The Art of Calling and Killing Bobcats
Last weekend we discovered a disturbing scene in our chicken coop. The floor and walls were a mess of feathers, blood, feet and beaks; like a scene out of a horror film involving Rhode Island Reds, Americanas, leghorns and a variety of other egg layers we'd liked to have kept around a bit longer. The coop is two-fold: half is an inside barn stall and the other half is outside, a well-built structure comprised of two-by-fours, chicken wire and a tin roof. Yet, some determined critter was able to find a chink in the armor.
It created a hole in the wire and slipped inside to satisfy what must have been an insatiable hunger. A raccoon couldn't eat that much poultry - 15 chickens, two roosters - in a four-day span. A coyote wouldn't have been able to pull back the mesh or slip through such a tight space. This had to be a bobcat that took its time in its comings and goings of demolishing our chicken population.
They are smart like that, which is why killing bobcats is such a difficult task. They are wily and reclusive – hardly ever seen by chance. However, much like the case with my chickens, bobcats are always looking for an easy meal. If they're in your area, it's not impossible to call in and kill them. You just need a little skill, a lot of patience and a handful of luck.
Find Them to Kill Them
Finding a bobcat’s habitat is paramount to hunting them. Cats prefer heavy cover along riverbanks, cut overs and thickets where they can slink along undetected. Plus, these are the places where their main food sources - rabbits, birds, field mice and other wild critters - live.
Unused barns are a good place to look as well. Most of the time, they are brimming with rodents and offer security and protection against the elements for raising kittens.
Now that you have a general idea of where to search, what exactly should you look for in your pursuit of bobcats? For starters, identify their tracks. They have very large feet, somewhat disproportionate to their bodies, with four toes evenly spread out. The front heel pad has two lobes and the back has three. A bobcat’s track could be anywhere from one and a half to two inches long and up to two inches wide. Also very important to note is that their claws likely won’t be apparent in the dust or mud because they remain retracted until needed.
Bobcat feces are two to three inches long and held together by hairs from the prey they’ve eaten. It’s not as long as the overly familiar coyote scat and it’s not segmented. When you find a bobcat’s droppings, there’s a good chance you’ve entered its home range.
A smart hunter will use the weather to his advantage. The best time to locate bobcat sign is after a late snowfall. Slowly drive or walk old logging roads and trails until you find tracks. Bobcats have a home range of 25-35 miles but move with stealth and an acute alertness. When you’re on a track, move the same way, always keeping your eyes up and ahead.
Considering that bobcats stalk their prey, it is safe to assume that a cat is essentially stalking you once it decides to respond to your calling. He is going to do everything in his power to keep himself completely concealed as he creeps, even crawls, through the cover to lay eyes on a potential meal. Because of the way they hunt, bobcats will typically spot you first and be long gone before you have time to contemplate your next move.
Get up in a treestand if you can or sit in a dark spot under a tree or rocky outcropping to break up your silhouette. Sit with your back to the sun. Then sit completely still for at least 30 minutes, only moving your eyes. A mature bobcat will never hurry and certainly won’t let his guard down until he thinks the situation is completely safe.
Most successful bobcat hunters use an electronic call that they can place away from their setup. The calling sequence is constant and busy to keep them moving whereas a sequenced call might cause them to stop at each silent interval. A cat that gets hung up has more time to figure out that it’s been had.
A rabbit call and decoy are two tools that greatly increase a hunter’s chances. So is hunting with a partner who can operate the call while you stay constantly ready to shoot.
Another calling tactic that has proven successful is the moan of a female bobcat in heat, which typically takes place from January through March. While bobcats aren’t very social animals, it’s hard for any male to turn down a mating call. And rather than stalking in, toms will come prancing in with their heads up. Their attempt to look handsome will make them easier to see and a bigger target to shoot.
Preparing to Leave
When you’re ready to leave a setup, always do so very slowly. Keep your eyes up and scan the area for any movement. We can’t begin to tell you how many times we’ve gotten up too quickly not knowing a cat has been there the entire time. Patience is the virtue, but once your set time is up or you just can’t sit still anymore, rise ready to shoot. Unlike many animals, a bobcat will often freeze in order to remain undetected. Stand up prepared to fire at a darting target.
Photo courtesy @naturedrivenoutdoors via Instagram.