Bob Frye: Predator hunting season approaches
There will be old and young hunters pursuing pheasants over the next six weeks or so. Tall ones and short ones, too. Experienced veterans and raw beginners.
Oh, and four-legged ones, too.
Predators — foxes and coyotes chief among them — will feast on any of the 170,000 pen-raised birds they can get. They're opportunists, after all, and won't pass up a meal delivered on the back of a truck.
Hunters can use that to their advantage. So says Abner Druckenmiller of Mifflin County, a pro staffer with FoxPro and host of the television show “Furtakers.”
Predators learn quickly when and where pheasants are released. They move in to take advantage of that. Druckenmiller is right behind them.
He hunts them at night, after the small-game hunters have gone, and does well calling them in, he said.
That's why poultry operations also make good hunting grounds, he said. Farm chickens, turkeys and other birds attract all sorts of predators, including raccoons.
With the predator season about to begin — coyotes are in year-round, but foxes and raccoons become fair game statewide Oct. 21 – Druckenmiller offered a few other tips.
• Be open to daytime hunting.
Many predator hunters go out only after dark. But Druckenmiller makes a point of getting out in the daytime, too, especially if he's hunting in the woods typical of so much of Pennsylvania. When he does, he prefers to do it with two partners.
“I call them my wingmen,” he said.
He will set up in the woods, in the shadows to break up his outline, on the side of a hill. He will place one of his “wingmen” on each side, 150 yards out in each direction. All will have the wind in their face.
Those wingmen often get shooting as the coyotes try to circle around to get downwind of the caller.
• Consider obstacles.
When setting up to hunt predators, it's important to think of the route they likely will have to take to reach you. You want it to be as obstacle-free as possible.
Druckenmiller said predators often come in quickly because of competition. They want to get to what sounds like wounded prey before another hungry critter does.
If the pathway to that meal is wide open, so much the better.
“You don't want to make them jump three barbed-wire fences, go around two ponds and then up over a cross a ditch to get to you. Set up in a way where they can get to you very quickly and very efficiently,” Druckenmiller said.
• Get higher rather than lower.
If you can stand on a brush pile, a rocky outcropping or something similar, do so, Druckenmiller said. That allows you to see a bit further and pick out a coyote or fox approaching sooner than otherwise. Setting up high on hill rather than low produces the same effect.
Likewise, if you can set your call up on a hay bale, fence post or rock, the sound will carry farther.
• Be ready to whistle.
Deer hunters know if a deer is loping past, a whistle will often stop it in its tracks, presenting a shot opportunity. The same kind of thing can work with predators.
If a coyote or fox is coming it, let it get as close as you feel comfortable. Then, Druckenmiller said, make a mouse squeak or similar noise to stop the predator.