Coyote Hunting Predatorial Series #3 - "Coyote In The Crosshairs"
By Greg Ballard
We have covered the basic behavior of the coyote in Predatorial 1 and we covered the basics of the coyote calls in Predatorial 2. In this Predatorial we are going to cover another tool of this business. A tool that is deadly serious. Deadly for the coyote, that is. We are going to cover our shooting equipment. This will include various pieces of equipment that we will use to shoot or to help us shoot more coyotes.
This subject is such a broad and diverse one that we can’t realistically cover all of it in one article so I am going to go over my personal preferences when it comes to hunting coyotes. I base these suggestions upon what has worked for me over the past 30+ years of hunting the coyote. By no means is this going to cover every coyote rifle or rifle caliber nor ammo types and such. The good news is that you can bring what you got and do quite well. I don’t hunt any other types of animals using rifles or shotguns so my equipment is pretty much what I deem to be ideal for hunting coyotes. I am not saying that what I use is the best for coyotes, I am only stating that this is what I use or have used in the past with great success on coyotes. I will also give some realistic suggestions of equipment that will work and work well for you.
Coyote Hunting Rifles
First, I am going to talk a bit about rifle selection. In my opinion, the ideal coyote rifle will be one in a caliber that will shoot MOA or better using bullets that weigh 75 grains or less. I also have a preference for the polymer tipped bullets. I have spent the past decade of my coyote hunting career mostly shooting a Remington 700 bolt rifle in a .243 caliber and did so shooting a 55 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet.
This was my primary coyote gun for the past decade. It is a Remington 700 VS rifle in .243 caliber. For coyotes I shot the 55 grain Nosler Ballistic Tips at just over 4000 fps. The scope is a Leupold 6.5-20x50 LR
This is a near perfect combination of velocity and accuracy with plenty of punch at the impact to drop any coyote with any sort of well placed hit. Any rifle in calibers such as .204, .223, 22/250 or those similar to these calibers will work quite well for all of your coyote hunting needs. A rifle that has a light recoil, fast velocity and MOA or better groups is going to work wonders for you.
The reality of coyote hunting that is done via the use of coyote calls will most generally always be a 300 yards and under affair. In fact, I would say that most every shot at a coyote that you will take will be less than 200 yards. With a fast and flat shooting rifle such as the .243 shooting the 55 grain bullet at around 4000 fps this means that you can sight in dead on at 200 yards and at 300 yards you are only 3.5 inches low. For me this equates to the following holds since I will near always shoot the coyotes in the cranium if they are 300 yards or less. At 100 yards, I will hold right on top of their black nose if they are looking at me, and they generally will be, and at 200 yards I hold right between their eyes and at 300 yards I can move the crosshair right between their ears. That is about all that I need to remember for nearly every shot that I will have to take on a called in coyote. This is the benefit of shooting a lighter bullet at a high velocity.
This is a custom coyote rifle built by LazyD guns of Tulsa Oklahoma. It is caliber 204 Ruger and shoots 40 grain Hornady VMax bullets at just over 3800 fps out of a Shilen 22 inch barrel. It currently has a Nikon Monarch 3-9x40, but will soon be replaced by a Nikon Monarch 5.5-16.5x44
I know that the name of this website is LongRangeHunting, but the fact still remains that the majority of coyotes that are going to be called in will end up being shot at 300 yards or less. I have found that shots longer than this will be what I term incidentals. These are coyotes that you catch while traveling or are caught out mousing as you go to your setup and then you are able to setup on that coyote and take a longer shot if you wanted to. You can also intentionally set up for a longer range shot in places where there is an isolated water source or isolated and good food source, but this is tough and often requires long and unproductive sets. At times you will call in multiple coyotes and you may shoot the first one and the others will run off a ways and you can get them to stop for another look see and you can get some longer shots in this manner also.
This is a factory BushMaster Predator in caliber .223. I shot 75 grain Hornady BTHP Match bullets from it. The scope is a Burris 4-16x44 Signature Select with the Ballistic Plex Reticle
In the past few seasons, I have begun to see the value in having a semi-automatic rifle for coyote hunting and I have made a transition from my bolt guns into those which are based upon the AR15 platform. A well built AR15 will easily shoot under one MOA, has low recoil and will offer you a quick follow up shot if needed. The AR15 is also offered in a wide variety of calibers to suit your likes. This makes the AR15 a very good choice when it comes to your typical coyote hunting scenarios. My newest addition to my coyote shooting arsenal is a custom built AR15 in a 6mm SPC caliber which easily shoots less than one half MOA. This is a 6.8 SPC that has been necked down to shoot the 6mm bullets. I also shoot the AR15 in calibers .223 and .204, but the 6mm SPC will be my go to gun from this point forward.
