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By Gary Laubscher
HUNTING THE ‘EDUCATED’ JACKAL
AND ELUSIVE CAT
“Changing your tactics and Strategies for educated predators will offer you the trump card needed to achieve success “
H unting problem animals in the day is completely different to hunting them at night; the two styles are so different, gargantuan in fact, that they can be classified as completely different hunts. Camouflage, elevation, your vantage points, the lay of the land, wind direction (for jackal), preparation and sounds are some of the points that need to be studied carefully in order to achieve success and waive failure.
During the day you and the predator are on equal ground – true? No, totally FALSE! The predator is far more in control than you. In the day it will spot you very easily if you don’t pay CLOSE ATTENTION TO DETAIL – YOUR DETAIL!! So, remove shiny rings, earrings, cover the shiny rifle and keep still. Avoid drawing attention to yourself.
Remember, the predator is one step ahead of you all the time, so keep your senses on high alert. For example, a cat comes in “low and slow”, never fast like a jackal. Many cats are called in and are not spotted by the caller, because they are so well camouflaged; so look carefully for that “shape” before you start calling and take special note of rocks and other features, so that after a while you will not suspect a rock of being a cat merely because of its shape. Also, wind direction is of no importance to our cats; they cannot wind you, so will approach a caller from any direction, unlike the nose-wise jackals.
The main reason for early daylight calling is to change your tactics for educated predators, offering the advantage of deception and confusion. Changing from the normal night hunt routine to day hunts could easily offer you that edge needed for success. Remember not all jackals are clever; some are far dumber than others.
Not many South African farmers or hunters call for predators in the day; most call at night, as jackals seem to know they are ‘persecuted’ and are very seldom seen in daylight hours. ‘Educated’ (slim) jackals, namely those that have been shot at (and missed) before or have had a close run-in with humans, know to avoid human activity in order to survive. But those of us who are determined, persistent and just plain anxious to remove jackal should change our tactics.
With areas where predators are active, call early in the morning as it gets light or in a slight drizzle. The ‘educated’ jackal is not used to being disturbed at this time or in this weather, so break the ‘rules’ and breach that so-called ‘security border’ that he has around himself. By using appropriate methods you will secure success. Here are very good tips that could help you.
Should you find that you are calling at night, BUT predators don’t come close or you spot eyes far away but they don’t come closer, this could mean that you or some other neighbour has shot unsuccessfully at that animal before, or you are using the same sound too often and predators know it’s you, or they saw you go into the camp to hunt or they got wind of you. A good tip would be to change tactics. Stop calling on your farm for a period of one month. After that time, wait for a good morning and slip into a spot you have checked out before and then call, BUT call with a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SOUND.
NEVER call with a live jackal sound in the day; remember this is not America: you don’t hear jackals in the day like you do Coyotes in America. I use an African bush pig distress sound, something different and really ‘juicy’ sounding. I also try an electronic caller called a CASS CREEK with a woodpecker sound – that’s a killer sound. For lynx you get no better sound to lure them in than that of a woodpecker.
DAY HUNTING LAW: TYPICAL ROUTINE
Arrive at your location at least 2 hours before sunrise; though you would have scouted the area for fresh tracks the day before, looked for animal waste/ deposits, maybe a fresh jackal kill or a place where a few jackals left their deposits and created a “SCENT SPOT”. This would be an excellent place to call.
So, you have arrived, but you should always park your car or truck no closer than a kilometre from your hunting area, and never on a skyline or hill-top position. Cover the truck so that nothing reflects the sun at sunrise. Sit in the truck for at least an hour before getting out, and close the doors softly! From now on there should be NO MORE TALKING AND YOU MUST WALK QUIETLY.
Follow the path in low light to your hunting spot. Get into the two positions you scouted yesterday, no further than 15 metres apart: one person facing downwind (this would be the better shot of the two of you); the other person must sit and watch your ‘back door’.
