My interest in hunting coyotes with a shotgun was given a significant boost when I attended the annual Varmint Hunters Association Jamboree in Pierre, South Dakota, and had the opportunity to talk with TV celebrity Les Johnson of the television show, Predator Quest. I’d watched Les’s show for many years, and I was anxious to get his personal prospective on this challenging sport.
I learned that although the vast majority of predators are shot with rifles, a shotgun can add a great deal of fast moving excitement to a hunt. In order to be successful, however, this sport requires some specialized gear, and you’ll need to adopt different tactics than you’ll generally employ in predator hunting.
LESSONS IN SHOTGUNNING
My first real exposure to shotgun coyotes came when I joined forces with my close friend Tim Brandt and several other hunters on an outing to central Wyoming. Tim is an Ammunition Communications Specialist for ATK, and works closely with their line of Federal Premium ammunition. Shortly after we arrived at camp, Tim unveiled a big surprise when he brought out several boxes of Federal’s brand new Premium Heavyweight® Coyote Ammo (see sidebar) and passed them out.
Since I’d left my shotguns back home, I accepted Tim’s kind offer to borrow one of the Benelli semi-autos he’d brought along. The plan was to cram as much into the trip as possible by shooting prairie dogs and ground squirrels in the morning and early afternoon, then head out for coyotes in the evenings. Dan Stone, our guide from COTA Depredation Services, seemed confident that with a little calling (using his electronic call and his mouth calls), we ought to be able to locate a few dogs.
Incidental shot gunning of coyotes is about as uncommon as varmint hunting in New York’s Central Park. While there is no shortage of varmints in Central Park, the police are often the only people allowed to hunt them, making shooting opportunities rare indeed. In similar fashion, getting a coyote within range of a scattergun requires patience, good calling and excellent camouflage matching the area’s natural surroundings. Even then, many of these wily ol’ dogs are conditioned to avoid a charge of lead and may simply refuse to come within range of the shotgun.
To help overcome their natural reluctance, I like to team up with a couple of rifle shooters, utilizing a triangle layout with the shotgunner located at the corner closest to the anticipated action, and the two rifle shooters positioned on the other two corners behind the shotgunner. This layout provides a range advantage to the shotgun shooter. If an electronic call is being used, the speaker should be placed about 30 feet in front of the shotgun. If only a mouth call is being used, the calling should originate in the general location of the rifle shooters.
Mouth calling from the rifle shooters’ location is recommended for two reasons. First, it limits the amount of movement by the shotgunner (the closest shooter). Second, it makes the coyotes focus their attention away from that closest threat. In this setup, it is extremely important that all shooters have a thorough understanding of who should shoot, and when.
If the rifle shooters get too aggressive, the shotgunner may never get to dirty his/her barrel. For this reason, you should operate under this simple rule: if the coyotes are moving toward the shotgunner, the rifle shooters should hold their fire. Then, if it becomes evident that the dogs are standoffish and hesitant to give the shotgunner an opportunity, the rifle shooters should be allowed to try to put brown on the ground.
Story & Pictures by Tom Tabor