The first timer’s complete guide to fox and coyote hunting

This free guide for new first-timers who will be going fox and coyote hunting will quickly get you out into the field using inexpensive but effective gear.

Fox and coyote hunting costs about $200.

Predator hunting is fun, exciting, and legal. It’s also inexpensive. You can add gear and goodies later, but for the first six months, the one thing you don’t need is a credit card.

So how much does a new predator hunter need to spend? If you already hunt deer or have a suitable firearm and plan to hunt during the day, less than $50 will get you started. Night hunting? Add another $150, but your chances of success will dramatically increase as well.

Fox and coyote hunting
Photo Credit: IStockPhoto/Lynn_Bystrom

You can start fox and coyote hunting with a used gun.

The best weapons for new predator hunters are either a deer rifle with a 1.5 x 3 scope or a 12 gauge shotgun. The best brand names aren’t Barrett and Benelli; they are Winchester and Remington.

Your scratched-up .243 or grandpa’s Sears Model 200 is more likely to be familiar to you. You’ve used it before. You can operate it safely and dependably. It’s a trusted hunting buddy, and now you’ll get an extra season of use out of it every year. So after you drop that buck, please give it a good cleaning and a touch of oil. The two of you still have months of hunting to look forward to this year.

Calls for new fox and coyote hunters.

To get foxes and coyotes to come to you, you need to call them. Calls are sounds that mimic prey in distress or the animals’ vocalizations.

To get started, you will need $10 to $50. That’s it! Do not spend hundreds of dollars on an electronic caller yet. A hand or mouth caller is inexpensive, less likely to fail in the field, and precisely what you need at this stage.

I’ll begin with the best, and cheapest hand caller money can buy. And I’ll warn you, ALWAYS take this with you. It calls fox, bobcats, and coyotes, it makes them change direction and head towards you, and it gets them to stop when you are ready to shoot. Fair warning, if you use a link from my page to make a purchase, I will get a small commission at no extra charge to you.

For example, if you buy this caller using my link, I get about 3 cents. Thanks for your financial support. If you could get 2,000 friends to buy it, I can afford another box of my favorite .308.

It’s so simple; the longest video I could find on using one is less than a minute in length.

For long-distance calls, I recommend something called a diaphragm call. A diaphragm call is a mouth caller and takes a little bit of practice. I’ll start by showing you how easy it is to use and then linking to a sweet three-pack.

That’s Al Morris from FoxPro. If you take a liking to predator hunting, you’ll be seeing a lot of him. He’s quite the teacher.

Diaphragm calls.

Diaphram calls are simple to learn and reduce the weight you have to carry while hiking out to and from your stand. Master them, and you’ll be able to fool coyotes far more often than the guys with frozen speakers and gloved hands that can’t get their electronic callers into action.

If you are looking for a caller you’ll use for a lifetime; I’ve heard nothing but high praise for a company called Rush Custom Calls. Brian Rush calls in and takes 100 coyotes a year on video using his handmade open reed coyote howlers and rabbit distress/squealers.

You can take a look at his predator calls by clicking here.

I have no relationship with him or his company, but we will be interviewing him for an article soon. Please note: I receive nothing for promoting his website or products.

Electronic callers.

I would recommend you wait until you have determined you like predator hunting to but an electronic caller.

Having said that, I know many of you won’t. Here’s two of the best on the market.

Coyote or fox hunting at night? You’ll need a light.

Night hunting predators requires a little more money, but you get a lot more action, and you can skip the camo.

Again, don’t spend hundreds of dollars; as long as you get something that reaches out 200-300 yards and is red, that’s all you’ll probably ever need. Make sure your light comes with an attachment for securing it to your scope or shotgun barrel. Here’s a suitable light:

Protip: Not convinced red is the best color? Check out this article:

You are done shopping!

Now, I am going to beg you. Please, do not spend a penny more on equipment. Your old rifle or shotgun, the two callers, and a light will easily take you through a season or two. If you have fun, you can upgrade. The light makes the perfect flashlight if you do not like it, so you are out only $30 on the callers.

The next step, get to the range before you go fox and coyote hunting.

