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The Great Outdoors With Mike Roux

Blackpowder Coyotes

Published on Monday, February 3, 2014

The snow and brutally cold temperatures we have endured over the past couple weeks makes doing anything outdoors uncomfortable. However, for those that want to fight the cold weather and still have some fun outdoors, now is a great time of year. One of the best things that winter brings to hunters is hungry coyotes. The conditions lately are perfect to call-in and shoot these wild canines.

The combination of snow cover and bitterly cold temps makes if very difficult for a coyote to make a living. Catching mice is tough in the snow, especially when cold winds form a crust on the surface. Catching larger prey is also difficult. Rabbits, squirrels and even deer make great meals but a coyote or even a pack of coyotes expend a massive amount of energy on a chase for any of these targets. In truly harsh weather, coyotes become as much scavenger as predator.

The coyote hunter uses these facts to his advantage. Calling coyotes this time of year with wounded rabbit calls is the most effective and efficient way to get a dog into range. That is exactly what happened on New Year’s Day.

I was hunting a spot along the levee where I had seen a lot of coyote signs during deer season. I made a couple set-ups and calling sequences, when I decided to give it a try right at the base of the levee.

I was in snow camouflage in 2 in. of fresh powder over about 1 in. of existing snow. I had to wear sunglasses to decrease the glare of the snow on that bright sunshiny morning. I tucked-in at the base of the levee within a clump of switch-grass and I literally disappeared. Then, I began calling very softly.

I like to start by calling quietly, in case there is a coyote within 100-yards. This way I do not startle or scare him off. Then I get progressively louder so as to attract coyotes, or other predators from several hundred yards away. I use the frantic “scramble” sound of a rabbit in distress. This will bring hungry predators very quickly. They all want a free meal in the winter.

As I called I caught a glimpse of movement along the river, I readied my rifle and attempted to find my target in my scope. The coyote was moving right at me. That is less than a perfect shot. At 20-yards I stood-up and the dog turned immediately. As soon as he was broadside and my cross-hair found his shoulder, I fired. I could see nothing but smoke. I topped the levee just in time to see him fall dead in a cut cornfield.

                           I have developed a complete blackpowder program that has proven successful
                                      throughout many hunting seasons. (Photo by Spencer Dietrich)

The smoke I mentioned earlier was because I was hunting that day with a .50-caliber muzzle-loading rifle. Let me take a minute to tell you why I use this type of weapon for coyote hunting.

Traditionally, varmint hunting has been done with high-powered, flat-shooting center fire rifles. Shooting at great distances give the hunter a great advantage and I admire those guys who shoot predators at hundreds of yards. However, being a dedicated professional game caller, I would rather make a really close shot as a result of my calling and concealment than a long one.

I shoot a Thompson/Center Arms Pro Hunter in .50-caliber. The Pro Hunter is a stainless steel, composite stock version of the ever-popular Encore. I cannot count the number of deer I have taken with this gun. Its accuracy and dependability are the main reasons I began coyote hunting with it. It puts predators down as quickly and cleanly as it does deer. I own several muzzleloaders and this is, by far, my favorite.

The glass I chose to mount on my Pro Hunter is the best scope I have ever owned. It is an Apex 3-9 made by Alpen Optics. This scope has fully multi-coated lenses making it great in low light situations and is crystal clear regardless of the weather due to its waterproof, fog proof and shock proof construction. I also love the Alpen AccuPlex tapered crosshair.

I shoot sabot .50-caliber bullets made by Hornady. The sabot sleeve of the Lock-N-Load speed sabot has a peg coming out of its base to accommodate the 50-grain Pyrodex pellets I use to propel my 250-grain bullets. I use three of these pellets. You will read lots of articles that say two pellets are plenty for any muzzleloader application. I tend to disagree and my results speak for themselves.

I also prefer Winchester #209 primers for my Pro Hunter muzzleloader. You might think “a primer is a primer”, but I have put many pieces together in my blackpowder program and I believe the sum is worth many times more than its parts. Therefore the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” axiom applies here, for sure.

                             Putting the right components together into a single system will improve not
                                only your consistency, but your accuracy as well. (Photo by Mike Roux)

So get out your long underwear, heavy boots, get outside this winter, and put a hurt on the coyote population in your area. Not only is it great fun, but you will be doing a great service for many game animals and family pets along the way.

I’d love to hear about how your predator hunting is going this winter so feel free to leave a comment below!

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Mike Roux

Mike Roux

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