Predator hunting is ‘ADDICTING’ enthusiast says

Hunting something that potentially could hunt you tops some sportsmen’s lists. It can be the most involved type of hunting, some say, and often is done right here in northcentral Pennsylvania.

Animals such as coyote, fox and bobcat fall into the category of predators here.

Kevin Leasure discovered predator hunting when he was about 8 years old. His father is an avid fur trapper and hunter and Kevin was on his heels, learning and doing.

“He got me so into it and it’s one of the most addicting things you will get into,” said the 27-year-old Rauchtown man. “It’s unlike anything else.”

Nineteen years later, Leasure takes predator hunting seriously and hasn’t lost his love for it.

When he is out hunting predators, Leasure feels he is on equal terms with them.

“Everything else we hunt in Pennsylvania, you are hunting as a predator hunting prey,” he said. “(With) predator hunting, you are out hunting something that hunts for a living. That changes everything completely.”

In Pennsylvania, there is no closed season for coyotes and an unlimited bag limit is set. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, they may be taken outside of any big game season (deer, bear, elk and turkey) and hunters must have a hunting license or a furtaker license. Wearing orange is not required.

The commission’s hunting digest reports that during any big game season, coyotes may be taken while lawfully hunting big game or with a furtakers license.

Raccoon and foxes can be hunted from Oct. 26 through Feb. 22 with an unlimited bag limit.

Bobcats are hunted in specific wildlife management units. One bobcat per license year is allowed and all licensed furtakers may obtain one permit.

A predator hunter has only a few basic needs. One of the most important is a way to attract the animal.

Calling in a fox, coyote or bobcat usually is done by using a mouth or electronic call.

“I am big on mouth-blown calls, and electronic calls definitely have their place,” Leasure said.

Using electronic calls can help cut down on labor, he said, keeping a predator hunter from getting worn out during a long hunt.

He prefers using mouth calls.

A hunter can get certain sounds out of them “by using open reed and closed reed howlers,” Leasure said, displaying his calls, which hang around his neck.

He knows exactly where each call is placed. In the dark, he can’t see what he is reaching for, so the familiarity is vital.

“I have a couple I have made and a lot I have bought,” he said.

Mouth calls are more inexpensive and a good selection can be picked up for a small investment.

“I use a combination of both. It all depends on if I can find out where I am and if there is a majority of guys using electric calls. Then I am going to use a mouth call,” he said.

And, vice versa.

“I try to be different from what is already there,” he added.

Hunters needs to keep their methods fresh. Predators can become conditioned if there isn’t any variety.

“If they hear the same thing six times in one month and every time they come to it, they get shot at, they will stop coming to it,” Leasure said.

Calls can sound like a variety of things that might interest a predator. For instance, there are “pup in distress” calls and ones that sound like a dying or injured rabbit. Some calls issue a challenge to a particular species.

“Typically if you are predator hunting and not coyote hunting, you do not start out with a howl,” he said. “You howl, and every fox in the immediate area has left and the coon have gone up trees.”

Likewise, if you’re out for coyote, it’s not a good idea to start with a dominant coyote howl, Leasure said.

Dominant calls work in the spring because it makes the animal think something is coming for its pups.

“This time of year, pup sounds have some use. It’s going to be more like a pup in distress or a dying pup,” he said.

Distress calls that “start out soft and get louder” imply an easy meal, and adults will bring their pups to that, he said.

Other tools of the trade include lights, and there is much discussion over which color lens is preferred for predator hunting.

“I do not like a white light whatsoever. It is about the easiest way to scare off something you are hunting,” Leasure said.

Common colors include red, blue and green.

“You want something that is one of the colors of the sunrise and sunset. It’s more gentle on the animals’ eyes,” he said.

Bright white lights also can affect a person’s vision. It temporarily takes longer for the eye to adjust to the night after using a white light.

Of course, weapons are required. Leasure hunts with two types of guns – a rifle with a caliber around .223 or .17 Hornady magnum rimfire, and a shotgun.

“With the shotgun, you are going to want to go with the biggest shot you can legally use. In Pennsylvania, it’s a No. 4 buckshot. That is what we use in a 12- and 20-gauge,” he said.

But, if you want to save the animal’s hide, stick with a lower caliber rifle.

“I save all my pelts. That is how I make a little bit of my money back. If you aren’t worried about saving (pelts) and you are (hunting) for strictly population control, (use) a .308, or whatever is comfortable,” he said.

Once you have your weapon, calls and lights, grab a friend.

Two people make predator hunting more successful. One can call, and one can watch. And, since both hunters can carry firearms, each will have a chance to down a predator.