As a species, we humans are fascinated by predators. Whether we’re watching “Shark Week” on TV or anxiously waiting for the lions’ feeding time at the zoo, there’s something about predators that intrigues us. A mystique that causes us to stare off into the woods at night, wondering if, somewhere amidst the dark trees, something is staring back.
For hunters, predator hunting affords two incentives: They can both see how their hunting skills fare against the pinnacle of nature’s design, and they can protect the game animals they love to hunt.
Predator hunting has its controversies. Personally, I was hesitant to try it. Being raised in a family where my antics with a BB gun as a child led to me having to eat sparrow stew, as an adult I simply didn’t feel comfortable killing something I wasn’t planning on eating. However, as I matured as a hunter, my attitude toward predator hunting evolved. I started seeing the effects unchecked predator populations have on both game animals and domestic pets.
One pack of wolves can decimate an elk herd, pulling down the adults in the deep snows of winter and moving in to take the newborn calves of spring. One mountain lion will slaughter an entire pen of sheep while eating only one. It’s not their fault; it’s simply in their nature. Although there is an argument for allowing nature to be nature, the simple fact is we moved past the natural state of things long ago. States now make thousands of dollars in revenue from hunters buying tags to hunt those elk. Farmers and ranchers feed and provide for their families with their livestock. The fact is, if this way of life we so enjoy is to continue, there is a necessity for predator hunting and harvest.
It’s worth noting that, although not all predators are prized for their meat, some—like mountain lions, which are often compared to pork—are excellent. Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson even declared wolf his favorite game meat. Other predators like the fox and coyote are prized for their fur and can be used to trim coats or hats.
The challenge in predator hunting lies in the fact that predators have excellent, highly developed senses. In addition to enhanced senses of smell and hearing, unlike many common game animals, predators also have excellent vision. They see a broader range of color than deer, elk, and other game animals. They are also more naturally drawn to movement, making camouflage and holding still a necessity for success. The best and most common way to predator hunt is to take up a position or build a stand in an area frequented by predators and to try calling them into range.
There are a lot different predator calls on the market. Usually mimicking the sound of a dying rabbit or other prey animal, there are both mouth calls as well recordings of distress calls that can be played through a speaker. Personally, I haven’t found one to be more effective than the other. What I have found that better increases the odds of success is the addition of a decoy. Decoys, too, can vary dramatically depending on a hunter’s preference.
They range from elaborately detailed foam rabbits to battery-powered contraptions that look like cat toys, to a piece of feather or hide tied to low-hanging brush. What’s important is that the decoy has some sort of movement, something for an approaching predator to focus in on while they approach and not notice a hunter lining up a shot. Calling predators in can be effective on a number of species. Foxes, coyotes, bobcats, wolves, and even mountain lions can be brought in by a predator call and a good decoy.
There are other ways to hunt predators, though they are more species specific. Wolves are most commonly tracked. A hunter can pick up wolf sign and follow it for miles, slowing down as they approach, hoping to get a shot. Mountain lions are usually hunted with hounds, driven up trees by the pursuing dogs. Or, for the more patient hunter, a blind can be set up around a lion kill, with hope the animal will return. Always check the legality of hunting methods in your state before you hunt.
However a hunter chooses to pursue predators, and whatever species that may be, the hunting must be practiced responsibly. Remember that slaughtering every coyote you see just for sport isn’t good for the environment, either. A balance must always be maintained. Responsible predator hunters should always remember that, just like us, predators are a valuable and necessary part of the ebb and flow of our natural world.