Predatorflage – Concealment and Predator Hunting
What it takes to bring them in close
Camo and predator hunting
by Les Johnson
As a die-hard predator caller, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what it takes to bring a predator in close. I believe one of the more important aspects of predator calling is concealment. I like to call predators within shotgun range which means that my concealment has to be good. Concealment goes hand-in-hand with camouflage. Calling predators allows me to put myself on their playing field, so I like to say that I need to be wearing a good set of Predatorflage, or camouflage, while calling predators.
Predators are simply animals that prey on other animals. Sometimes they might scavenge, but more times than not they prefer a fresh meal. How are they successful in doing this? I like to say that they use their Predatorflage, or their own fur with its distinct markings, as their camouflage. Lions, tigers, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, etc, all have fur characteristics that tend to be a form of camouflage. Some have lighter shades of coloring that blend darker on various parts of the animal, while others have spots and distinct lines to help form their Predatorflage. This Predatorflage helps break up the animal’s outline as they patiently stalk their next meal. Most predators can be seen more easily whenever they are moving. Whenever a lion, for instance, is crouched in a patch of yellow grass in Africa waiting for a wildebeest to stroll by, you can bet your behind that the only thing that will save the wildebeest is smelling the lion before it gets near the grass that the lion is in.
Just like a predator, I sit almost completely motionless whenever I am calling predators. I want my camouflage to blend me into my surroundings so that I become like the predator that I am calling. If I can fool the wary coyote’s eyes with my camouflage concealment, chances are that I have fooled him altogether. I do not know about everyone else, but I have my own personal closet that is full of every available style of camo to ever hit the market. Heck, I even have a few pair of camo undies. For what, I have no idea. Several of the brands and styles have worked better for me over the years than others. How do I know this? I have actually tested certain camos over the years while calling coyotes.
What is my goal as a predator caller you might ask? I want to try and call each and every predator to within shotgun range. How do I do that? Well, my friends, several other important factors come into play, but body concealment is my number one goal in getting predators close enough for a shotgun shot. Over the years, people have worn everything from a Santa Claus suit, courtesy of Mr. Gerry Blair, to Halloween-like costumes while calling predators with success. Will I be trying this anytime soon with my calling? Not only “No,” but, “Heck no!” I will take everyone else’s word for it that it works. In order to understand this, the first thing a hunter needs to do is to try and decipher what a predator is doing once it is coming to the call.
First, I try to set up in a likely spot to call a predator. Then I blow on the call. If a coyote hears the distress sound and wants to investigate the sound, it heads toward us. While coming at us, the coyote is going to be using three of its five senses the most. Ears (hearing) – listening for sound and danger. Nose (smell) – trying to smell for any unfamiliar scents. And eyes (sight) – spot the sound source or movement, etc. Notice, I said “movement.” Remember, predators are easier to see whenever they are moving. Just like predators, we are easier to spot when we move as well. To briefly summarize, you must first wear a camouflage that blends you into your surroundings making you become part of the landscape, and second, keep your movement to a minimum. If you do this, not only is your success going to increase, but you will be having a few close encounters on your predator calling trips.
Predator calling is a terrible* addiction of mine. (*Please note that I use the word “terrible” in a very good way!) Not only am I obsessed with calling coyotes, but I love to call them in close – real close. I like to look into their eyes to try and figure out what they are thinking. Will I ever know what they are truly thinking? I doubt it. But the idea of figuring out what a predator is thinking reminds me of one of my last hunts of the season this past winter…
It was the latter part of February 2007, somewhere in Wyoming. The temperature was hovering in the low thirties and a snow squall was visibly moving our way. I told my videographer/hunting partner/ brother Jeff that we had better hurry and try to get our last stand of the day in. It was only mid-afternoon, but it appeared as if our day of calling was quickly approaching an end. Six motionless, pale Wyoming songdogs were already lying in the bed of my Toyota Predator Quest Vehicle. The wind was blowing 10-20 mph and this was below average wind speed for this part of Wyoming. We hurried over the ridgeline to drop our silhouettes out of sight of any watchful coyotes that might be forewarned of our presence. About fifty yards over the horizon and towards the base of the hill, there was a prairie dog hole with a mound of dirt that extended all the way around the hole. I put my seat cushion down in the hole and sat right down in the hole. My brother sat down higher on the side of the hill so that his vantage point could be higher due to running a video camera. “We stick out like a sore thumb,” was what my mind was telling me, but I have done this many times before with great success.
After sitting down and securing my bipod legs on my rifle and laying the shotgun over my lap, I took a quick minute to scan the vast open plains for any suspicious form that might represent life. Hardly a blade of grass, this endless sea of wide open prairie is what really gets my heart pumping. Why, you might ask? Because I know that they are out there, that is why! I brought the hand call to my mouth and played the exact same cadence on my predator call that I have done thousands of times before. I didn’t blow as hard as I could my first series, but since I could see hardly a clump of sagebrush out past a mile, I blew again a few minutes later as loud as I could.
As I picked up the binocs to make a quick scan of the vast prairie from right to left, Jeff said, “Les, Les.” I was still scanning, so I knew that Jeff had spotted something that represented the ol’ prairie ghost. As my binocs quickly moved left, there was the white dot that Jeff had seen with his naked eyes. Indeed, it was a coyote working our way from well over a mile away. Jeff muttered, “It must be an antelope.” I turned and said that it was indeed a coyote and he was coming. The coyote took his own sweet time coming in, but his pace was steady. Several times he would stop, listening for the sound of that dreadful animal that was making those distress cries. Several soft moans would again fool his ears and keep him shortening the distance. As the coyote approached the 200-yard mark, there was a slight depression in the land in which I knew that I could set up whenever he crossed below his line of sight. I had made sure to keep inching my rifle and bipod to face his approach so it would be ready should I have the opportunity to rifle this coyote.
Normally, in all of my experiences, when a coyote approaches slowly, he is more attentive of his surroundings and can sometimes bolt at the slightest of movements or anything that can cause him to be uneasy. This coyote, however, went through the draw and showed no sign of slowing down as he trotted right towards me. His senses already told him exactly where I was, within a few feet. I laid back so that my body looked as if it was a fixture on the Wyoming prairie. I clenched my shotgun as the coyote hit fifty yards. The coyote paused for a second to look my way. I never made a peep. He definitely knew that my body was something unusual, but he still wanted to get a closer look. Now the coyote was glaring right at my position, but he still came directly towards me. I began to ever so slowly point my shotgun in the coyote’s direction. I already had my shotgun to my shoulder, but I was reclined backwards in such an awkward position that you would never know that I was ready to shoot at any time.
Once the coyote hit 35 yards, he stopped again and began to throw his nose into the air and bob his head, knowing that something in his realm of the desert was out of the ordinary. My bead at the end of the smoothbore was leveled on the coyote’s head. I could sense that he was ready to leave due to the body language that I was reading from him. At the report of the shotgun blast, his body slumped over and hit the ground. He was in coyote heaven before his body hit the ground. We barely had time to film any kind of narration of what had transpired before the snow squall had totally engulfed us. Jeff and I each took a leg of this magnificent specimen of a predator and took him to join his six other fallen comrades. Instead of having to make a 300-yard shot at a skittish coyote, my concealment with the proper camouflage helped me to take a much easier shot on this beautiful Wyoming coyote.
Les Johnson is a world and national coyote calling champion and host of Predator Quest TV. Les uses King’s Camo exclusively when getting close to the predators.