Coyotes, red fox, gray fox, and bobcats are furbearing mammals and can be hunted during prescribed seasons. Unlike trapping, hunting these predators requires much less gear. Predator hunting can be done by the solo hunter or with a friend or family member. Extreme conditions in late winter keep prey numbers reduced and the cold temperatures keep predators on the move – this time of year can make for an exciting hunt. Coyotes, foxes, and bobcats are pursued for their valuable pelts, to alleviate depredation of domestic livestock, and for the sporting opportunity that they provide.
Coyotes are abundant and distributed throughout the state. They prefer brushy areas, edges of timber, and open agricultural country found in northern Missouri. Coyotes are most active during the hours of dawn and dust. Coyotes rely primarily on a diet of rabbits and small rodents but may also eat seasonally-available fruits and berries such as wild plums, persimmons, and blackberries, as well as grasshoppers, snakes, and birds.
Red foxes occur statewide but are more abundant in northern Missouri. Habitat preferences and food habits are very similar to that of coyotes. Red foxes often live on the edges of small towns and within cities where they can avoid coyotes, their main predator.
Gray foxes occur throughout Missouri but are most abundant in Missouri’s Ozarks and heavily forested areas in north Missouri. Food habits are also similar to that of coyotes and red foxes.
Bobcats occur statewide but prefer habitat that is thick and brushy. Second-growth timber stands with a lot of underbrush is perfect for bobcats. Food habits of bobcats are much like the canine predators but bobcats rely more heavily on sight for hunting than smell.
When it comes to predator calling, most hunters already have most of the gear required to get started. Camo clothing that matches the terrain and protects you from the elements is important. Shotguns or centerfire rifles in .22 caliber are preferred. A reliable electronic game caller with animal vocalizations seems to be the most popular call, but predators can be called in with mouth calls that imitate rabbits or rodents in distress.
Focus on areas of good habitat for small game. CRP fields, brushy draws or farmland, wetlands, and young timbered areas are all good locations. Choose areas where you routinely find tracks and target cold, calm days for hunting. Make as little noise as possible from the time you arrive until you have settled into your shooting position. Stealth is everything.
Grown bobcats can weigh as much as 35 pounds. They typically eat small mammals but they have been known to kill adult white-tailed deer.
Download our Small Game Hunting Prospects to learn about the natural history, management, and hunting other small game.