There is a fair amount of controversy surrounding what constitute the most appropriate tools in our predator-calling activities, and much of it seems to center around weapons selection. Unfortunately there are many different variables at play which greatly influence decision-making in this department. Type of firearm? Caliber? Optics? Accessories? These variables are practically limitless, sometimes even casting shadows suggesting alternative types of weapons such as bows & traps.

In this section of the website, I hope to explore some of the various paradigms surrounding the selection of a weapon for the purpose of predator calling. I will discuss some of the thinking involved in my personal choices as well as my experience with the weapons systems that I use.  

Remington 700
My current coyote rig: a left handed Remington 700 VS in .223 with a Leupold M8 (fixed 6x with mil dot reticle)
Centerfire Rifles  

Centerfire rifles are by far the most effective weapon with which to hunt a coyote. They allow you to back up a bit, with reasonable markmanship out to about 250 yards and still make ethical shots on a stationary coyote. With respect to the multitude of various actions available today, I don't really advocate one over another. I currently shoot both a single action and a semi auto, and I don't really find one superior to the other. There is the odd time the semi might offer a slight advantage over the break open, for example when a pack is involved and I might be lucky enought to tag a double, but on the bulk of the stands I make where coyotes show up, I'm given the opportunity to make one good shot.  

Weapon I
Your coyote rig need not be expensive: here is a single shot, H & R Ultra Varmint Handi-Rifle in .223 Remington with an economical tasco optic that has killed many a coyote.

Your primary consideration when choosing one of these tools should be your ability to use it and it's ability to shoot consistantly. Most important is that you get out a TON outside of your coyote hunting activities and shoot your rifle under as many real world conditions that you imagine you might find yourself hunting in. When shooting one of my two centerfire .22's, I try run at least 2 or 3 practice rounds through my rifle every time I get out (usually after I have exhusted the possibility that there are no coyotes I might put the crosshairs on!). I have a small 8.5x11 target that I will often lug around and will set it up at places I think coyotes are likely to stop as they approach my stand. I will purposly NOT measure the range to the target, back up to where I would be calling from, then loose a round towards the target as if I was hunting a coyote responding to the call. I cannot emphasis the number of valuable lessons I have learned this way about my sooting ability, my ability to guestimate range, the capabilities of my equipment, and overall marksmanship. This is extremely important practice, and well worth every round you send downrange.  

The handi rifle scores again!
The Handi-Rifle scores again!

Caliber of the centerfire rifle you select is also important. I hunt primarily for fur, and as such I like to minimize the damage to the fur I take. Complicating matters, I also want the coyote to suffer as little as possible and minimize the chance that if I make a bad shot, the coyote will travel far enough that I can't easily find it and finish what I have started. Too much gun and there is little to no value in collecting the pelt; too little gun demonstrates a serious neglect in respect towards the animal we are hunting. While the rimfire cartriges might seem tempting, especially with a self imposed range limit of under 75 yards, I deeply believe that they are definately not enough gun. This includes many of commonly available higher power rimfires like the .17HMR and the .22mag.

The minimum gun that I would feel comfortable hunting with, and a caliber that is regarded by many hard-core coyote hunters as the ultimate, is the .17rem. With a frangible 35 grain bullet travelling just shy of 4000 fps, there is alot of compelling evidence that suggests this is the best caliber for a coyote-sized animal, and I have thought long and hard about moving down. Creating a teeny pinprick for an entrance wound, and then explosively fragmenting through the next 3 inches of tissue, this is definately a fur-friendly round. It will not however be my bullet of choice until I get a bit more experience with this whole predator-hunting thing. This is because as I have become a little more confident with my calling & marksmanship skills, there have been a couple of instances where I have dropped the hammer on a coyote with full confidence that it was going to fall down dead, only to have one of a ga-zillion variables factor into the equation that made me especially thanful I was shooting a bit more gun. Most of these variables have resulted in a slightly raking shot where the bullet explodes before penetrating. A classic example was a coyote that broke out of the bush what looked like 200 yards, trotting quickly downwind and parallel to my calling position. She was trying to get the wind. Being a smelly guy, I was not to keen on letting this happen, and as such squeeked at her until she turned torards me and paused for just long enough. I held for her chest, touched the trigger and discovered that what looked like 200 yards and your average sized coyote was infact a larger coyote parked somewhere around 240 yards. With me zeroed for 200, the bullet struck about 5 inches low, raking across her sternum and fragmenting viciously as it did so. She ran about 60 yards before piling up dead with a fragment bleeding her out in the lungs. I have also experienced glancing hits on both a coyote's shoulder blades and humerus, causing the bullet to begin to fragment early. All of these coyotes ran some distance before going down, and I am thankful to have found them dead several hundered yards away. While I don't know this for sure, making that same decision to shoot with a smaller gun makes me sick to think that I may not have killed them as quickly. For me, .22 centerfires are the ticket.  

