The luring in of animals by animating the sounds of friends, enemies and prey dates back to the earliest beginnings of man. The hunters of the distant past were masters of the arts of camouflage, stalking and calling.
In more recent times, North American hunters have turned the calling of game from an occasional hobby into a growing sport (with a commercial slant and a political sensitivity). Some businesses would have as its sole mission the design, manufacture and distribution of equipment meant for the calling of wild animals. It started in Texas in the 50's and grew popular in the western states. With the increase in coyote numbers across North America, predator calling has practically reached the suburbs of New York city. (Read the 5 page summary of Frank Haertlein and Danny Batastini)
I have not researched to which extent predator calling is practiced outside of North America, and would welcome input from fellow "econo hunters" in order to update this page with other informative links.
As for SA, predator calling seems to be low-profiled. I am aware of less than 5 individuals who earn a part time income from combinations of predator calling related activities (such as selling calling equipment, training calling skills and actually eliminating problem predators for remuneration). Calling is virtually only known amongst sheep farmers, amateur callers and the (few) varmint hunting clubs. Amongst live stock farmers, game ranchers and hunters there is merely an awareness of the use of mouth and electronic means of imitating animal sounds. Basic equipment is imported from the USA or manufactured locally in small volumes. Few hunters would however consistently go out with the sole purpose of calling predators.
With the prices of biltong (jerky) hunting climbing steadily above consumer inflation rate, I predict that more and more hunters will look for alleys of "econo hunting" such as predator calling.
Commercial exploitation of predator hunting is almost nil. Up-market hunting ranches specify a fee for anything that can be killed in US Dollar or Deutsch Mark, thus charge for jackal and cats, but biltong ranches do not value varmint as a potential source of income, simply because biltong hunters are not interested in paying to shoot something that is not edible. In fact, most "biltong" ranches would encourage hunters to terminate caracal and jackal (no charge), should they stumble across them.
Typical sounds are those of prey in distress, or the social and territorial calls of the targeted carnivores themselves. These are done by using one's throat, a whistle or electronic recordings on tape or CD.
I use a small CD player, conveniently boxed with rechargeable battery and amplifier. This mobile unit is adapted for use from a vehicle or on foot. The horn speaker can operate remotely if required. I mostly use an open reed type whistle, diaphragm type (or my throat) for night calling, or to stop a running animal momentarily for a standing shot, or when an antelope hunt becomes boring and there are field signs of predators.
It is important to choose the right sound for the occasion. For instance, during the mating season (May/June/July) territorial calls and barks of aggression work well on male jackal, whereas puppy distress works on females during September / October / November. (Be careful you don't take out both parents and let small pups starve). Spring hare distress call is not a good choice in an area where there are only shrub or Cape hare to be found; or fawn bleat on a farm with no steenbok or duiker. (Although when a predator is in inquisitive mood, it will come in to almost any noise. No rules!)
Predators are curious opportunists. I once accidentally called in a leopard in dense bush near Vaalwater on a dark moon night! It reacted to a rabbit distress and came to within ten paces before I realized that I was being stalked. Equipped with a 222 Rem (and no leopard permit!), it was not funny at the time. Lions are commonly called in by wildlife photographers and researchers, using recordings of other lions.
# Convenient frame with working platform and rotating chair on the back of the calling vehicle
# Search lamp with wide beam spread, quick-removable red filter and rheostat with which to change light intensity
# Permanent "distribution board" (with 30 Amp fuse), standardized on cigarette-lighter type fittings
# Juices that smells of rotten meat, obtainable from the local farmer's co-op (used in fly traps)
# Some droppings of my tame white rabbits. ( No, I do not use live rabbits as bait. That is cruelty to animals and not predator calling.)
# My friend from Southern California is an experienced coyote caller. He gave me some rabbit urine and a vaporizer. It is so precious that I am not using it(!)
# Your search lamp must be fitted with hood on the bottom to avoid lighting up of the vehicle
# Swing the search light frequently ( every minute) and some-what high, taking no more than 7 seconds on a 360 degree swing. (Look for eyes, not shapes.)
# Avoid unnecessary movement like the plague. My shade-cloth curtain conceals all movement from the neck down
# Human and mechanical noise is as bad new as movement. I call alone most of the time
# Where possible, call into the wind and downhill towards the predators
# Call when predators are most active, such as during quarter moon and three quarter moon phases, early evening and early morning hours
# Late afternoon daylight calling on foot works great. Start on the shade side of a slope, and do not use a vehicle, but sit high
# Make friends with the game ranches and smaller nature reserves, and get special permission to call (no shooting of course). You may see the likes of serval, civet, caracal, large and small spotted genets, African wild cat, black-footed cat (Cities I), aardwolf, brown hyena, Cape fox and bat-eared fox, not to mention numerous species of antelope, hare and owls. See Econo Game on the main menu to get to know them.
This is a huge topic. Methods of calling and shooting depend on numerous circumstances and personal preferences. "Econo hunters" who are interested in the practical detail of this exciting hobby, should take time out to visit those American talk forums on the internet that specialize almost exclusively in the calling and shooting of coyote and bobcat. Warning: you can loose perspective of time on some of those boards! (See our list of links to these.)
Caution! Virtually any predator can be called in, but only few species may be shot, and then only sometimes. This is a great sport, but not to be abused.
The Black Backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) and caracal (Felis caracal) are the only critters that are listed as "problem animals" in all 9 SA provinces. This makes them candidates number one and two. (Ironically all of "Felis" are classified as Cities II world wide.) Click on the "Econo Game" button on the main menu to meet those innocent ones who are also called in, but running the grave risk of being shot. Make sure you can distinguish between all species at any age, and always identify just before squeezing the trigger.
I use a 222 Remington fitted with silencer. Soft nose 45 grainers work fine, except for damage to the fur. My rifle is fitted with a good quality, light weight shooting lamp with switch on the stock and quick-removable red filter. This facilitates split-second identification before shooting without help from others.
Of course one should not pursue the blinkered termination of jackal, purely since tradition so has it that "jackal eats sheep". In fact, research has it that the jackal is frequently not inclined to stock predation. However, on plains game ranches and typical agricultural land the jackal reigns on the top of the food chain, with devastating consequences to smaller predators, rabbits, reptiles and ground nesting birds. These circumstances would call for culling in support of biodiversity.
I cannot overstress the importance of identification before pulling that trigger. All nocturnal animals have bright eyes, and most of them have big ears. I do not know one predator hunter who had not made at least one embarrassing mistake, including myself.