Best Time of Year, and Time of Day to Hunt Coyotes

Coyote looks at the camera as photographed by Jim Harmer.

Coyote hunting is my second favorite hunting sport, next to deer hunting. It’s fairly simple and doesn’t take a lot of gear to be successful.

The best time to hunt Coyotes is a winter morning or evening. Coyotes are desperate to eat in winter and respond well to food calls both day and night. It’s also easier to spot coyotes in winter after the cover brush has died back. Winter is the most forgiving time to hunt coyotes and a great time for beginners to start.

So, how do you find success consistently and how do you maximize your chances? I’ll go over nighttime vs daytime hunting, and what you can do to find good coyotes all year long.

The 3 Most Likely Seasons For a Succesfull Coyote Hunt

The most productive coyote hunts are usually in Winter, early Spring, and late Summer. Winter is when Coyotes are most hungry. Early Spring is mating season and mature males are easier to lure in. Late summer is when pups have matured and ventured out on their own, lacking experience.

The vast majority of coyote hunters agree that the easiest time to call in a mature coyote is during the height of winter. In winter, food is scarce and it takes more food to keep up their body temperature, so they get desperate.

Coyotes are usually far more willing to respond to a basic distress call in winter than any other time of year. And, they tend to respond much quicker. Hunger is the main driving force of nature and coyotes are no exception. When they get hungry, they will start taking big chances.

Early spring, February -March, males are looking for a mate. All you have to do is sound convincing. This is the one thing that takes precedence over finding a meal. A male coyote may forgo eating for days when on the trail of a female.

If you’re after a large, thick fur, this is probably the best chance of that. Furs are still in their prime from winter, and the wariest old coyotes lose all inhibition when looking for a mate.

The Fall hunt is when the woods and fields are filled with young male coyotes that just left their mother’s side. Their lack of experience makes them pretty vulnerable to calling in. But, they do learn quickly.

How to Hunt Coyotes in Winter.

Winter is the easiest time to spot a coyote. It’s also the easiest time to lure them in with a food call. by that, I mean something like the rabbit distress or woodpecker distress call. Replicate the sound of a free meal and it’s hard for a coyote to resist.

Besides the increase of food motivation, winter is an easy time to spot a coyote. Particularly if there is a light snow cover. Coyotes may seem light-colored most of the year, but they look like a large dark spot against a white, snowy field.

Plus, after the grasses have died back and the brush has lost its leaves, it’s only easier to spot a sneaking coyote. You’d be shocked to know how many coyotes are called in but never seen in the summer months.

You may think that since coyotes are easy to spot in winter, you would be too. I find it easier to hide in winter, particularly if it’s snowy. Snow camouflage hides extremely well against a snowy background. I have hunted with as little as a white sheet covering me. It’s pretty basic really.

My favorite method is to dig a hole in the snow and cover it up with my white snow poncho. I’m 90 percent below the snow and covered well. Nothing can see me then.

If you Live in a sane climate and don’t have snow, You’ll need to use something else to break up your outline like a tree or bush, unless you are hunting during a dark night.

My biggest tip to hunting coyotes in winter is to bring hand warmers. Hand warmers will keep your fingers able to operate your call and your trigger. I always carry two or three. Generally, they don’t get used, but sometimes they’re a lifesaver.

I actually know a guy who saved his life with hand warmers. During a negative 20-degree day in the Montanna mountains, he went through the ice on a lake. After crawling out, his fingers were unable to work his lighter to light a fire. He used about 15 hand warmers to bring up his body temperature from freezing.

Hunting Coyotes in Early Spring

Hunting coyotes in early Spring means learning to use howl calls. You can use The Lone Howl effectively. The Lone Howl is just a male announcing his presence in the area. That’s a good way to bring in a territorial, seasoned male.

Another great call is the Female howl, which is a higher pitch, just letting other dogs know who’s around. Finally, there are the Female Whimpers. The Whimpers is an estrus call, letting males know it’s now or never.

I personally don’t like the early Spring hunt because I often end up soaking wet. If the weather is right, cold and dry, I’ll be out hunting. If the snow is all melting and it may rain, no thank you.

In early spring, you may need to wear winter camouflage. If there isn’t any snow you’ll probably want a really good brown or tan, since you will be trying to blend in with whatever is on the ground. Of all the times to bring a hunting seat, Spring is it. Otherwise, you may end up with a really cold, wet caboose.

Hunting Late Sumner Coyotes

The Late Summer hunt is When you can find more coyotes, but they tend to be smaller. It is probably the second easiest time to call coyotes, and it’s easier to hunt in fall than in a cold winter. Most of the coyotes shot in late Summer are males, as they travel out and claim their own territory.

Late summer is certainly not for everyone. I enjoy a hot August day hunting coyotes. But my brother in Texas, not so much. If you don’t mind the heat, it’s a great time to find some mid-season success.

Another point here is that young coyotes don’t follow all the “rules”. Things like approach from downwind and approach cautiously from a position of cover; yeah they don’t always apply here. Be sure to keep your eyes moving and stay alert. They may be young and stupid but are still sneaky and quick.

