Keys to Successful Predator Calling
By Major L. Boddicker
Key 2: Guns, Cartridges, Clothes, Optics, and Paraphernalia
Clothes and Stuff
Clothes for predator calling are hardly a fashion statement, although if you want to make it that, that is fine with me. One of my calling buddies who is a hunting clothes fashion freak said he was embarrassed to go with me. My coveralls are ripped, faded, and ugly. My facemask (belaclava) is snagged and ugly. My hat is an old Scotch hat with earflaps. My old sweatshirts with hoods are tattered and torn. My sorrel boots are ancient with patches, and my running shoes are elk-blood soaked and socks show through the holes in the sides. So? A coyote sure doesn't care.
"Boddicker, you are an embarrassment, you look like you got all your hunting clothes off a homeless bum from East Colfax Street in Denver, after he threw them away." Well? So? I spend my money on my guns. Nobody is rolling me for my shoes.
You can buy your color-coordinated calling camo suits from Cabela's or L.L. Bean, one for marshes, one for cornfields, one for oak brush, one for snow, and change for each cover type. I prefer calling clothes to be simple, and I don't like to change more than to add or subtract to fit the temperature of the day.
Some of my calling buddies watch the sportsmen's shows on TV so think they have to buy all that stuff to be successful. I am out hunting on weekends so don't have that anal fixation on hunting fashions, driven by TV advertising or hunting shows.
Calling clothes should be simple. They need to be layered so you can add and subtract layers to stay comfortable as the temperature changes. They need to fit loosely so you can move freely. They need to have the brass and silver metallic parts dulled or hidden so they don't reflect the sun. They need pockets to hold ammo, chapstick, a handkerchief, pocketknife, ear plugs, calls, and sundry calling paraphernalia.
I like simple brown duck insulated coveralls—Key, Carhart, or other brands. The better quality brands for sale from Cabela's, L.L. Bean, Gander Mountain, and name-brand camo gear are great. Considering how many years they last, these coveralls are inexpensive. Get extra-large sizes so you can add sweatshirts or sweaters under them.
Insulated, hooded sweatshirts are great; get two and add or subtract them to fit the temperature.
Normally, I wear loose-fitting blue jeans with a pair of the ultra lightweight skier's long -johns under them during very cold weather.
Flannel shirts are hard to beat for warmth and are comfortable over a nice T-shirt with some great message printed on it, like "Housecats make great fox bait."
For gloves, I like light leather gloves for warmer weather and Thinsulated cloth gloves for very cold weather. Calling sound moves better out of a bare hand or leather glove; cloth muffles the sound.
A pullover wool or insulated facemask (belaclava) is great for warmth and for camouflaging the eyes and face. In warm weather, a stripe of face paint across the face to break up the shine is good. So is a loose-fitting camouflage net.
Carnivores, all of them, are colorblind, so they see in shades of black and white. Cloth or items that reflect light will put off predators, but colors such as blue, green, orange, reds, etc. really don't make any difference. Break up your outline and sit in a posture that keeps your profile low and unidentifiable. Sitting or standing on the skyline is a no-no because it offers the predator something strange, new, and recognizable as a human. That can make a big difference.
In cold and wet weather, I wear Sorrel-type boots. There is no worse misery than cold, wet feet. Most of the year I wear walking or running shoes. Good-quality wool athletic socks or tube socks work fine.
I wear a work watch—Timex, Swiss Army, or other inexpensive watch to gauge my time at a stand.
Sunglasses are sometimes necessary but get those that are low reflection or wear them under a camo veil. I have seen coyotes flare from the glint from sunglasses, often.
Three times in my calling career, I have almost sat down on coiled-up rattlesnakes. Twice in my life I have plunked my butt down on nasty prickly pear cactus. I always take a pad to sit on. I like thick carpet, better with rubber backing. Cut a piece that is 3 feet wide and 4 feet long; roll it up for easy carrying. You can double it for comfort or roll it out so you can stay dry on the snow and lean back on it for a nice nap.
I also have a very large pad that I can pull up and over me, like a cape, to cut the wind in really bad weather.
For you beginners and novices, just remember—don't get anal about clothes and camo. It just doesn't make that much difference. Be comfortable and blend reasonably well into the background.
Do I make or take blinds to my stands? Heck no! That takes too much time and adds nothing. Have your clothes and surrounding vegetation be your blind.
I know people and hunting writers who recommend that you build blinds or carry them. It is their choice, but what unnecessary work it is. Think—to get the most calling action means making the most stands to call to the most animals in the hours you have. Don't waste your hours making blinds or packing gear back and forth to the truck. Try to make 2-3 stands per hour, 12-20 stands per day. Only use what you can easily carry in two hands. Remember that you have to climb fences with the stuff too.
I can always tell a predator caller by the number of snags in the crotch of his pants, which he gets from climbing barbed-wire fences. A great remedy for that is to throw the sitting pad over the fence wires, then climb over it. It sure saves the pants and your crotch from wear and tear.
