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COYOTE HUNTING: WEAPONRY

Up until just a couple of years ago, I used a 1977 vintage Remington model 700BDL in .223 caliber with a fixed 10x50 scope exclusively for coyote hunting. Most of my varmint shooting, including coyotes, was at long distance. When I moved back to New Mexico, the coyote population here seemed more aggressive. The coyotes were coming in very close. Usually to less than 50 feet. Perhaps my calling got better too, but it wasn't long before my hunting partner was getting most of the shooting. It wasn't a pleasurable state to be calling, have a coyote come in close, and then try to find it in a 10x scope.

Another friend of mine from Silver City, New Mexico, and I, were talking coyote hunting on the phone one night. I had explained my dilema, and that I was probably going to invest in a new scope soon. I also told Joe that I'd recently been given a Remington auto-loader shotgun. Even camo painted it. But so far, the only coyote opportunity I'd had with it was a missed one. The dog came in too close, caught me looking in another direction, spooked when I turned my head back towards him and, Dave, (my partner) nailed him when I got him to stop running at about 50 yards. And I wasn't too keen on the idea of packing both the shotgun and the Remington 700 with me to each and every stand.

I guess Joe figured that I, like most other hunters, would jump at the chance to buy a new gun. So he told me about his choice for coyote hunting. A Savage model 24F. The Savage 24F is an over/under, break-open rifle with the top barrel in a caliber ranging from .220 to .30-30. The bottom barrel can be 16, 20, or 12 gauge. Obviously, if they come in close, you've got a shotgun to hit 'em with. If they hang up, you can reach out and get 'em with the rifle (top) barrel.

Well, it only took me a day or so to put one on order. Fitted with a 1.5x shotgun scope, it is in my opinion, the ultimate coyote gun!

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Savage Model 24 over/under for coyote hunting.Savage used to offer the weapon in a synthetic, camo stock. But now, like mine, the synthetic stock option only comes in basic black. But it is glare free. My choice for calibers was .223 over 12 ga., since I wouldn't have to buy all new reloading equipment. And the 12ga. chambered for 3" magnum shells could double as a turkey gun too.

I would offer this "constructive criticism" to the Savage engineers (should they ever visit here). The ejector mechanism could use some improvement. As it just barely pushes back a spent shell casing. Which is difficult then, to remove an empty casing with gloved hands, in the heat of a coyote stand.

Reloading Data
Just about any caliber of high powered rifle (or I've even hunted dogs using large caliber handguns like the .357) is good for coyotes. My hunting partner Dave, like several other hunting friends, opt for the .243 caliber. Others that I know, will recommend only the lightening fast .220 Swift, .22-250, or .25-06 for use on coyotes. Not to forget the .17 caliber users who have a considerable voice in the matter.

It was my choice, over twenty years ago, to go with the .223 Remington. At the time, I was merely comparing the costs of reloading ammunition. For less than 100 foot-pounds of knockdown power sacrificed, and losing less than 1,000 fps of projectile speed, I could shoot for about $0.06 per round. The .22-250 and .25-06 would cost over a quarter a round. Now these were 1977 prices of course, but the ratio is fairly relative today.

My .223's will blow too large an exit wound in the animal unless I get a head-on chest shot on a coyote. Every now and then I'll bad shoot one and hit a shoulder bone that merely makes that portion of a coyotes running gear unusable to him as he runs away. Instead of killing him right off. But it's my shooting, not the caliber of the gun that causes the coyote to not fall dead instantly.

My partner, Dave, has had more coyotes require some short distance tracking than I care to think about. After they've been mortally wounded with a perfect lung/heart shot from his .243. There's been a couple of dogs get away all together when Dave has used FMJs in his .243. Which of course I kid him about missing them, something terrible. And recently, my Savage fouled on me early one morning. So I borrowed a co-hunters spare rifle, a stock SKS, to continue hunting with. Two dogs taken that day both had to be tracked for considerable distances after being hit in the vitals with the 7.62mm, full-metal jacketed rounds from the SKS. At close range even. Maybe I've been lucky, but using either 55gr. soft point or 52gr. BTHP bullets for the .223's, I've never had to track a coyote from either a shot to the chest cavity or neck. But I'll repeat what I said earlier. I always end up with a very messy exit wound. Of which sewing the hide to disguise the hole would be nearly impossible.

I know someone out there will disagree, but feel free to comment.

Twenty years ago too, I loaded all of my ammo as hot as I could safely get them. Now I've toned things down a bit. I reload straight by the book and my usual loads for the .223 are:

  • 25 grains IMR3031 - 52gr. BTHP - approx. 3000fps (preferred combination)
  • 25.5 grains IMR4895 - 55gr. bullets - approx. 2943fps
  • 25.5 grains IMR4895 - 52gr. BTHP - approx. 2960fps
  • 26 grains IMR4064 - 55gr. bullets - approx. 2940fps

For the shotguns, I've had good experience with either Federal or Remington 2 3/4" No. 4 buckshot. I know alot of guys who swear by copper-plated BBs. But I've not had good luck with them. At least in the 2 3/4" rounds. One of these days I'll try the 3 inch magnum variety with BBs.

From my perspective at least, should I ever not be able to hunt coyotes with my Savage 24F, my Remington 700BDL, or my Dad's old Remington autoloader 12ga., I'll go hunting coyotes with a .270 Ruger that I usually use on deer and elk. It will kill them, it too will leave a gaping exit wound, and if I bad shoot 'em, I'll probably have to go track them afterwards.



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