Predator Calling Off The Charts
It was hot, the kind of persistent heat that creeps into one like a viral pestilence. Flies buzzed about, creating the only breeze. I swatted, then reached for a nearby hunting magazine to fan away the flies. The magazine happened to be open to a page printed with a fishing activity chart. Until then going fishing hadn’t been on my mind; after all we were in northern Mexico near where the states of Coahuila, Tamaulipas, and Nuevo Leon converged, and water in the Chihuahuan Desert is a scarce commodity. Nevertheless, while scouting early that morning I remembered seeing a stock tank where cattle and game watered.
The activity chart indicated the best time to fish that clay would occur in the next hour or two. It would he an interesting diversion from our work of setting up the new hunting ranch and produce some tasty fillets for supper.
As I headed toward the “war room” where we stored ancient Ashing tackle along with our guns, I spotted a Uurnham brothers varmint call hanging in the hallway. Reaching for a rod, I glanced over at a rusty Remington .22 pump. Perhaps I might even add a young cottontail to the larder.
En route to the waterhole, despite temperatures exceeding the century mark, I noticed a lot of coyotes moving about. Surprised, I was prompted to stop, walk a short distance, and start blowing my varmint call. Immediately two big coyotes responded. I shot one, and continued calling. Moments later three more approached and I shot a second one.
I drove a bit farther and again called. Coyotes responded as if I had them on a string. During that hour 1 lured in 17 different coyotes; one of my best hours ever for calling critters. Just two hours later, not one would respond.
Late that night, feasting on fresh bass fillets and fried cottontail, I asked one of my partners-a veteran of professional bass tournaments-if he believed in fishing by lunar-based activity charts. Yes, he replied, and mentioned that frequently he, too, became hungry during times the charts suggested Rsh would be feeding. Was it a natural phenomenon or simply the power of suggestion? He couldn’t say.
There’s Something To This
During my early years of hunting I noticed that deer activity often increased greatly at irregular times, especially during mid-morning, noon, and mid-afternoon-hours when one would think deer should be bedded. In the 1970s, several cronies and I maintained daily deer observation records, including time of day, where they were spotted, etc. At the end of a three-year period, we plotted observation times throughout the seasons. Then we plotted hypothetical major and minor feeding periods based on activity charts. Amazingly, the two seemed to be nearly one and the same. The kickers in the “deal” were storms, food availability, and hunting pressure, but otherwise they tracked nicely.
As a varmint caller, I had often noticed that at certain times on certain days coyotes, foxes, and even birds of prey responded to the sounds of a distressed rabbit or bird considerably better than they did in other instances. Often this increased activity occurred in spite of hard-blowing winds, extremely high temperatures, and other factors one would expect to decrease predator activity. But it was not until years later that I personally put these into proper perspective: Superior calling times do in fact coincide with peak activity or feeding periods as suggested by published charts.
More light on the subject was shed by Gaiy Roberson, who several years ago bought Burnham Brothers Game Calls (innovators and early pioneers in the fairly recent history of game calling). We were hunting coyotes along with former pro-rodeo cowboy Phil Lyne in the brush country of South Texas. Tt was hot and windy, even for a spring day, and our morning yielded very little success. At 10:30 a.m. we returned to camp to replenish our drinking water, but didn’t stay long. Consulting his GPS unit, Roberson announced, “Load up guys. The coyotes will start feeding in about 30 minutes.”
I shot him a quizzical look, but he simply smiled and headed to the truck. Lyne grinned and said, “You heard the maestro, load up!”
We drove about a hall-mile and set up in a small opening in a sea of prickly pear Gary had scarcely completed the first note on his mouth call when a coyote charged in. A heartbeat later the coyote lay dead on the parched ground. Gary continued calling and within seconds two coyotes appeared. These two were mine, hut as I watched the first coyote fall, his buddy disappeared before I could get on him. In short order a fourth coyote appeared, this one shot by Gary.
Six coyotes called and three taken in less than five minutes of calling. I glanced over at Gary as I picked up my coyote. He grinned back with one of those what’d-I-tell-you looks.
We moved and set up a second stand. Two coyotes came to the call, then four more at our next setup. The good times lasted about 90 minutes, and after that we were unable to call up another coyote the rest of the day.
Certainly the coyote population was extremely thick, but as we drove between stands, Gary mentioned how he’d come to realize that at certain unexpected hours predators just respond better. He kept a calling journal, noting time of day, location, temperature, wind direction, and general weather conditions, as well as what responded and when. He quickly recognized a pattern that corresponded nicely with active periods noted on the solunar charts. After that he started paying much more attention, often planning his varmint calling for paying clients around prime feeding times. I’Olluwing the cues provided by activity tables has been his secret weapon as one of the country’s premier varmint callers.
Should you hunt predators based solely on suggested peak activity times offered by such charts and tables? Heavens, no! Hunt whenever you have the opportunity. But if you are truly into hunting predators, and it’s early Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and there’s a choice between hunting and watching a ball game, you might just want to check a lunar table before packing it in. If the chart indicates the best animal activity times are about to begin … well, the choice is certainly yours. As for me, I’m headed for my next calling stand.
Activity charts are based on moon phase and moon location relative to where you are, within an immediate area. They are available in printed forms from various sources, on calendars, local and national outdoor publications, and on the Internet at www.solunartables.com or www.24hourcampfire.com.
Copyright National Rifle Association of America Jun 2004
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