Chapstick, Carmex, or some similar lip balm is necessary for callers. Calling wears and exposes the lips to sun, wind, and chaffing. That means split lips and cold-sores from ear lobes to the Adam's apple, deep and raw. Always take spare lip balms. There is no misery like bleeding, draining, swollen, throbbing lips except wet, cold feet with wet cold butt with cactus spines protruding. All of that can easily happen on a day of predator calling. Then, throw in a stuck truck with a blown transmission seven miles from help with a battery-dead cell phone … well, you get the picture. The only thing to pull you out of such a hole is a nice double-kill on coyotes at the next stand and a quick toast of adult beverage (hot chocolate of course).
Guns and Stuff
"I cannot believe you, Boddicker. You go hunting with a $200 truck, $5 worth of street bum castoff clothes, a 20-year old plastic Crit'R·Call call, and a $2000 gun and scope, shooting ammo you reload 45 times and scrounge from the range and garage sales. You miss standing shots at 15 yards and kill the 'yote running at 450 yards. Screw you!" said Wally.
"Yes, I am glad you are so observant." That is exactly how I do it.
I do not like fancy $40,000 trucks. Give me an old 1980's beater that I can fix in the field and I don't worry about wrecking. If it is necessary to chase a wounded coyote across a wheat stubblefield at 50 mph, I don't worry about leaving the front end in a washout. Besides, old trucks have character and speak to you. You have shared many experiences and look after each other. You don't get that from a new truck. New trucks don't have any bullet holes in them or cracked windshields from flying brass, either.
You can tell a lot about a man and how he is going to hunt when he drives up in his truck. There are exceptions. I have a friend with a new Ford diesel who, when you open the passenger's side, a dead coyote may roll out. He keeps them there so they don't freeze up on him before he can skin them. He isn't afraid of leaving the front axle in a washout, because the warranty covers it. Fleas? Well, he is used to them.
Anyway, get a reliable truck, a 4x4, good tires that resist sidewall punctures, and carry two spare tires. Retool the jack and wrenches to a Hi-Lift jack or similar. Keep the spares handy so you can quickly change them. Take a come-along winch. I take an extra fan belt, fluids, fuses, and a small air compressor for emergency air, a towrope or chain, a scoop shovel, two10-foot rolls of carpet to lay under the wheels for getting unstuck, and sometimes chains.
A cell phone is for sissies, but sure comes in handy, especially when weather is life threatening. The family bought me one as a gift, but seldom use it. Someday it will probably save my life. I just have to remember to check it for messages.
There must be 200 mouth-blown predator calls out now, with 50 electronic calls, and 400 cassette tapes and CD's. Take your pick. I still like the Crit'R·Calls best, and I use my Standard model 80% of the time, the Song Dog or Magnum 20% of the time. Why? They just work great, at least as good as any other call or better, including electronic calls. They are small, light, sturdy, simple, weatherproof, and work no matter what the conditions. They go around my neck on a parachute-cord lanyard and take no extra hands or effort to use. Start a hand-held call when your are ready and change it instantly to the need. More on calls and calling later.
Buy the best gun you can afford and shoot it a lot. Buy the best scope you can afford to go with it. Shoot the gun and ammo until you are absolutely confident in it. Buy ammo in lots so the ammo is consistent, or reload and tailor-make it. Sight the scope or sights in so you are dead-on and check the zero often. I sight in 1" high at 100 yards, so I am on at 150 yards, 1" low at 200 yards, 3" low at 300 yards, and can shoot straight at the coyote out to 350 yards.
Lots of calibers work, from .222 to 7 mm mag. After shooting nearly everything at coyotes, I recommend and use a Heckler and Koch, semi-automatic M-770 Sporter Type in .308 with a 10-shot clip. I have a sling on it. The gun is fabulous with small recoil and a muzzle-brake that keeps the barrel from jumping with the recoil. Accuracy is superb; consistency is excellent. I load the clips with 8 rounds to insure proper feeding. Maintenance is simple: check all of the screws, scope mount tightness, no obstructions in the barrel and it is ready to go. H&K M-770's cost between $850 and $1500 from dealers out of Shotgun News and the Gun List magazines. They haven't been imported since 1986 so are getting hard to find. Browning BAR's are great too.
I use either a B-square scope mount or the H&K scope mount. Both are quickly detachable and quickly retachable, with no sight-in necessary.
My favorite scope is a Lightforce 3.5 x 15 with red electric reticle for poor light conditions. It costs $850 or more. I also use $40 Tasco's on a lot of my rifles. Get the best you can afford. Use 2.5-4 power for most calling. More magnification generally gets you into trouble on close shots. A good quality variable scope is great but be sure it has 2.5-4 as the lowest range. Shoot with it at the different powers to see if the point of impact remains the same as you change powers.
