By Pete Rogers
Continued from: Advanced Predator Hunting Past 1 – Red And Grey Fox.
Bobcats are some of the most difficult of all predators to call to the gun. They are shy, cautious and slow to respond to the call. More than with fox, a moving decoy will help distract the cats and get them to commit a bit quicker. While there are a lot of great decoys out there, the Mojo Critter is an excellent choice for bobcats. However in a pinch, hanging a turkey wing feather from a limb will also work. These feathers will spin and twirl with the slightest breeze and give a visual attraction for cats.
When calling cats, I know from the onset that I will commit a minimum of forty five minutes to a particular stand. I start with small mouse squeaks, and ratchet up to bird distress sounds. Normally, I stay with these until I get a response or decide to move on. Cats are visual hunters and will key in on the decoy but are still slow to commit. I have seen many times a cat start coming at a distance, look right at the decoy and sit down looking directly at the decoy or call and not move for fifteen minutes. In these situations its best to have a rifle that can reach out there and get them before they lose interest. And even the best calling in the world cannot convince a lot of cats to commit. For some reason they will lose interest and just not come in if they don’t want to for whatever reason.
Bobcats can get up to thirty or thirty five pounds with a few getting heavier, the centerfire .22’s are the best choice for a variety of reasons. My personal favorite is the .22-250 loaded with a 55 grain ballistic tip bullet. This tiny centerfire can kill cats further than I can see them so any hesitant cat has little opportunity to escape.
While bobcats prefer thicker terrain, it is possible to call them out into the open. They will not commit as easy, but they will expose themselves and give you an opportunity. Here again, if you are hunting near rivers, riparian zones, and field edges, a shotgun can be a great choice. Of the hundreds of bobcats I have called into the gun, a full zero came in fast, running or trotting. One hundred percent came slow, cautious and sneaking into range. Calling sequences will last a lot longer if you believe cats are in the area. Many of the best cat areas also hold fox and coyotes and a lot of great cat stands were ruined by killing a fox or coyote that came in first. I have to admit, when I am calling predators in likely locations, I am not very discriminate. I normally kill the first volunteer to show up. It is not often I let a fox go because I am waiting on a cat. And I will never let a coyote go for any reason. Most sequences consist of calling for two to three minutes, a minute pause, another two to three minutes and a minute pause and continue this for the full stand. If nothing shows, I will move a half mile or so and repeat the process.
The coyote is without a doubt the apex predator in states that are absent of lion or wolves. Calling in and killing a coyote is a great thrill and experience. Regardless of what you may think, all areas of our states have a very healthy population of coyotes, and killing them will definitely help your confidence as a hunter, and it will help your deer herds. Where legal, I prefer to use a combination of electronic calls and hand calls. Using the electronic calls for volume and to reach out and touch them, hand calls when they get closer.
When calling coyotes, I like to look what the coyotes are feeding on and use that sound. If hunting near farms, a distress chicken will put them in your lap. But if you are miles from poultry farms, stick with rabbit, bird and the like to call coyotes. In areas that have a lot of pressure, a cottontail distress will do nothing whereas a jack rabbit may be the exact thing. While there are no jack rabbits in the east, it is a distress sound they may not have heard before and could be just enough to get them interested. As the breeding season rolls around, usually between January and March, howls, and barks can also bring in coyotes. Late winter is also a great time for pup in distress calls.
While they often will not respond as quickly as fox, they seldom take as long as bobcats. A normal stand will start with an electronic call and a howl to see if there are any interested. If I get an answer from a howl, I am usually pretty confident I can call that coyote to me. Then setting up, as quietly as possible and with the wind in my favor, I will go with a distress sound rabbit, chicken, goat, bird or even go straight to the distress puppy sounds. Call for a minute, sit for two, and repeat. If a coyote hasn’t responded within thirty minutes, I get up and move a quarter mile and repeat. I like the two minutes of quiet, between calling sequences seem to put the coyotes on edge enough to get their curiosity up and bring them in better than the continuous calling will.
Calling coyotes, bobcats or fox is a great thrill, and having predators come into your calls will definitely make you a better hunter. But there is a lot more to it than sitting down and pushing play on a digital caller. Scouting, set up, playing the wind, weather patterns and camouflage all are important aspects to effective predator calling.
As with all hunting scouting is critical. Regardless of how good of a caller you are, if there are no predators there, you will not be able to call them in. Find tracks, scat or actual sightings and you will be off to a good start. Set up with the sun at your back and sit in the shadows. It is really amazing how well this works. Lastly, have good camouflage from head to toe and make sure you carry some sort of shooting support. Shooting sticks, bi-pod, something to rest your gun on for those longer shots. As stated earlier a fox is a small animal and trying to hit a kill zone the size of a baseball at one hundred and fifty yards is not as easy as we like to think.
Lastly, where legal if you have the opportunity to hunt these predators at night, you need to give it a try. Today there are excellent choices of night vision optics available as well as great spotlights that allow hunters to pierce the dark and increase their odds at killing these predators.
When hunting at night with spotlights, it is a lot easier if you do so in a team. One person working the light and another shooting. The light person should be careful not to hit the animal directly with the light but carry them in the edge of the beam. Most will not pay the light any attention unless it hits them directly. Some hunters like to use a red filter on the light, and it works great but limits the range of the light beam. All other techniques mentioned are the same. The biggest difference is that the predators tend to respond a lot quicker and with less hesitation after the sun sets.
If using night vision there are really two options: thermal, and infrared. Thermal picks up on the temperature of the animal and the animal emits a white glow in the optics. This makes them very easy to see and to shoot. While infrared literally pierces the dark and returns a green image of everything out there. I have used both to a limited degree and really have not found a preference. I like the thermal for longer range and it does not mistake a bush for an animal. Everything emitting heat will glow, from mice to men. Whereas the infrared will be like daylight only with a green hue.
Many manufactures offer infrared scopes or additions to scopes to convert current scopes to night vision. Thermal image equipment is a bit more specialized. Either one you choose will increase your odds in killing predators at night. These are available at many retailers including 1800GunsAndAmmo.com.
Hunting predators, whether during the day or night is great fun and challenging. If you like to hunt, you will love hunting predators. Calling in a beautiful red fox or bobcat is often the highlight of the season for beginners. Others successfully call in and kill dozens of each. As is the case in most areas, predators are also listed as furbearers and the limits are pretty liberal if they exist at all. Check your local wildlife agencies for seasons and limits.