If you’re like many hunters, you’ve probably toyed with the idea of hunting predators, such as coyotes, gray fox and bobcats, but you somehow never found the time to learn how to call predators or link up with someone who could teach you the basics.
The good news is that this is a perfect time of year to get acquainted with a number of organized predator-
hunting clubs that are willing, ready and quite capable of giving newcomers a solid indoctrination into the fine art of sniping predators.
I’ve had the pleasure of hunting with members of a couple of these clubs several times during the last couple of years, and they graciously shared sufficient knowledge and insight with me to help make me a semi-dangerous predator hunter.
That knowledge is especially handy if, like me, you travel to other states to hunt big game or upland game birds. Toting the predator-calling gear along can be a great way to squeeze more bang from your hunting buck on such trips.
On my last visit to South Texas, for instance, I put my California predator- calling lessons to work shortly after downing a management whitetail buck and a javelina. Switching gears, I made only four stands, mostly at dusk and in the dark, and successfully called in two gray fox and two bobcats. One of each made a trip to the taxidermist.
That was a banner day in the life of any predator hunter, but you don’t have to go to Texas to find that kind of action. There are plenty of furry, toothy targets in California and neighboring states, and the clubs provide a great point of entry into the sport. Here’s a rundown on some of the local clubs:
THE PREDATOR CALLERS OF ORANGE COUNTY, established in the 1960s, is one of the oldest such clubs in the state. Membership is generally held to around 40 members or so to maintain a balance between experienced and novice hunters. In addition to undertaking conservation work, such as maintaining guzzlers for big and small game, the club strives to educate both new and experienced hunters on the finer points of predator calling. Monthly seminars feature mostly outside speakers.
The club hosts an annual practice shooting session each spring to instruct new members about gun safety, proper shot placement and the use of shotguns while predator hunting. Six club hunts are conducted in the fall and winter months, through the end of February, with hunters employing both electronic and mouth-blown calls to hunt coyotes, bobcats, foxes and badgers. Members do not hunt predators from March through July while coyotes are birthing pups and raising their young. A club campout is held each fall. For more information, contact Rick Mace at RickJMace@yahoo.com.
THE RIVERSIDE VARMINT CALLERS, which counts among its members hunters from San Diego to Oxnard, has a full calendar of events each year from March through the end of February. The club kicks off its predator hunting season in July with a new member hunt, in which established teams try to take out at least one new member for instruction. Teams take part in casual competitive hunts for coyotes starting in August, adding bobcat, gray fox and badger to the target list as the seasons for those species opens.
As with most clubs, hunt teams consist of two to four members working together over the course of a weekend, during which they may cover anywhere from 300 to 1,000 miles in pursuit of their quarry.
The club holds an annual awards banquet in March; and by April, members can usually be found chasing ground squirrels. In May and June, they get together for some informal shooting competitions which are combined with family campouts. For more information, contact James Hamilton, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone (951) 685-6290.
THE CALIFORNIA STATE VARMINT CALLERS ASSOCIATION is a small, family-friendly group of sporting enthusiasts who organize monthly predator hunts from July to February. The club, which meets monthly in Irwindale, conducts various off-season activities, such as volunteer guzzler repair, during the four-month long coyote pupping season. Each year, members participate in an annual Owens Valley retreat. New members in the club are encouraged to team up with more experienced members to show them the ropes and ensure a safe hunt. Contact Steven Childs, email@example.com, at 626-407-8826.
THE HIGH DESERT PREDATOR CALLERS are based primarily in the Victorville-Hesperia area, and currently have about 15 members who enjoy the outdoors, shooting sports and like-minded friends. Club activities include clean-up of trails and camping areas throughout the high desert. Meetings take place monthly. Club activities start each January with the so-called “Memorial Hunt,” a combination retreat, campout and hunting competition attended by most of the clubs in Southern California.
Each February, the club holds elections and a workshop to teach calling techniques and how to build specialized lights for hunting at night in areas where it’s legal to do so. In March, club members journey to Arizona to join in the annual “Antelope Eaters Hunt,” an effort supported by Arizona Fish and Game authorities to thin out coyote populations to boost pronghorn antelope fawn survival.
Members turn to squirrel hunting in May, followed by a family campout in the Sierra at Kennedy Meadows. Another hunting workshop and BBQ are held in July, followed by the first hunt of the season in August. Like most clubs, High Desert observes a self-imposed coyote-hunting moratorium during the pupping season. Hunts are held monthly thereafter.
The club welcomes newcomers to the sport and members enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience about coyote hunting and other sporting activities, from hunting and fishing to panning for gold. Families are always welcome. For more information, contact Tom Meza. firstname.lastname@example.org, at (760) 956-9922.
Not all the clubs responded to requests for information or wished to be included in this listing, citing factors ranging from fear of negative reaction by the state legislature to a desire to keep club memberships small. You can find a wealth of helpful hunting information as well as information on additional clubs not included here at www.californiavarmintcallers.com, a Web site maintained by the Riverside Varmint Callers for the benefit of all the local clubs.