While I like to use a .22 with the above gear and have had quite some success, I recommend using a heavier caliber. Yes, .22 will kill a fox, bobcat, and small coyotes, but it’s not always. Hey, I hate these deer, calf, chicken, and pet killers, but unnecessary suffering is a sin. So, for rifles use .223 and larger. For shotgun, number 4 buckshot is excellent.

My first days as a new predator hunter were very cheap. Photo: Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

At the range, your goal is the ability to routinely hit a four-inch target at 100 yards with the rifle. Then, practice until you can place 4-5 pellets in a target 35 yards away with the shotgun.

Are you sited in? Know where on the body of the predator to aim? Check out this article:

Great! Let’s keep moving along.

Distance between stands, coyote hunting
Photo Credit: Kevin Rought

Fashion tips for new coyote and fox hunters.

You will hear a lot of advice about what to wear when predator hunting. But do you need camo? Well, coyotes see yellow and blue. So I’d avoid hunting in jeans and a yellow raincoat. Other than that, try blending into the scenery. Brown, black, and green pants and shirts work fine, especially after you’ve blended into some shrubbery to conceal your outline and hand movements.

If you splurge and buy some camo, do it in the Walmart hunting aisle. If you hunt at night, dress simply for the weather; the coyotes, foxes, and bobcats won’t be able to see you if you’re seated in a clump of bushes or have a tree to your back.

Lastly, skip the scent control clothing and cover scents. You’ll be learning to “play the wind” in a moment, and the predators will never catch a whiff of you.

Licenses and laws.

Ensure you have the proper permits, licenses, permissions, and knowledge of hunting, firearm possession, and use for the area you will be hunting in.

Regard any conservation officer or game warden you encounter with respect and politeness. These men and women not only protect the land you hunt, but they are also the ones who will march out into the darkest, coldest, snowiest night of the year to find you and bring you home.

How do you find coyotes and foxes to hunt near you?

Choosing the best place to hunt predators will guarantee your success. But’s what makes a location the “best” place?

  1. You have proof of predators in the area. You’ve observed bobcats there, found fox scat in the area, or heard coyotes howling from a short distance away.
  2. It provides a safe shooting location.
  3. You have permission to hunt the site, are familiar with it, and can access it with a short drive and a comfortable, stealthy walk.

Where should you begin scouting for foxes and coyotes?

Bobcats, foxes, and coyotes live in three types of locations.

Large fields

All predators consume rodents and birds. That large quiet field may look empty and deserted to you, but to a hungry predator, it is a buffet. That’s because all that overgrown, untreated vegetation provides all the insects and edible plants the mice, voles, rabbits, and birds need to survive.

A field on public land, especially after deer season, is perfect for predators. Give it a quick visit before you hunt it, and spend a few minutes just listening for coyotes or using a scanning light to spot the eyes of foxes or bobcats. If nothing is seen or heard, break out your caller and make a single howl. If something howls back at you or a set of red eyes suddenly shines in your scanning light, you’ve found a spot to hunt.


Farmers with livestock tend to be particularly fond of predator hunters. They are often willing to help you by confirming predators are in the area, providing you with great locations to safely hunt from, and permitting you to hunt their land.

While many farms suffer attacks from predators on newborn calves, chickens, and ducks, not every farmer wants a hunter on their land. To gain their approval, you should approach them months before you intend to start hunting. If they sell produce, routinely stop by, have a quick chat, and make a purchase. Your diet will improve, and you’ll quickly stop being a stranger. Then, at least a month before predator season begins, mention your intentions and offer your services in removing any troublemakers. Don’t ask for permission to hunt; make an offer to help.

Trust me, many ranchers and farmers appreciate predator hunters. If they know and trust you, they’ll even ask you to hunt their land.

Fox and coyote hunting
Coyote taken by Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Heavy timber and forests are great places for fox and coyote hunting.

All the excellent predator hunting videos have one thing in common; you can see the target long before the shooter fires. As a result, there are not many heavy timber videos. That’s a shame, as any Eastern Coyote hunter knows, because as coyotes and wolves have interbred, their offspring have returned to these lands, seemingly forgone attacking livestock, and thrived in areas few predator hunters even think to enter.

