As we loaded up the truck in preparation for the 45-minute drive to our hunting location, Wade and I were still reliving the unbelievable action we’d experienced the first day of the contest. 18 coyotes in a day was a personal best for each of us and we knew we’d put ourselves in a great position to win the National Coyote Calling Championship. But as experience had taught us, 2-day contests are generally won on the second day. We would need another exceptional effort with a touch of luck in order to finish strong and bring home the national champion buckles.
During the short drive, we finalized a few remaining details for the day ahead of us. We verified the projected wind direction and then laid out an efficient route getting from stand to stand. We estimated only having time for 12 stands based off of the check-in deadline of 6 pm, the 3-hour drive back to Rawlins and the scattered stand locations we had mapped out. Building a plan and executing it on a timeline is essential for successful contest hunting. Every second counts and wasting time throughout the day deciding on where to go next will ultimately cost you several coyotes in the long run.
With expectations high, we parked the truck just as the morning twilight began to light up the landscape. From my experience, killing a coyote on the first stand of a contest day is equivalent to stepping into the batter’s box and smashing a home run during the first inning of a game! It sets the tone and settles the nerves. As the Lucky Duck Revolt spun from side to side casting a variety of sounds through the crisp Wyoming air, our anticipation of a fast start was soon snuffed out after the 18-minute stand turned up nothing. With no time to waste, we hustled back to the truck and raced the sunrise to our second stand of the morning. But once again, the first coyote of the day eluded us and the second stand yielded the same as the first. As we marched into the third stand, we noticed the light and variable wind had decided to swirl. With time already wasted, we elected to make the stand even though the 3 mph breeze was now blowing into the area where we were hoping the coyotes would come from. As the timer on my remote passed the 2-minute mark, I notice a coyote making its way across the pasture out in front of us. The loping coyote geared down into a fast trot as it crossed under the 300-yard mark. It began circling towards the downwind area that unfortunately was out in front of us now. With mere seconds to adjust, I moved my rifle into position in hopes of getting a shot at the coyote before it hit my wind. Just as I settled the legs of the Swagger bipod into the dirt and peeked over the scope, the coyote made a hard right turn and started to leave. Immediately, I made a loud barking sound and the coyote checked up to look back. As the trigger broke, the crosshairs drifted onto the stomach of the coyote. A loud thump confirmed the bullet made contact but I knew the shot was not good. After an unsuccessful effort to get another bullet into the streaking coyote, we found ourselves walking back to the truck empty handed.
Trying to not let the disappointment of losing a coyote overtake the positive vibe we were trying to maintain, we shook off the missed opportunity and kept on with our plan. As I positioned my seat and shouldered my rifle, the fourth stand of the morning was abruptly cut short by the rancher’s early morning drive to check his cattle. As the UTV bounced across the pasture out in front of us, we cut our losses and shook our heads in frustration as we hustled back to the truck.
With pressure mounting and the sun rising higher into the sky, we pulled through the rancher’s yard and made our way to the backside of an alfalfa circle that overlooked a vast chunk of pasture with tall grass and scattered sagebrush. The stack yard made for an ideal place to hide the truck and after a short walk up a fence line, we found a small rise in the terrain that afforded us a touch of visibility. I tucked into some weeds on the fence line and placed the e-call out in front of my position about 35 yards. Wade positioned himself downwind on the fence line to the right about 100 yards. As the wailing cottontail echoed across the prairie, I noticed a brief flash of white moving from left to right just as it disappeared behind a large cattle windbreak out in front of us. I quickly positioned my rifle to the far right side of the wall of old tires and waited patiently. Within seconds, a pair of coyotes appeared from behind the obstacle and made a beeline for the call. The bouncing coyotes looked comical as they sprung themselves above the grass in hopes of spotting the dying rabbit. As the lead coyote began to circle the e-call at close range, it stopped briefly and presented me with a head/neck shot above the grass. I quickly hit one of the preset buttons on my remote and the meat report was drowned out by the pup distress that now screamed from the speaker. The second coyote bounced through the grass at 80 yards trying to figure out what had just happened. Experience and patience kicked in and I watched as it began to circle out in front of Wade’s position. Just before the second coyote disappeared over a small rise, the sound of galloping feet on the dirt caught my attention. I turned my head to the left just in time to spot a third coyote streaking towards the e-call 30 yards out in front of me. Instinct kicked in, the bullet found its mark and the running coyote cart-wheeled to a stop. Amongst the brief few seconds of chaos, I faintly heard the report of Wade’s rifle almost as if we had choreographed the shots. I quickly looked down at the remote and switched to a second pup distress. 4 minutes in and a trio of dead coyotes were scattered in the grass out in front of us. My racing mind was soon brought back into focus as a fourth coyote appeared out in front of Wade at 200 yards. As the coyote paralleled our position moving from right to left, it stopped briefly as I switched up the sound. Wade’s 53-grain v-max exploded the coyote’s heart and it died on the run seconds later. In the span of 6 minutes, we had bagged an elusive quad and put ourselves back into position to finish strong.
After a short drive to a new location, we found ourselves walking into the most anticipated stand of the morning. The elevated hillside looked over a large valley full of alfalfa circles, ditch banks, and pockets of sage-filled pasture. The 15 mph wind was blowing across the stand from left to right and Wade positioned himself so that he could see the downwind portion that was out of sight from my vantage point. Within seconds of pushing play on the remote, I spotted 2 coyotes. They were 600 yards out, racing along the ditch bank at the bottom side of an alfalfa circle off to my left. Within seconds, they closed the distance to 100 yards and showed no sign of slowing up. As I reached down to hit a preset challenge howl on my remote in hopes of stopping the coyotes, I quickly realized that my efforts were useless. The lead coyote was hell-bent on being the first to the call. Much like the scenario that unfolded on the previous stand, instinct kicked in and my bullet struck the coyote just as it reached the call. I instantly swung my rifle to the left and found the second coyote standing broadside at 80 yards. After a quick breath to settle the crosshairs, the second coyote dropped dead in its tracks. Just like that, we had killed 6 coyotes in 2 stands!
