Illinois Coyote Hunt: 5 Critters and a Shed

Longtime BIG DEER blogger Scott from MI and his buddies made their annual trek to coyote camp, and he recaps their awesome hunt:

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Hi Mike: We headed out about 9:30 am Thursday morning Jan. 26th from Michigan and made the 6-hour trip to northwest Illinois, to a place along the Mississippi River.  The normal gang was along for the hunt, good friends John, Ryan, Mike and Jason. My dad Russ did not make the trip this year but I told him I would keep him posted with the play by play if we got some action.

The weather was pretty good, mid-teens at night and mid-20s during the day. Winds were a little stronger than we would have liked, about 15 mph average with gusts over 25 mph but the direction was ok. The wind was not too bad in the lower areas where we call. Those bottom lands had almost no snow, but we had a good couple inches of fresh powder on the hilltops and sides.

Mike and I decided to make our first set at Jessie’s draw, a spot that has produced coyotes almost every year we have hunted it. It’s a large ravine that runs the better part of a mile downward from the hilltop. We made our way to the stand location, sneaking in behind some pines so as not to be spotted by any game that was down below.

We set the Foxpro between us and Mike started with some coyote vocals, then rolled into some distress house cat sounds. Going back and forth between the two for 28 minutes I was thinking nothing was going to show. But then a coyote popped out, scaling the bottom of the hill about 100 yards away. Soon as it cleared the brush I gave a mouth bark to stop it and put it down with my T/C Venture chambered in .243, with a 70-grain Nosler ballistic tip that Mike had hand loaded for me. It was a nice-size male, good way to start the day.

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For our 3rd set of the morning we went to another part of the property that has produced for us in the past as well. As we were approaching our setup we noticed something moving across the hilltop about 600 yards away. Turned out to be a coyote heading down into the draw we were just about to call. He hadn’t seen us, so we made the decision to get into position quickly and see if we could call him in before he got too far away.

Mike set up on the closest finger coming out of the large draw and facing the coyote. I looked over the next finger back, in case he tried to flank us. Mike ran the same coyote howls and then some distressed cat sounds with the Foxpro that he did earlier. About 15 minutes later I heard a shot. After he finished the call I walked over to see a guy grinning from ear to ear. Mike had just scored his first kill with his new Cooper rifle chambered in .204 Ruger. The coyote had come running right to him along the hilltop and he was able to stop it with a mouth bark at 40 yards; he put it right down with a 35-grain handload. It was a large male that weighed in at 45 pounds! I sent dad text messages telling him that we had scored on a couple.

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The winds picked up in the afternoon and we didn’t have any more luck the rest of the day. That night we found out that we had gained permission to hunt a large piece of property where we used to call a few years back ago. Excited to hear this, we set a game plan for the next morning.  John, Jason and Ryan would try to cover as much ground as they could with the wind direction we had.

On the first set John and Jason set up on a point overlooking the intersection of two large ravines. John set out his Foxpro and started calling with a TT Frenzy rabbit distress. About 5 minutes into the call a yote came running right in. John gave a mouth bark to stop him at 80 yards and took him with his Tikka .223 using 55-grain Hornady Vmax ammo. Another nice male coyote.

On their 3rd  call of the morning John and Jason made their way down the steep ravine and back up to another nice ridgetop. They set up in a new spot where they could see a good ways off. John started with the TT Frenzy again and about 3 minutes in, a coyote came running in from the bottom. John gave a mouth bark to stop and when he squeezed the trigger the gun dried fired.

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The coyote, now on alert, took off running and Jason was able to crack off a shot at about 50 yards and put it down with his .22 Hornet. It was a nice-colored female. Jason has been 4 for 4 with that gun since he’s had it. The 35-grain Hornady Varmit Express does a good job on the predators.

After hearing from John that they had called in two within an hour using the TT Frenzy sound I said to Mike, “I guess we better try some rabbit sounds!” The wind had switched directions a little on the way to our next set so we decided to call a tall ridgetop overlooking a huge valley with a power line clear cut running through it. I placed the FoxPro call between Mike and me and started with the TT Frenzy. It wasn’t much past a minute and I caught movement out of the comer of my eye. I turned to the right and saw a coyote trotting down the finger toward me, trying to get downwind. The critter disappeared in the ditch between us.

In a slightly controlled panic, knowing the yote may catch our scent soon as it popped up, I spun around and tried to pick the spot where it might show. A few seconds later it appeared 40 yards farther to my right than I had thought. I gave a mouth bark as soon as it cleared and took the shot. The animal disappeared and I wasn’t sure if I had hit it. Mike and I walked over and saw it lying 15 yards down the ditch. That was number 5 for our trip! I texted Dad to let him know we had just killed 3 in about 2 hours.

