The Art of Calling and Killing Bobcats
This past weekend we happened upon a disturbing scene in our chicken coop. The floor and walls were a mess of feathers, blood, feet and beaks; like a horror film involving Rhode Island Reds, Americanas and other egg layers we'd planned on keeping around. Half of the coop is a stall inside the barn and the other half is an added-on structure comprised of two-by-fours, chicken wire and a tin roof. Some critter was able to find a chink in the armor. It created a hole in the wire in order to slip inside and 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 certainly had to be a bobcat that took its time going in and leaving.
They are smart like that, which is why killing bobcats is such a difficult task. They are wily and reclusive, meaning you'll hardly see them by chance. However, much like the case with the 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
Knowing a bobcat’s habitat is paramount. In order to prey on rabbits, birds and other critters, they sneak along thick cover near riverbanks, cut overs or other dense areas. Run down barns and other weathered structures are a good places to look as they harbor rodents and offer good protection for raising kittens.
Search for their large tracks, which are somewhat disproportionate to their bodies. Their claws aren’t always apparent in the dust or mud because they are retracted. It can be difficult to distinguish their tracks from other predators. Quite frankly, they are so nimble they just don’t leave much of an impression in the earth.
That said, it’s easier to find their feces. Like coyote scat, it’s held together by hair, but smaller - about two to three inches long, and not segmented. When you find a bobcat’s droppings, there’s a good chance you’ve entered its home range, which is typically 25-35 miles. If you find sign, it doesn’t always mean there's a cat nearby. Regardless, when you’re on a track, follow it, always keeping your eyes up and ahead.
Setup and Calling
Considering that bobcats stalk their prey, it’s safe to assume that it is essentially stalking you when you begin calling. It is will do everything in its power to keep concealed as it sneaks, even crawls, through the cover to lay eyes on a potential meal. Bobcats will typically spot you first and be long gone before you have time to contemplate your next move.
Most successful bobcat hunters will say the best calling sequence for bobcats is constant and busy. This way they’re focused on the call and not your location. Also, this method will help keep them moving rather than a sequenced call that might cause them to stop at each pause. A cat that gets hung up has more time to figure out they’ve been had.
Using an electronic rabbit call and a decoy are two tools to greatly increase your chances. So is bringing along someone to call for you. Use a treestand or sit in a dark spot under a tree or rocky outcropping to break up your silhouette. Sit with your back to the sun no matter the setup. And lastly, sit completely still, only moving your eyes, for at least 30 minutes. A mature bobcat will never hurry and certainly won’t let his guard down until he thinks the situation is completely safe.
Another proven calling tactic is the moan of a female bobcat in heat. It’s best used 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, trying to their best to look handsome, making them a bigger target to shoot.
Preparing to Leave
The same holds true for deer and turkey hunting - when you’re getting up from the ground, always do so very slowly. Keep your eyes up and scanning the area for any movement. We can’t begin to tell you how many time we’ve gotten up too quickly not knowing a cat has been there the entire time. Patience is the virtue, but once you just can’t sit still anymore, rise ready to shoot. Unlike many animals, a bobcat will often freeze in order to remain undetected. After you’ve stood, take a step or two forward poised to fire at a darting target.
Photo courtesy @naturedrivenoutdoors via Instagram.