Dead Coyote
Taking only shots you know you can make is the way to go. The animal does not suffer & fur damage is minimized.
Centerfire Ammunition  

All of my coyote guns are chambered for .223rem, however just about any of the .22 centerfires amount to "sufficient gun" in my books. There is a catch here though...In the hopes that I would not have to load my own ammunition, I have killed coyotes with just about every expanding factory load available in north america only to discover they are all hard on fur. At the suggestion of my buddy, it wasn't until after I started reloading that the pass-throughs stopped. I purchased a single stage press and a set of dies (for less than $100 canadian), spent a bit of time testing up a load, and have shot a considerable number of coyotes with what is now my current coyote load. With a 40gr v-max bullet travelling somewhere in the neibourhood of 3700 fps, this has proven to be an effective marriage between my desire to have enough gun and minimize damage to the coyote's fur. My hunting buddy shoots a .220 swift, and with his 40 grain bergers screaming out at over 4200 fps, it has also proven to be highly effective in meeting my two criteria for selecting a coyote cartridge. Just for the record, factory ammunition that came the closest was Winchester's 40gr silvertip and Remington's Premier Varmint 50 gr v-max. If you decide to go for a .22 centerfire rifle as your primary coyote gun, I am hoping that you take the time to work up a handload.  

Weapon III
Something a little different...this is one of the most well-engineered rifles I have ever fired and walked the field with...a Sig Classic Green in .223. It is also astonishingly accurate and I used it to hunt coyotes for two years before acquiring my bolt gun.

Just as there are many different choices regarding the type of centerfire rifle one might select to hunt coyotes, there are lmost as many choices with respect to the optics you put on top of those rifles. As with all things, some choices are better than others. Personally, I don't like high magnification optics for use on my calling rifles. Coyotes are extremely quick animals, and they are often starting and stopping on their way to a call. They can also turn a range of 400 yards into something closer than 25 yards in less than 20 seconds while they slink through all those terrain features you didn't notice until the coyote disappeared into one. As such, I find larger fields of view a big asset when trying to find that jinxing coyote comming hard and fast. Even for those ones that hang up way out there, smaller magnification is better. Not only does it make me more humble about the types of shots I take (ie: Holy Christ is that coyote a long ways a way!), when I do decide to shoot, it forces me to bear down with much more concentration that I do when the scope is full of fur.

Fixed 6x power scopes are just about perfect, and on my Swiss Arms Rifle I even went a step further with a fixed 4x power. In the variable scope department, I had a 3 to 9 power parked ontop of my H&R handi-rifle, replaced this rig with a Remington 700 VS LH and a fixed 6x mildot scope. More on the mil-dot soon!

With respect to quality of your optics, a buddy of mine has a rule of thumb that is growing on me. He suggests that you spend at least the same dollar amount on your scope as you did on your rifle. The more I hunt with him and play with his equipment, the more I tend to agree. My handi-rifle cost me less than 300 dollars canadian, yet for it to realize it's full potential, it is going to need an 800 dollar scope. This rifle currently has a much cheaper scope on it and I seriously regret doing this. Spend as much money as you can on your scope.  

200 yard shot
200 yards is a LONG way! Here is a photograph of a carcass with coyotes on it that I fortuned across one morning. The cow carcass is the red dot, and the coyote is the small white blob. It is exactly 200 yards from where I took this photograph, and from where I pulled the trigger twice, killing two coyotes. Only hours and hours of practice at this type of range gave me the confidence to pull it off.

