Are there really such things as educated coyotes?
Coyote hunting is the most effective local predator control and wildlife management method. It is, however, also a “sport,” and a sport needs products, advertising, myths, excuses, and “experts.” The “educated coyote” legend has become a Madison Avenue marketing slogan that meets all five of these requirements.
The dawn of the myth of educated coyotes.
The first coyote hunter to fail to call in a nearby coyote is probably to blame. Face burning with shame, they struggled to their feet and watched the dog run off into the woodline. Turning to any witness, they probably said something like, “That dog has been hunted before.”
If coyote hunting had a magical moment, this was it. With these six simple words came the forgiveness of the failures of all past and future coyote hunters. But like all false religions, it brought forth a slew of false prophets, prosperity preachers, and misled converts.
Suddenly, a poor marksman, a terrible caller, or an impatient coyote hunter was actually a high priest of coyote hunting experience. Somehow, a miserable excuse became a legend that sold products, generated advertising, developed mythology, and, finally, required the help of experts to solve.
Coyote hunting’s first and greatest myth: Educated Coyotes
Meet the educated coyote: It can recognize your calls, knows the areas you hunt in, and has survived an encounter with a coyote hunter before.
The educated coyote is easily recognized. It sits just out of range, refusing to come any closer. It barks knowingly at you, scolding you and your silly rabbit distress call.
Wait! No, that’s not right. An educated coyote never answers a call and never shows up because it knows what areas coyote hunters use. An educated coyote is one with a map of places in its head. Positions marked, “Beware; there be hunters here.”
The legendary Canis Lantrans.
Millions of dollars, thousands of articles, and hundreds of experts were all made with one simple-minded notion: If you can train a dog to sit, you can teach a coyote to do anything.
The legendary educated coyote is truly a magnificent beast. Unnatural, mind you, but still, a thing to behold. Consider the following:
- This coyote no longer responds to any prey in distress calls. Hell, it’s no longer really a coyote with a silly need to scoop up an easy meal now.
- He’s an old dog, but he won’t fall for any new tricks. Once you’ve trained him by calling for months with the same damn call, no sound, not even a new one, will ever work.
- He knows you are out there. Sure, you’re parked 20 yards from the road and made a ton of noise slogging your way to the same stand smoked in before, but that’s not the problem. The problem is the coyote has learned what areas are likely to be used as hunting locations. So he avoids these areas forever.
Hey, coyotes have marvelous ears. I’m sure they can tell a FoxPro from a Lucky Duck. And their eyes! Of course, they can even spot the future place for your perfect stand.
But, no need to worry. Help is on the way!
Experts, articles, and a legend is worth a thousand words.
1,020,000. That’s the number of returns I got when I Googled “Hunting educated coyotes.”
That includes tens of thousands of videos and articles. To stand out from the crowd, authors have created synonyms like pressured, timid, and call-shy. To make you trust their tips on hunting these legends, they have spiced up their rhetoric and sprinkled their headlines with words like proven, best, badass, deadly, sneaky, and even weird.
Many are well written and packed with excellent coyote hunting information, but I suspect most are crafted with a wink and a nod toward that first guy who blamed his lack of skill on an “educated coyote.”
As far as legends go, the myth of the call shy (see what I did there?) coyote hasn’t severely damaged the quality of the written knowledge available. In one respect, the parable of the pressured coyote (I did it again!) is akin to the fable of The Big Bad Wolf. A story meant to capture the attention of the young and inexperienced and teach them a valuable life lesson.
It becomes a problem when it convinces your children they should never leave the house unless they wear this company’s jacket and boots or follow this guru’s advice.
Coyote hunting + Madison Avenue = Educated Coyotes.
Embarrassingly, even though I had always denied the existence of the educated coyote when I Google “educated coyote equipment” and select the “shopping” tab, I get a nasty surprise. My book, “Night Hunting the Eastern Coyote,” shows up. At twice the price!
My point is, everyone is trying to make a buck, and a few will distort the truth to do so.
The worst offenders? They will use the myth of the educated coyote to sow doubt into your mind. They will make you question:
- The caller you are using. Hey, it’s too old. It would help if you had a bigger speaker, a more extensive selection of calls, and a fancy new distractor to go with it. No educated coyote will come to the sounds made by a three-year-old FoxPro. Right?
- The camo you are wearing. It’s all wrong; smart coyotes can recognize it. It would be best if you had this new pattern, even on your chair. Yeah, the chair is behind you, and the coyote cannot see it, but…
- Your technique is inferior. Read my new book! It’s got all the secrets you will need for coyote hunting, that super bright, college-educated dawg. In reality, it’s just another collection of good hunting tips all dolled up in fancy make-up and one giant false premise.
Coyote hunting advertising is expensive. To get a person to click on the phrase, “coyote hunting” typically costs about 62 cents. With approximately 8,000 people searching for that phrase every month, but not many buying after they click it, it can be very unprofitable.
Given that, is it any surprise so many ads, articles, and products are sold with the much cheaper and alluring Given that, is it any surprise so many ads, articles, and products are sold with the much cheaper and alluring term “educated” in them? Can you really blame the Ebay seller hawking my book for such a wildly high price?
Hey, it’s not like we all haven’t used the phrase to shave a little shame off a bad stand or two.
We are all guilty of thinking there are educated coyotes.
The educated coyote is a one size fits all excuse. It’s also a much more intriguing ending for any coyote hunting story that would have customarily trailed off with a muttered, “and then it ran away.”
