Guns, Gear and Tactics for Coyote Hunting

Best New Coyote Rifles
By Bryce M. Towsley Hunting coyotes takes on many forms: calling, baiting, even running them with hounds. The one constant is that you never know whether the shot will be so close you can smell the last rabbit the coyote ate on its breath, or so far in the distance that it howls with a different accent. Turn the page for some new rifles that can nail a coyote's hide to the wall in any situation. ENTER OUR COYOTE PHOTO CONTEST AND WIN A NEW SCOPE
Savage Edge XP (.243 Win.)
This new "entry level" rifle comes with the same barrel and barrel-mounting system that made Savage famous for accuracy. The gun is a bolt-action with a detachable magazine, which makes unloading to get back in the truck and then reloading at the next calling location a whole lot easier. The rifle's best feature? Its price. A bolt-action with a synthetic stock and a 3-9x40 Bushnell scope included for a suggested retail price of just $379 is about as good as it will ever get. Order your Savage Edge chambered in .243 Winchester and you'll have the ultimate dual-purpose cartridge--excellent for whitetails and outstanding on coyotes. ($379; savagearms.com)
Thompson/Center Venture Predator (.22-250 Rem.)
The cynics said that the bolt-action market was already flooded when Thompson/Center introduced the Icon, but the cynics were wrong. Now, with a new bolt-action called the Venture Predator, T/C is carving out territory in the coyote-hunting market. This camo-covered rifle carries a 1-MOA accuracy guarantee. It has a 22-inch fluted barrel, rubber grip inlays in the synthetic stock, a removable three-round box magazine and an adjustable trigger. It even comes with scope bases installed. You can get it in several cartridges, but there is no better coyote cartridge than the .22-250 Remington. ($599; tcarms.com)
Rock River Arms Coyote Carbine (6.8 SPC)
After declaring a multi-decade jihad on coyotes with the AR-15 rifle, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that the .223 Remington often comes up lacking for positive one-shot coyote neutralization. The bigger
bullet of the 6.8 SPC fixes that. Rock River Arms has a 6.8 SPC rifle called, oddly enough, "The Coyote Carbine." The 16-inch-barrel carbine features an RRA two-stage trigger and is fitted with an oversize trigger guard so you can get a gloved finger in where it belongs. The quick-pointing carbine is 36 inches long, has a flat-topped receiver to mount an optic, weighs 7 pounds and comes with a 3⁄4-MOA accuracy guarantee. ($1,190; rockriverarms.com)
Alexander Arms 6.5 Grendel (Ultralight)
The Alexander Arms 6.5 Grendel Ultralight carbine is a coyote-calling miracle. Weighing just 5 pounds 4 ounces, it's about the lightest AR-15 on the market. The 16-inch (with an integral muzzle brake), cut-rifling barrel is deeply fluted to reduce weight. The G10 forend is an Alexander Arms exclusive composite of polymer and glass fiber, and might be the lightest tube on the market. The Vltor buttstock weighs less than a whispered rumor, and this rifle is perfect for those long days of coyote hunting when even your bootlaces feel too heavy. The 6.5 Grendel is rapidly gaining a rep for excellence in extracting grouse-eating coyotes from the canine gene pool. ($2,100; alexanderarms.com)
Top Ammo for Coyote Guns
Winchester: The .22-250 might well be the most popular coyote cartridge ever, and my favorite factory load is the Winchester 55-grain Ballistic Silvertip. It will reach out across time zones to snatch a coyote off its feet.
Federal: Coyotes are tough, but no match for the .243 Winchester with my all-time favorite coyote-whacking bullet, the Sierra 85-grain HPBT. Proof there is a God: Federal loads it in its ammo.
Hornady: The "V" in Hornady's V-Max ammo stands for "Varmint," and the 110-grain 6.8 SPC load will put the smackdown on any surly coyote.
Alexander Arms: Bill Alexander designed the 6.5 Grendel and says that the Alexander Arms ammo with a Berger 100-grain bullet is the ultimate for shooting coyotes. There are two things you need to know about Bill. One, he always speaks from a proven technical point of view. Two, he loves to shoot coyotes. --B.T.