I like the semi-autos because I am left-handed, and they are quicker for me to shoot. Instead of getting three shots after a miss at a coyote speeding off, I get 5-8 shots of well-aimed rounds at the fleeing beast. Surprising, how often I roll it with the third or fifth shot.
Shoot what you like—just shoot enough gun. Minimum is the .222 Remington and don't push that. A .223 Remington is my personal minimum, and I want a .50-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip or Hornady V-Max bullet hopping out there at 3300+ from it. A .22-250 is a great cartridge for varmint hunting. Nobody makes a .22-250 semi-auto. Shame!
If you are not concerned about fur value, then step up to a .243, .25-06, .270 or the like. My favorite is a .308 loaded with 49 grains of BLC-2 or Winchester 748 and a 125-grain Nosler Ballistic tip or 110-grain Hornady V-Max BLC-2.
The quality and selection of bullets for varmint shooting is amazing. Nosler, Hornady, Sierra, Speer, Winchester, Remington, Federal, Calhoon, Berger, and others make great bullets. It is hard to recommend one brand because in a good rifle, they all shoot great.
For brass, I use various range pickup brass in Berdan or Boxer primers, makes no difference to me. With an H&K, you don't find the brass, so whatever you feed it, is gone. I don't need expensive factory brass for that. There is a lot of cheap and great military surplus .308 ammo available now at about $.20 per round. Pull the military bullets and put in the V-Max or Nosler B-T's for excellent and inexpensive varmint rounds. CAVIM ammo from Venezuela is my favorite.
The key to varmint hunting is to entice the varmint close enough so nearly any rifle or shotgun works. That is a great advantage of the sport. I have shot coyotes with .357 Magnum pistol to .375 H&H, .410 to 10-ga. 3 ½ ".
When you take someone's money and he entrusts to you the task of stopping sheep and calf killer coyotes, you owe him your best. An H&K .308 gives me my best chance at it.
Semi-auto rifles suitable for varmint hunting are made by Browning, Remington, Ruger, Winchester, Colt, and others. Some of the old military surplus guns work well, but they take some tinkering and ammo tweaking. I use a 6.5 x 55 mm Ljungman Swede semi-auto military rifle sometimes. It is big, ugly, and clumsy, but it does a great job.
Whatever gun you use, shoot it a lot. I sight mine in on a bench with sandbags or Wally Brownlee’s Target Shooter's rifle rest. Then, I shoot targets of various sizes off-hand which I set up at various ranges out to 350 yards. Running jackrabbits, cottontails, prairie dogs, or woodchucks are great practice when you get the chance. Practice from sitting and standing off-hand positions.
Use a bipod, monopod, or tripod if you like, but it is extra weight and inconvenient. Develop the arm strength and technique to shoot accurately off-hand.
I carry two extra 10-shot clips in my pockets in case I need extra ammo.
Shotguns are great but require better camouflage, less movement, more patience, better calling technique, and more care as to where the caller sits. Coyotes need to be within 40 yards maximum for consistent kills with shotguns.
Many hunters carry both rifles and shotguns, with the shotgun on their laps. If the coyote hangs up and does not come in close enough, then slowly and carefully pick up the rifle for shooting.
Shotgun shooters often place themselves intentionally so the varmint has to be close when the hunter can first see it. That means setting back behind the ridge instead on the front of it. When the varmint shows up, it is within 50-60 yards or closer. Under such a system, you get one or two shots and that is it. But it is often very effective. Most shotgun shooters use 12-ga. 3" or 3 ½", or 10-ga. 3 ½" pump or semi-autos with BB or larger shot in 1 ¾-ounce to 2-¼ ounce loads and full chokes.
When the varmint comes into range, watch its behavior. It will tell you when to shoot. When it gets within 200 yards, I am confident I can kill it. So, I watch and try to coax it closer. As long as it continues to come, its behavior is not on "alert," it is not starting to quarter away from me towards my scent, I let it come. When it gets within 200 yards and momentarily drops out of sight, I move my rifle and prepare to shoot. I keep calling. Move slowly and deliberately, especially if the varmint is within sight. When it stops within 60 yards, I shoot it. If I have a great shot at 100 yards, I shoot it.
When the varmint's eyes fix on yours, generally the jig is up. Shoot it as soon as you can. If it reacts to your scent or sees your vehicle, it is time to shoot.
After I shoot, I watch the varmint to make sure it is dead. Then I immediately resume calling because its mate or companions will often keep on coming in, in spite of the shot. More on that later.
Do you have to shoot if the varmint gets your scent or sees your truck and offers only a Hail Mary shot? Yes, otherwise you have bad dreams about what could have been. I know guys that talk about shots they did not take, years later. It even affects their libido with thoughts of unshot shots, coyotes melting away into the sagebrush unshot at, during their otherwise intimate moments.
Sport varmint calling is addictive! Predator control hunting is another matter.
Next: Key #3—Calls and Calling, Generally Speaking