It’s here, in the woods, where your shotgun skills will come into play. Your call will be responded to more often and sooner, as most coyotes will likely never have heard a false alarm before. Indeed most will never have heard a gunshot before. The coyotes who make their stealthy approach through the trees will be 30 or more pounds heavier, but they will use bulletproof cover to stop and scan the area ahead. Many new predator hunters will give up too early, get up quickly to leave, and discover an Eastern Coyote that was standing only 10 yards away, is now zigzagging away through the trees.

New predator hunters in heavy timber, who are patient and fast on their guns, will drag home dogs so heavy they’ll need a picture on a scale to prove they are not liars.


The more you scout, the more you’ll shoot.

If scouting for predators is an art, then with fox and coyote, it’s the coloring with crayons version. Anyone can do it, and almost any effort will produce results. Bobcats? Well, and forgive me for this; that’s an entirely different animal.

A quick note on how to scout for bobcats.

Hey, when was the last time you heard an expert say, “I don’t know much about that.” Well, when it comes to scouting for bobcats, I’ll admit my skills are limited. Thankfully, Mike Reed has a terrific 8-minute video that clearly explains everything you’ll need to know. You can watch it here:

Trapping is an art, a dying one. If you are lucky enough to know a trapper, spend as much time as possible bending their ears. You’ll learn more in an hour than you’ll learn by yourself in a year.


Scouting for coyotes and foxes

Once you have located a suitable habitat for foxes and coyotes, you can use three different scouting methods.

Calling and scanning.

As mentioned earlier, a few prey-in-distress calls or coyote vocalizations and the use of a red scanning light is the easiest, surest way of collecting solid evidence of predators frequenting the location. If you spot a fox or coyote, you have all the proof you need that the area will make for a great hunting site.

Scat and tracks.

Scat is just a fancy, polite word for dung. Fresh rural fox and coyote scat are often dark in color, lightening as they age.

Coyote scat looks much like what Fido leaves behind for you to clean up. It’s three to four inches long, about an inch in diameter, and tapered on both ends. Summer coyote scat is lighter in color and will contain the seeds, berries, and fruit remnants they supplement their diet with during the season. Winter coyote scat is much darker and often has partially digested bone and fur matter.

Fox scat is pointy at both ends, two to three inches long and about 1/2 inch in diameter. It too will show seasonal differences much like that of a coyote, but it is brown or khaki.

For more information about coyote scat, I recommend you visit this page.



Fresh tracks are eye-catching and positive proof of predator activity in your potential hunting area. The first thing you should note is the shape of the trail they leave behind. A domesticated dog probably left a wandering trail behind. A narrow, straight path is evidence that a fox or coyote made the sign.

Telling the difference between fox and coyote prints is easy. Coyote paw prints are about 3 inches long. Fox prints are 2.5 inches long, with a distinct chevron shape in the heel.

For more information, including excellent images of predator and prey prints in various settings, click here.


The deepest level of scouting, and the most lucrative, is den locating. While this is the most intensive form of scouting, you’ve already done half the work with your observations of predators and discovery of their scat and tracks.

Locating coyote dens.

Locating coyote dens is best done during the spring and early summer. This is the season when paired adult coyotes (the alpha male and alpha female) will tend to spend all day in (the female) or nearby the den to raise and protect their pups.

The regularity of their activities is undeniably the number one reason to find a coyote den. The alpha female will almost always leave the shelter about two hours after sun up to obtain food and water. The male may go hunting, be he can often be found in an observation post somewhere nearby when he isn’t foraging for food.

Most coyote dens are easily recognized. They are often nothing more than a two-foot-wide hole with excavated dirt piled up in front of the entrance and scores of tracks leading into and away from it. If your timing is right, it might even have a litter of pups playing at the entrance or just outside of it.

For a complete guide to locating coyote dens, read my article here.

Locating fox dens.

New predator hunters will find locating fox dens more of a challenge. The red fox is sometimes difficult to find, but the gray fox den is usually so well camouflaged you could be standing on one and not realize it.

For the most part, scouting for fox dens is like searching for coyote dens, but with one significant difference. Foxes urinate an incredible number of times each hour to mark their territory. These scent markings are crucial for finding fox” core areas” (where fox spends the highest percentage of the day) and dens during the winter.

