There's more in the woods than you're likely aware. Want to see who's around next time you're out there? The rabbit squeal will bring in foxes, coyotes, cougars, bears and pretty much anything else that enjoys the taste of meat. Here's how to sound like a tasty morsel.
Pulling on a down jacket to fend off the chill winter air, my back resting against the rough bark of a bare birch tree, I get ready for an evening of seeing what I can see. After my presence has dissipated quietly into the woods, life begins to emerge from their hiding spots. Squirrels jump haphazardly through the fallen leaves, a whitetail doe makes her way along the trail behind me. But there is one category of animal that is harder to see: predators. And to find them, you need to be more interactive. You need to sound like a dying animal.
Carefully raising the back of my hand to my mouth, I emit a sound that is meant to most closely imitate a dying rabbit. It doesn't sound pretty. Any predator within range that hears this noise will feel a primal pull. Dinner is calling. The squeal cuts through the trees and into the still dusk, then I let it fall silent again; five minutes later I sound the squeal once again. Now it's time to wait.
Time passes with my ears straining to pick up any sign that the call has found its taker. Bear, fox, coyote; they're all targets. Then, from just behind my birch tree I hear a soft rustle in the leaves. Slowly turning around to see what is on the other side of the tree, our faces almost touch as we both rear back in surprise. Unsure of what has happened, the shadow runs the opposite way around the tree to see what has become of the squealing rabbit he has come to finish off. With my heart pounding, I too am unsure exactly what has showed up. The shape comes to a stop 10 yards in front of me and we try to make sense of one another. I realise it's a fox, and shoot these pictures.
How to do it
Whether you're a hunter, photographer or simply enjoy seeing wildlife, having a handful of convincing calls up your sleeve will give you the edge. What call you use depends heavily on the kind of animal you are trying to bring in. Some calls are species specific, while others are more general. Prey distress calls are extremely effective at bringing in a wide range of predators with the same simple sound.
There are a variety of prey distress calls available on the market, ranging from hand blown squealers to audio recordings, all of which will work just fine. But this is also a call that is easy to learn how to do without spending a dollar. Simply raise the back of your hand to perched lips and suck in air. If the sound you make even remotely resembles the squeal of cottontail being being throttled, then you've got it. It doesn't have to be perfect to work. The trick is to practice.
Here's what it should sound like:
When out in the field trying it out, don't call too often. Less is more in these situations. The more you call the more likely you are to be busted. Animals like coyotes, for instance, are opportunistic hunters, meaning they will be easily drawn into such a sound, but calling too often will turn their curiosity int0 caution.
The rabbit squeal is a call that works anywhere in the world, and has the potential to bring in anything from a bobcat to a grizzly bear. But be fair warned: you're ringing the dinner bell and whatever comes in is hungry and looking for a quick meal.
There are plenty of other useful calls to learn for your time out in the woods, from coyote howls to doe calls, but this will definitely become one of your go to.