Best rimfire rifle for coyote hunting

With the explosion in the US coyote population over the past few decades, most landowners are glad to have you come on to their property to thin the coyote packs. Even though predators are necessary to sustain a healthy ecosystem, their over abundance is detrimental to game numbers and the overall value of a property.

This provides us, as hunters, a unique opportunity for some outstanding hunting and shooting challenges with easy access. But just because the predators we are hunting are game consuming machines, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to do it morally. All of God’s creatures, even coyotes, deserve the respect of being taken quickly and humanely.

In order to accomplish this there are many variables that should be considered. Expected distance of the shot,weight of the animal (and this does vary considerably from region to region), your ability to place the shot effectively, noise level and carry distance of the bullet if hunting in urban areas.

The answer to the question “what rimfire cartridge is best for coyotes” is “the caliber that best answers the questions above for your situation”.

My goal is to always to dispatch the animal quickly and humanely with the least disturbance and ultimate safety of the immediate environment (especially when hunting in urban areas). At times, the shot I get could be as far out as 500-600 yards. With no concern for nearby houses or people, this situation calls for a centerfire cartridge that still has enough energy at the target distance to allow expansion of the projectile.

If I am in a situation where maximum sight is 50 – 200 yards because of dense vegetation or topography, and there are houses within the area, I might elect a rimfire cartridge. If the area was in the southeast, where a large coyote might be 30-40 lbs, a 17 hmr would do the job nicely with good shot placement. If I am in the northern US where coyotes can reach 60 lbs or so, I would look more to the 17 WSM with a muzzle velocity of around 3000 fps and energy close to 400. With the latter set up, I wouldn’t be afraid to push the shot distance out to 400 yards or so.

Hows does body weight affect your choice ?

In order to get that humane quick kill we are looking for, the projectile must enter the target at a velocity high enough to allow penetration into a vital area where all energy is expended giving a higher probability that tissue vital to life is damaged substantially.

That’s right, I said ALL of it’s energy is expended which means there is no energy left to make the bullet exit the animal. If your bullet makes an exit wound, you have wasted energy that hasn’t been utilized.

The higher the body weight, the larger the animal meaning the bullet must penetrate a greater distance to reach the vitals, and usually, the more dense the medium the bullet must travel through. Larger animals will have more muscle, larger thicker bones, and more overall mass which means the bullet will penetrate less than in a less dense medium.

Penetration is important but only enough to get the projectile to the vitals. In a coyote, that is only a couple of inches inside the body. From there, expansion, or what we call bullet performance must take over to finish the job quickly. The best performer expands quickly enough to either disintegrate of stop the progress of the bullet before exiting the animal.

When either one of these happens, all of the energy from that cartridge has been expended and utilized to dispatch that animal. That is all you can ask from a cartridge

On the other hand, if the bullet exits the animal, expansion probably wasn’t great and it could have, and usually does, pass right by a vital organ with very little damage. The only way to get good performance out of bullets that were designed not to expand is to shoot a much larger caliber than is needed for the kill, at a very high speed. This bullet can then actually kill through shock simply because of it’s mass and velocity..

A 50 pound plus coyote deserves to be taken with a 17 WSM with velocity over 3000 fps at the muzzle. With this set up I would limit my shot to 200 yards for a quick humane kill. If you plan on only head shots a 17 hmr would be fine as long as you limit your distance to one where you can nail your target 100% of the time.

Can you kill a coyote with a 22 wmr?

Absolutely, but only a head shot will result in a humane kill. In this situation, the hunter didn’t have the time or the position to make a head shot.

See the head shot on a hog with a 22lr in the video below. When the shot goes off, the video makes it look like the hunter is using a elephant gun but rest assured, he is shooting a 22lr with tracer ammo. One shot to the head from pretty close range and the game is over.

In conclusion, always use a varmint rated bullet that is designed for expansion, never soft lead points or full metal jacket. And never use a 22 lr to take a body shot at any distance. There is just not enough there for coyotes. The largest animal I recommend for the 22 lr are raccoons or larger if a head shot is assured.