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Driftwood outdoors: Effort to outwit wily predators multifaceted

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In the millenniums before supermarkets, when humans were forced to hunt alongside all other carnivores, species that thrived were those most adept at not only killing but also retaining their downed prey.

Throughout time, early humans concluded both of these tasks would be much easier if the competition simply were eliminated. With this realization, predator hunting was born.

Today, few of us actually deal with a direct recourse from predators. Most of us aren’t losing chickens to raccoons or calves to coyotes. Yet nearly all of us are somehow indirectly affected by the ills of predator overpopulation.

In many areas of our country, deer fawns and turkey chicks are noticeably affected by predation. Yet in the Rocky Mountain states, true devastation is taking place. If you want to see a man flush with anger, ask a Montana elk hunter from the Paradise Valley about what wolves have done to local herds.

Predator numbers must be kept in check. Thankfully, for the most part, society has approved and entrusted this responsibility to hunters, and many of us willingly oblige. Some more so than others.

Byron South is a Realtree Pro-Staff member who takes predator hunting to a another level. I recently had a chance to speak with him about how you and I can mimic a few of his favorite setup tips to become better predators ourselves.

“In my experience, the setup is the most important factor that will determine your success or failure in calling predators,” South said. “Good setups must be able to fool a predator’s eyes, ears and nose. Each time I’m faced with choosing a setup I run down a mental list of these ingredients and ascertain if these conditions are in my favor.

“This may seem a little elementary, but I am constantly surprised at how many guys pay such little attention to these things. Predators, such as coyotes, basically have three built-in defense mechanisms.”

There will be times when a predator hunter can get away with not covering all three of South’s bases. For regular success, though, one should set up in a location with good cover, where the wind is blowing away from the direction predators will most likely approach from, and where vocalizations can be optimally presented.

“I like setups that allow me to use terrain or cover to mask my approach. Once I’ve determined where to set up, I rely on good camouflage and a backdrop, such a bush or tree, to conceal me,” South said. “Most important, though, is to sit still. Fidgeting, rubbernecking, waving your hands and pointing will ruin a setup in a hurry.”

Beating the eyes of a predator is hard enough. Trying to beat their nose? Well, chances are that’s just not going to happen.

“Many have tried in vain to defeat a predator’s nose. In my opinion, all these efforts are futile. Experience proves that if predator gets downwind of your setup or crosses your tracks, the hunt is over. They will detect you,” South said. “I firmly believe that if you realize you cannot defeat his nose, then you’re far ahead. What you must do is choose a setup that denies him the wind.

“A predator cannot detect you with his nose if he is upwind and does not cross the tracks you made coming in. This generally means approaching your setup with the wind in your face. This way, your tracks, as well as you airborne scent, are behind you.”

One aspect of making a proper setup that is often overlooked by beginners is ensuring the ability to actually see once you sit down and start calling. In any terrain, but especially in thicker, denser country, if you can’t see the animal coming in until he is right on top of you, then you’ll have very limited success, because you’ll either end up with a poor percentage shot or no shot at all.

Being able to look out over an expanse and pick up incoming predators is a key — perhaps the most important key — to predator hunting success.

As predator populations continue to expand across the country, the popularity of hunting these wily creatures continues to grow, as well.

Understanding that you must set up in a location that gives you a good field of view, while concealing you from the eyes and nose of your prey, is the basis for success.

After that, it comes down to good calling and a little luck.

Brandon Butler’s outdoors column appears Saturday in the Daily Journal.

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