How to Hunt Coyotes at Night – Expert’s Tips

By Joel Mccartan

Hunting coyotes at night is an exhilarating experience that offers a unique set of challenges and rewards. As primarily nocturnal predators, coyotes are most active and vocal under the cover of darkness, making nighttime hunts an extremely effective way to manage their population and protect livestock. With the right techniques, equipment, and mindset, you can enjoy thrilling pursuits that test your skills against these clever and adaptable creatures.

As an avid coyote hunter and night vision gear enthusiast, I’ve spent countless nights out in the field honing my strategies for success. Through trial and error, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to consistently calling in and killing coyotes after the sun goes down. In this article, I’ll share my top tips and techniques to help you make the most of your nighttime coyote hunts.

Scout Diligently and Choose Your Location Wisely

Scouting is absolutely critical for any successful coyote hunt, but it’s especially important when hunting at night since you won’t have the benefit of being able to glass the landscape and spot coyotes from a distance like you can during the day. The key is to identify areas where coyotes are likely to be actively hunting or traveling through.

Some of the best places to look for coyotes include brushy creek bottoms, river banks, swampy areas, and other locations with an abundance of small prey animals like rodents and rabbits. Coyotes are opportunistic predators and will go where the food is. Agricultural areas can also be prime hotspots, particularly around calving season when vulnerable newborn livestock become a tempting target.

Speaking of livestock, if there are ranches or farms nearby with sheep, goats or other animals, there’s a good chance coyotes will be lurking around looking for an easy meal. Coyote depredation is a major issue in many areas, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reporting that coyotes account for over 60% of all sheep and lamb losses each year. Many ranchers and landowners will gladly give you permission to hunt coyotes on their property if you ask.

When scouting potential hunting areas, look for signs of coyote activity like tracks, scat, and well-worn game trails. Trail cameras can be a great scouting tool to deploy ahead of your hunt to see if and when coyotes are moving through an area. Just be sure to check local regulations, as some states have restrictions on the use of trail cameras for hunting.

On the day of your hunt, it’s important to get set up well before dark to avoid spooking any coyotes that may already be in the area. Be as stealthy as possible when approaching your stand location. Park well away and take care to move quietly, avoiding things like slamming truck doors or crunching through noisy leaves and brush. Coyotes have exceptional hearing, and any out of place noises can put them on alert.

Play the Wind and Set Up with the Breeze in Your Face

Coyotes rely heavily on their keen sense of smell to detect danger and locate prey. As a hunter, one of the quickest ways to ruin a stand is to set up with the wind at your back, allowing your scent to blow directly toward approaching coyotes. Even if they can’t see you, coyotes will almost always circle downwind before committing to a call, using their nose as a final check before moving in. If they catch your scent, the gig is up and they’ll hightail it out of there faster than you can shoulder your rifle.

To avoid getting busted, it’s essential to always set up with the wind in your face so that your scent is blowing away from the direction you expect coyotes to approach from. Experienced coyote hunters use the wind to their advantage, positioning themselves downwind of where they believe coyotes are holding or likely to come from based on their scouting.

It’s also a smart tactic to have a hunting partner set up to cover your downwind side, as coyotes will often try to sneak in from behind to investigate the source of the sounds they’re hearing. Sometimes the hunter doing the calling doesn’t even get a shot off, as the coyote circles wide and ends up in their buddy’s lap. If you’re hunting solo, try to set up with some kind of natural backstop like a hill, thick brush, or other obstacle that will discourage coyotes from circling downwind.

Use Calls Effectively to Bring Coyotes Running

Calling is one of the most important aspects of successful coyote hunting, especially at night when you can’t rely on your eyesight to spot distant coyotes. The right calls can bring even the wariest coyotes running right into your lap, while the wrong calls can send them fleeing in the opposite direction. 

There are many different types of calls that can be effective for coyotes, from simple hand-held mouth calls to high-tech electronic callers loaded with dozens of realistic sounds. Mouth calls like howlers, distress calls, and prey in distress calls are popular choices that allow for a high degree of user control and customization. Electronic calls offer the advantage of remote operation, allowing you to set the caller away from your position, as well as the ability to play a wider range of sounds at the push of a button.

