California Varmint Callers


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Calling all varmints! The basic how to of varmint calling.

  I'm not sure when varmint calling first became popular in the US, but it's a safe bet that when it did there were no books available on the subject. Many members of the CVC have been hunting for a long time and, naturally, have developed many different techniques in calling for varmints. Most of what is now known about varmint calling has been learned the old fashioned way. By trying different things to see if they worked. Basically, the old tried and true method of trial and error. Many animals respond to a varmint call. Most that do are predators like the coyote, bobcat, badger etc. Some other kinds of animals will also respond to a varmint call. I've heard credible stories about antelope and deer responding to a call but I think these were more an aberration than a norm. The animals were probably just curious about the noise they were hearing and just wanted to see what kind of animal was making it. Crows, eagles and some other birds will respond to a call. They'll usually circle your stand for a while and when they've figured you out will simply fly away. Sometimes they'll land some distance away and just sit and watch. Maybe to see what will happen next? Once while calling, a crow came in at maybe a 100 feet up. He would stop and circle for a minute and then come in a little closer. He did this a number of times until finally he was nearly overhead. Just at that time a coyote appeared out of the brush making his way to the source of the call. To this day I think that crow was following the coyote. Maybe to get an easy meal?

     There are as many different ways to varmint call as there are varmint hunters. A predators sense of hearing is many more times as sensitive as a human's. They can hear things from a surprising distance. A few calls on a loud long range call in all directions can bring in predators from as far as a mile away if the conditions are right. One calling technique that works is to start calling very softly. Not too loud at first in case there's an animal close by. After what seems to be an acceptable amount of time without seeing anything, maybe 10 minutes or so of intermittent calling, it may help to increase the volume of your calls. Keep a good lookout for any signs of movement. Don't move around too much yourself as most predators have keen eyesight. They key in on movement, sound and smell. If you have to make a move, try to do so very slowly. Don't make any abrupt movements. If the predator is looking your way when you do he'll make you out for sure. All you'll see is his back end as he high tails it out of there. If you've done your calling and still nothing has responded, don't give up yet. The last thing to do before giving up completely is to stand up and move around while looking for the animal. Be at the ready with your rifle as many times the animal will have responded to your call but you just haven't seen him yet. When revealing yourself by standing up and moving around, the animal sometimes does the same.

     One of the problems in using a hand call is that the animal cues in on the sound as well as movement. He will be looking at the source of the sound and this makes it difficult for the hunter to make any movements without being detected. Then too you don't have eyes in the back of your head so you can't see if anything is coming in behind you. As a general rule, the predator will first circle the source of the sound attempting to get down wind for a sniff. He'll usually stop a couple of times before getting downwind of you and this is the best time to get him. If he makes it down wind before you get the shot he won't stick around for long. Using some kind of scent to mask your smell can help. One way to overcome this problem is to have two people sitting back to back while one does the calling. If you set yourself up in a bush with maybe 20 or 30 Yds of clearing around you, it can help immensely as this gives you a chance to see the animal before it gets too close. If you have to hunt in thick brush then its best to use a shotgun. Use #4 Buck as it has between 28 - 42 pellets in roughly .22 caliber. Very effective. Some people prefer 00 Buck but I can't personally recommend using this loading as it has a lot less pellets than #4 Buck. Your odds of missing are greater with the less dense shot pattern. A coyote or bobcat is a lot smaller target than a deer. I've had by far the greatest successes when using #4 Buck than with any other loading. Dense brush close in varmint calling can be the perfect opportunity for the handgun shooter. A handgun is easily maneuvered in the brush and quick with aiming, just what you need in thick brush where the animal is in close. Use a good stopper like the 10mm, .357 Mag or .44 Mag with light bullets. Try using Magsafe or Glazer ammo and they won't run too far after you hit them. Thompson Center pistols or others of their kind are also a good bet but don't use a scope for close in shots.

     Of course you don't have to do your calling from thick brush. Wear some camouflaged clothing and set yourself up someplace where you have an open field of view all around. Again, it helps to be sitting back to back with a partner so the area behind you is covered. There are a number of diaphragm calls on the market that will allow you to do your calling and leave your hands free to hold the rifle although they are a little more difficult to learn how to use than the traditional hand call. If you hunt alone you may want to consider building or buying one of the electronic game callers. The trick here is to set the speaker next to a small bush with some clearing around it while placing yourself about 40 or 50 yards away from it. Get a small stuffed rabbit to use as a decoy next to the speaker and then tie a feather to it's ear. The feather will move in the breeze and attract the predators attention. Be prepared for a few bite marks on your decoy. With this technique you can keep an eye on the area around the call while not having to worry too much about the area behind you. I've seen coyotes walk right past me on their way to the source of the call. Sometimes they'll even stop to look at you before continuing towards the call. Think about the wind direction before making your setup. You don't want to be upwind of the call as your scent will drift right over it. At least try to keep the wind coming directly from your right or left.

     There's a large variety of varmint calls available on the market. For the new varmint hunter it can get a little confusing as to which one to use for calling. Generally, hand held calls are available in short range, medium range and long range. There's the diaphragm calls that you place between the tongue and roof of the mouth. With a little practice they can be effective. There is the "mouse squeaker" which is used when the animal is in close. They all sound more or less like a wounded rabbit, bird or some other animal. To a predator this is like ringing the dinner bell. All of the calls are more or less effective in bringing in an animal. If you know that an area has been hunted recently you may want to try using a different call. It helps to have a large selection of calls on hand and then try them all out to see what works best for you. The short range calls are best used when you just start your calling and after the animal has come in close. If you've done any hunting for coyotes you'll know that when they start howling they know that you are there. From then on, no amount of calling will bring them in. You can then use a "coyote howler" for another chance. If you don't have one then you may as well find another area to hunt. There is no, one agreed upon technique to use in varmint calling. Everyone seems to have their own ideas as to what works best. I'm sure they all work more or less. It can help to hunt with an experience varmint caller to see how its done.

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