When calling coyotes, there’s been more than one time I’ve wished for an eye in the sky to give me a better view of what’s going on around my stand. A silent drone that circles the area, and then hovers when it sees an approaching coyote and flashes a red light, would be ideal. However, until that’s developed, a hunter is well advised to watch any circling birds. Doing so just earned me a double.
I was set up watching a pasture that featured a large grove of trees upwind to my left about 125 yards. I knew there was a coyote in those trees because I’d just seen one enter the grove from the other side, which had prompted me to set up in this location. I suspected the ‘yote would come out of the trees on the run in response to my rabbit imitation and I was pumped full of excitement. But 5 minutes into calling … I’d seen nothing.
As seen from my calling site, this treeline provided plenty of places for a cautious coyote to hide and watch its surroundings.
When my watch said I’d reached the 10-minute mark, I remained puzzled. The coyote I’d seen go into the trees hadn’t spotted me and the wind was perfect, so scent wasn’t a problem. Where could it be? I’ve seen coyotes hang up at treelines, reluctant to venture out into an open field, so on the hunch he was watching me from the that line, I scanned it carefully with my binocular. There was grass and deadfalls all along the perimeter, making it complicated to search, but I took my time. Nothing. Still puzzled, I kept on calling.
Not long after I’d lowered my binocular, a raven floated overhead, its wings barely moving as the easterly breeze provided all the lift it needed. I watched the big bird pull a slow circle above me and move on, following a flight path along the treeline I’d just glassed. The raven was flying lazily at about twice the height of the trees when it abruptly twisted its wings and dropped 5 feet. Just as quickly, it regained the lost elevation and the lazy aerial tour continued. I mentally marked the spot where the flight path had varied and couldn’t get my binocular up fast enough.
It took a minute, but I eventually spotted the coyote, exactly where the raven “said” it was. The ‘yote was lying down, watching me from behind a screen of straw-colored grass, as well hidden as any sniper. It’s a good thing he wasn’t one, because I’d be dead. But the raven had betrayed him and now I had a doable shot. The grass was no obstacle to a bullet, so a 39-grain Sierra Blitzking went into the bottom of his white throat patch. At the shot, another coyote burst out into the open and looked back at where the bullet had impacted. A second Blitzking put that one on the ground and I had a double, thanks to an observant raven.
A raven was the harbinger of death for these two coyotes.
Scavenger birds such as crows, ravens and magpies that show up in response to distress calls can be great assets. I’ve seen them dive down onto coyotes, harassing them mercilessly. When that happens, it’s obvious where the incoming coyote is. But sometimes, like the other day, all you’ll get is a subtle shift in flight as the bird takes a second look. Watch for it. Birds can work like aerial drones, alerting a hunter to what’s out there.