Controlling Coyotes

With predator populations out of control, trapping and hunting coyotes and other varmints are on every hunter’s mind.

Controlling Coyotes

Predator hunting is popular in the United States, with trapping’s popularity ticking up a few notches in the last decade as well. Why? One reason is the ample availability of coyotes, raccoons and other animals — especially coyotes, which have migrated into every state in the last few decades. Another is relatively lax state regulations on these animals, unlike the big-money species such as deer, elk, moose, turkeys and waterfowl. A third reason is younger hunters can get into the predator, varmint and trapping game fairly easily.

Predator and varmint seasons typically are liberal, with some form of hunting available year-round. Feral pigs are tossed into the predator group in some instances, so that’s another possibility for hunters. Trapping seasons often are most popular in autumn and winter months, although predator-control trapping in summer is available in many states. Hunters who believe their trapping efforts help deer, turkey and upland bird populations may employ a year-round program to keep predators at bay. The options almost are limitless for hunters, which is something that retailers can capitalize on as well.


What Do Hunters Need?

Typically when I hit the road for a trip I’ll have a bag of hunting items stashed somewhere in my truck. This includes camo pants, facemask and lightweight pullover, Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun or Rock River Arms rifle in .223 with ammo, Bog Deathgrip tripod, squealing cottontail rabbit mouth calls and a rubber-bulb Primos mouse squeaker. That’s my “just in case” stuff, if I happen to be able to sneak in a hunt or if I’m on a deer, turkey or waterfowl hunt and happen to get some free time. For a predator-specific trip, I’ll add a Primos electronic caller and low-slung chair.

That’s fairly minimal, which is my usual method. Trappers are the same way — as minimal and realistic as possible, with nothing fancy. And some predator hunters like to carry more items, such as different diaphragm or squealer mouth calls, electronic calls, decoys or other items. They may have a backpack or tote bag with their gear that they can sling over a shoulder along with a seat or cushion, and they’re off.

In short, predator hunters don’t need much. In talking with some over-the-top hunters over the years, I’ve found they seem to take the same tack: go minimal, be adaptable, stay mobile and pay attention. Twenty to 30 minutes in a spot is typical before moving; some hunters move after just 15 or 20 minutes. When you don’t have a lot of gear and aren’t trying to be Stevie Statue in hopes of the MonsterWhopper Buck coming within range, you can cover more ground, call more predators and often have more fun.

With that in mind, retailers can hit the highlights for predator hunters with a nice selection of products in an area of the store. Personally, I like to see products tied together on display. Rack pegs with calls could be paired with gloves to spur easy sales. Rifle and shotgun ammunition maybe could be placed nearby. A display of electronic calls, too, adds to the eye-appeal. Electronic calls are great to have on the shelf and to show off. Encourage your customers to learn to make a couple of common sounds like a screaming cottontail or squawking blue jay. ICOtec offers a strong value-priced line of calls, from the Sabre with 280 sounds to the Gen 2 GC300 with a dozen. Price points range from $50 to $420 MAP, and ICOtec has inventory available.

I don’t know whether predator hunters are keen on being all camoed up in the same pattern. Some are, wanting everything from the same brand. I opt for the most comfortable, season-specific clothing, boots and gloves and hat. In warm months, that will be thinner, breathable clothes that dry quickly along with LaCrosse 4xAlpha snake boots. In colder months I’ll be wrapped in a mix of Icebreaker wool undergarments and Sitka outerwear, including the Fanatic bib and jacket for longer sits. I want the warmest or coolest and most comfortable clothes and boots I can get, but I also want to blend into my surroundings. That means drab browns in winter, green in spring and summer. Your customers likely will have similar ideas.


Ammo, Guns and Optics

Optics definitely are a must for predator hunters, both on top of the rifle and for rangefinding. Some might pooh-pooh the latter, but I think rangefinders are critical for shorter shots if you need to dial down a scope or are using a shotgun with buckshot. Similar to turkey hunting, you don’t want to guess a 40-yard mark and miss a target. A rangefinder will help establish specific distances.