Remember when you walk back after the hunt, to keep a look-out for fresh tracks crossing over your fresh boot tracks. You may see the tracks of a cat or dog on its way in to you; if that’s the case then you must know it spotted you OR you failed to spot it! Don’t walk to your hunting spot above the skyline – keep low to the ground; this provides you with more cover. (Remember NEVER to sight in your rifle near a place where you intend hunting; leave future hunting areas UNDISTURBED). Have all your equipment ready, so that when you arrive at the spot you can get ready quickly, which will make you less conspicuous. IF YOU HAVE CALLED IN A JACKAL AND HAVE JUST SHOT IT, DON’T STOP CALLING. CARRY ON FOR ANOTHER FIVE MINUTES, BECAUSE DISORIENTATED PREDATORS MAY RUN YOUR WAY.
Now, another point to remember is that sounds do not travel as far in the day as they do at night, simply because in the day you have heat pollution which may affect your range. Also, when calling in a gully, wind thermals can change and your sounds tend to climb more, rather than travel in a straight line. So if a cat is 500m away in a gully, chances are it won’t hear your call, but a cat on a facing hill will hear it.
When planning that daylight hunt, it’s vital to remember that cats like cover and jackal are happy in Karoo bush about 30cm high. During my last hunt at Ladismith I saw a male jackal at noon between the Karoo bushes. Cats also like river beds, ravines, dongas and Dassie koppies and places offering cover. So remember this when selecting a spot.
Elevation is VERY IMPORTANT, so that you can survey the area and watch over your calling area - not too high up, though, and keep bushes behind you to break up your outline. Try sitting in the shadows if the weather permits this. Don’t enclose your area or station with camo netting; this is not natural. Rather use natural camouflage, and colours that suit the area. The use of gloves and a face veil are of paramount importance, as the skin shines, as does one’s nose, ears and hands (so dress for success).
A very important tip is ALWAYS to sit in a position that, when the sun eventually comes out, it is behind you, not in front of you or at your side; otherwise you will stick out like a sore thumb. This way when the sun comes over the horizon it will be in the predator’s eyes when it looks in your direction, which is an added benefit! Also when the sun is behind you this eliminates the possibility of the sun reflecting off your rifle scope optics at the front.
I use a system where I have two open bottles of Dassie, jackal, cat or rabbit (simulated) urine, one bottle in front of me and the other in front of my partner who is watching the ‘back door’; this helps hide the human scent. Or you could hold your clothing over a fire to hide your scent, or rub baking soda into your pants and under your arms. Another way of hiding your scent is to lay your camo clothes in the bush for two days to get that natural smell.
REMEMBER, NEVER IRON YOUR CAMO, as it will shine, and if you wash your clothing, don’t use soap and wash the items inside out to save the colour. Another good point is, before you go hunting, bath in CLEAR PURE WATER, with no bath salts or oils – just plain water, as this washes all the regular ‘day smells’ away. Be careful if you are a cigarette smoker; that smell clings to you and your clothes like oil on a penguin!
For day hunting, remember it’s not like night calling! This has to be approached differently. You never hear jackals calling in the day, so don’t use CDs with jackals barking or chatting, as this is not normal and will make ‘educated’ animals very suspicious. Use sounds that remind them of food, especially if it’s a time of year when the little ones need food. When they hear a fawn or rabbit in trouble – just as it’s getting light, possibly with a little mist – and guess what, that old jackal WILL come looking!
Remember a predator is an opportunist in every fibre of its being. It is ALWAYS looking for an easy meal, the same way that we are always looking for a good deal at a sale. The main thing is to make its mouth water; so the more urgent and dramatic the sounds, the more that the distress calls sound like a rabbit or fawn being torn apart by another predator, the greater the success you will have. So, in daytime, use ‘food’ sounds, tantalizing ones full of drama and anguish. This will attract both jackal and lynx equally, so be prepared for either to approach.