In the absence of a laser rangefinder, I have found rangefinding and holdover features found on some scopes to be useful. These need to be simple, and preferably mounted within a fixed power scope. The 4x32 ACOG mounted on my Swiss Arms rifle has proven to be both functional and very useful, as is the Mil Dot scopes that adorn the top of most of my buddy's hunting weapons. I did NOT use these things to estimate a hold-over; I used them primarily to decide if the a coyote was within my at the time self-imposed shooting limit of 250 yards. This is an important distinction. I strongly felt I did not have enough experience with estimating range or the trajectory of my current coyote load to feel comfortable taking shots on live animals past this range. Adhering to this self imposed limit has served me well as there are very few times I have dropped the hammer and not had something to skin seconds later, and I would way rather wonder if I might have been able to make a shot than know that I made a poor one.  

Good optics are worth their weight in gold
The view through my fixed 6 leupold.

As I started to hunt more with a laser rangefinder and put some serious target time in out past 250 yards, this began to gradually change as there were many times I wanted to reach out and didn't. It was not however until I changed my coyote rig to a Remington 700 with a fixed 6 power mildot scope that I began shooting comfortable past 250 yards in practice and then on live animals. It was not only the equipment switch that heralded this paradigm shift...hard, dedicated practice and then lots of practical field experience were the most important factors contributing to an ethical extension or range. Alot of discipline is aslo required here, as there are many times now when a coyote will be standing there at 325 yards or so and something just does not feel right (ie: a bit of mirage, a gusty crosswind, wavy grass infront of the coyote, or a one of a zillion other things!). Evaluating my strong desire to harvest the coyote and weighing this against making a poor shot is not always easy, and as such I much prefer to err on the side of caution. Remember...once you pull the trigger you can never call that bullet back!  
Targeting & Terminal Ballistics  

Coyotes often look a lot larger than they really are. Covered in a thick coat, it is often deceptivly stoking in the confidence department looking through your scope and seeing all that fur. The reality of the situation is that there is a three inch diameter vital zone that is harder to hit than you might first think. Remember this and think twice before you pull the trigger on that coyote! Coming soon in this section of the website: detailed information about making sure when you pull the trigger, the coyote falls down. *UPDATE!* I started penning out some thoughts on terminal ballistics, and soon had more than was appropriate for this small space. So....terminal ballistics now has it's own page that you can visit by clicking here.

Targeting is closely related to terminal ballistics, and it is important to realize that these animals exist in three dimensions. It is not enough to always hold for the same spot on the coyote...careful consideration of the location of your target's vital areas is critical to ethical hunting and high recovery rates. To get an idea of some appropriate targeting, check out the illustrations on the terminal ballistics page as well as the wounds produced by bullet strikes from these aspects.  

Coyote Anatomy I Portrait
Targeting should be focused on the structures identified above.
Coyote Anatomy I Portrait
The coyote's vitals from the front. I find this a more difficult shot; the neck and head are more difficult targets and while a bullet in either place will do the job, they are difficult to place as the target is only about an inch and a half wide. The skull is sloped and you run the risk of riccocheting the bullet off the skull (this has happened to me...it knocked the coyote out stone-cold and it awoke while I was dragging over to a tree for skinning...the coyote was not pleased and neither was my doctor!), and the neck is so fluffy with fur.
Thick Pine Brush
Coyotes are extremely resillient animals...even with a solid lethal hit to a vital area, they will sometimes pick themselves up off the ground, do a little dance, and then run like hell for a one or two hundred yards before piling up dead 45 seconds later. After watching one dissapear through my rifle scope several seconds after pulling the trigger, I searched for 9 hours and finally found the coyote (dead from extensive rear lung/liver lacerations) in the middle of this thick pine stand, 100 yards from where I had shot it.
Target Practice  

Target practice is important as it allows you to learn the nuances of your equipment in addition to working out any kinks that might pop up along the way. I typically engage in two different types: one against a traditional type bullseye, and the other against my most treasured training partner: Carl the Coyote.

The traditional type practice is conducted with an 8.5x11 target I drew up and print off my laser printer. I'll staple this to a piece of particle board and then stand the board up with a small base constructed from 2x4s. The beauty of this setup is that a couple of target boards and one base easily fit in my pack and I usually lug them around every time I am out in the field. I'll go out coyote hunting for the morning and then when done end the outing with some target practice. But for the most part, this type of practice is conducted as an event in itself...not the tag end of a hunting expedition.  