Top Predator Optics
By John B. Snow They're small, fast, smart and elusive, and the challenge they present is the reason coyotes, foxes and bobcats are so much fun to hunt. Success against such quarry requires you to spot them before they spot you. Still, you'll often have mere seconds to get off a shot at targets that rarely afford a second chance. A good scope and binocular can make the difference. Nikon Coyote Special
This predator-specific scope is the only one with a reticle geometry that's calibrated for a coyote-size target. Nikon adapted its proven BDC reticle, with its series of circles on the elevation post beneath the crosshairs, to bracket a coyote-size body at different ranges and provide the appropriate amount of holdover. Its 3-9X magnification works for most hunting situations, and the anti-reflective baffle on the objective lens and the Mossy Oak Brush camo dip help keep the shooter hidden. ($280; nikonhunting.com) ENTER OUR COYOTE PHOTO CONTEST AND WIN A NEW SCOPE
Vortex Viper
This serious riflescope, with its 6.5-20X range, delivers the ability to reach out for predators at long range. Vortex offers a number of reticle styles to choose from, although the mil-dot version is difficult to beat. Accessories include custom elevation dials, an extended sun shade, an anti-reflective baffle for the objective lens, scope rings with a built-in bubble level and other goodies. The 50mm objective lens helps with visibility when shooting light gets dim. At less than $500, the scope represents a good value as well. ($499; vortexoptics.com)
Leupold Prismatic
Calling predators within spitting distance is one of the biggest rushes in hunting, and in areas where shotguns are required, it's a necessity. Leupold has stepped up with an optic that is ideal for this situation. The company's 1x14 Prismatic is a lightweight and bombproof optic that is perfect for close-up shots. It offers generous eye relief and an illuminated reticle for low-light conditions. Turrets for elevation and windage let the shooter make 1⁄2-MOA adjustments. ($624; leupold.com)
Steiner Nighthunter
To pierce the darkness predators prefer, it helps to have a large optic, which is an apt description of this 12x56 binocular from Steiner. The high level of magnification helps resolve detail at greater distances, while the 56mm objectives take an impressive slice out of whatever light is available. The Nighthunter comes coated in a grippy protective armor and is waterproof to help protect it from the elements. It also ships with three eyecup styles for a custom fit. ($1,199; steiner-binoculars.com)
Predator Gear
By John Taranto Whether you're a dyed-in-the-wool coyote-chasing fool or a curious greenhorn looking for a way to pass the long winter months outdoors, if you want to experience success in predator hunting, you've got to have the right gear. Predators are wary by nature, and with the sport's popularity soaring in recent years, the coyotes, foxes and bobcats you seek are more educated than they've ever been. After you've rounded up the equipment you see here, turn to page 46 for a crash course on how to put it to work for you in the field. Photo: donjd2
Outfox Them
FOXPRO's new Firestorm call ($420; gofoxpro.com) has no shortage of innovative features. It comes standard with an intuitive remote and 50 calls (with a capacity for 200). Two external jacks allow you to increase your volume by connecting two additional speakers, and a third jack accepts a FOXPRO motion decoy. The coolest feature, though, is FOXBANG, which automatically switches to a preset call at the report of your first shot.
Blend In Anywhere
Sticks N' Limbs' understated camouflage design has been a popular choice with hunters nationwide for decades. The new snow pattern is a combination of the original snow camo and standard Sticks N' Limbs, with streaks of "dirty snow" added. This cover suit ($54; bowhunting store.com) will fit over several layers of insulated clothing.
Get Handy
The Johnny Stewart Estrus Whimper (center, $30; hunterspec.com) produces all the sounds made by a female coyote in breeding season. The MAD Closed-Reed Howler (right, $26; flambeau.com) is an easy-to-blow locator call that produces dominant howls. Primos's Double Jackrabbit (left, $20; primos.com) has two metal reeds for extra-loud calls.
Get Their Attention
These two handheld electronic calls give you a wide variety of enticing audio and are easy on the wallet. The Flextone Mimic HD (top, $40; flextonegamecalls.com) is loaded with 40 sounds. The Cass Creek AmpliFire ($46; casscreek.com) comes with 10 live-animal recordings.
Cover More Ground
If you hunt in deep snow, MSR's Lightning Ascent snowshoes ($270-$300; cascadedesigns.com/msr) will keep you afloat as you make tracks to your next set-up, and the all-white finish keeps them well camouflaged. Primos's Short Bi-Pod Trigger Stick ($85; primos.com) adjusts from 23 1⁄2 to 32  1⁄2 inches, and is a rock-solid rest for long shots.
Bring Them Running
The MOJO Puppy Dog (top right, $50; mojooutdoors.com) emits canine puppy sounds and has a motion tail. Montana Decoy's Miss Hoptober (left, $20; montanadecoy.com) is a photo-realistic cottontail fake. The Edge Quiver Critter now has a white winter cover (bottom right, $11; edgebyexpedite.com).
Be Sure-Footed
Put your best foot forward--and keep it toasty for up to five hours--with Yaktrax XTR boot spikes ($60; yaktrax.com) and Little Hotties adhesive toe warmers ($1.50/pair; little hottieswarmers.com). The XTR features stainless-steel spikes and chains that won't rust, and has special plates that prevent snow build-up on the bottoms of your boots.
Dial-In Your Gun
Practice shots at various distances with the Caldwell Natural Series Coyote Target ($13; midwayusa.com), which shows the vital organs and bone structure of song dogs. The telescoping MTM Predator Shooting Rest ($50; mtmcase-gard.com) is a lightweight option for the range.