After you have found the best location for the hunt, put out your electronic caller, whilst keeping very quiet. I use a variety of calls, depending on my location and what my experience at that particular farm dictates. I normally use a CASS CREEK on a 30-yard lead; at night I don’t use an extra wire, just the unit. I put out a toy fawn decoy directly in front of me at 30metres (ALWAYS place a decoy where you can see it and it is in front of you). I then place a speaker about 20cm behind the decoy. Make sure the incoming predator can see the decoy and that it’s in the open, easy to spot.
THE FOLLOWING POINT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT:
Sit down, hold the rifle to your shoulder and don’t move again. I use two crossed sticks as a rifle-rest. I position all my remotes and electronic units close to my free hand. This free hand is on the opposite side to the down-wind side. So if the predator comes in from downwind, he will not see me moving my hand to reduce the volume of the sound, and when I lift my hand to steady my rifle, the gesture will not be observed by a predator. All these seemingly minor points could present the difference between success and failure.
FOXPRO / CASS CREEK & LOHMAN
It’s important to discuss top class hunting accessories. These items can be purchased from the USA and once you have them they will become your “WORKING TOOLS”. My friends and I have American manufactured FOXPRO electronic calls (see www.gofoxpro.com for more information). These calls have NO loose batteries, loose amplifiers, loose speakers, loose wires or separate leads to connect to truck. The whole unit is built in one, and on ordering it you can order whatever sounds you like. You simply go to the website and listen to various sounds and tell the manufacturer the corresponding numbers. They load it onto the computer chip and send the unit, all loaded, to you. NO CDs needed - now it’s technology on computer chip, and the sounds are crystal clear.
I have a choice of 32 sounds on the one unit, I loaded a package that I call an “AFRICAN PACKAGE”; it includes the calls of live jackals, fawn, puppies, cats, antelope, pigs, rabbits and sheep. The other units we use have remotes with 16 sounds on. Foxpro is the BEST electronic available today and its range is easily over 1,1 kilometres at night and in the day just short of a kilometre. It has facilities for audio adapters for MP3 and CD walkman players, and is rechargeable. I also have a digital camera with rechargeable batteries, so I charge the 4 small batteries and put them in the caller. I have a standard way of measuring the batteries and charge: on hunts of 20 minutes the batteries last for 20 hunts. Here in Africa we call for 35 minutes at night for jackal, so I basically double those 20 minutes and give myself a comfortable 10 hunts before I know the batteries are due for recharge.
A complete compact hunting package, all in one small unit. What I like about this is I often go to a lodge in the mountains, where we rely on gas, not electricity, so I just take a spare set of 4 AA batteries. A set of 4 disposable AA’s does the job for many hunts.
The CASS CREEK, a good starting caller, is also one of my favourites, with a range of 450 yards. (Visit www.casscreek.com for more information.) The units come with 5 sounds loaded onto a computer chip. The unit has an adapter for another speaker. I have the Predator 1 & 2 and the crow CASS CREEK (I love crow hunting). The speaker has a built-in amplifier and the units have a built-in battery.
So both the Foxpro and CASS CREEK units have no loose wires at all, and both these electronic callers have crystal clear sounds. A standard CASS CREEK will cost you very little, and the Foxpro a little more but still reasonable when converted to Rands.
CDs and cassette tapes are dated technology; electronics with computer chips are the answer now, and looking at it realistically, if you have called in just two jackals, then you have made up your initial expenditure. Lohman Game Calls has a new digital electronic out now, a model 2575; it’s the size of a cigarette box, with a remote, has good range and costs about $58-00. These are excellent starters for a hunt (see www.kolpin.com).
I carry out my hunt with precision, use the very best equipment money can buy, and rely on good results; this is my living and using quality equipment helps put fur on the back of my truck afterwards. Invest in an Electronic caller, as it’s worth every cent. The nice thing about an electronic caller is that even a novice can hunt and then sound like a professional, as long as you follow my recommendations.
I like to use a Foxpro unit with remote in the day; the remote picks up a signal as far as 700 metres, though this is not necessary as 30 yards should be adequate. I place the Foxpro about 6 metres behind CASS CREEK, waiting its turn. You generally have just less than a two-kilometre calling range on a windless day, as the sound goes all over.
