When trying to decide on a gun to purchase, the shear number of options can be overwhelming. With hundreds of gun manufacturers and thousands of guns on the market, researching the benefits of each can be confusing or bewildering. Even if you know what type of animal you’re hunting, it can be difficult to sort through the thousands of options for each animal category.
Coyote hunting can compound this issue somewhat due to where coyotes fall on the size spectrum. Smaller than deer and elk but larger than marmots and badgers, they seem to fall between gun categories, placing them in a grey area. Their speed, agility, and intelligence as predators also make them more difficult to hunt and add other specifics to the requirements for the weaponry required to successfully bring one down. Some of the decision also stems from the purpose of your hunt, whether you’re hunting to kill a pesky coyote or hunting coyotes for their pelts.
As coyote hunting becomes increasingly popular, a few trends have emerged. Coyote hunters tend to use smaller-caliber bolt-action or air rifles, specifically varmint or predator rifles, when hunting, because these guns tend to have the right range and accuracy, while leaving pelts minimally damaged. While a larger deer rifle will work, they tend to tear up more of the pelt than is necessary and can bring down the value of a coyote pelt significantly. Flat trajectory weapons with streamlined bullets can ensure a clean shot, even with a swiftly-moving coyote, and low-recoil weapons can allow for multiple shots and comfort. Specially-designed scopes can give you an edge as you track coyotes during night hunting, but excessively complex scopes can cause you to loose sight of your target, since coyotes move fast and are good at blending in with their surroundings.
Below are some suggestions for what to look for in coyote hunting guns, as well as a few good guns that we recommend. Take your time and do your research before choosing the gun that’s right for you; there are plenty of online reviews and recommendations to help you in making your decision.
Whether you’re hunting coyotes for their unique pelts or to keep them from eating your cat, here are a few things to consider when choosing your weaponry. First, you want to have the right gun, one that is designed for varmint hunting or predator hunting. Be sure to look for guns that emphasize:
Accuracy – Coyotes are a small, fast, constantly moving target target, unlike deer, elk, or other large game. To compensate for this, most coyote hunters use Varmint guns, which are specifically tailored to hunting river otters, raccoons, and other furbearers. These guns are designed for accuracy, since the target is never very large.
Flat Trajectory – When hunting coyotes, you will rarely get close enough without startling them to take a close-range shot; therefore, it’s important to have a gun that performs well at medium to long range. Coyotes move quickly when startled, so you need a gun that shoots with a flat trajectory, to improve accuracy and minimize time from firing to impact.
Low Recoil – Coyotes often travel in groups, so even if your first shot is perfect, you’ll want to be able to get a second shot in quickly if you want to take down more than one animal at a time. Low recoil guns allow you to fire again quickly without needing to reset.
Caliber – With large game hunting and defense, guns are often to tear up as much flesh as possible. This is not usually the goal with coyote hunting, which focuses on obtaining pelts that are mostly intact. To minimize damage to coyote pelts, use a small caliber gun, so that the hole in the pelt is small and contained. Anything with a chambering of 2XX or smaller will minimize damage to coyote pelts.
Range – Look for guns with a range of at least 100-200 yards, to give you a better chance of making a kill shot at a longer distance. Some long-range coyote hunters use guns with up to 1000 yards of range, but the power required to do this usually requires a larger caliber, which can be more damaging to pelts. As you explore your options, try to find your own happy medium.
You’ll also want to make sure you choose the right bullets. Using the right ammunition can make your hunt much easier and more humane. When buying bullets, look for:
Small Caliber – To complement a small caliber gun, use the appropriate small caliber bullets. Look for bullets that minimize damage to the pelt with small entry areas, usually with a caliber of .2XX or less.
Expands on impact – While you will likely want to minimize damage to the pelt by using small caliber guns, make sure you have bullets that expand on impact. These are more humane, killing the coyote instantly rather than drawing out the animal’s suffering. They also make it easier to get a kill shot even if your aim isn’t perfect or if wind or other conditions interfere with the bullet’s trajectory. Since coyote hunting firearms aren’t usually as powerful as larger weapons, try to find bullets that expand at low impact speeds as well, to ensure that expansion occurs.