I use my favorite scouting trick during late winter; I suggest you try it.

About two days after it has snowed, head on out and methodically walk the area you intend to hunt. Once you spot fox tracks, follow them until you find urine marks.

Once you find the urine spot, you have your first clue about the sex of the fox that peed there. A female will have peed directly on the ground. Ground sprayed urine with a bit of blood indicates the female is in estrous. Did urine spray on twigs or leaves just above the ground? That’s the work of a male. If you find both in the exact location, that’s likely a mated pair whose next activity will create a denning site. Congratulations, you are now in a fox’s core area.

Fox core areas.

A fox’s core area can be confirmed any time of the year by finding latrines, garbage pits, and, eventually, dens. You can read my complete article on locating fox dens here

While locating fox dens can sound like hard work, there are many advantages, besides the high probability of a fox being nearby and calling it to your stand; if you’d like more information on why read my article on finding foxes here.

Are you developing a taste for scouting? Are you interested in a completed detail plan to scout for and locate the absolute perfect coyote stand? Well, oddly enough, I have the ideal article for you. Just click here.

Where will you sit on your stand?

Every predator has three ways of detecting you. If they see you, smell you, or hear you, they will skedaddle.

Avoiding detection means carefully planning the path you will take, walking to your stand, and where you will call.

It’s easiest to think of everything in reverse.

Imagine you are about to make your first call and begin scanning for the predator’s eyes. In front of you, the open space you are calling out into is empty and provides a safe bullet stop if you miss. If you positioned yourself correctly, any wind you feel should be blowing into your face. If it is, no predator will be able to smell you before you take your shot.

Now, consider the path you took to reach your stand. Does any of it cross between you and the target zone? If it doesn’t, no predator will discover the scent you left behind while walking in.

Now, take a look behind you. Are you propped against a tree or squeezed into a clump of bushes? If you’ve blended yourself into the natural background, you will not present a human-shaped outline, and predators won’t be able to detect the small movements you make while acquiring your target.

Lastly, were you as quiet as possible getting to your stand location, and have you maintained total silence since arriving? If you have so far been as quiet as possible, no predator could have heard your arrival and set up.

Congratulations! You defeated every one of your target’s natural defenses. For a short but informative look at what coyotes actually can see and hear, check out this article.

4 steps to a great first stand as a new fox or coyote hunter.

As you prepare to set out to make your first stand (the place where you will call from), bear in mind that a lot can still go wrong. But relax. Every mistake you make from here on out will be part of the learning process. The one mistake you have already avoided is hunting predators where there are not any. That mistake, one made far too often, sends many new predator hunters home forever.

Step one: Stay silent

From the moment you arrive at your parking spot, silence is your best hunting partner. Ease that door closed. Stop talking. Move slowly and smoothly, carefully placing the heel of your boot down first as you walk. A snapped twig or the sound of an occasional stumble won’t ruin your stand, but slamming car doors and two guys chatting as they stroll through a field will alert every predator in the area to your arrival.

Step two: Stalk your way to your stand.

If it’s safe, be prepared to take a shot at any target of opportunity. This means approaching your stand with your rifle light on and your weapons safety engaged and scanning the area ahead of you. A predator is often encountered and taken before the hunter has even sat down, let alone started calling. Here’s where taping the Primos Mouse Squeeze to your weapon can come in real handy. If you spot a predator, give the caller a quick soft squeeze to get it to stand still for a second and take your shot.

Step three: Wait 15 minutes in total silence.

No matter how hard you tried, you made at least a little noise getting to your stand, getting seated, and setting up your tripod, caller, and weapon. This tiny bit of noise may not have scared off nearby predators, but it could have put them on a higher threat level.

Give them 15 minutes to calm back down and resettle into their routine. Think of it as letting the whole area reset.

Step four: Start calling.

From this point on, expect anything to happen. If you don’t have your weapon ready when you start calling, you may not have time to after. In the dark, a predator could be just a few yards away, and neither you nor it could be aware of each other’s presence.

This female coyote stood 50 yards away from me when I flipped the lights on. I was unprepared, but she was just as surprised and spent too long figuring out what I was.

