An Outdoorsman‛s Journal
Two Nights with the Crew from Night Ops
Hello friends: 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 nighttime 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, the ability to pull into a hunting location with your lights off, and not get too caught up with your bullet not hitting the “yote” if that should happen.
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 Balls’ cabin near Waupun, which Brian and Sharon built from the ground up, including the doors.
Next I learned about Heroes Hunt For Veterans, of which Brian is the founder and chairman, and is one extremely active organization. In a nutshell, at the Balls property, WHFR 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 (more on that in another story).
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. About all I can say is that I could have, would have, put the left eyeball out of Osama bin Laden at 400 yards with that rig. I fired two rounds, hit the bullseye both times, and was amazed.
One of the biggest parts of being part of the Night Ops 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 County and here are common reasons they want some coyotes killed. Soon the calving season will begin, and coyotes love to kill young calves when they are vulnerable. Next, the fawn season will begin, and many fawns, as well as adult deer, die to coyotes. The other reason is that coyotes also find dogs very tasty, especially small ones.
Back to the hunt. I am an observer. Jeff and Tom are on one side of a wooded fence line and Brian and I are on the other with maybe 100 yards between us. Everything is planned out with the wind. These guys have put a whackin’ on more than 90 coyotes in the last three winters, and have some incredible stories of cold conditions, fatigue, messing up, and a lot of success.
So everyone is either looking through a night vision scope, a thermal scope, or a thermal scanner “monocular.” All the rifles are resting on tripods.
Brian sets out the Fox Pro 499, which is a top-of-the-line call and it is located about 80 yards upwind of us. Within seconds, a coyote howls back after Brian puts out a call imitating a passive female. I can see very little but enjoy the show. Brian spots one, and long story short, it lives 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 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.
Folks, 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 — fence lines that are tree-lined and 40 feet wide, deer everywhere, always the sound of geese, and next to no human activity after dark.
All of us are 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. I have to tell ya, I was impressed with everything about Night Ops. Sunset