See Them Coming
Take the guesswork out of your bullet drop with Cabela's new Caliber-Specific Scopes ($150; cabelas.com). The reticle of this .223 scope is calibrated for 55-grain bullets and features two hash marks below the crosshairs for dead-on 100-, 200- and 300-yard shots. The Camo 350-Yard Varmint Hunting Light Kit from Primos ($148; primos.com) fits 1-inch tubes and comes with a 6-volt battery and charger, stock-mounted switch and red lens cover.
TACTICS
By: Bob Butz**** An Offer They Can't Refuse
Be sure to check the regulations in your state, but for the most part, anywhere biologists value the deer herd, baiting for coyotes is perfectly legal. "It's like that movie: If you build it, they will come," says Brian Downs, who's been successfully baiting coyotes for more than a decade. He's written about it, offers seminars on how to do it and often talks about baiting coyotes on his online talkcast (predatortalkcast.com). In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner builds a baseball field to draw old ball players to his Iowa farm. Downs makes frozen deer-meat bait piles--baitcicles--and practices what he calls "pressure baiting."
Most hunters who hunt coyotes over bait do so under a full moon. They wait for a good blanket of snow and suffer through bitter midnight temperatures. By pressure baiting, however, Downs shoots 90 percent of his coyotes in the two hours before dark, just before the temperature plummets. "For bait, I pack venison scraps into five-gallon buckets, top them off with water and freeze them," Downs says. Deer processors around his Massachusetts home provide Downs with hundreds of pounds of free meat scraps and bones otherwise bound for the landfill.
According to Downs, who maintains up to 16 bait sites from December through March, successful baiting for coyotes is much like baiting for bears. It takes a lot of bait and daily visits to a site to not only build the coyotes' confidence, but also spark a sort of Pavlovian response in them to your comings and goings. "I don't care about my scent when I'm putting out bait. I wear the same boots and gloves and run my baits at the same time every day," explains Downs. "I want them to associate the smell of my boots with dinner. But each time I visit a site, I put out a little less and a little less, until I'm putting out a softball-size piece of bait. That's pressure baiting. In the dead of winter, when food is scarce, it makes the coyotes who want to eat come earlier and earlier to the bait site."
The Setups
In a basic setup, you place the bait as close to the coyotes' bedding area as possible--in the open, but just five steps from cover (A). Downs likes to position himself in an elevated tree stand or a ground blind no less than 75 yards downwind from the bait (B). This keeps him a safe distance away should a cautious coyote choose to circle downwind before committing to the bait.
"They can't resist bait," says Downs. "Once they're conditioned to taking bait, I've even found that sometimes they'll totally give up the wind to come in to it. But I've found they actually prefer sticking to cover rather than using the wind." Downs uses this chink in the coyotes' sensory armor when playing the wind is impossible. Again, by pressure baiting you make all the coyotes in the area feel a need to beat the competition to the bait site first thing in the evening. In places where the cover is great but the prevailing wind is not, place the bait close to the coyotes' bedding area, but on a brushy point or corridor that offers a direct route to the bait and dense cover for their approach.
Brian Downs' Coyote Gun
Downs' average shot distance is 50 yards, but he knows his .204 Ruger could shoot out to 300 yards without him having to compensate an inch. The rifle is a Thompson/Center Encore Pro Hunter topped with what Downs calls "the workingman's Swarovski," a Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40. With factory ammo (40-grain Hornady V-Max), Downs regularly shoots groups under 3⁄4-inch at 100 yards. He prefers shooting sticks to a bi-pod. The only custom work on his rifle is the trigger, set to break at 1 1⁄2 pounds, because "a trigger that's crisp and clean will improve your accuracy during the excitement of the shot," says Downs.
Q&A with coyote Expert Brian Downs Q: What's the biggest mistake that hunters make when hunting coyotes over bait? A: Rushing the shot is the number-one mistake. Rushing the shot results in poor shooting, a tough tracking job or, worse, losing the coyote. Give the coyote the chance to come to the bait site and offer a clean shot.
Q: How many coyotes can you expect to shoot over one bait before they stop coming to it? A: It depends on the site, but you might be able to sustain harvests throughout the season. If you find that predators become wary of your bait, simply move the site. How far to move it will depend on terrain and available cover. I have had great success moving baits as little as 50 to 100 yards.
Q: If you shoot a coyote over a bait early in the hunt, do you let it lie and keep hunting? Or do you pick it up and call it a night? A: I always wait it out, especially when pressure baiting. I like to give it at least an additional hour on stand after my shot. I've harvested several coyotes from the same bait in one evening's sit simply by waiting. Photo: joebeone
Q: Do you ever combine baiting and calling--say, by using a locater howl to see if any coyotes are in the area? A: I'm a big fan of what is called "the bait and pitch." That's when we lure coyotes to an area with a bait pile and call them in with sound.
This tactic combines the effectiveness of baiting with the excitement of calling, and is one of my favorites for fast predator action. Photo: eastlaketimes Click here for a list of the Worst Coyote Attacks

From gear to guns to tactics, we've got it all in this comprehensive coyote hunting package. Follow these tips for your best season ever.