Central Oregon has some of the most productive predator hunting in the nation. Mountain lion, coyote and bobcats benefit greatly from well-managed herds of antelope, elk, deer, in addition to their standard quarry....everything else.
In fact I used to make quite a bit of beer money by submitting coyote ear-pairs to the Oregon Hunters Association Bounty Program. At ten dollars a scalp, it pays for ammo and fuel and allowed my son and I to build memories in the outdoors. Well that was the ideal outcome anyway.
If you have ever hunted coyote then you're well aware of the importance of stealth, silence, and scent and movement. These are concepts adverse to a ten year old that considers ten minutes an eternity, his gum and hair gel "scent neutral" and his head meant to rotate like that girl from the Exorcist made into a bobble head toy.
Needless to say we had no luck for the first three weeks when I admitted the inevitable; my boy would have to mature into this type of hunting. I resolved to make a solo trip the following week and readied my gear.
The Ruger M77 in 22-250 was a gift from my father in law and represented one the fastest, farthest and flattest shooting rifles I own. The Leupold Mark 4 complemented the rifle leaving only myself to blame for missing any respectable shot below 400 yards. I've made kills in the 550 range but have a hard time adjusting to a drop of roughly 16-18 inches from 2-400 yards and anybody's guess from there. I tend to err on the side of ethical caution when considering such a long shot when hunting with this gun.
Although it's a thing of beauty, I felt I would leave nothing to chance and wrap the set-up with Ghillie wrap to break up the outline. When I go all the way with my hobbies.....I really go all the way. I use a sage style Ghillie suit a dying rabbit mouth call and meticulously use preferable scents and wind to my advantage rather than give myself away. Most of the time you won't ever see the critter if cut one corner.
So the day of redemption arrived and (alone) I set up on a rise overlooking a wide swath of BLM so I could see them coming in to the call. I felt as if all was well with the world as I sat with my back to a large pine and settled in. I sat motionless for a spell before breaking into the initial violent squeal set. The key is to impart the violence of a dramatic attack on, and eventual demise of a cottontail.
It helps to listen to some real tapes of an actual hare to more accurately mimic the scene. You should always wait between sets at decreasing intervals. I count out 2 minutes then halve that each sequence. I end up with a weak single bleat that rings a sure dinner bell for any predator within earshot. The varmints can hear for miles based on the terrain. If you get one in sight but he refuses to advance keep a mouse coaxer squeak on hand to bring him home. Also, this is a good technique to get him to stop for a second when you're sure you're ready.
I usually have to wait 10-20 minutes until I see movement. Remember, some coyotes circle you before committing. On the other hand I've had them run straight at me before I could even get my rifle up.
What happened next, damaged my scope, nearly soiled my shorts, and changed my thinking when it comes to predator calling forever.
No sooner had I finished the last bleat, I caught movement out of the periphery descending straight towards my head at incredible speed. I look up only to see bright yellow talons open and ready to carve me a new face.
My Ruger was across my knees and I'm sure the decision to use it to deflect the raptor prevented an unplanned plastic surgery and maybe even blindness. It was so close by the time I raised the rifle to protect my face that I felt the air from two or three backstrokes on his part while he tried to re-asses just what the heck is going on.
He was either in the very tree I was using or one directly behind it. He heard a sure meal in some sage and cheat-grass and had an audible location. So commit he did. When he got through raking his talons up and down the length of my scope he flew to the top of another pine 50 yards away to process the scene. I look down and wouldn't you know it....one small scratch on my thumb!
The Ghillie wrap had protected the Ruger and my hands for the most part. I was shaking, flabbergasted and headed home after only fifteen minutes in the field. I learned something that day as did the old owl; always expect that any predator might respond to a rabbit call. You might think you're hunting coyote, but in reality, you're capable of attracting any predator, whether on four paws or diving from above lightning fast with razor sharp talons. And never....never, ever wear a rabbit fur cap for that matter.
The Ruger has taken many a predator over the years. But on that day it was the only thing keeping talon from flesh.
So be aware of what's going on in the field, expect the unexpected, and never......., ever, wear a rabbit fur cap and blow a squealer call!