Ryan was not able to have any luck getting a yote, but did find a nice heavy shed antler while walking in to make a call. We left it for the property owner that had given us permission to hunt the property again. Hopefully 2 dead coyotes and a shed antler on his property will earn us an invite back in the future! We had another great hunt and are already looking forward to next year.

Thanks Mike and keep up the good work!–Scott from MI

Top 5 Deer Hunting States

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Number of antlered bucks (1.5 years and older) harvested in the 2015 season:

Texas                             290,590

Michigan                        191,608

Wisconsin                     152,701

Georgia                         142,346

Pennsylvania                 137,580

 

Number of does harvested in 2015:

Texas                             157,247

Georgia                          220,503

Pennsylvania                 178,233

Alabama                         171,123

Wisconsin                      159,034

Source: QDMA Whitetail Report 2017

Whitetail How-To: Hunt a Buck Rub

Mature bucks feeling the rut not only thrash trees with their antlers in November, they also see and veer over to smell, lick and rack other rubs that rival males have made.

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In Iowa one November day, Brian LaRue looked up and saw a monster coming. Sixty yards out the 22-pointer stopped and mauled a sapling, then looked toward Brian’s tree and lugged on in. The hunter drilled the 222-inch non-typical with an arrow. “I’m convinced he saw the big rub on the other side of my stand and was making a straight line for it,” Brian says.

That’s the rub behind Brian and his beast in the picture above.

My buddy Luke Strommen read that post and got to thinking: What if I fake a similar scenario and see what happens?

Luke went out and dug up an aromatic cedar post that literally hundreds of different bucks had rubbed for 60 years on his Montana ranch. He moved the post a mile to an alfalfa field by the Milk River, and sunk it in the ground near where two big trails snaked out of the brush. He the hung a tree stand 20 yards downwind of the manufactured rub. He would rest the spot awhile, then come back to hunt it around November 12, prime time for bucks to be on their feet, moving and rubbing.

A week later, Luke sneaked along the river bank in the dark, and climbed up into the stand. When the sun came up, he would watch for a buck sneaking back to bed from a long night of feeding and checking does out in the nearby alfalfa.

luke cedar post snap

When the sun rose, look what he found. Sometime during the week that Luke had rested the stand, a buck(s) had come along and rubbed on the cedar post until it snapped in half! “When I got down and investigated, there were several sets of big tracks in the mud around the post, so different bucks had come to check it.”

Deer hunting is all about being in the right place at the right time. Had Luke been in the stand, and had it been daylight, when a buck came in to smell, lick and rub the post, he would have gotten a bow shot.

So you might want to hunt near a fresh rub, or make or move one and hunt it this November.

 

Where to Hunt Shed Whitetail Antlers

first shed 2 jon massPick up a deer trail and follow it for a half-mile or more, until you come to a thick and obvious bedding area. In late winter that might be a brushy southern exposure that gets midday sunlight, or the east side of a grassy ridge or swamp where deer hunker out of a northwest wind.

Last hunting season if you were smart, you would have stopped, tested the wind and worked the outer fringes of such a sanctuary so as not to spook deer. But now, plow right in.

Montana artist and shed-hunting fanatic Dick Idol told me one time that he finds 60 percent of his sheds in and around thick covers where mature bucks hide in late winter. So dive in, go slow and look close.

While you’re in there, analyze all the rub/scrape lines and trails you’re apt to find. Get an idea of the easiest and best-hidden routes a mature buck would use to enter and exit the cover according to various winds. That info will help immensely when you come back to hunt the area next fall.

If you find a good-sized shed in and around a thick cover for several years in a row you know within a few acres where at least one good buck and probably a couple of big ones bed in the winter, and perhaps earlier in the rut or late season as well. Hang a tree stand along a trail that leads out to a nearby food source and good chance you’ll get a shot at a big deer there next fall.

Saskatchewan Whitetail: Massive Shed Leads to Massive Buck!

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Last March Quinten Saunders of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, found this incredible antler and knew he had a special deer to hunt in the fall.

Some 8 months later Quinten, who bills himself as an “extreme outdoorsman and hunting guide,” shot the beast. Posting on Instagram he said: Well on Nov. 22 the chase for this mass monster came to an end…look for me and the story of this true Saskatchewan whitetail in Big Game Illustrated and the Big Buck magazines.

Just so you know both those Canadian publications are very popular with deer hunters north of the border.

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Hard to tell what a rack like that will score, but who cares! The overall mass measurements will be off the charts, as is the character of that beast.

Another example of why I am so enamored of those Canadian bucks, and why I keep going back up there every November.

Way to go Quinten, dream buck man!

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