I start the hunt after it gets light and I can see. Then with a small, close-range mouse squeaker (such as our Feather and Fur handmade call), I make squeaky sounds that have a range of about 200 yards. I carry on with a few blows for 5 minutes, in case a predator is really close. I have called in scores of cats with Feather and Fur’s squeaker call. This caller can hang from your mouth while you coax in an animal, leaving your hands free to hold a rifle.
After a five-minute period and looking around very carefully, not moving much, I then switch to CASS CREEK and use a Woodpecker or fawn sound. I roll this unit for 10 minutes and then move on to Foxpro for optimum range for the balance of about another 30 minutes. I also use the same sound on the Foxpro. If I am sitting in cat country I know cats take longer to approach and often cover greater distances, so I let the sounds carry on for an hour.
Another unit I use is Feather and Fur’s electronic caller; I have a long lead on the call, about 50 yards for day calling, and also try it with fawn sounds. But generally it’s better with a caller with computer chips like the FOXPRO or CASS CREEK.
In the winter months you will find that you call in more predators, as food is scarce and distress sounds are more quickly investigated. It’s also an excellent time to call during the day in overcast, cool conditions, especially on misty mornings, as jackals move around in such weather, as they know it provides them with cover.
If you hunt a ‘catty’ spot, with cover as I mentioned before, remember cats approach a call slowly, low to the ground, and very seldom looking up. They will often sit dead still for a long time and just ponder, and then they will make a decision and make another move. Jackals behave differently to this; they seem to trot and hardly stand still for long periods of time. This makes them easier to spot and harder to shoot when calling, but you do not have to look as carefully for jackals as you would for cats.
Another good tip is watch out for hawks or crows circling near you or coming closer when you are calling, as that’s often an indication that a predator is coming in. Hawks will dive-bomb cats, so watch that area carefully as it should reveal some sort of animal. But remember, don’t guess and simply shoot at the first pair of ears behind the bushes, because it could be a bat-eared fox.
Also never look at a spot for too long as that area will seem to start moving and play tricks on you. Roll your eyes over the terrain all the time, and for jackals pay special attention to the down wind side. Remember that if a jackal approaches from that side and is 120m out, you will have to get him to stop in his tracks and shoot before he gets wind of you. Making a kissing sound will stop him quite easily. If he is trotting straight towards you, then you can take him with a frontal chest shot.
Hunting in the day requires more concealment than is needed at night; we need to be able to call and not move or be seen, so the electronic call helps, but we need that decoy to take the attention away from the hunter. I made myself a simple motion decoy which has a small built-in motor that runs off two penlight batteries and has a 30-metre extension lead. I stick in a few feathers (or sticks with fur) into the moving top and the turning motion of the feathers attracts the attention of the predator, so when he comes in to the call, his attention is FIXED on that decoy and not on you. It’s imperative to remain undetected and let that decoy work for you. Once a predator gets to about 60 yards from you, it WILL STOP to survey the area and make up its mind. It won’t just run up to that decoy, no matter how hungry it is. This concept works very nicely; I am now busy building a remote motion decoy as well. The motor comes from a child’s remote-controlled car; most of these toys have two motors.
If you find a fresh carcass of an animal with jackal tracks around it, sit at the same spot the very next morning early or sit nearby on a full moon night and just watch for jackals, as the chances are you will get in a shot.
Depending on the weather, especially if it’s an overcast morning, after I have called an area and got nothing, I pack up, walk a kilometre and start again. Walk into the wind. If it’s still overcast and threatening rain then it is all right to still hunt. The best time is as it gets light to an hour after sunrise, and after 5 o’clock in afternoon till dark on a moonlit night.