Regardless of what type of call you use, the key is to match your calling to the time of year and current conditions. In the spring and summer, coyote vocalizations can be dynamite as coyotes are actively defending their territories and protecting their young. Howls, yips, and other coyote sounds can be used to challenge territorial males or invite curious females and pups to investigate. Pup in distress calls can be especially effective during this time, triggering the protective instincts of adult coyotes.

As summer turns to fall, prey in distress calls like rabbits, rodents, and fawns become top choices as coyotes begin to focus more on feeding themselves and their growing pups. These calls play on the coyote’s opportunistic nature, promising an easy meal that may be too tempting to pass up.

No matter what sounds you use, be sure to mix things up and keep your calling fresh. Coyotes are smart critters and can quickly become call shy if they hear the same sounds used over and over again, especially in heavily hunted areas. Vary the length, volume, and intensity of your calling sequences to keep things interesting and avoid sounding too repetitive.

When working the call, be patient and give each stand location plenty of time before moving on. I like to start off with a few soft calls, then wait 5-10 minutes before ramping things up with louder, more aggressive sounds. If I don’t have any takers after 20-30 minutes, I’ll usually pack up and move to a new spot. Sometimes coyotes will slip in silently and catch you by surprise, so it pays to stay vigilant and keep scanning your surroundings even during long periods of silence.

Pick the Right Weapon and Gear

Choosing the right weapon and gear is crucial for success when hunting coyotes at night. Most experienced coyote hunters prefer a flat-shooting rifle topped with a quality scope for making precise shots in low light conditions. Popular caliber choices include the .22-250, .223, and .243, all of which offer a good balance of power, accuracy, and manageable recoil.

When it comes to optics, a high-quality scope with good light transmission is a must for picking out coyotes in the shadows. Look for a scope with a large objective lens and multi-coated glass to help gather as much light as possible. An illuminated reticle can also be a big help for aiming in the dark, whether it’s a traditional crosshair or a more complex BDC reticle calibrated for your load.

For those extra dark nights when the moon is nowhere to be found, a digital night vision scope or thermal optic can be a real game-changer. These high-tech optics use advanced sensors and image processing to turn night into day, allowing you to spot coyotes that would be invisible to the naked eye. The downside is that they can be quite expensive, with high-end models running into the thousands of dollars.

If you prefer a more traditional approach, a shotgun loaded with heavy shot or buckshot can be devastating on coyotes inside 40-50 yards. The key is to use an open choke and practice shooting off-hand or from a rest, as you likely won’t have time to get set up for a bench rest style shot.

No matter what weapon you choose, be sure to invest in quality ammunition and practice with it extensively before hitting the field. You may only get one shot at a wary coyote, so you need to be confident in your ability to make it count.

In addition to your weapon, there are a few other key pieces of gear that can make a big difference on your nighttime coyote hunts. A comfortable, supportive shooting rest is a must for making accurate shots in the dark. A tripod or shooting sticks can be a big help for getting set up quickly and quietly, especially if you like to hunt standing up.

A powerful, reliable headlamp or flashlight is another essential tool for navigating in the dark and making your way to and from your stand location safely. Look for a model with a red or green light option to preserve your night vision and avoid spooking any nearby coyotes.

Finally, don’t forget about your clothing and other personal gear. Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing temperatures throughout the night, and choose outer garments in neutral, earth tone colors that will blend in with your surroundings. A comfortable pair of boots with good traction and ankle support is a must for navigating uneven terrain in the dark. And of course, don’t forget to bring plenty of water, snacks, and any other essentials you might need for a long night in the field.

Light Up the Night 

One of the biggest challenges of hunting coyotes at night is being able to see them in the first place. Even with a bright moon overhead, coyotes can be incredibly difficult to spot against a dark background. That’s where artificial light comes in.

There are a few different ways to light up the night when hunting coyotes, each with its own pros and cons. One popular method is to use a handheld spotlight or headlamp to scan the area around your stand, looking for the telltale eye shine of a curious coyote. This allows you to cover a lot of ground quickly and pick out coyotes at a distance, but it can also be tiring to hold a light for extended periods and may spook some animals.

Another option is to use a weapon-mounted light, either in the form of a dedicated night hunting light or a tactical flashlight attached to your rifle or shotgun. This keeps your hands free and allows you to quickly transition from scanning to shooting if a coyote steps out. However, it can be more difficult to scan a wide area with a weapon-mounted light, and you need to be extra careful about muzzle control and safe direction.

