Long-Range Shooting for Coyotes

Having the ability to make a longer shot can be the difference maker in dropping a coyote or watching one leave.

Long-Range Shooting for Coyotes

Using a rangefinder when calling predators gives the hunter reassurance and the confidence of being able to make a clean, deadly shot. (Photo: Heath Wood)

As we neared the 30-minute mark of our calling sequence, we began to accept the fact that this sit wasn’t going to produce a coyote. I kept telling myself this was the perfect set-up. We had a fresh cut cow pasture, it was early morning during mid-summer and the wind was in our favor. With this perfect scenario in place, I could not begin to understand why the coyotes were seemingly nonexistent. 

If you've often hunted coyotes, you know sometimes all it takes to turn the luck around is to is to call it quits and stand up from your hiding spot. As sure as the sun rises and sets, as we started to fold in our bipods, a coyote appeared at the far end of the grassland approximately 800-900 yards away. 

As we hurried to get into position, the coyote began circling the outside perimeter of the pasture, trying to get downwind of our electronic caller. A few seconds before the coyote exited the grassland completely, my partner whispered, “It’s now or never.”

After he made a short bark with his natural voice, the coyote stopped long enough for him to make the shot. At the coyote, a rangefinder aimed at the fence panel we were sitting by showed 357 yards! If it wasn’t for my hunting partner’s long-range shooting abilities, the coyote would have made it across the pasture that morning untouched, resulting in an unsuccessful hunt. 

After that summer morning hunt, I began questioning my ability at long range shooting. I had thoughts such as, “Is this one of the reasons my hunting partner is consistently killing coyotes throughout the year?”, “Would I have been able to make that shot if given the opportunity?” and probably the most important question, “Does having the ability to make long distance shots make one a better hunter?” 

Jon Collins of Tooth and Claw TV says having the ability to shoot long range is important. For example, when a coyote hangs up when you're trying to call it into close range, he is still able to make the shot. Collins says he doesn’t think having the ability to shoot long range makes you a so-called better hunter. However, he says it does make you a better coyote killer. Collins adds that it all depends on what the hunter is looking for when calling predators. 

Some hunters like the thrill of being able to shoot a coyote at an extremely long distance. Some like to call them into close range. When trying to film hunts for his show, Collins prefers calling a coyote to within 60-100 yards.

“I like to call coyotes into what I consider a high percentage range of 150 yards," he said. "If I can get them within that 60- to 100-yard range, that’s even better."  

Even though Collins likes to call them in close, he knows there will be be times when a coyote hangs up and simply will not come any closer. That's when  it's important to be able to make the shot at longer distances, if necessary.

“I try to set up to have that 100-yard shot; however, in the back of my mind,” he said, “I am also thinking if a coyote hangs up at 400 yards I still want to be able to make the harvest.” 

Collins’s way of thinking ties in with my personal hunt I mentioned earlier, when having the ability to make a longer shot can be the difference maker in having a dead coyote or watching one leave. Hence, Collins says shooting long range may make you a better coyote killer, but being a good hunter is the ability to call coyotes into a specific area. What separates the two is who comes home with more coyotes at the end of the day.

I kept asking myself if I would be able to make a long range shot if given the opportunity. 

What is considered long range?  Some hunters have shot predators at more than 800 yards. However, when talking about the everyday predator hunter, a long-range shot can be defined differently. Collins considers anything more than 300-350 yards a long range shot because that is when most bullets began dropping along with wind becoming a factor. 

I agree with Collins — 350 yards is long range, especially based on the the type of predator hunting I am familiar with. Ninety percent of my predator hunting is done in the Midwest. There simply are not a lot of long-distance opportunities because of the terrain. 

I have hunted in western states where the ability to see 1,000 yards is common. If I hunted those areas more often, I would say it is important for me to practice at more extreme distances. However, since I hunt where 350 yards is a long shot, that distance is what I try to be accurate in. With that in mind, my answer to wondering if I could have made that 357-yard shot, is a hopeful yes.  

Collins, who also hunts the Midwest, agrees that your hunting location is a big factor. The amount of practice and caliber of rifle should be considered in order to be successful when a long-range shot opportunity presents itself. Collins likes to stay in what he calls “rifle shape.” He doesn't shoot box after box of ammunition at the range. While he does like trigger time, he instead will shoot a five-shot group every couple of weeks when he's not predator hunting. That is to keep in tune with his rifle, scope and ammunition, and to ensure that all shooting aspects are in proper working order. 

Collins likes to practice in hunting positions such as sitting and that when practicing, he shoots to 400 yards. I have always been a true believer in the adage that when a hunter knows his gun and how it performs in every situation, it provides a stronger advantage when it comes to killing more coyotes. With fewer misses, you capitalize on every opportunity to kill a coyote. The amount of confidence with your gun is another advantage compared to other hunters. 

Which Caliber?

As for what calibers it takes to successfully shoot long range, that question can only truly be answered by shooting and seeing how firearms perform at different distances. Collins says for long-distance coyotes, the .22-250 and .243 are popular calibers. His honorable mention caliber is probably the 6.5 Creedmoor, thanks to the success and performance at longer distances. 

When I began my journey to improve my shooting skills, I started using an array of optics. It is important to have a quality scope on the firearm. I also found that when I started using a rangefinder while predator hunting, my success increased increase. When practicing, I range all my distances so I will know how my gun performs at each distance. 

I incorporate a similar range-finding process at the beginning of most of my predator hunting setups. Once I have my electronic caller in place and am seated, I get my rifle into position and with my rangefinder wil range several objects: certain trees, a large rock or a hay bale in the field, any object that can give me an idea of yardage. 

In performing my ranging technique, I know with  a coyote is in front of me I'll have a close guess on the yardage based on whatever object he is close to. This tactic also helps me know where to aim without making any additional movements by using the rangefinder.

Some veteran hunters know their yardage from experience. Collins doesn’t carry a rangefinder when hunting east of the Mississippi River. “When hunting out east, the chances of getting a shot at 400 yards or more is slim, due to the terrain,” he says. He uses a rangefinder and binocular out west, though, such as when he hunts Wyoming. It is harder to judge distance in the sagebrush-dotted flats.

After talking to Collins and through my own experiences, it is evident that being able to kill a coyote at longer distances is a huge advantage when calling predators. Even though Collins doesn’t think it makes you a better hunter per se, there is no denying that if it is about bringing home predators, you better learn how to be able to kill a coyote no matter the shooting distance.

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