I recommend a short, soft squeeze with the Primos Mouse Squeeze for your first sound or call. This tiny sound will get any close predator to turn and look in your direction. Being soft and short, it shouldn’t startle the animal but instead draw its interest and eyes directly toward your scanning light. If you don’t see any animal, it’s okay to start your actual calling sequence.

Related: How often can you hunt the same place?

Related: How far apart should your hunting stands be?

Calling sounds and sequences for new predator hunters.

You will quickly become a predator-calling master if you use this one simple trick: think of a possible scenario and turn it into a play you put on for any listening predators.

A scenario is a scene a predator is likely to encounter in the wild. Imagine a lost fawn. It bleats for the return of its missing doe. A coyote will immediately recognize the sound of an easy meal it has probably enjoyed several times a month during spring.

You could put on a play with your caller that mimicked the mournful sounds of a lost fawn. But what would that sound like in the wild? Could you make the same call for twenty minutes and see what happens? Or could you play the sound for a minute, wait two minutes and repeat the cycle for twenty minutes?

Keep your calling sequences realistic when coyote hunting!

Neither sequence accurately reflects the true nature of prey in distress. No wounded animal screams nonstop for more than a fleeting moment. No natural sound of a prey animal has a defined pattern.

The coyote you are targeting may come charging in, but it’s more likely to make a stealthy pursuit designed to end with a surprising prey suddenly seized by an unseen and unheard predator.

A more realistic sequence would start with a minute of low-volume fawn cries, followed by a few minutes of silence. When you restart the sound, raise and lower the volume with each repetition. Play the sound for 15 seconds, then randomly adjust the sound duration and periods of silence.

Always call with a mental picture in your head of why the sound would be heard in nature. Then consider how the predator would interpret it.

For a detailed guide on coyote calling, check out my article on Keeping Them Interested: How to Really Call In Coyotes.

Related: Easy, secret calls your friends won’t tell you about.

When should a coyote hunter take their shot?

Mind if I sneak in another embarrassing personal fact? I still get buck fever and whatever it’s called when it’s the first, second, or 15th coyote of the season. I don’t know why, but as soon as a coyote shows up, my heart rate jumps, the rifle starts twitching uncontrollably, and I start zooming in like I was checking the dog for fleas at 150 yards.

Silly, right? I thought after the 10th dog, it would pass. Then I hoped maybe after the 50th, it would start to fade. After dropping the 100th, I realized my condition was incurable.

So, allow me to write a tip here for my future self.

Take the shot only after you have calmed down and stopped gulping in the air. Don’t zoom in! Too much magnification makes every twitch seem so much worse, and after the shot, it’s impossible to regain a quick site picture of the dog or see what direction it ran off.

What about you? Yes, you’ll get coyote fever the first time your scanning light plays over a set of blazing red eyes, or you catch sight of a coyote sneaking in toward your caller. Just give that shot of adrenaline a minute to burn off before you shoot.

And always ask a predator to stop and sit before you pull the trigger. A slight tap on the Primos Mouse Squeeze will do the trick. A quick bark or lip squeak will do the same thing. It never fails; a trotting predator will always instantly stop and turn to look toward these sounds. The short pause of their paws gives you just enough time to get in the perfect shot.

Coyote body language tips when coyote hunting.

Coyotes Have the broadest range of reactions to being called. They can charge straight in and nearly knock over the caller. On the other hand, they can suddenly stop and stare directly at you. Sometimes, they even stand just out of range and bark incessantly at you.

The good news is it happens so often that we’ve become very good at reading their body language and predicting what they will do next. For instance, if a coyote suddenly stops with its head lowered and stares at you? It is about to flee. If you recognize this sign, you will know to hold your fire until it starts to turn away and offers you a brief broadside shot. A sure sign that the dog isn’t concerned and will keep coming closer is if it continues to move toward you with its tail hanging limply down or even wagging. That dog will fill your scope if you know enough to wait.

You can find many more coyote body language tips and whether to shoot now or wait in my article here.

After the shot.

The best advice for a new predator hunter who has just pulled the trigger is “reload.” Always. Immediately. Make a habit of it, or you’ll be sorry.

You see, as your bullet went downrange, one of three things happened. You hit your target, and it dropped, you missed your target, and it’s fleeing, or you wounded your target, and it’s fleeing.