A great amount of preparation must go into your rifle for a day hunt. Remember that sighting in your rifle and shooting groups all day long won’t guarantee success; those 5 holes in an inch-square mean nothing. What matters is that when you fire your first shot WITH A COLD BARREL it is spot on; you only get one chance, so sight in on a cold barrel with that first shot spot on. Many rifles group differently with cold or warm barrels. Take special notice of your barrel: is it shiny? Even barrels that are not stainless steel can shine or reflect in the day, SO COVER IT! I hang a few pieces of cloth over the barrel and stock to hide the rifle outline. The more care you put into a hunt the more successful you will be.
Important aspects of a day hunt are elevation, good vision, your camouflage, and the calls you make must be ‘food’ sounds. If you can leave an open bottle of jackal, cat, dassie or rabbit urine next to you, this will help hide your presence. Always face into the wind or face on a cross wind.
ALWAYS use crossed sticks or a bipod, as this helps in getting a still rest. ALWAYS rest it extending out in front of you, at shoulder height, so that when you must look through the scope you don’t have to move much at all; also having the rifle in front of you will help to break up your human outline.
If you know it’s a good spot yet you have called in nothing, put off the caller, don’t move, sit still for half an hour, and call again for another half hour – sometimes this trick helps you collect very tardy animals. A good friend of mine from Utah, Lynn Jacobson of TNT Predator Calls, uses a crow call while he is calling with a distress sound; this helps him make the sound more interesting. Remember jackals are also helped to a kill by spotting crow activity, so blowing a crow call may just help you. The more we experiment, the more we learn.
The trick is to be comfortable, limit movement, moving only when you must.
Use different sounds to other hunters around your areas; find out what sounds they are using, be different and innovative, and try something VERY DIFFERENT. Not many guys use a pig distress squeal – but it works for me!
If you are keen to use a hand caller, remember it’s harder to keep dead still when blowing the call, so ALWAYS use a decoy, and even use two decoys if you blow with a hand caller. The decoys will be easier to spot and again keep the incoming predator’s attention away from you. Go for really good long-range calls when day calling, with little effort from the caller’s lungs, because you will have to blow extra hard for good distance in the day due to air pollution. A set of TNT calls, Lohman CIRCE
P-1 or MVP-4 or 210 calls are effective, as well as Haydel’s cottontail calls. All these calls are fitted with stainless steel reeds and have crystal clear sound. ( Excluding the 210- has a plastic reed)
A good point to remember is that, if you hunt in the day with a CD or any kind of electronic call, even if you use a mouth caller, you MUST ALWAYS have a spare caller around your neck, just in case your electronic or mouth call malfunctions.
Remember, distress sounds trigger the instincts in ANY predator that eats meat, no matter how big or small, so even bat-eared foxes that kill mice, and tiny critters, will answer to your distress caller and approach just like any bigger predator. So first always identify the target before you shoot. Mostly predators answer a call out of curiosity rather than hunger.
I am a traditionalist; I prefer to hunt with a mouth caller, as this gives me greater personal satisfaction. Then it is I that outsmarted a predator and not a machine. But whatever method you chose, give serious attention to the abovementioned tips, as they will steer you in the right direction. For day calling it is, however, far easier to use an electronic caller; all you do is push ‘play’ and let the machine do all the work. Calling in the day just requires you to carry a few items, but these can be put in a haversack and later that haversack could be used as a cushion. I sew a foam sheet on one side of a haversack, as this helps my backside.
For rifles and scopes, you are better equipped with a low-power scope for day hunting; I use a 10-power setting in the day, and have an extremely accurate Brno 222. It is zeroed spot on at 120 metres, so from 35 metres to 150 metres it’s dead on, out to 250 metres the bullet-drop is 1 inch, and out to 320 yards the drop is 5 inches. The 222 is deadly accurate with my home load of S321 powder with a weight of 23,5 grains behind a 50-grain soft-point head. In my 223 I use the same powder with a 50-grain Sierra bullet and load 25,5 grains. It’s vital your predator rifle is deadly accurate, as the targets you aim at are not that large. Make sure your cold rifle barrel puts its first shot on target. Don’t shoot head shots – go for broadside shots, as this offers you a bigger target.