Streamlined for flat trajectory – Make sure your bullets are designed for a flat trajectory, with streamlining to reduce the impact of wind on the accuracy of your shot. This is particularly important at long range, since there is a greater distance for the bullet to be impacted by wind or other elements.
Speer, Hornady, Nosler, and Barnes are all good bullet manufacturers with options that work well for coyote hunting. Make sure you get a bullet that works with your gun and will give you a clean, swift kill even from a distance or under less-than-ideal conditions.
Lastly, make sure you have a good scope. Coyotes, like other furbearers, are fast and on the smaller side, so you want to be sure you can see and aim well, even from a distance. Be sure to consider:
Magnification – The magnification you will need while hunting coyotes will vary greatly depending on where you hunt and what type of gun you’re using. Make sure your scope’s magnification matches the range of your weapon, and is most useful for the terrain in which you will be hunting. For example, if you will be hunting in wooded areas with shorter sight lines, you won’t need extreme magnification, but if you’re on the plains or in the desert, higher magnification may be helpful, provided that your gun’s range extends that far.
Objective Lens – For coyote hunting, try to get the largest objective lens possible, since it will increase your range of sight. The bigger the lens, the easier it will be to find and aim at your target from a distance, even with the increased motion of coyotes. Try to get a scope with an objective lens of no less than 40mm.
Reticle – Because coyotes are most active during the twilight and night hours, make sure you have illuminated reticles on your scope. Keep it simple with crosshairs or mil dot, nothing to too fancy, since your target isn’t large and too much clutter on your scope can cause more problems than it solves.
6 Good Starter Guns
The Savage Axis bolt-action rifle comes in a variety of chamberings excellent for coyote hunting. It can be combined with a number of bullet and scope types to make a solid, inexpensive coyote hunting option.
Check it out at savagearms.com.
This American-made bolt-action rifle is lightweight and durable, making it a good choice for a coyote rifle. You can get a variety of options, including all-weather and compact, based on your individual location and needs. Make sure to tend towards smaller calibers when purchasing, since Ruger American Rifles have a wider ranges of chambering options.
Visit galleryofguns.com for more info
Weatherby Vanguard Series .257 Weatherby Magnum
A great flat-trajectory option, this gun packs a great punch for a lightweight gun. High accuracy and a powerful shot make this a good option for longer range coyote hunting.
Explore at weatherby.com
Howa/Houge Ranchland Compact
Like the title claims, this lightweight camouflage rifle is compact and easy to haul around, making it a great option for longer hunts or hunts in more difficult terrain. The Ranchland model can also come pre-fit with a good varmint hunting scope.
Check out legacysports.com for options
Mossberg MVP Series Varmint
A slightly bigger, more solid gun, the Mossberg MVP Series Varmint Rifle is a good option for those who usually hunt larger game. This gun can be fitted with a good 50mm scope at purchase, but make sure you’re looking at the .204 caliber option, since some of the larger calibers can be damaging to pelts.
More information at mossberg.com
Remington Model 700 SPS Tactical
The Remington Model 700 SPS Tactical consistently tops the charts and reviews for coyote hunting. Simple and elegant, this gun is a tack driver, providing a steady, smooth shot that gets the job done. While slightly more expensive, the general consensus among coyote hunters is that this gun is worth the extra money in its ease of use an accuracy.
Find it at remington.com
Of course, there are hundreds of other small-caliber flat-shooting guns that will work for coyote hunting, and even your regular deer-hunting equipment can work in a pinch. Take some time do do your research and figure out which options are best for you – you may find that lighter weight or increased stability is more important to you than a large scope or small caliber. Each hunter is different, and it may take some time to find the gun that is right for you.
Once you have your gun, it’s time to head for the hills (or the plains, as the case may be)! For some good tips and tricks on coyote hunting, check out this article by Field & Stream or this crash course in coyote hunting from Outdoor Life. A good gun is only the first step; make sure you know your hunting license laws, coyote calls, setup, and strategy before you start. With the right preparation and a little patience, you’ll be a professional predator hunter in no time.