You're trudging out to your favorite coyote calling location in an area where cover is mostly sparse except for stream beds. The dry creek beds are frequently lined with trees and bushes providing plenty of cover for both you and your quarry. You're carrying a 30-30 fitted with a scope like the Leupold 4X Wide Duplex sighted in on the mark at 100 yards. You're using the rifle and scope because that's what you have and conditions at the hide won't let you see further than about 50 yards anyway.
Figure 1. The coyote, or canis latrans, is an important part of the ecosystem, but whose numbers need management to avoid excessive predation on livestock. (Photo credit: LenBackus.com)
About a quarter-mile from your hide, you top a ridge and see a pair of coyotes about 200 yards away. Can you take the shot? Can you be reasonably sure that you won't miss and train the coyote to be more alert next time? Can you do it with confidence that the animal will be taken cleanly and not merely get wounded with the risk of a lingering death from infection or malnutrition?
You decide to forego the shot after a bit of soul-searching and go on to the hide wondering if you did the right thing.
How to be better prepared --
As it happens, you can equip yourself with some mental tools that will help both to determine whether the shot would have been reasonable and to improve your chances of a clean kill if you did take the shot.
First, as a general rule of thumb, the principles for long range shooting are the same regardless of the firearm you use. Shooting becomes "long range" the moment you need to adjust or raise the sights or apply deflection for wind. For fixed sight weapons, the adjustments are frequently called Tennessee Elevation and Kentucky Windage. Historically, the fixed sight in early firearms made these techniques really necessary for many shots beyond 10 yards or so because the rear sight all too often was made by hand filing a groove on the receiver or on the hammer, but the principles remain valid even for adjustable sights.
Figure 2. The shot as planned. (Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Figure 3. The 200 yd surprise: "Should I take the shot?" (Photo credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Following three rules of thumb helps keep the experience pleasant and successful:
The first is, as always, make sure that you follow both the letter and the spirit of safe shooting practices. Adhering to the spirit of safety will carry you through those few times when the details of safe practices momentarily escape your consciousness.
The second cardinal rule is: Know your rifle and sighting equipment. Important details are:
What is the maximum lethal range for your rifle & ammo for your quarry? Some would say that we're going after coyotes and coyotes are varmints, right? So why not use any weapon that catches my fancy? The answer revolves around ethical hunting practices and being sure that we can get the pelt when appropriate. In both cases, we desire to make sure that we have margin for anchoring the animal quickly. This both prevents needless suffering and assures that the pelt is recoverable.
The third rule: Practice, practice, and more practice helps make rule number two real! In this context frequent shooting at both known and unknown ranges with your favorite coyote rifle and ammunition with small targets will serve you well. The targets should approximate the coyote's heart and lung area in size. Note how often you miss these targets in a variety of wind and weather conditions at the longer ranges. This will tell you how often you'll lose the pelt by a poorly placed shot or outright miss!
Not all rifle and cartridge combinations provide adequate stopping power out to distances where one can reasonably get a hit in the vital zone. What do we mean by "vital zone?" The idea is the same as for large game, the heart and lung area is the biggest area where a solid hit will bring the animal down quickly. Hits to the brain and spine will also work, but these offer much smaller targets and misses will cause needless suffering.