I usually have an 8x32 binocular with me, too. Consider the Passion ED line from German Precision Optics as a good midrange offering. The 8x32 size is perfect, I think, for glassing over shorter to mid-range distances. The 10x42 models might be a good suggestion for hunters in wide open spaces, as well as the 10x50 if they’re out West and don’t mind carrying something heavier.

For riflescopes, take a look at the Trijicon illuminated lineup for traditional bolt-action and modern sporting rifles. I’ve been hunting with the AccuPoint 4x16-50 scope for several months, and it’s a super crossover for predators and big game. Hogs and coyotes don’t stand a chance, and deer fall if I do my job. Your customers may not want to put something at that price point on a predator rifle, so be sure to offer a range of scopes after finding out their budget ideas and where or how they plan to hunt.

Hunting with AR-style rifles for predators is a blast. I’ve done it in several states and love the smaller calibers such as the .223, Federal’s .224 Valkyrie and the iconic .243. Coyotes and other smaller predators don’t stand a chance with those, and feral pigs aren’t keen on them, either. Multiple-round magazines offer quick follow-up shots, where legal. In close-range settings such as a Southeast swamp or mesquite-brush Texas flat, a 12-gauge shotgun with buckshot delivers a haymaker. Traditional bolt-action rifles in the family of 20-caliber offerings will get a look from predator hunters, too. Your customers may be all over the board on what they want for chasing coyotes, bobcats, hogs and other predators.


Air Rifles

Air rifles are seeing a slight uptick thanks to better products, more options and harder-hitting capabilities that will put down predators and varmints. AirForce Airguns, for example, offers the Texan, Texan SS and Talon P, among other models, in a variety of calibers. Pellets, optics, pumps and other accessories make these a consideration for your shelves if you’re having customers ask about them. The knockdown power is enough to put down coyotes, small hogs and other game, and some hunters are going after larger animals such as whitetail deer. Don’t overlook this possibility.

For varmints, Gamo hit a home run with its Swarm Magnum 10X Gen 2 rifle. It’s a break-open rifle like previous models, but the 10X Gen 2 has a 10-shot magazine. Break open the action to cock it, close, aim and shoot. Varmint hunters and plinkers should love this rifle. It’s a heck of a lot of fun to shoot. The rifle comes with a scope, two-stage trigger, Whisper Fusion noise damping system and other features. Be sure to sell additional magazines, because customers will want to load them and be ready to change quickly for more shooting.


Don’t Forget About Trapping

Trapping is enjoying a resurgence despite wildly fluctuating fur prices and interest in fur clothing. Still, state wildlife agencies a handful of years ago began offering trapping classes and interest has been strong and growing for those. During the 2020 shutdown, many people turned to trapping as an outdoors outlet since they had spare time. And more landowners with deer, turkey, upland birds, songbirds and other wildlife are seeing the benefits of trapping to reduce the impacts of coyotes and nest-robbers such as raccoons, opossums, foxes, skunks and others.

Dog-proof traps such as the ones from Duke, Sterling or Freedom are an easy product to sell. These are proven winners for racoons but won’t snag a dog. Be sure to have steel cables or spikes for securing the trap. If you’re interested in diving deeper into the trapping world, options abound for products from leghold traps, tools and hardware to bait, scents, wax, fur processing tools and more. Trapping is niche, but it’s an in-depth and serious silo. Trappers aren’t halfway about it; they’re either all in with both feet or they give it a try and move on. Given the interest in trapping, though, and if you know your area’s outdoorsmen, adding trapping supplies to your shop might be a good move.

One other item that could help predator hunters and trappers is game cameras, specifically the cellular models that send images to a phone. These are great to keep watch on an area for predator activity. Models such as the Spypoint Link-S Dark and Moultrie Delta give users solid, high-resolution images or video 24/7. This can give them a leg up on a successful predator hunt and help your register ring.


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