Hunting coyotes with a crossbow is not for the faint of heart, especially at night by oneself. But if you can handle spending time alone afield at night, and have patience, it can be some of the most exciting crossbow hunting you can experience.
First, you will need a good call, an accurate crossbow that you are very familiar with, even in total darkness, and at least one good spotlight, but preferably two. I use the Bowlite with red LED, one handheld and the other mounted on top of my crossbow scope. A wide variety of calls are available to today's coyote hunter. Mouth-blown rabbit-distress calls are my favorite and have worked very well for me. These calls are very easy to use and are not very expensive. Many coyote hunters use electronic programmable calls, but in the beginning it’s probably a better choice to purchase and get familiar with an open-reed-style call. When using a mouth call, it’s always a good idea to secure them on a lanyard. Lanyards can be worn around your neck so you won’t have to fumble around searching for your call when a coyote is near.
With the coyote's keen senses, it’s very important to conceal yourself within your crossbow hunting environment. You must attempt to blend in with your surroundings, so pay attention to detail. Be sure to cover your face and hands, as they are reflective. Coyotes will hunt under the cover of low light, like early mornings and late evening. But mostly, they will hunt at night as this is when their prey are out and about. If your state allows nighttime coyote hunting with lights, the action can be very exciting. Coyotes can be found just about everywhere and can be hunted on farms, crop lands, gravel pits, along creeks and woods alike. I like to set up with my crossbow so that I have good vision from front to back, and so that I can see the coyotes coming from a distance.
Calling At Night
Nighttime coyote hunting is most likely my favorite time to hunt, and doing it with a crossbow makes it even more exciting. After the sun has gone down and you are in total darkness, a calm comes over the land. Then from the darkness, the eerie call of the coyote. Having called coyotes all hours of the night, no particular hour seems to be the best time. You’ll be crossbow hunting during the natural hunting and roaming time of coyotes. Hunting pressure is normally lower at night. Winds are often lower at night too, and this can assist calling, as calls can be heard by coyotes at longer distances. I try to set up with my crossbow where I can see the coyotes coming in from as far as possible. This will allow me to make any adjustments to my crossbow and lights. When hunting coyotes with a crossbow, I also like to set up on a higher point in the area. This gives me a good vantage point when shooting my crossbow. A large field that is backed up by woods and gullies is good. Wind direction is most important and must be paid attention to. A coyote will almost always circle around your position to identify what is there. Try to setup with your crossbow where you can take advantage of a coyote approaching from the front, side, and if possible, from behind you. It will be to your great advantage and pretty much necessary to use spotlights where legal. Without the use of my lights, night crossbow hunting would be much less productive. I use two Bowlites for night crossbow hunting. Be sure that your light has a red LED as this seems to not alarm the coyotes as much as white spotlights. I use the same crossbow hunting setup as to arrows and broadheads, as I do deer hunting with my crossbow. I find the NAP Spitfire broadheads work very well tipped on your favorite crossbow arrow. Get set up in a comfortable position where you can sit pretty much motionless for a while. I wait up to ten minutes for things to quiet down before beginning to call.
While calling, about one minute in duration every ten minutes or so, scan the area with your handheld Bowlite and make sure to keep your crossbow in hand. Aim the Bowlite so that the bottom of the light's halo lights up your hunting area. Using the direct hotspot of the beam will sometimes scare off the coyote before ever coming into crossbow range. Been there; done that! Go back and forth over the field a few times in case a coyote has approached while you were looking in a different direction. When you see the red glow of the coyote's eyes appear, keep the light on the eyes, using just the halo and watch the coyote. If he keeps coming, that's great. Get your crossbow ready for the shot. If he stops, is the coyote close enough? If so, quickly flip on the Bowlite mounted on your crossbow, take aim with the scope and pull the trigger. If he isn’t close enough, try lightly calling again to entice him into crossbow range. If the coyote moves in a direction as if to smell you, you need to shoot your crossbow as soon as the coyote is within range, or you can bet you’ll be trying him at a later date.
By all means, watch the wind just like you would crossbow hunting for deer. Many coyotes catch your scent as you are walking to where you will hunt. Do not walk into a hunt area when your scent is going to be there before you. Coyotes have unreal hearing and sight. Always be as quiet as you can and stay concealed. Know your range and how your crossbow shoots. Misjudging range at night is a big reason why people miss with a crossbow. Use your rangefinder in the daylight on landmarks like bushes or rocks and trees. You will then have some idea of distance when a coyote appears in the darkness of night. Make sure your crossbow is ready for the shot. If you can, have your crossbow pointed in the right direction when a coyote shows, this will help make the kill. If the coyote howls or barks, you can better judge his approach as well. By having your crossbow ready, you can better concentrate on making a good shot. Watch your back. Many coyotes respond and are never observed. Watch where you shine your light. Reflecting light off trees or bushes in your immediate area will alert any coyote to your presence, and you will not see the coyote. The way you use your light is very important. Scan the area quickly. Keep the light moving to catch any eyes of approaching coyotes. If eyes are seen, keep the light on and get your crossbow ready! Turning the light on and off may spook the coyote. As stated earlier, keep the beam so that the bottom edge of the beam, the halo, is on the eyes. Most times a coyote will get spooked if the hot spot of the light beam is focused directly on the eyes.
After the shot:
The work isn’t done after the trigger has been pulled on the crossbow. Hopefully, you will hear the smack of a hit. Reload your crossbow and keep calling and scanning the area for other following coyotes that might be in the area. I’ve found that hunting coyotes with a crossbow is very exciting. It’s a good way to fill the months between other game seasons, and at the same time, it gives you a chance to get familiar with your crossbow