Anatomy of a Coyote Location - Part I
Whenever the topic of coyote trapping comes up, the different theories, sets, and systems seem to get hashed and rehashed. Opinions vary as to what is important to be a consistently successful coyote hand, but after all the sets, lures, and methods are hashed and rehashed, it usually evolves to one unanimously accepted fact. Location is still No. 1.

The fact that you can't catch coyotes where there aren't any is obvious. Although coyotes are found over a very large portion of the U.S., and decent populations exist in the overall majority of trappers' back yards, despite wide variations in terrain and habitat there are still common denominators on what really defines a good coyote location. Coyotes show up in sets intended for other target animals fairly often, but the best results come from locations and sets intended for them.

Coyotes have been well known to push red fox out of the way, and set up household in areas that were once red fox range. I've visited with trappers from all over the Midwest and Eastern U.S., who can tell you that when coyotes showed up for the first time in their area it negatively impacted their red fox. Some got their first good look at a coyote when they had one appear in a fox set.

Some areas in the West saw just the opposite in the 60s, as the red fox expanded its home range into the high plains and sagebrush country because coyote numbers were at an all-time low from predator control efforts over a large portion of the sheep producing areas. Red fox basically filled the niche coyotes had once occupied. Red fox were worth almost as much as coyotes at times, and a lot easier to catch and skin. Plus, there might be several litters of fox where there had been only a few coyotes before.

Although coyote locations and fox locations can certainly be one and the same, I believe that true coyote locations, and by that I mean the ones that produce year after year, will usually have some common factors. Let's take a look at them.

The first is cover. I always keep cover in mind when looking for location. When you think about what keeps a coyote alive, you'll start to look at locations a bit different. By cover I mean tree lines, brush patches, wooded draws, ravines, ditches, even some crop areas before they're harvested. Every area will have its own version of it. Some types will be large and obvious, others need to be studied a bit to understand their potential and role.

Coyotes need cover to exist, especially during the daylight hours. Sure, you will see a coyote hunting for its supper at mid-day at times, but take your eye off of him and see how fast he can melt into the scenery. Anyone who has called many coyotes can relate to this.
Many times over the years I have sat just over the crest of a ridge top, calling and glassing the surrounding area for any approaching coyotes. I never totally rely on binoculars and have got in the habit of looking without them too, as it seems easier to spot movement with the naked eye. It's not unusual for a coyote, or even coyotes, to approach within a very short distance before being detected. You can learn a lot about coyotes by re-tracing their approach. Many times you will see where they left a bed to respond to your call. Or you might see where they hung up, and had to look the situation over before feeling confident enough to commit. Take notice of where they felt secure enough to approach from, it can help to give you a better understanding of things.

Coyotes can and will use the available terrain to move around, too. Get on a coyote track in the snow and stay with it as long as time allows you. Keep an open mind, and see what happens. Coyotes will follow the type of terrain, and cover, that they feel the most comfortable in for the most part. Sure, you will see where they venture across a wide open spot at times, but take note of how many times they seem to come back to the available cover. The edge, and slightly out from the cover's edge, will usually get traffic, but look just inside the cover too. Coyotes in pairs don't always travel side by side, or in single file. The one traveling the brush might kick some prey out to the one traveling the edge.

Cover is also where the bulk of a coyotes' food will come from. Mice, rabbits, birds and their nests, and larger prey like deer, will congregate around cover; it's what keeps them alive, too. Go into a heavy patch of brush or other cover a day or two after a snowstorm, and see the amount of animals that rely on it for security and food. Coyotes know this, and that is why you will see them methodically hunt through these types of places.

Denning locations will almost always be in some sort of fairly hidden, or at least not readily noticeable, spot also. The adult coyotes will often tuck the den in a spot where they can watch the area from a vantage point, and I have taken many dens I couldn't see until I was right on top of them. Again, the coyotes were taking advantage of the available cover to gain security. This natural instinct will carry over to the young animals, too.

The reason I am stressing the factor of cover being important is simple. For many years I was involved with aerial hunting of coyotes, both as a 'locator' (we always referred to it as 'ground crew'), and on occasion as a gunner. After being involved in the harvest of several thousand coyotes by these means, I came to a rock solid conclusion: Coyotes spend very little time at "picture perfect" locations.

Coyotes don't need scenery.