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Photo by Tes Jolly

12 Ga Equipped for Coyote Hunting

Your turkey gun is
a coyote killer

Day was breaking. I set up and blew my locator call. On a hillside less than 300 yards away I got a response. My setup was good, so I eased out about 35 yards and stuck a decoy in the ground. As the morning light brightened, I began with a low set of calls using my mouth call. I saw movement about 75 yards in front of me and eased up my turkey gun. My heart raced as I watched for more signs of movement, an excitement I had experienced many times during spring.

Suddenly, a flash. But it wasn't a gobbler strutting in to a hen decoy. It was a big coyote racing toward a deer fawn decoy. The "song dog" ran to within 3 yards of the decoy, then stopped. Something just wasn't right to him, but it was too late. The report of my 12-gauge spoke loud and clear, and he tumbled.

A rapidly growing number of turkey hunters have discovered the fun and excitement of taking their turkey hunting skills and gear and continuing to hunt after turkey season for coyotes. Cattlemen and farmers welcome them.

The Gun

Most 12- and 10-gauge turkey guns are ideal for close-range, thick-cover coyote hunting. Today, most turkey guns have a camo finish and sights designed for accuracy. I find the 20-gauge to be marginal, and currently there are no special coyote loads for the 20, so stick with a 12 or 10 for now.

And don't forget to change your choke tube to one designed to deliver a tight load of high-density T, B or BB shot out to 50 yards or more. A few coyote-killer choke tubes include the Flambeau Dog Pounder, Indian Creek Black Diamond

Assault, Johnny Stewart's Undertaker Coyote Killer, Carlson's Dead Coyote, Primos' Dead Dog and Kick's Howler.

The Load

Just like turkey hunting, there is a selection of shotgun loads designed specifically for coyote hunting. Combined with an appropriate choke, these loads can put accurate and deadly shot patterns down range at 50-plus yards for clean, ethical kills on big coyotes. Most have a muzzle velocity of somewhere between 1,300 to 1,350 feet per second. At this writing, Hevi-Shot Dead Coyote loads are available in 12- and 10-gauge in 4B, 00B and T shot sizes. Winchester Supreme Elite has a coyote load in 12-gauge loaded with 1 3/8 ounces of Bs. Federal Premium offers Heavyweight Coyote, which is a 12-gauge load of 1½ ounce of BBs. Remington has 12-gauge Wingmaster HD with a 1½-ounce load of Ts. All are high-density shot.

Patterning your Coyote Shotgun
Photo by J.Wayne Fears

Put it on paper first

Just like a turkey load, when you screw in a coyote-special choke tube and buy a box of high-density coyote loads, your first stop should be the range. Coyote loads shoot differently in different shotguns and with different choke tubes, much like turkey loads, so match them up to find your deadly combination.

Use coyote targets on the range to become accustomed to holding the correct sight picture. Life-size coyote targets are available from the NRA, and Birchwood Casey offers an excellent coyote sight-in target.

The calls

Electronic calls make it easy for beginners to call a coyote. For the hands-on caller, locator calls sound like another coyote or use mouth calls that mimic injured rodents. Remember how much fun you had mastering your turkey calls? The same fun awaits you with coyote hunting.

The decoy

In many ways a coyote acts like a gobbler when he responds to your calls and comes in to your decoy: The coyote is all eyes. Where the gobbler is looking for a hen or perhaps another invading gobbler, the coyote is looking for the food source making the distress call and for what may be causing the prey animal's distress. A decoy gives the coyote something to focus on and takes his attention off you.

Coyote decoys range from a simple feather on a string tied to a stick to a foam deer to electronically operated rabbits that flail realistically. Some coyote hunters even use their turkey decoys. It's all about getting the predator in shotgun range.

Hunting techniques

Approach a hunting area with stealth. Slamming truck doors, talking, flashlights, etc., can ruin a hunt. Early-morning calling is best in most cases. A concealed setup is a must. Too much calling or too loudly can be bad. The decoy must be placed where it can be seen. Generally, you'll get only one shot so make it count.
But, unlike turkey hunting, you have to be aware of your scent when pursuing coyotes. Coyotes like to circle downwind, so scent control is essential.

Ready, set, go

You already have the right shotgun, camo clothing and accessories. All you need now is a coyote-specific choke tube and load, a call or two and a decoy to extend your hunting season as long as you like in most states — without bag limits. — J. Wayne Fears