Anyone new to predator calling has many things to learn. Of these, I think the toughest is learning how to choose and set up a calling location. Running second is the question of when to shoot an incoming predator. You'd think once a predator is inbound, the hard part is over—not so. Over the years I've repeatedly seen new hunters get this wrong and lose easy trophies. I recognize those mistakes immediately because I've made them all myself.
"When to shoot?" is a topic worthy of a full-length article, but I only have room to touch some highlights here ... with the first point being a positive one. It's this: If you have a rock-solid shooting opportunity with a high hit potential, it's the right time to shoot. Take the shot. If there's any doubt in your mind about getting a solid hit, stop; evaluate what's going on and consider waiting, or not pulling the trigger at all.
Most missed predators happen because people shoot too soon—such as the time my friend shot at two inbound coyotes screened by brush. The bullet deflected, a marginal hit resulted and we spent an hour unsuccessfully tracking a wounded coyote. He realized his mistake when, after the shot, I pointed out to him that the wind was totally in our favor, the coyotes were coming steadily and would have cleared the brush in 20 yards. He hadn't read the situation properly and should've waited. But things were unfolding fast and beginners don't have the experience to read a situation quickly.
Reading a predator's body language is another aspect that beginners miss. A few days ago I called in a coyote for a new hunter and it popped out of the bush at 40 yards. Of course, it instantly had a visual lock on us and apparently saw something it didn't like because it trotted slowly away, constantly looking over its shoulder. My friend took a quick shot and missed. He should've waited. A coyote on a slow trot, looking over its shoulder is almost guaranteed to stop for another look. And a 100-yard shot at a standing coyote is far easier than a 50-yard shot at a moving one. Again, learning to read body language takes time and experience.
Sometimes, beginners wait too long. Consider the time I called in a pair of coyotes, watching them arrive over a new hunter's shoulder. Although the coyotes were inbound, my hunter hadn't noticed a shallow gully in the pasture. The lead coyote knew it was there and knew it would take him unseen to a downwind position. When it disappeared from view, I stood up quickly and salvaged the stand by killing it myself from an elevated viewpoint. My hunter had waited too long, without reading the landscape.
Experience and an analytical mind are the keys to making good predator-shooting decisions. When a shot goes bad, stop and do an instant replay. Look at wind, terrain, cover, body language and any other factors that might have played a role in a missed shot. Analyze it all and look for your mistakes. Someday I'll make a predator hunting video with no kills at all, just hunter mistakes and screw-ups. That would make a great learning tool. And considering how often I mess up, it wouldn't take long to film.