It’s very important to understand the area in which you are hunting and the time of year that jackals are either sociable, mating or have young ones that need feeding. The typical breeding cycle of the jackal starts in January to early April. This is a sociable time for jackals, so when we make natural ‘food’ sounds, this raises their interest.
From late April to early August mating takes place. Jackals are aggressive in this period, especially in May. Puppies are reared in the dens in October and from late November to December puppies are exploring and walking around. This is a good time for ‘food’ sounds in the day. In the months of May and June I sometimes give a bark with my hand call (and I stress “sometimes”). I never overdo it, as the odd bark may trick the odd jackal, but I cannot really say I have had huge success with this method. Rather go for natural ‘food’ sounds; this way you can call cats at the same time. At night barking works far better and it fits in with the regular behaviour of jackals.
REMEMBER THAT DAY HUNTING REQUIRES DIFFERENT CALLING SOUNDS FROM NIGHT HUNTING. The breeding cycle of a jackal changes slightly throughout the various regions and climates of South Africa, so the abovementioned cycles may differ from those in your area.
To be completely concealed when you hunt predators or any game is of the highest importance. When I began hunting crows I did not wear camouflage, but I later found out crows see in colour, so I then wore camo and my results proved the point that camouflage gear is essential. Many people say that dogs and cats see in black and white; however true that may be does not really matter; rather wear appropriate attire and be prepared.
American camouflage is not freely available in South Africa. We can’t get exotic stuff like Realtree or Mossy Oak, for example, but don’t be disheartened. Basically if you wear brown and light shades of grey, keep dead still, sit in shadows, and have the sun behind you everything will be all right. Many brands of camo have leaves printed on them; these camo articles are mainly designed to appeal to the human eye. In the bush this makes no difference at all. A buck would have to be on top of your chest to “appreciate“ those leaves you wear. The main thing is to get a camouflage with the colours of our African terrain. This would be Realtree Advantage and Natgear Natural camouflage. These two American patterns suit our areas well, especially the Natgear Natural stuff. It is almost as if has been designed especially for our African Karoo conditions. I also love Czechoslovakia’s desert camo; this is wonderful stuff for the Karoo.
For those of us who cannot afford the high overseas prices for camo, there is a very good substitute. There is very little camo available that matches our terrain better than the old South African Police Koevoet camo. This is very nice stuff; I use it often and much of it is available in South Africa - just run an advertisement for it. The main thing that camouflage does is confuse the eye and not draw attention, creating deception and confusion, so broken up colours are essential rather than solid brown or black expanses. For Namibia and semi-desert areas, an American Gulf War chocolate chip 6-colour pattern is excellent. After years of hunting, I have no doubt in my mind that wearing good apparel during the day helps bring results. (DON’T IRON YOUR CAMO! It will shine badly!)
Remember, many camouflage patterns look good from close up, but when viewed from a distance appear as a black blob. For instance, Mossy Oak Break-up is very dark and from a distance in the Karoo resembles a black blob, as the Karoo is more grey and brown with a touch of green.
Also many fabrics squeak or rustle when worn, so check the noise levels when wearing camo before buying it. Put it on and rub one piece of fabric against another; turn, sit down and listen - that will tell you if it’s noisy.
I have imported camouflage sheets I offer to clients to make face masks with, as in the day it’s very important to cover one’s face, ears, hands and nose.
Preparation for a successful hunt is very important and the use of quality equipment is essential. Challenging a predator’s habits and getting him out of his comfort zone is in your favour, so think when he is most comfortable and penetrate that weak spot.
When you are out early one sunrise, day calling, and at a distance see a jackal running in your direction towards your call, his shiny red-and-black coat gleaming in the low sunlight, you will be anxious not to make a mistake. Then it’s up to you to end the situation properly, but whatever takes place within the next few seconds, seeing that “redskin” approaching in the light will be etched in your memories forever.
“As a hunter you owe it to yourself to help control predation on our wildlife. Africa is rich in game and predators constantly threaten our vulnerable wildlife.