If done right, territorial calls work well in this season. But, most hunters stick to the standard distress calls, for the most part, changing up only when things aren’t working as planned.

Although the late Summer season is filled with foolish young males, do your best not to tip them off. Try to keep still, quiet, and keep your scent down.

Coyotes are More Active Just Before Dawn

Coyotes are fairly nocturnal creatures and do most of their hunting under the cover of darkness when it’s easier to sneak. The most active time in my experience has been within a few hours of sunrise. But, coyotes are fairly active all night long.

Nighttime is generally when coyotes are hunting and making social calls. That behavior starts just after sundown, and it ends just before the sun comes up. Most of the activity is often at the beginning, or the end of an all-night hunt.

Camo isn’t that big of an issue when hunting at night. I’ve seen hunters go out in a black hoodie and come back with several dogs. you just need to be quiet. There is less ambient noise at night, and sound travels further in cooler air so coyotes will hear you easier.

Nighttime hunting requires either good lights or a basic night vision setup. Nightvision is more effective and much simpler than hassling around with lights. I don’t really recommend hunting with lights for coyotes, but some people do it regularly.

Lights can get the job done but are hard to work with and don’t tend to be productive in more hunted areas. A basic night vision like the SightMark Wraith costs around $450 and it’s a good scope for daytime use too.

Really, all you need is a gun and a night vision scope. A tripod or bipod helps a lot. It keeps the rifle steady and gets it above the level of grass and brush so you can make a clear shot.

If you aren’t into nighttime hunting, it may sound daunting and too complicated. Truth is, it’s kinda easier than hunting in the day, just because it’s easier for you to stay hidden.

I wrote a full-length article on Backfire about nighttime coyote hunting. Here’s a link to it.

A sightmark wraith night vision infrared scope on an AR-10 rifle
This is Jim Harmer’s Sightmark Wraith on an AR-10 set up for nighttime hunting

Coyotes are Mostly Nocturnal, But not Completely

Coyotes are somewhat active during the day, and many are shot in daylight hours. They are much easier to spot in daylight, and shots are easier to make. a coyote can come in at any time, day or night.

It’s only been recent that nighttime hunting has become popular. It always used to be that coyotes were hunted nearly exclusively in the day. That changed as the tactical crowd started making night vision scopes more common.

Today, there are possibly more nighttime hunters than daylight hunters. And, because the price of quality night vision keeps going down, it’s something most people can do.

I still hunt mostly in the day, because hunting all night on the weekend messes me up come Monday. It works, and you have to do what works for you. Tons of coyotes are shot during the day.

Is it Better to Hunt Coyotes in the Morning or the Evening?

Early morning is often the best time of day to hunt coyotes. Depending on your area, it could be better in the evening, but most hunters prefer the morning hunt. Coyotes can be active all day, and you need to be vigilant at all times during a hunt.

There really isn’t a magic time to hunt coyotes. Like the old adage says, the best time to hunt is when you can go. It really falls down to personal preference, and whether or not you want to buy night vision. If staying out late isn’t going t work for you, that’s fine. Just hunt in the day. It works.

Jim Harmer glassing for animals in the mountains while hunting.

Coyote Hunting in Warm vs Cold Weather.

When hunting in the winter, it’s acceptable to call aggressively. In warm weather, you can call too much and scare away coyotes. Expect coyotes to be more forgiving and less wary in cold-weather, and more cautious in summer.

Being in Michigan, I know about cold. Cold isn’t usually the issue. The winter problems are moisture and wind. Consider carrying a neoprene ski mask in your pocket in case the wind comes up.

The biggest difference is how you dress. In winter, you need to stay warm and dry. You have to be fairly concerned with water repellent outerwear, and moisture-wicking or breathable underwear. Being cold and wet will kill any hunt.

If you start to sweat on your way to your hunting spot, unzip your jacket and/or take your hat off to cool down. Perspiration can make you cold when you sit down and stop moving.

If you can handle hunting in cold weather, go for it. It’s usually more productive. Just maybe bring an extra pair of socks in case your feet get wet.

The other concern is your calls. Mouth calls can freeze up, and electronic calls can have issues with freezing batteries. Prevent your mouth calls from freezing up by putting it in an inside pocket, or tucking it inside your sleeve. If it’s incredibly frigid, warm up your caller’s battery every hour in your car.

The most important accessory for coyote hunting in warm weather is bug spray. Mosquitoes or blackflies can eat you alive and make it impossible to sit still. I like the 99 or 98 percent DEET stuff. Don’t overdress, and bring water because you’ll sweat a lot.

If you avoid wearing dark colors and sit in the shade, you should be fine anywhere outside of Death Valley. I’ll also note that rifles shoot higher in the heat. Hot air creates less resistance on the bullet and increases the chamber pressure. That makes the bullet a bit flatter shooting.

The opposite is also true. Bullets lose energy quicker and start out with a tad less pressure in cold weather. Be sure to check your rifle’s zero at least in the season of your hunt.

Also, do you know why desert coyotes howl at night? It’s because they can’t see the cactuses ahead after sundown.

And now, I take my leave.