This is a custom rifle also built by LazyD guns of Tulsa Oklahoma.This is caliber 6mm SPC which is a 6.8 SPC that is necked down to accept a 6mm bullet. I will be shooting my old standby 55 grain Nosler BT out of this at just under 3500 fps out of the 22 inch Bartlein 5R barrel. It wears a NightForce NXS 5.5-22x56 with an NP1-RR reticle and sits in a set of Larue SPR-S mounts. It has a MagPul PRS stock with AccuShot PRM, JP Enterprises VTac float tube, Bobro Gen2 Bipod and
also has a Jewell trigger inside.
Another important piece of equipment will be the glass that you put on top of your rifle. Like the different kinds of rifles there is a myriad of different scopes that you can put on top of your rifle. Instead of trying to point out various scopes, I will state that the ideal scope for the majority of your coyote hunting will be one that is a variable power and has the upper end of its magnification between 12 and 16 power. The objective size of the scope can be whatever you want to use as they will all work fine for this type of hunting. With this being said, on the 223 AR15 there is a Burris 4-16x44, on the .204 AR15 I have a Nikon 3-9x40 that I will soon replace with a 5.5-16.5 and on my newest rifle, the 6mm SPC AR15, I have a 5.5-22x56 NightForce NXS which is perhaps a bit of overkill, but I like it.
A well built AR15 is quite capable of turning out some pretty decent groups as shown by the group shot above during my load testing with the 6mm SPC shown above
This type of hunting has a certain aspect of accuracy involved with it so most people use some sort of shooting rest to go along with their rifle. I tell people there are basically two kinds of coyote hunters, butt sitters and belly floppers, and both of these types benefit from using a shooting support. It just makes you shoot better and it also gives your gun support for what can be a long stand at times and remaining still and comfortable will pay dividends when the time comes for action. I mostly fall into the belly flopper category and this means that I will be shooting from the prone position across open areas of terrain. I find that a bipod that is about 6-9 inches tall is ideal for me in this case. It places me low to the ground to minimize my scent and silhouette and it gives me a very solid base to shoot from. For those who are butt sitters then you have the option of just using a taller set of bipods which allow you to shoot from sitting, but I actually prefer the use of a set of shooting sticks when I am in this position. I have the tall bipods too and they work well, but I find myself using the sticks more often these days.
It is also helpful to have a good solid method of judging distances and this is where a decent laser rangefinder will be a big benefit. When you are in a calling situation then the time to do the range finding is before you ever start the call. You will pick out distinct landmarks such as trees and fence lines and objects along likely avenues of approach and get yourself a good solid distance reading. I typically will look for items that are within 300 yards or so of me and then after I range to them then I know that any coyote within that zone has made a fatal mistake.
Some of the gear I use when I am shooting. On the left of the Pelican case is a Kestrel 4000 NV, A Dell PDA that has the Exbal Ballistics program installed and also a Leica 1200 yard laser rangefinder. The rifle is the 6mmSPC mentioned above
There are times when the best option for hunting is within a woods type of setup and when you have trees all around you then it is very hard to beat a shotgun for coyote hunting. I like to carry an auto loading shotgun that shoots 3.5 inch ammo. I also mostly shoot the Dead Coyote Ammo, which is T shot, through a Dead Coyote choke and my shotgun wears a red dot scope on top. This setup works very well on coyotes that get within 70 yards of you. I also carry a .17 HMR when I go into the woods and for that I shoot a 20 grain GamePoint bullet and I shoot for the head. The 17 HMR is very accurate and making those sorts of shots on a coyote within 100 yards of you is not that hard to do. Truth be known, when it comes to hunting for predators in the woods, then I like to carry my archery equipment.
This is a short overview of the types of rifles and such that I use for my own coyote hunting. As I said earlier, you can use whatever you have now regardless of caliber, but if you have a choice or are new to this type of hunting and don’t know what to use or to buy then you can’t go wrong with what I covered above. As I said, if I had to buy one rifle then it would be in the 243 ( 6mm ) caliber and I would outfit it with some decent variable glass in the 4 – 16 power range. I would buy a pair of bipods and a set of shooting sticks and start hunting with it. Feel free to ask questions in the topic dedicated to the article as I know this is a limited article due to limited size.
Greg Ballard resides in Arkansas where he is a computer programmer building automated stock market trading systems and stock market trading software tools. He is an avid outdoorsman who has been hunting since he was big enough to walk and has been doing so primarily as a bowhunter for the past 25 years. He is on the Pro Field Staff for PSE Archery and the Pro Staff for Grim Reaper Broadheads. Greg hunts a wide variety of game, but one of his most favorite things to hunt is predators. He has recently formed and is President of the Arkansas Predator Hunters Association.
Join the discussion of this article with the author at the Article Discussion Forum.Greg Ballard resides in Arkansas where he is a computer programmer building automated stock market trading systems and stock market trading software tools. He is an avid outdoorsman who has been hunting since he was big enough to walk and has been doing so primarily as a bowhunter for the past 25 years. He is on the Pro Field Staff for PSE Archery and the Pro Staff for Grim Reaper Broadheads. Greg hunts a wide variety of game, but one of his most favorite things to hunt is predators. He has recently formed and is President of the Arkansas Predator Hunters Association.