What's the Best Caliber for Coyotes and Predators?

What's the best caliber for coyotes and other predators? Find out as veteran hunter Mark Kayser gives his opinions.

What's the Best Caliber for Coyotes and Predators?

The V Max Hornady bullet in .22-250 is the author's go-to choice for putting down songdogs and other predators. (Photo: Mark Kayser)

Are you a fan of speedy and lightweight calibers when it comes to predator hunting?

When I first started predator hunting, back when mullets were still fashionable (ignore that if you are a holdout), there were basically a half-dozen calibers. The .22-250 Remington was a fan favorite. But with the recent industry push in new calibers and bullet choices,  predator hunters take everything from the .17 Hornet to the .308 Winchester to the field.

A few of you likely even tote larger calibers for predator control, especially if fur value isn’t the end goal. Although few predator hunters worry about losing game like a whitetail hunter losing sleep after poor hit, it is a concern and should be looked at seriously.

My first few years of coyote hunt were enjoyed in the company of a .22-250 Remington. Few, if any, coyotes moved once the bullet let the air out of them. They simply slumped over, end of story. Then along came a new kid on the block: the .204 Ruger. I had to have one because of all the hype.

It wasn’t long before I saw a distinct difference.  A few coyotes dropped in their tracks like they did when hit with a .22-250 projectile, but most ran off a bit. It wasn’t until I had to blood trail one down a long ravine and dig it out of thick brush that I began to question my downsizing. I never lost a coyote to the smaller .204, but I definitely had to do more follow-up and tracking as compared to simply walking over to a pile of fur in the snow.

In all fairness, the worst tracking job I was lassoed into was with a noted outdoor editor who shot a coyote a bit far back with the beefier .243 Winchester. Even with the larger projectile the coyote covered quite a bit of real estate before I finally caught up with it tunneled under a giant yucca plant. I thought it was dead as I grabbed its back leg to pull it out, but a snap of its jaws jolted me to reality. I ended the standoff with a V-Max from my .22-250 at point blank.

Critical Options

If you decide to minimize your cartridge size from a slammer you have two main options to optimize the choice. First, shop for the best bullet option that will enhance the caliber’s performance. Second, always strive for the best shot angle possible into the vital zone and away from any bone, or muscle mass.

If fur sales are in your future the bullet selection truly is critical. You have many options, but three general bullet categories work toward your decision. You can choose between bullets that fragment and stay inside a larger predator. You can shop for bullets designed for controlled expansion. Finally, you can look at bullet choices that hold together and zip through an animal.

In most cases the latter is not a good choice. Full metal, jacketed bullets can kill as well as hollow points or ballistic tips if they hit the right organs. Unfortunately, if a jacketed bullet zips through meat it can allow an animal to escape and die a slow death. That becomes even more of a negative factor with smaller calibers. There’s always good with the bad, but the choices and range time will tell you the one your rifle likes best. Field time will show you the one that is better for fur.

One good option is to look at controlled-expansion bullets that most big game hunters utilize. Predator hunters utilizing smaller calibers have discovered their usefulness and the fact they are not as bad on fur as once thought. 

My favorite coyote bullet is the V-Max manufactured by Hornady and used in a variety of calibers by several companies including Black Hills Ammunition. Although it is considered a fragmentation bullet, its polymer tip guarantees a higher ballistic coefficient with immediate expansion upon impact.

So what’s your experience with smaller calibers? If you have some advice on bullet selections for a daintier caliber, please share with our readers to ensure everyone goes home with some fur.

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