Regardless of what type of light you use, the key is to scan frequently and methodically, paying special attention to likely approach routes and natural funnels like fence lines, draws, and creek beds. Coyotes are masters of using cover to their advantage, so be sure to check thick brush, tall grass, and other potential hiding spots thoroughly.

Once you spot a set of eyes in the darkness, it’s important to keep your light trained on the coyote continuously. Not only does this help you keep track of the animal’s movements, but the bright light can also serve to disorient and confuse the coyote, making it easier to close the distance for a shot. Just be careful not to shine the light directly into the coyote’s eyes for too long, as this can cause them to bolt.

Another tip for using lights effectively is to use the edge of the beam to “halo” the coyote, rather than putting the hotspot directly on them. This provides enough illumination to keep tabs on the animal without being too intense and potentially spooking them.

As for what color light to use, there is much debate among coyote hunters as to which is best. Red lights are a traditional choice that many hunters swear by, as they are less likely to spook animals than white lights. Green lights offer better contrast and visibility for the human eye, making it easier to pick out details in the dark. White lights provide the best overall illumination and color rendition, but may be more noticeable to coyotes.

In my experience, white lights tend to work best in open terrain where you need to scan long distances, while red or green lights are better suited for tighter, brushier areas where you expect coyotes to be in close. Ultimately, the “best” color comes down to personal preference and what works well in your specific hunting situation.

Be Prepared for Anything

One of the things I love most about hunting coyotes at night is the sense of anticipation and uncertainty that comes with every setup. You never quite know what’s going to happen when you start calling under the cover of darkness. Sometimes you’ll have coyotes charging in almost immediately, other times you may sit for hours without so much as a howl in response. That’s all part of the thrill of the hunt.

To increase your chances of success, it’s important to be prepared for anything and everything. That means having a well-thought-out plan before you ever step foot in the field, and being ready to adapt on the fly as conditions change.

One of the most important things you can do is to have multiple stand locations scouted out ahead of time. Coyotes are notoriously unpredictable, and what worked great one night may be a total bust the next. By having several different spots to choose from, you can keep moving and trying new setups until you find what the coyotes want.

It’s also a good idea to have a variety of calls and sounds at your disposal, so you can switch things up if your go-to favorites aren’t getting the job done. Coyotes can become call-shy over time, especially in areas with heavy hunting pressure, so it pays to have some tricks up your sleeve.

Another key to success is being stealthy in your approach and setup. Coyotes have incredibly sharp senses, and the slightest out of place sound or scent can send them running for the hills. Take care to move as quietly as possible when walking to your stand, and be mindful of the wind direction at all times.

When you reach your chosen spot, take a few minutes to get situated and let the woods settle back down before you start calling. Use natural cover like trees, brush, or terrain features to break up your outline and help you blend into the background. If legal in your area, consider using a decoy to give coyotes something to focus on besides you.

Once you start calling, be patient and trust the process. It can be tempting to pack up and move on if you don’t get a response right away, but sometimes the best action is to stay put and keep at it. Coyotes may take their time coming in, circling downwind to try to get a whiff of what’s making all the commotion. As long as you’re set up in a good area and using the right sounds, chances are good that a curious coyote will show up sooner or later.

Of course, even with all the preparation and strategy in the world, there are no guarantees in coyote hunting. That’s why it’s so important to enjoy the process and embrace the challenge, regardless of the outcome. Every stand is an opportunity to learn something new, hone your skills, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the nighttime woods.


Hunting coyotes at night is a challenging and rewarding pursuit that offers a unique set of thrills and opportunities. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article, you’ll be well on your way to consistent success in the field.

Remember, scouting is key to finding productive areas and getting set up in the right spot. Always play the wind and use the terrain to your advantage, being mindful of your scent and sound at all times. Use calls strategically to bring coyotes in close, and be ready with the right weapon and gear to make the shot when the moment of truth arrives.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the experience. There’s nothing quite like the rush of matching wits with a wily coyote under the stars, and every hunt is a chance to learn and grow as a predator hunter.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your calls, load up your gear, and head out into the night. With a little luck and a lot of persistence, you just might find yourself face to face with the coyote of a lifetime. Happy hunting!

Leave a Comment