If you want a challenge, try to hunt eastern coyotes on public land in NY. New York doesn’t have those wide-open spaces you see out west. Heck even on the majority of our open fields there’s not much call for marksmanship skills past 150 yards.
But if you think you’re handy with a shotgun and can sit still as a coyote winds its to within 15 yards of you—NY has some public land thick with timber and legendary sized eastern coyotes.
You’ve no doubt heard the rumors about New Yorkers shooting coyotes weighing over 60 lbs. Or that our dogs are half timber wolf and half forest ghost. Maybe you’ve even heard folks say our coyotes kill enough meat in the woods that they’ve begun to leave ranches and farms alone.
I haven’t shot one over 50 lbs, myself, but there is one thing I know from first hand experience. Some of our eastern coyotes can be double-tapped with .223 Winchester Silvertips, and still get away.
Why hunt eastern coyotes on public land in NY?
You’ll have hundreds of acres all to yourself. 90% of all NY hunters (600K) hunt on private property.
Most coyote hunters in NY (30,000) prefer to call and rifle hunt local farms and fields. This means that public land is almost undisturbed after deer season until after Winter. In effect, public land becomes a near sanctuary for eastern coyotes for the season’s remaining three months (!).
New York also does a great job of encouraging hunting on public lands. DEC websites provide excellent maps, contact information, and updated rules and regulations. Aside from the 150 WMA, there are an additional 33 state parks that permit some form of hunting. In total, there are about 4 million acres of public land in New york.
And to what does this all add up? Unpressured coyotes and free access to some of the most productive hunting spots in the world. You’ll probably never see another hunter, or hear even a distant gunshot for the next 90 days.
But always remember: It is still a park!
Why don’t more people hunt eastern coyotes on public land in NY?
The biggest issue with hunting much of the public land in NY is the lack of open spaces. For example, on the two DEC (Department of Ecological Conservation) Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) near me, there’s nary a place large enough to turn a Smart Car around in.
The trees are unbelievably numerous. A shooting lane longer than 30 yards and more than 5 yards wide is a rarity.
Hunt eastern coyotes here with a shotgun. A 12 gauge shotgun. Oh, and you can leave that e-caller with the enormous speakers at home. You won’t need it.
Hunting eastern coyotes in timber requires some still hunting.
Most hunters on public land never even walk a mile from the parking lot. And, while the deeper reaches of the 4,000 acres DEC WMA nearest me seem tempting, it’s only a daydream. Oh, it’s not the mileage that tires me out. It’s the requirement to use still hunting methods and be constantly alert that drains the battery.
Step, stop, scan, and repeat; that’s the still hunting way. Every mound of twisted limbs and fallen logs sort of half looks like a coyote. The elevation changes have me peering around one side of a tree and then the other to check the side of a small hill. Add a slight breeze, and every low branch that sways more than an inch causes my eyes to snap in its direction. A point man on patrol in a jungle pays less attention to their surroundings.
Why is this level of alertness required? Because you don’t hunt eastern coyotes from a regular stand on public land. There are no open spaces, and you can’t prune the trees. So to find a good spot with any field of view, you have to stalk in and poke around.
If you move in fast and loud, you’ll spook every coyote away. Slip in slow and quiet, and you’ll kick up coyotes before you even find a place to sit. But if you stop, scan, and step—a kicked-up coyote within shotgun range is as good as dead.
How to hunt eastern coyotes in heavy timber.
Remember all those trees? Well, eventually, you will have to find a place to make a stand among them. So here are a few tips to help you successfully call and take an eastern coyote in even the heaviest timber.
Expect the coyotes to be much closer than you think. If your noise discipline and scent control are at the top of their game, they’ll be coyotes coming in from downwind and behind you. I’ve stood up at the end of the calling session and found fresh coyote tracks in the snow just a few yards behind me. That coyote completely circled me, checked me out from behind, and left without making a sound.
Use a decoy on public lands.
Use a decoy. It’s hard to overstate just how close you get to coyotes on some public land in New York. A decoy might (I say, might!) keep the coyote’s eyes focused long enough to permit you to turn slightly and fire.
Make the eastern coyote stop before you shoot.
Don’t forget to ask the coyote to stop. Hunting on public land is so quiet it feels damn near post-apocalyptic. Seriously, you internalize the silence. So, you’ll have to remember to howl, bark, or yell at any coyote you kick up or call to your stand.
I once got in a foot pursuit with a giant male coyote, all because I temporarily got caught up in being silent. The coyote busted me and started to walk away, slipping through the trees. I followed and kept trying to get a clear shot. This went on for a few minutes before I finally remembered to bark at him.
Play the wind or use skunk essence to cover your scent.
Playing the wind in timber isn’t always so cut and dry as on an open field. The wind swirls around and changes direction more.
To beat a coyote’s nose on public land, especially when they are close enough to touch, I prefer to use a touch of skunk essence. A dab or two on an overhead branch is all that is needed. Just remember to handle the bottles like they contained nitroglycerin.
I’m not a big fan of wearing camouflage in thick timber, and I’m convinced I should always leave the shooting sticks at home. Coyotes won’t notice your hunter orange, but other hunters and rescuers will. Shooting sticks? They make for a great place to rest the weight of your weapon, but you carry the weight of the sticks everywhere else. I’ve also found that a shotgun on sticks always has to be lifted out of them. Try them yourself; your experience and shooting style may provide a different result.
Calling eastern coyotes in the winter on NY public land.
There are two enormous benefits to waiting until after deer season to hunt the heavy timber areas of some NY public lands.
The first: All the deer hunters are gone. Sorry, but coyote hunting on public land that is swarming with new hunters? Hunters whose sole body of knowledge comes from a hunter safety course online? That’s a recipe for disaster with you as the main course. After deer season, the land returns to normal, and your safety increases.
The second: There is a lot more coyote activity now. Eastern coyotes are entirely into their dispersal period and about to enter their mating season. In NY public land’s thick timber and rough terrain, coyote territories are smaller than anywhere else.
Coyote vocalizations like lone howls or group howls sound like trespassers to residents. The residents will respond and come in to defend their territory.
Eastern coyotes prefer highways, even in heavy timber on NY public land.
Deer trails and frozen streams get a lot of eastern coyote traffic in the Winter. Deep snow only guarantees their use.
Place your decoy where it can be seen and set up your concealed stand 5-10 yards downwind. A good stand location lets you take the coyote while still 15-20 yards upwind of your caller. This way, if the coyote begins to spook, it’s already too late.
This step is essential; be positioned to have a clear shooting lane on both sides of the caller. Eastern coyotes will try to circle downwind of the calls. Having shooting lanes on both sides will put a stop to that trick.
Prey in distress can work quite well when you call on these highways. Start, as always, with some low volume calls and pay close attention to upwind. While a coyote in heavy timber will move slowly when mousing its way around, expect coyotes to trot on highways.
Hunt eastern coyotes on NY public land.
New York has plenty of public lands and some of the largest coyotes you’ll ever take if you enjoy coyote hunting. However, the heavy timber and rough terrain offer a new sporting challenge, even for the lifelong predator hunter.
If you enjoy being deep in the woods and alone, and you are after some unpressurized coyotes, try hunting eastern coyotes on NY public land.
For more tips and tricks you can read my Night Hunting the Eastern Coyote or Night Hunting the Red and Gray Fox books.
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