Tips on Daytime vs. Nighttime Coyote Hunting

When it comes to predator hunting, there’s no better time to get the call out and make a stand than when the sun is up, right? No? Maybe you’re the one who counts down the seconds until that sun sets and darkness fills all of the prime real estate that you’re going to be unleashing a flurry of distress and vocals until that sun makes its grand appearance again. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong time to be out hunting coyotes…and here’s why!

Day Hunting Predators

If you are a person who loves to hunt the daylight hours, then you have a couple of advantages over those whom prefer total darkness. Granted, they can be offset…but as with most things, that comes at a price (Literally…$$). When you have the presence of sunlight, you don’t have to worry about your eyes trying to maintain a certain level of night vision, you can detect movement at a much greater distance with little to no movement on your part and your general awareness of your surroundings is increased. These small but significant differences are really the core of what makes a predator hunter tick and familiarity with one of the other is what gives each of us our preference.

So, as I said, with the sun gracing your presence and shining its light over everything the eye can see from the hunters’ perspective, it’s also shining its light for that wary coyote as well. Coyotes feel more comfortable sneaking around in the darkness of night, that’s no secret, but that doesn’t mean they are not just as active during the day…after all, they have to eat right? Daytime is when your stand becomes critical! You have to factor everything in to each stand: Wind, Approach Direction, Where the coyotes hunt, where the coyotes lay/sleep, where the sun is at in the sky and if it’s going to affect you depending upon which direction you’re going to be sitting and most importantly…concealment. Daylight brings a set of challenges that night time hunters just don’t have to worry about, but again, night hunters sacrifice more in terms of visibility.

The daylight hunter has the advantage of, if their setup is 100% perfect, they’ve increased the odds of tricking a wary coyote into lead range. As most seasoned coyote hunters will tell you, a 100% perfect setup usually tips the scales in your favor, but depending on the dogs you are hunting and if they’ve been hunted before, that may be a 51% – 49% in your favor of getting on. Nevertheless, that’s still better than nothing! Being able to detect a coyote moving across a ridgeline or peering out of a ditch from 700 yards doesn’t really seem like much of a challenge in the daytime at all. Now, foliage and foliage density play a large role in this factor, because sun up or down, if you’re hunting stuff that Sasquatch himself would try to go around because it’s too thick, your detection range will be significantly shorter, however, once you see one, ID is instantaneous. The biggest three factors for daylight hunting, in my experience are Scent, Concealment and Movement. The only difference between daylight and nighttime hunting of those three are concealment and movement.

In the day time, breaking up your outline and not being that sore thumb sticking out on the edge of the field is absolutely the most important. A coyote approaching a stand will usually stop and look several times before committing to close range, and if you’re sitting there with no cover or concealment, chances are he is going to see you long before you ever see him. This goes hand-in-hand with movement; it’s almost as critical to keep movements to an absolute stand still when you are hunting coyotes in the daytime. This is where it really helps on using e-callers vs. hand calls because you can minimize the hand to mouth actions and blowing the call while scanning. Each person has their own preferences, but here in Southern Indiana, we do not get to enjoy the prairies and wide open terrain that hunters out west get to, so for the most part our coyotes are handled in close quarters and aren’t usually seen 500 yards away. Scent, as always, is critical day or night.

Nighttime Hunting

Hunting coyotes at night has its own set of challenges, which differ from daytime coyote hunting. The obvious ones are extremely limited vision and awareness of what is around you at all times. If money is no option, a good thermal and night vision unit can create the most perfect advantage for a hardcore predator hunter, however, for a lot of people it’s just a little out of financial reach…but that’s ok! I myself do not use thermal or night vision, but I know several people that do and we generally kill the same amount of coyotes and foxes each season, so that allows me a small amount of solace in not making the investment!

