One of the coolest parts of my job as an outdoor adventures writer is all of the very interesting people I meet. A couple of months ago, Brian Ball, who lives near Waupun, with his wife Sharon, and their yellow lab Dux, reached out to me and invited me on a night-time coyote hunt.
Brian and his long-time friends Jeff Leitner and Tom Hoinacki, also of Waupun, run Night Ops Coyote Control. What these guys do requires brains, physical endurance, patience and the ability to pull into a hunting location with your lights off.
Friday, March 13
High 41, low 23
As I said, today would be my first real experience around these guys and it was interesting and pleasant. First, I drove to the Ball’s cabin near Waupun, which Brian and Sharon built from the ground up, including the doors.
Next, I learned about Heroes Hunt For Veterans, which Brian is the founder and chairman of, and is one extremely active organization. In a nutshell, at the Ball’s property, Heroes Hunt For Veterans has set up a permanent hunting camp. In the fall, for 14 weekends in a row, they take a group of either two or three vets bowhunting, and the local community really helps in a big way.
Next, Brian has a Daniel Defense M4 AR15 with an ATN X-2 night vision scope set up on it, and I got to shoot it. I fired two rounds, hit the bullseye both times and was amazed.
One of the keys to being part of the Night Ops Coyote Control team is speaking with lots of landowners. Guns going off on their property in the dark require permission and notice. We spoke with landowners in both Fond du Lac and Dodge counties. One of the common reasons landowners want some coyotes killed include the calving season will begin soon, and coyotes love to kill young calves when they are vulnerable. Landowners also want to protect the many fawns that will be born this spring. The other reason is that that coyotes find dogs very tasty, especially small ones.
I was an observer for the hunt. Jeff and Tom were on one side of a wooded fence line, and Brian and I were on the other side with maybe 100 yards between us. Everything was planned out with the wind in mind. These guys have took over 90 coyotes in the last three winters, and have some incredible stories of cold conditions, fatigue, messing up and a lot of success.
Everyone was either looking through a night-vision scope, a thermal scope, or a thermal-scanner minocular. All the rifles were resting on tripods.
Brian set out the Fox Pro 499, which is a top-of-the-line call, and it is located about 80 yards up wind of us. Within seconds, a coyote howled back after Brian put out a call imitating a passive female. I could see very little, but enjoyed the show. Brian spotted one, and long story short, it lived to hunt another day.
On our next set up, the guys let me watch through one of their thermal scanners, and it was just nuts.
Before we let out the first holler on the call, we could see six deer and eight raccoons scavenging in a last year’s soybean field. I was told to watch what was going to happen once the call was activated. The deer headed for the forest and the coon went to the closest trees.
For two nights, we put in big hours all over this part of the world, and was I ever impressed with the lay of the land here. There were fence lines that were lined with trees and are 40-feet wide. There were deer everywhere, always the sound of geese and next to no human activity after dark.
All of us were in the same age bracket, and the hiking, patience, dealing with the cold wind and a positive attitude were always apparent.
These guys sell their hides, but Brian also has a vision of making a blanket for his bed out of them, and I have to tell you, I was impressed with everything about the Night Ops crew.
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