Target Jig I
This is a jig I have built to make carrying and setting up a target much easier. The base is nothing more than some chopped up 2x4 screwed together such that my 8.5x11 target boards (which fit nicely into my backpack) will stand straight. The eye in the base is for a lanyard, just in case there is not room in my pack. I take a target with me on just about every outing, and usually send a few rounds it's way each time.

Why? Because this type of target practice is primarily used for learnign about your equipment...something I sincerely hope you put alot of time in doing before you get out to drop the hammer on live game! I'll use these targets to set my zero and then learn the trajectory of my load by setting them out in 25 yard increments and shooting 5 round groups at each. I've heard many times before the comment "that's what a ballistics calculator is for" and my response is always the same: the ballistic calculator tells you what it should be (theory), and this type of practice tells you what it actually is (empirical evidence). I can't stress how important this type of training is in getting to know both your rifle and what will hopefully become your hunting load.

It's also important that while you do this type of practice, you keep in mind that there are several objectives that will govern how you conduct the training session. For example...when you am shooting to try and understand the accuracy potential of a given load/rifle combination this testing should be conducted in the most stable conditions that you can create. You'll hopefully choose a windless day, you'll prone out and support the rifle, and you'll take your time, letting the barrel cool between each shot. Or, you might be practicing to learn your limitations in a given shooting position (for example: sitting with the rifle resting on one knee). Understanding and holding as many variables as possible constant is the key to learning about the potential performance charracteristics of your equipment.  

Rifle Printing @ 100 yards
This is how my handi rifle prints at 100 yards, shooting from a prone position off my harris bipod. Whenever I feel like blaming my equipment, this type of test quickly reminds me that all my rifles shoot better than I do. The square measures one inch by one inch.
200 yard target
This is how my handi-rifle prints at 200 yards, shooting from a sitting position. It was -15 degrees C the day I shot this target...practicve under the exact conditions I hunt in has been invaluable. Each square in the cirlce measures 0.5 inches by 0.5 inches. As you can see, under conditions similar to what I hunt in, I shoot just barely well enough to pull the trigger on a coyote at 200 yards, thus my self imposed limit.

The second type of target practice I do quite frequently is with my training buddy: Carl the Coyote. I feel kindof sad for Carl in that he lives in the trunk of my car and usually only gets to come out when I want to shoot at him. Nothing more than a partical board life-sized coyote cutout that I've painted, after a dry stand or two I'll pull him out and set him up in an area where I think a coyote might have been likely to show up and give pause...looking for the free meal. I'll let a round go at Carl and then walk over to see how I might have faired had a coyote actually shown up. Whenever I miss, (or worse, make a bad shot), I'll do everything I can to understand why and repeat the shot until I make a good one. This has turned out to be something that has taught me alot.  

Carl the Coyote
My most treasured training tool: Carl the Coyote.
Carl the Coyote
Carl the Coyote in his natural setting. This is extremely effective target practice. I typically set him up at stands in areas where I expect a coyote to pop out and stop to assess the situation. Before measuring the range, I will shoot the target to see what it would have been like had it happened in the real world. The more times I miss Carl and learn something in the process, the less I miss in real life.

Are you interested in making your own Carl the Coyote? I've uploaded a template for you to download by clicking here. All I would ask is that if you like it, use it alot, and think that it is worth something, send a paypal donation to jason@coyotecanada.ca to help with the costs associated with running CoyoteCanada.ca. I stress that this is optional as the work I do here is a serious labour of love.  
My Reloading Process  

Coming soon! Details about developing your own load. You'll soon find here are all the various steps I go through in the development and production of the ammunition I load for hunting coyotes.  

Dead Coyote
In selection of your load, keep in mind that it should be engineered to balance the objectives of minimizing fur damage and humanely killing the animal. This coyote was killed with a 40gr v-max handload...one small entrance wound with no exit....perfect.

Coming soon...weapons of mass destruction.  
Archery Equipment  

Bored with weapons of high precision? Coming soon....a brief discussion touching on the oh-so-frustrating challenge of hunting coyotes with traditional archery equipment.  

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