Heck, we even believe it. At least in the beginning. And doesn’t it feel better to say, “that was a call shy coyote” to explain why your rabbit in distress call failed to lure a dog into range?
For a while, we tell ourselves educated coyotes do exist. It’s a stage, though, one that has a natural, noticeable, and unavoidable progression.
We blow a stand, blame it on an educated coyote. We spend a season or two believing there must be a lot of unseen coyote hunters out there. Those terrible hunters are educating every predator around us. Frustrated, we start reading articles that promise “proven tactics to hunt educated coyotes.” The next stage is the worst. We pour money into new, fancy, and downright ridiculous gear.
Here is where our greatest failure occurs. We’ve forgotten why we hunt coyotes in the first place: They are knowledgeable. We are pursuing the apex predator—a wickedly fast, wary as hell, cunning foe. To succeed, our marksmanship must be perfect and our adrenaline controlled. Our patience must have no limit.
We hunt coyotes because they make us better hunters.
Believing in educated coyotes is, at best, lazy. Until you realize there is no such thing, you will not master the sport. Instead, you’ll be another victim of the coyote.
Are there really educated coyotes, or are you stuck in a rut?
I’m not trying to be mean, but you have heard that old expression, right? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.
Is the rabbit in distress call on your caller the only sound you can find in the dark? Does the very sound of it fill you with boredom or even rage? Sure, it’s effective, at the start of the season for sure. But that sound is also used to drive terrorists out of bunkers into the loving embrace of U.S. Marines. Heaven forbid you should change things up. It would be a crime to play a little bluejay or (clutches pearls) an animal that doesn’t even live in your region. No, I’m sure you are right. Keep blasting that same call every night. It will eventually work.
Do you park your car close to your stand? The road is a great place to hunt coyotes. So why spend twenty minutes making a silent stalk into a distance field? They’ll come to you if they are hungry. The have no fear of the road. Those headlights spotlighting you every three minutes won’t scare them off. The sound of an approaching vehicle would never cause their steps to falter. And if there is one sound coyotes are used to hearing, it’s a car door slamming closed. Maybe FoxPro should add it to their sound library.
Keep smoking that cigarette as you scan for eyes. Never mind the wind direction; you sprayed that expensive scent killer on your jacket just this evening. Have that long chat with your hunting buddy; the coyotes can’t hear you if you haven’t seen them yet.
Hey, it’s all just a matter of time and chance. You don’t need to look for scat or paw prints. There is no need to prove there are coyotes where you are hunting. Your caller has the number 10 on the volume. They will hear you and come charging in. Scouting is for deer hunters, not coyote hunters.
Hey, before you jump on me and say, “That’s what educates the coyotes! You have just proven your whole article is wrong!” wait one dang minute.
Nothing I just said educates coyotes, but everything I just said does WARN coyotes. Car doors, cigarette smoke, endlessly screaming rabbits, and people talking are not natural events in nature.
Take the rabbit in distress call, for example. A wounded rabbit may indeed holler for a bit. But that rabbit will instinctively stop screaming within seconds. It will not continue to make a high-pitched noise for five minutes, take a two-minute breather, and then resume for another five minutes. Coyotes hear the sound of wounded rabbits about as often as you do—when you aren’t listening to other novice coyote hunters.
And the smoke from a cigarette? Smoke means fire to a coyote. Fire means “go the other way.” Car doors? That sound scares the poop out of varmints. How do you react to the sound of a car door closing at night in your driveway?
Riddle me this, if car headlights don’t scare off coyotes, why did you spend all that money on a super dark red scanning light?
Maybe that coyote isn’t educated, and perhaps you aren’t insane, but it might be time for you to make some changes. The first would be to start coyote hunting with respect for the coyote’s abilities.
If you think your coyote is smart, meet the Eastern Coyote.
A western coyote hunter visiting the northeast would be stunned by what we call a coyote. The Canis Latrans var. can be 30-50 pounds heavier than western coyotes (Smithsonian Magazine, November 3, 2015). These coyote/wolf/ dog hybrids love hunting in the woods (unlike regular coyotes), readily den in manufactured structures like drainage pipes, and are often mistaken for pure wolves. They are elusive (spookily so), amazingly adaptive, and supremely intelligent.
Let me tell you; there is nothing as confounding as having the perfect stand ruined when you stand up and discover fresh coyote tracks in the snow 10 yards behind you. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up at the thought of a 65-pound carnivore staring at your back.
After an experience like that, you start listening to the camo shirt-wearing “experts” in town, with their tales of “who is hunting who” begin to seep in and work on your nerves. It all makes sense there must be educated coyotes, or I would have scored by now.
But the eastern coyote is no more innovative than the western. Bigger, yes. Harder to hunt? Maybe, but it’s just the trees providing cover and concealment that raises the difficulty. The ones that getaway, they don’t learn. Even after losing a buddy, they come back to the same spot the next day.
Just ask Lana. She has to help gather up all the dead ones on Monday afternoon.
lt’s not a coyote hunting legend, it’s a lousy excuse.
The idea of the educated coyote is now a marketing tool. It sells new equipment, hawks articles for writers, and covers a multitude of missed shots and badly set stands. Nevertheless, it is patently false.
It isn’t good for the sport. It unnecessarily adds to the cost of entry, misrepresents the actual skill level and determination required for success, and drives beginners off their stands too early, sometimes for good.
What you really mean when you use the phrase “educated coyote” is, “I blew it.”
Stop. Stop, unless you can change my mind in the comments.
Now go put more fur in the back of the truck.