An In-Depth Guide to Understanding and Producing Coyote Vocalizations
by Bob Severe
To understand the basics of coyote vocalization, first we have to break down the different barks and howls and how to make these sounds on a coyote call. Then we can put the different types of barks and howls back together to make the sounds we need to bring Mr. Coyote into gun range.
Most predator calls on the market that are designed to imitate the sound of the coyote are open reed designs, such as the Knight & Hale Lead Dawg and Mega Howler. One closed reed design style is the Knight & Hale Ultimate 1 predator call. This is a great call for producing those aggressive female sounds, and also makes prey-in-distress sounds. So let's just dig right into making sounds using these coyote calls and get started with the simple bark.
The simple coyote bark is a nonthreatening sound that is both friendly and inviting. To produce this sound on the Lead Dawg or Mega Howler, place your mouth about halfway up the reed for an average sounding bark. Then, apply some pressure and give a quick puff of air by quickly tightening your abdomen muscle while saying "what." By barking farther up the reed you will get a deeper bark and by going closer to the tip of the call you will get a higher pitch. With a little practice you will quickly learn where the sweet spot on your predator call is for your style of coyote calling to make the best sounding barks.
The aggressive bark is a sound that lets other coyotes know that there is something that is upsetting them that they don't like. It says: "You'd better leave or I'm coming over there to get you out of my territory."
A bark coyote call also can be a warning sound to other coyotes that there is something of danger in the area. To produce the coyote sound you make the simple bark, but it's a shorter sound and with an air of authority. There also is less space between the barks and more of them.
Now on to the friendly howl. Again as with the friendly bark, this is a sound that is nonaggressive and inviting. It's saying “let's get together” or “let's just do some commutating.” To make a friendly howl place your lips at least half way up the reed then start out with a quick puff of air. Keep blowing for a few seconds then let the sound taper off all the way to the end. A friendly howl starts out gradually then gets higher in the middle. Then hold that sound for a few seconds let it taper all the way off to the end. Nothing sharp or quick about it -- just a nice long lonely sound.
The aggressive howl is a quicker howl that starts fast and ends abruptly. The quicker it starts and the faster it ends, the more aggressive the sound and the more upset the coyote. This is the sound that we're all too familiar with. We all have had a female dawg stand there for 5 or 10 minutes and tell the world just what she thinks of us. Those barks and quick howls you hear are all very aggressive sounding noises.
As far as the difference between male and female sounds, the female is higher pitched than the male and she does most of the talking. If a male is paired up with a female you won't hear much out of him. She'll do enough talking for the both of them. Usually only when a male is by himself will he do much talking, and you'll know it by the long heavy sounds of his barks and howls. The male is the more aggressive of the two as far as coming to a coyote call, and he would much rather come in and get the rabbit or pick a fight than stand out there and talk about it.
By putting some friendly barks and howls together we can make one of the most useful sounds to the predator caller -- the Integration Call. This predator call is used to get a coyote or a group of coyotes to respond to you, or they may just come slipping in to see who is making those sounds. The latter usually only happens when the Integration Call is combined with a few prey-in-distress calls.
The Integration Call goes like this: two long friendly howls a friendly bark, a short pause then a short friendly howl and last a long friendly howl. You can put two of these sequences together but usually no more than that. There is nothing wrong with changing the position of the barks and howls to get a coyote sound you are more comfortable with. Wait five minutes and repeat. If still no answer, you may try to salvage the stand by throwing out a few prey sounds and wait five minutes to see if a dawg shows up. If not, it's time to leave onto another bunch of coyotes.
The next sequence we need to look at is the Challenge Call. It's the sound we hope to hear after our Integration Call. It's usually the dominate dawg of the area telling you that you had better get out of her territory or she is coming over to make you leave. No one invited you and you're not welcome. How long it takes for her to show up depends on how upset she is and just how far away you are. It's not uncommon for it to take up to a half hour for her to show herself.
The Challenge Call starts out with two short semi-aggressive barks, a short aggressive howl, pause a second, then repeat two more times. This is a Challenge sequence. If the coyotes seem to be in a talkative mood when you're coyote calling, you can throw out two sequences and see just how fast something shows up. Don't get discouraged if the dawg comes in and sits out there 200 or 300 yards away trying to draw you out first. If you don't have a weapon capable of that distance or can't see your prey, come back in a week or two and set up within weapon range of where you last heard the dawg, make some soft prey-in-distress sounds or throw out a Integration call and you'll usually come out the winner.
