All too often hunters looking for peppy predator loads forget that as they speed up smaller bullets the energy ending up at the target is often reduced to the point of questionable outcomes. This is particularly true when you shoot these fast, light bullets at long range or when you tackle bigger-boned critters. Here are a few calibers and scenarios that predator and varmint hunters should have second thoughts about when trying to go light instead of carrying enough gun.
Who doesn’t love the zippy .17 Hornet or .17 HMR? It’s a great alternative to the .22 LR and can take care of vermin from coast to coast. Nevertheless, many predator hunters are pushing the envelope by using it for fur chores. That may be all fine and good when tackling a lightweight fox or even a south Texas bobcat, but should you be putting it to use on coyotes? This is one caliber I think should stay in the truck when coyotes are the main target. Yes, I know truckloads of coyotes have fallen to this loveable caliber, but at longer distances it might leave you following a blood trail instead of carrying a pile of fur back to the truck.
I’ve shot a pile of coyotes using the .204 Ruger, but is it the best for coyotes and larger predators? I’d say no. There are so many larger calibers that can handle coyote chores with ease and by combining solid bullet choices like Hornady’s V-Max (www.hornady.com) you can still avoid fur damage. I haven’t lost a coyote yet shooting them with a .204 Ruger, but I’ve had to track a few and that makes me question why I would put aside my .22-250 Remington that almost always takes the wheels off a coyote right on the spot. I’m not saying the .204 Ruger won’t do the job, I’m just saying there are a few other calibers that do it better.
Are you thinking of wolves this fall and winter? If so, I’d suggest you carry enough gun. A mature wolf, especially the Alberta breed running the Rockies, could tip the scales at 100 pounds and more. You’re .22-250 Remington will work, but a better choice might be the .243 Winchester, .25-06 Remington or the 6.5 Creedmoor teamed up with quality ammunition. Any caliber of this power and up is perfect medicine for a tough wolf. You can even consider your .270 Winchester or .308 Winchester. Customize the caliber with a bullet that minimizes pelt damage and you should be ready for a new rug. And since wolves are truly pack animals, you should consider a rifle (or shotgun) with a magazine. Your odds of meeting up with or calling in more than one wolf are good. In the same note you should also consider a caliber of this size for mountain lions. They also can weigh over 100 pounds, with a big tom hitting the scales at 150 pounds or even more. They are tough and if a questionable shot occurs you want to knock as much wind out of their escape as possible.
Finally, if you go up against bears the advice of calibers for wolves and lions, should be taken to heart. Use at least a deer caliber and don’t think of yourself as being “over gunned.” I wouldn’t be afraid a bit to put my .300 Winchester magnum to work on a big Alberta bruin that could easily push the needle past 400 pounds. Bears may not be hard to kill, but if you do have a less-than-perfect shot, a larger caliber can produce more damage when teamed with a tested, expandable bullet. Remember, bears have shaggy hides that sop and soak blood. They don’t leave good blood trails, so dropping one in its tracks is advisable.
I know everyone has an opinion. These are mine. Take them or leave them, but please use enough gun. Nobody wants to lose a pelt or a rug because a wounded animal has enough life to escape.