With 24 coyotes in the truck and several hours left to hunt, we continued our streak of good fortune over the next 2 stands. Wade connected on back-to-back singles including a fantastic running shot on another kamikaze coyote on the latter of those 2 stands. 8 coyotes in 4 stands was an unbelievable streak but little did we know the streak wasn’t over yet!
After a quick stop in to amaze the landowner with the pile of coyotes in the truck bed, we followed a 2-track road back behind their house. Based off of the intel we’d received a few days prior, we were guessing any coyotes that were still in the area would be bedded up in a small section of the sage-filled pasture with a small creek cutting through it. In an unconventional setup, Wade elected to position himself under the cut bank of the creek so that he would have visibility of any coyotes making their way down the edge of the reeds that lined the small waterway. I placed the e-call on top of the bank to the upwind side of Wade’s position. I continued on up the gradual slopping side hill another 60 yards until I had several hundred yards of visibility across the scattered sagebrush and yellow grass pasture. I selected Lucky Pecker on the remote and pushed play. As I raised my eyes to scan the hillside, I instantly noticed a coyote closing the distance at a fast trot. The coyote checked up when it noticed a small adjustment I had to make in my position. With the adjustment already made, the coyote stared down my barrel unaware of the bullet already headed his way. The meat report was instantly followed up by a switch of the sound from the e-call. As I raised my eyes from the remote once again, I noticed a second coyote approaching from the same place as the first. The coyote was fully engaged to the pup distress that now blared from the speaker. After an unsuccessful attempt to get the coyote stopped, it dropped off the bank out in front of Wade and disappeared from my sight. Expecting a shot to ring out at any second, my anxiety peaked as a few moments passed without hearing a thing. Just then, a small pew was followed by a loud whack and I was surprised to see a coyote come barreling out of the creek bottom in the same location as I had lost sight of the coyote just seconds prior. I quickly adjusted my position, gave the streaking coyote a 4-foot lead and squeezed the trigger. The bullet instantly incapacitated the coyote and its momentum sent it plowing into a piece of sagebrush. Unsure of exactly what had just unfolded, Wade stood up from behind the bank and held his arms up in a questioning manner. I responded by holding 2 fingers up and pointing out in front of me. He responded with a fist pump and then held 1 finger up and pointed down the creek bottom. As I would later find out, a third coyote that I never saw was making its way down the edge of the reeds alongside the creek. It stopped to watch the second coyote come over the bank and that’s when Wade shot it. Amazingly, we had just killed our second triple of the weekend and 11 coyotes in 5 straight stands!
With 29 coyotes in the truck and a wind that was now blowing all of 25 mph, we decided to leave for check-in a little ahead of schedule. If our plan worked, we would have time to make 1 final stand outside of Rawlins on BLM land. As you can imagine, our confidence was high during the 3-hour drive. We relived all the incredible stands we’d experienced, we talked about buying belts for the shiny new buckles we were about to win, and we even talked about defending the title next year! I mean who wouldn’t think they had the contest in the bag with 29 coyotes? At this point it was not a question whether we’d win or lose but rather could we get to 30 coyotes which had never been accomplished before.
As my OnXmaps navigated us off of the interstate and onto a well-used 2-track road, the sun dropped below the western horizon. After a quick check of the wind, we decided on a random stand location that overlooked a large valley filled with multiple herds of antelope. With only 15 minutes of visibility left, I elected to get aggressive on the e-call in hopes of sparking a fast response from any coyotes in the area. After 8 minutes of coyote howls, pup distresses and coyote fights I looked to my left and noticed Wade was down on his scope looking at something out in the valley. The low light made spotting coyotes a challenge but my eyes instantly picked out the movement of a running coyote paralleling our position 350 yards away. I quickly transitioned to my rifle and just as I found it in the scope, the coyote stopped. A split-second decision to shoot was followed by a quick adjustment in elevation. The trigger broke and I watched in my scope as the coyote folded into the sea of sage. The meat report echoed back across the valley and confirmed we had just killed 30 coyotes in 2 days!
Riding on cloud nine, we made the short drive into Rawlins with 20 minutes to spare. We had just finished an unbelievable weekend of coyote calling that no one else had ever experienced. The congratulatory texts from our close hunting buddies flooded our phones and Wade and I were making friendly wagers as to how many coyotes we would win by. As we pulled into check-in, we backed up to a large overhead door to begin the process of unloading all of the coyotes so that they could be weighed, temperature checked and inspected. As I exited my truck, I recognized the vehicle next to me that was already unloading coyotes. It belonged to a good buddy of mine and coyote-killing machine, Colten Gillum. I figured this was perfect timing because we had a made a side-bet for bragging rights with him and his partner, Garrett Johnson, the night before the contest started. As I strolled over to his truck, I peeked over the bed and noticed a fairly large pile of coyotes still being unloaded. As one of the tournament directors stepped up the tailgate to grab another coyote I said, “Man, looks like they had a great weekend of calling!” He responded with, “Yeah they did! I can’t believe they killed 31!” I instantly felt the blood leave my face and my stomach felt like it hit the dirt floor. In disbelief, I turned around and walked slowly back to my truck to break the news to Wade. “You’re not gonna believe it”, I muttered. “Our 30 coyotes are only gonna be good enough for the best 2nd place finish of all-time!”
For more information on late season coyote hunting, be sure and watch The Last Stand, co-hosted by Geoff Nemnich!