If you don’t instantly reload, you won’t be prepared to take a second shot. As you see below, that can lead to an “ugly” problem.

The good when fox and coyote hunting.

If your shot was perfect, the best possible result is a downed, unmoving predator. That, my friend, is rare; more often, the animal spins around a few times, bites at the bullet’s entry point, dashes a few yards away, flops to the ground, and then gives up the ghost.

Keep your weapon aimed at the animal until you are sure it is down. Then, wait until all signs of struggle have ceased before moving forward to collect your prize.

As you stand over your first victory, go ahead and have your celebration, but keep these two things in mind:

  1. Make damn sure it’s dead before you try to pick it up. Even if it doesn’t have rabies, you do not want to get bit. I have been bitten before, and let me tell you something; it hurt for weeks.
  2. Treat dead animals, especially coyotes, as stinky, flea-infested, mange-ridden vermin. Please don’t throw it over your shoulder and offer the fleas a nice new warm body to move to. Don’t chance to spread mange to your pets. And, finally, don’t just throw a recently shot predator onto anything you do not want soaked in blood. Yeah, I’ve made just about every one of these mistakes.

The bad.

If you missed, or only wounded your prey, take that second shot as soon as possible. If the death struggle goes on too long, the animal can make it to cover, requiring a search. Want to test your blood tracking skills? No? Then learn to reload as soon as you feel the recoil of your weapon. A second shot may be required if there is unnecessary suffering or the animal is still mobile and clearing out of the target area.

I’ve written an article to help you develop the habit of constantly reloading. You can read it here.

The ugly.

The worst possible outcome of a bad shot isn’t a miss. It is a wounded animal. If you have any evidence, a physical reaction indicating a potential nonlethal hit, or you find blood; you now have to begin tracking your prey.

You have the best blood tracking light ever made in your pocket if you are lucky. If you don’t own one, right here is where I would helpfully place a link for you to buy it. Except they don’t make it anymore. Since I never owned or used any new ones on the market, I can’t honestly suggest one for you. So you’ll have to search for one on your own, hopefully before you have to search the woods without one.

UPDATE on the best tracking light ever made!

It’s back in stock! Still the best blood tracking light ever made.

Blood tracking is part of every hunter safety course. How well you paid attention and how much you recall, well, that’s about to be tested. One thing is sure, though, you must make a reasonable search to find a wounded animal. Yes, even a coyote!

Hopefully, you are strongly motivated to complete your mission as a new predator hunter. Remember, though, this section is called “the ugly,” and for a good reason. You can spend hours tracking a wounded animal. I have searches that had to begin again the next day.

I submit as evidence the following video, and I can tell you that the blood trail was 350 yards long, and I searched for this coyote was conducted for over two days. The results appear after the video.

I never found it.

Related: How to find a wounded coyote.

When’s the best time to hunt predators?

Any answer to this question is pure opinion based on experience. If you asked me, I’d say 8:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. are the two best times.

I would never be so silly to admit I suck at daytime calling, point out that I have a day job and a tiny farm to tend to during daylight, or mention that I pretty much only ever hunt at night now.

The truth is predators are opportunists. They know how to play the odds, so they seem less active during bad storms, limit their movement on sweltering days, and prefer hunting in the dark.

Related: Best time of day to hunt a coyote.

Related: Best time of day to hunt an EASTERN Coyote.

Then again, here’s a coyote attacking my farm in broad daylight.

Further reading for new predator hunters.

Hungry for more? Well, how lucky are you? I’ve written two books for new predator hunters. I’d appreciate a review on Amazon if you find one of them helpful.

The last secret to better fox and coyote hunting—more land.

You need more spots to call. That mean you have to ask for permission to hunt private property.

Conclusions for new folks starting fox and coyote hunting.

Spend time, not money. Practice and patience will soon be rewarded. So scout, scout, and scout some more, then go ahead hunt that perfect spot.

What is the best tip you’d give to new predator hunters?

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr.

Dennis V. Gilmore Jr. is a former Marine Sergeant and the author of several books, including two on night hunting coyotes and red and gray fox. He has written several hundred articles on predator hunting for

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