Outdoors column: Midwinter coyote and fox hunting

It seems every February the fishing tends to slow down, especially for walleyes and northern pike, but thankfully February is prime time for chasing coyotes and fox here in central Minnesota.

February is prime time for predator hunting in central Minnesota.

February is prime time for predator hunting in central Minnesota. Submitted Photo

These predators have adapted to our terrain and have successfully become the most efficient and prolific critters in the field.

I spend a lot of time searching for these predators during February by hitting the road and using prime quality optics to spot and stalk these amazing animals.

You are matching wits with some very intelligent creatures that know how the game is played and have terrific instincts for avoiding their human counter parts.

Below are some thoughts on sharpening your coyote and fox skills.

Optics

The secret to spotting coyotes and fox in the wild is to know where to look, in places like sun-drenched snowbanks.

This is the first thing I look for as these predators will use these higher areas for security and visibility. They are almost always facing a southerly direction as the sun in the afternoon is at its peak.

By using top quality binoculars or spotting scopes, I scan the likely looking snowbanks and higher terrain.

Using budget-brand optics only frustrates the scanning.

You need to be able to tell if that is an old farm tractor tire in the field about 1,000 yards away or a sleeping fox.

I spent a lot of time over the years crawling up on old tires and pieces of wood thinking I as sneaking up on a critter.

Once you fail at this a few times, you will see the need for quality optics.

Weather
dictates success

As with anything in the outdoors, the weather is a major factor in determining your success.

The best days are very sunny with light winds.

Windy days or overcast days keep the fox and coyotes denned up and inactive. When you see the perfect weather conditions the day before, the next day will be the day to head into the field.

The cold temperatures don’t seem to deter their movement.

I have hunted in temperatures as cold as 26 below zero and the predators are still active.

Cold doesn’t seem to bother them.

Firearms

I like to have a wingman along just for safety reasons but also so I can have a buddy tote a 12 gauge shotgun in reserve.

I prefer a centerfire rifle in .223 caliber most of the time but oftentimes you end up being within 50-70 yards away when a shotgun is the perfect solution. Number 4 buckshot is the perfect shotgun load for this type of hunting.

The most common ranges for this type of spotting and stalking is around 150-250 yards the majority of the time.

I like to sight in my rifle at the 200-yard mark which will be sufficient for anything around 100-250 yards.

You want to make sure you practice at these prime ranges so when the time comes in the field you are in automatic mode.

Most of the time you have very little time to think as your shots will be quick and fleeting.

Lots of pre-hunting practice will make the shot in the field much easier to make.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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