, free and I sometimes leave the solar panel connected to the Minaska coyote caller when I am on long desert stands. I can chill, knowing that when I decide to start calling, my electronic coyote caller has a full charge and is ready for action. I will illustrate how you can make a solar charger for your Minaska or other 12-volt powered coyote caller in an upcoming blog.

Since night hunting for coyote and bobcats is legal here in California and Nevada, our predator hunting light is a key tool. Let’s face it, if you can’t see coyotes & bobcats, you can’t shoot coyotes and bobcats. After using a bunch of commercially available lights, homemade can lights and a bunch of other cobbled together Rube Goldberg contraptions, I decided that I would make my own light that incorporated all of the features a night coyote hunter would need. I knew what I didn’t like and I have heard all of the complaints from other night hunters. I knew exactly where I was going with this design. Rather than go into the details here, go to this link for all of the details on my innovative “lateral beam” coyote hunting light.

OK, so I check the operation of my coyote hunting lights (primary & spare). I clean my light’s lenses, check all controls for operation, check the plugs, check the power cords and I make sure I have spare fuses. Back in their storage bag they go and they are ready.

Next are two other important lights. One is my coyote or bobcat “pick-up” light and the other is my powerful green “kill-finder” laser.

My coyote pick-up light is the flashlight I use to retrieve the animal once it has been dispatched. In the old days, I used to rely on a massive 4-cell police style flashlight. Those days are long gone however and now I pack a small (but super powerful) CREE LED flashlight that is about 10X more powerful than the old D-cell flashlight. RedHunterLLC sells these powerful pick-up lights at a very reasonable price. Go here for info These little lights will amaze you with their power and long-lasting beam. I will never go back to any type of conventional flashlight again. The LED technology is amazing and if you are looking for your kill, this type of light really does the job. I have even taken one and tinted the lens red for away from the rig lighting. I can pick up a coyotes eyes at 300-yards using the little tactical flashlight.

Of course, finding a dead coyote or bobcat that you’ve dispatched in the dead of night can be a bit difficult. Once you leave your hunting rig or stand area and start walking out 200 or so yards, it’s easy to lose your bearings. That is when the laser is worth its weight in gold. I have my hunt rig laser mounted to a magnetic base. Once the shooter takes his shot, he keeps his scope on the general area where he fired at the coyote. The lighter (hunting partner) fires up the laser and the shooter directs the beam to the kill zone. Once it is zeroed, it is locked into position and the hunters can follow the green beam right to the kill. No searching, walking in circles or guesswork. The dead coyote should be right at the end of the beam. Inexpensive lasers can be found on-line and at some retailers. Most are way too under-powered. I just happened to order mine from an overseas supplier just before the feds put limits on the output power available to the general population. Check around though because it is a valuable tool. I am going to search for a good source too and when I find a good, reasonably priced unit, it will be tested by John and me and then sold in our store.

Next, I address my decoys. I sometimes use a Foxpro “Jack-in-the-box” coyote decoy. I also like my home-made, simple 1.5 volt coyote, fox and bobcat decoy made from an aluminum arrow shaft and half of a Decoy Heart (that throws a little stuffed critter around in circles). And lastly, for days with a slight breeze, a very simple low tech arrow shaft coyote decoy using a feather or two, tied to a light swivel with fine monofilament fishing line. I simply stick it in the ground and the breeze blows the feather around. It’s just enough action for a coyote or bobcat to fixate on. I check the batteries (and pack spares) and operation of the electric coyote decoys and look over the simple stuff to make sure everything functions as planned. I even go so far as to put all of the coyote decoy toppers into a plastic zip-lock bag and generously apply the scent or attractant that I want the Coyotes to smell. I don’t want my coyote decoys to smell like me or any other human.

Next I get out to the range and make sure all of my predator hunting rifles are shooting as tight as possible. I also check and inventory my reloaded ammo for each rifle. In addition, I pattern my shotguns and make sure my handguns are zeroed for the ammo I will be using. Finally, I touch up any of the nicked or worn camo paint areas on my coyote hunting firearms and make certain there is no chance of reflected light spooking an inbound coyote.

Next, I clean all of my coyote hunting rifle scope lenses with an approved cleaner so as not to damage the delicate lens coatings (See the “Op Drops” sold by RedHunterLLC. I also service my binoculars and make sure they are clean and ready.

Once I’ve checked all of my main coyote hunting equipment, I start checks on all of my general field gear like hunting license, bobcat tags, flashlights, knives, tools, gloves, head gear, camo, boots, sleeping bag, scents, etc. Lastly, I reassess my pre-hunting checklist and make sure it is updated and complete. Once I have completed my preparation, I should be good to go for the season opener.

By making periodic checks part of your hunting routine, you’ll always be ready for that last minute call from a buddy saying, “Let’s do a one-nighter and slam some coyotes”. Oh man, how can you resist that?

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