You can’t kill what you cannot see, and that’s where night time hunting really handicaps most hunters. Thanks to the advances in predator light technology, this has helped to bring the playing field back to even for the hunter vs predator game but still favors the predators. Predator Tactics line of hunting lights—from the Night Raid predator light to the KillBone hog lights predator & hunting lights and the Coyote Reaper Coyote Light—have all improved with each design and allows the night to start belonging to the hunter again instead of the hunted. The downside, like I said, is you cannot kill what you cannot see, so this means you constantly have to shine your predator light around you to try to find that set of eyes staring back at you or those eyes running across the field coming in to your call. Scanning with a gun mountable coyote light obviously creates a lot of movement, but this is where the advantage goes to night hunters. Predators cannot…I repeat, CANNOT…see behind the predator hunting lights. So, as long as you do your part on light management, you’re utilizing the flood of the predator light instead of shining a beam directly into their eyes, you can generally slack a little bit on the concealment and movement portion. Heck, most of my night hunting is done from a 5 gallon bucket with a swivel seat I use during Dove season. I have two red Predator Tactics Coyote Reaper predator hunting lights on my gun, one in my hand and a red Buck Lantern scan light on my head that I use to scan around for eyes, but a handheld predator light is also a must for scanning while you’re calling.

Light management is another critical aspect as I said, because it’s true that coyotes can’t see the red beam from your coyote light, but I truly believe they can sense the light intensely. While this isn’t backed by any research of my own, it’s become apparent to me while on many stands through the years that a direct beam in the eyes of a coyote will almost make them stop in their tracks and a lot of times even flare them off. That’s why, to me, it’s very important to utilize the halo of the predator light and keep the beam opened up a bit into the flood so it doesn’t spook them. Much like the low beam and high beams on a vehicle, you drive by vehicles all night with low beams and they generally don’t bother you, however when someone bright lights you, there’s almost that stinging feeling from that much light in your eyes. I treat it the same way with coyotes, that’s my personal preference.

Scent is still a major factor, doesn’t matter day or night. To me, I actually believe scent management is more important at night than it is during the day because you may catch a coyote moving off in the distance in the daytime, but not always in the night if your coyote light wasn’t in the right spot at the right moment to catch the reflection off his eyes. I try to wash my hunting clothes about every 2 weeks with scent killer, but that’s as far as I go with it. Generally speaking, coyotes have a sense of smell greater than cadaver dogs, and they can smell a body 6’ in the ground. So, in my field testing, it’s not really made any difference whether or not I’ve soaked down in scent killer or not before heading into the field, I figure I just smell like a human with scent killer chemicals on at that point to them. Approaching from a downwind location, setting up so that they can’t come down wind of you and not dragging your scent through the field are what it takes to ensure success in the field.

Even with all of this factored in, it’s not a guarantee. I went on a night hunt last year and thought I had the most full-proof 100% guaranteed stand I’ve ever had. If you ever think a stand is full proof, just try to call a coyote in and it’ll show you it’s not. If you take a perfect square, and take one side of it away…this was my setup. I had tree lines on both sides and in the back, a county road behind me and field in between the tree lines. So, how I was sitting, I had me and my partner side by side, I watched the right side and he watched the left with our predator hunting lights on flood. Nothing could get past us to get down wind and the call was in front of us, so we could see them no matter which way they came from. 10 minutes into the stand, I hit a lone female howl and waited to see if I could get a response…and I did! Directly behind us, 100% down wind of us, on the ditch of the county road not 50 yards away from us. She barked at us and as we both spun, the last sight we saw was coyote tail crossing the 100+ acre WIDE OPEN field that she must have crossed to get to us. Where she came from and where she went, I still have no clue because I have never seen a coyote on that side and I have no idea what she was doing over there…but she was and she made me eat every word of my “100% full proof stand” that I had made.

In summary, there’s only one perfect time to be predator hunting and that is any chance you get. Day or night, doesn’t matter. As long as you play the wind correctly, you’ve done your homework on the spots and know how to approach down wind and set up without being smelled or seen, and you either conceal well and manage your movement or you are proactive in your predator light usage and light management, then you’ve overcome the biggest obstacles of coyote hunting. Everything else, my recommendation is keeping a journal. I’m 30 and if you’d have told me that 5 years ago I’d have laughed at the mention of it, but I assure you it’s a GREAT tool to use. Temperature, time, weather, what call you used…it all goes into your personal predator database and eventually you will start seeing a pattern of what worked and what didn’t and it’ll only lead to you being a better, more successful predator hunter and allowing you to stack the fur in the truck!