One of the most important sounds you'll need to learn is the female Invitational Call. It's used primarily in the months of January and February, during breeding season. It's a sound that says "I'm a lonely little female coyote and I want to party." It starts out with a regular friendly howl, two friendly barks, a space of a second or two then a friendly bark and a short howl. This coyote call also can be a very useful sound at the end of August and the month of September as the new adults come to this sound just because it's a female nonthreatening sound and she might have a free meal to share.
There is one more sound that is very useful in understanding what the coyote is telling you. I call it “I’m Coming Call.” You’ll usually hear it within a minute or two after your first sequence of vocalization or distress sounds. It's simply three to five quick semi-aggressive barks. When you hear this sound either by itself or from a coyote that is paired up, get your gun ready because he's coming your way. Don't make another sound -- just get ready to take your prize.
Putting all these sounds together takes some time to learn and understand when, where and how to use them. I still to this day learn something every season that just hits me right between the eyes and says "The coyotes have been telling you this for years and you just figured it out." Using the right sequence at the right time of year can make or break a whole month of coyote calling for you. After reading and studying this article, make some notes and practice your coyote calls. Then, when you feel comfortable go to the field and see if you can get a coyote to respond to your sounds, listen to what the coyote is telling you. You'll be surprised when you hear an answer and what you'll learn.
The calls in action
It was another morning of getting up at 5:30 am to hear my wife mumble something about me being a fool for wanting to go sit on some snow covered sage brush hillside, waiting for the sun to come up, at a temperature of only 10-degrees, just to see if I could get a shot at some ol' coyote. She has been with me on a few hunts during the middle of summer and that was fine, but leaving a warm electric blanket is just not her cup of tea.
Sometimes she makes a little sense and I usually never listen. This morning was another one of those mornings that I didn't listen, but I was glad I followed my intuition.
When I was leaving the truck for my third stand on that cold morning, I noticed it was already 9:45 a.m. and not even a magpie or deer had come to check me out. I was thinking about that electric blanket. As I was brushing away the snow to put my ground pad down, I thought it had actually warmed up a few degrees and maybe a nice soft Integration Call just might get me some favorable results.
It wasn't 30 seconds after my first set of Integration sounds and she answered with a harsh Challenge response. I waited a few minutes and challenged her back. When she answered back she gave me those all to familiar barks that just says "I'm not moving and I don't like you."
She was a good half-mile away to my right so I moved around the hill to a closer position where I might me able to see her and try and figure out a plan on how to put her hide on one of my stretchers. When I got set up in my new position, I let out a good hard Challenge sound and she answered right back. But to my surprise, I heard a yearling give a few yips then a male gave me those three or five barks that I love to hear. You know the ones that say "Here I come, get ready."
In under a minute he showed up at 100 yards looking for me. I waited as long as I could, hoping the yearling would show up and I'd get a double, but the male was getting nervous. The female was doing her complaining the whole time and doing a good job of telling the world just what she thought of me. When he started to turn to go back to her I gave him a few squeaks and he paused and looked back trying to find me. Finally I couldn't handle it anymore and the .17 Remington did its job.
I let out a few wounded dog sounds and waited a few minutes in total silence, hoping the yearling might still be around. Then she started again telling me just what she thought and just because she heard some loud bang it wasn't going to shut her up. She still hadn't moved. I went the next hundred yards bent over like a monkey hoping she wouldn’t see me. When I got to the edge of the rim I laid down on the sandstone rock and glassed the area from where her barking sounds where coming from. After a few minutes I found her, sitting on an old reservoir dam that was grown over with sagebrush. I lay there for a minute enjoying the show she was giving me. The few barks I threw back at her only made her madder. Finally realizing that I was getting cold lying on the snow covered rock, I decided to let the ol' sow have it. Again the little .17 did its job for me.
Don't know what happened to the yearly that fine morning. I suppose he was around when I shot the male and it was just too much for him to handle and slipped away to the next ridge. When I got down to where the female laid it was 10:45 a.m. I had spent an even hour on collecting these two dogs. I had used Integration and Challenge calls to locate her and get within shooting distance. I knew when the male gave me those three or four barks what was going to happen.
Sometimes knowing what the coyote is telling you is more important than know what sound to make back and him. As I was going back to get the male after dumping the female off at the truck, I was wishing I had left my heavy winter coat at the truck cause it was just a little to warm for the me -- warmer than an a electric blanket.