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An Expert’s Primer for Predator Hunting
By Nick Simonson
2/11/2018 12:00:00 AM

An Expert’s Primer for Predator Hunting

Nick Nielsen

Nick Nielsen, an accomplished coyote caller and predator hunter, shares his wisdom in this installment of The Run Down.

For the past decade, a name has risen to the top of local, state and regional coyote derbies, calling contests and predator hunts across the upper Midwest.  Whether as part of the expanding circuit, or just recreationally, Nick Nielsen of Valley City, N.D. has amassed a great deal of skills pursuing songdogs, a quarry he describes as one of nature’s cagiest.  Having won the series three straight years (2014-16) with his hunting partner Matt Klabo and captured five major titles on the circuit including a three-time Winter Classic winner (2012, ’15 & ’16) and more than 20 top-five finishes, Nielsen shares his wealth of experience with those just getting into the sport of predator hunting. 

A Good Shot

Nielsen recommends not only being very familiar with a dedicated coyote hunting gun, but putting in a lot of practice shooting and getting significant field experience with it for the best chance at success when pursuing coyotes.

“Shoot whatever you’re comfortable with that’s above a .17 [caliber], I started with a single shot .204 [in 2006]; at that time the .204 was a new caliber and was very popular,” Nielsen advises, adding that economics and a desire to improve factored into his selection, “I didn't have a lot of money to spend so I bought a single shot H&R .204; I went with the single shot hoping to improve my shooting skills,” he concluded.

While his arsenal has expanded to include semi-automatic AR-style rifles for multiples or follow-up shots, Nielsen still has a good deal of faith in his bolt action setups, and being able to make those long-distance shots with the accuracy of a familiar firearm helps put coyotes in the bag.  Early in the season, he employs a .22-250, and will increase caliber later in the winter going up to a .25-06, as coyotes become warier and hang up on calls further out.  Nielsen prefers a light scope, such as the Leupold 4.5-14x50, on his main calling gun to help put each shot in the seven-inch target area of a coyote.

“They look a lot bigger with fur, especially late in winter,” Nielsen states with a laugh.

Three Tips for Beginners

In the pile of advice for new coyote hunters, Nielsen stresses the following items to help find early success: hunt where there are coyotes, sneak into their comfort zones before calling and play the wind to avoid being detected by these crafty canids.  While habitat and hiding places will hold coyotes, it is more likely they will respond to calls when they’re out looking for food.  For this reason, Nielsen suggests scouting out and setting up around pastures and other areas near cattle or wintering deer herds.  Once located, his recommendation is setting up in a space that is in their travel range and where the wind is blowing scent away from the path they’re expected to take toward the call.

“I've had a coyote wind me from one mile away, they want to get downwind,” Nielsen shares, “most will circle downwind and try to smell you out, they’re very smart,” he concluded.

Nielsen advises new hunters to have a selection of camouflage ready to match the situation and the surroundings.  White camo works best in snowy winters, but years like this one where there’s a mix of spotty ground cover on the landscape can make having a brown-and-beige option handy.  Beyond camo, staying still is imperative, as coyotes can see a good distance and will notice movement from a long way off.

For this reason, Nielsen states that many beginners are best served by an electronic caller as that option puts the sound out away from their stand site providing a good vantage point, and requires little motion other than pressing a button.  Hand calls, while a bit more advanced for new hunters, will help provide unique sounds that aren't as commonly found on recorded versions.

Nielsen suggests from his experience that coyotes are evolving quickly and are catching up to the pre-recorded calls on many e-callers and have become warier of what they hear in the field.  Having a hand-call option available gives hunters something that not everyone else is broadcasting out into the field, and better connects a sportsman with the pursuit of harvesting these furbearers.  As with shooting, practice is key and studying CDs, DVDs and other audio sources to help hone a person’s skills is a great way to get up the learning curve when it comes to coyote calling, with Nielsen highly recommending Randy Anderson’s series

Accessories for Success

Coyote Hunting Essentials

A reliable firearm, electronic caller, binoculars and good camo are some of the necessities for success in coyote hunting, and all can be found at your local Runnings

Finally, Nielsen points out a few must-haves in the field beyond calls, camo and guns.  A range finder is important when judging the distance of a shot, particularly in a tournament when every coyote counts and accuracy is key. Additionally, binoculars are preferred over a spotting scope due to their compact and portable nature.  Combining the two in a set of range finding binoculars helps limit the amount of gear a hunter needs to haul into the field, as mobility remains key.  Nielsen recommends staying in motion and checking a number of spots for the best chance at success and shortens his time on stand during tournaments to cover more ground.

“I usually don’t stay on stand for more than 20 minutes until later in the year, then my stands may last 40 minutes,” Nielsen explains, “tournament hunting is a different story; I like to up my odds and try to kill young coyotes so I will do as many stands as I can get to in a day and never call past the fifteen-minute mark,” he concludes.

The young and inexperienced pups are usually the first to be taken by hunters at the beginning of the season, according to Nielsen, and hunts deeper into winter will be for more mature and experienced animals which have survived from last summer and the previous year.  His calling cadence varies with the time of year, the population of coyotes in the area, and potentially how hungry the animals are, if the winter has been a tough, snowy one.

“Typically I start every stand with a lone howl or two howls, then I wait a few minutes, then play some distress; I repeat this until the fifteen minute mark, then I end with pup distress,” Nielsen advises, “about now, coyotes are pairing up, so howls will bring them in to check the area out, and sometimes fox sounds will work too, because they’re very territorial, very aggressive,” as such, he suggests more adult vocalizations and less distress calls later in the winter until spring comes around and the season – while open in most states – tapers off toward other outdoor pursuits.

The Sporting Goods section at your local Running’s has all the guns, gear, camo and ammunition to get you started in the expanding sport of coyote calling and predator hunting this season. Take these tips from one of the region’s best in the sport into the field with you this winter after one of the craftiest critters found in Running’s territory.

Tags: Hunting, coyote, predator
Categories: Know How


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