Pattern Your Shotgun to Put Down More Predators

Pattern your shotgun and ammunition to get the best possible combination in the field and put down more coyotes, bobcats and predators this season.

Pattern Your Shotgun to Put Down More Predators

Ask predator hunters on an online forum or at an expo whether the shotgun or rifle is the best weapon and you'll get a hodgepodge of answers.

None of them are incorrect, either. It doesn't make sense, at least to me, to be toting a .223 rifle in the woods here in the Southeast in late spring, summer or early autumn. During those roughly eight or nine months you're probably going to find enough thick vegetation that a rifle wouldn't be as effective.

That's where a shotgun shines, especially if you're in a thick area where a 'yote could appear at close range and you need a quick shot.

Rifles, of course, are great for open fields, ag fields and the beautiful open areas of the west. Head to Texas, Utah, Montana, parts of the Midwest or other open areas and a dialed-in rifle is a ton of fun. Be sure to check your state's laws and regulations on use of rifles or shotguns for predators.

Pattern Your Shotgun

Shucking a few shells into your shotgun might work, but why only do half the job when patterning it with the best ammo will give you the best results?

Coyotes don't stand a chance against the Stevens 320 pump 12-gauge combined with Federal No. 4 buckshot. (Photo: Alan Clemons)

A couple of years ago I hunted in west Texas for hogs and coyotes with the Savage MSR 15 Valkyrie and Stevens 320 Field Grade 12-gauge. With the latter we were using Federal No. 4 buckshot and that stuff smokes a coyote within 30-40 yards. It's bad medicine, and combined with the rifles our crew was able, over the course of a few days, to kill several coyotes and hogs at Clear Fork Ranch near Albany.

On several trips we had multiple hunters, so one would take a rifle and another would have a shotgun. This double-team effort along with the caller put six pair of eyes to work scanning for movement. As long as everyone's on the same page about minimizing their own movement, where to watch, and the shooting lanes, going with two or more folks can be a blast.

But you want your shotgun and ammo to be the best you can have. Not doing so could cost you fur, and also isn't what we're taught from childhood: know your firearm and ammo inside and out.

Just as with your hunting rifles, spending time at the range helps get you dialed in. The Freedom Targets Coyote Silhouette from Birchwood Casey is a great way to do this. The heavy cardboard targets are 12 x 18, fold flat for easy transport, have a sturdy base, and come with 24 3-inch Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C Bulls Eye targets.

Freedom Targets Coyote Silhouette from Birchwood Casey

These targets cost less than $8 too, so you can get several to try different ammo at different ranges.

With these targets, or whichever ones you use, be sure to find your best effective ethical range with your shotgun. Yes, some folks don't care about wounding coyotes but I'm not one of them. I think those folks are few and far between, anyway.

Hunters want a one-shot ethical kill, so set up your coyote targets at different distances for shotgun patterning. Start at 10 yards and go to 20, 30 and 40 yards. If you are comfortable with it, try at 50 or 60 to see what your shotgun ammo's pattern is on the target. With some turkey loads now reaching out to 60 or more yards, it's not inconceivable to think that a well-tuned shotgun and ammo could do the same with a coyote.

Once you establish your ammo's best effective range, then you can combine that knowledge with your setup's distances to get — hopefully — optimal results of songdogs, bobcats or other predators on the ground.




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