Coyote hunting has become more popular in recent years for various reasons. Some hunters want to harvest them for their beautiful fur pelts. Others appreciate the challenge these clever varmints provide. And some hunters try to cull the number of these predators to relieve pressure on livestock populations.
There are many ways to hunt coyotes, from calling them to stalking them at night. But what’s the best gun to use so you will humanely and effectively put down a yote with one shot?
The most popular and best caliber for hunting coyotes is .22, especially .223 Remington and .22-250 Remington. .243 Winchester is the perfect long-range coyote hunting round. The .357 SIG is a coyote-capable handgun round and the .17 HMR is the best rimfire cartridge for short-range coyote hunting.
Let’s go over why these cartridges are so popular, then delve into more options.
Top 5 Best Coyote Hunting Cartridges
- Overall Best Cartridge for Hunting Coyotes: .223 Remington
- Best High-Velocity Cartridge for Hunting Coyotes: .22-250 Remington
- Best Long Range Coyote Hunting Cartridge: .243 Winchester
- Best Rimfire Coyote Hunting Cartridge: .17 HMR
- Best Pistol Cartridge for Coyote Hunting: .357 SIG
Why these cartridges? I’ll explain.
1. Best Overall: .223 Remington/5.56 NATO
.223 Remington and its military version, 5.56 NATO, is probably the most common coyote hunting round in use today. It’s not the most effective cartridge for taking yotes but it’s more than good enough.
The main advantage of .223 Rem is that it’s already a common round. Whether you have an AR-15 or a Winchester XPR, you have an excellent gun for harvesting coyotes.
Effective ammo is common and inexpensive, making this cartridge the best choice for most coyote hunters.
2. Best High Velocity: .22-250 Remington
While the .223 Remington wins the overall best slot because it’s a common and versatile cartridge that’s effective against coyotes, the .22-250 Remington can be considered an upgrade pick.
.22-250 Remington is the second-fastest commercial .22 cartridge, losing out only to .220 Swift, with over 4,000 fps performance!
This means the .22-250 is flat shooting and carries lots of kinetic energy past the yardage at which .223 loses oomph, about 300 yards.
Despite the added power, .22-250 rifles don’t have much recoil and aren’t known for damaging pelts, so I recommend this cartridge if you want a dedicated rifle for hunting coyotes.
3. Best Long Range: .243 Winchester
If you want to tag yotes at extreme ranges, 500 yards or more, then the .243 Winchester is a great choice. It uses a 6mm bullet for better ballistic performance than .22 caliber bullets at long ranges. Plus, it’s a common cartridge, so you can find a variety of hunting loads at your local store.
There may be other 6mm cartridges with slightly better velocity but that’s not necessary when taking a 30-lb animal, even at 400 yards.
Plus, you can use a .243 to take deer, giving your rifle more versatility!
4. Best Rimfire: .17 HMR
.17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire is the smallest I’d go when hunting coyotes.
Rimfire cartridges are not known for their knockdown power. However, keep your shots within 50 yards and wait for the perfect shot, and a .17 HMR will put down a yote with minimal damage to the pelt.
The only other rimfire I’d consider using to take a coyote is a .22 Winchester Magnum, though you will lose out on some needed velocity.
5. Best Pistol: .357 SIG
According to Massad Ayoob, the .357 SIG is well known for stopping violent dogs with one shot, something 9mm Parabellum cannot claim.
Load a pistol with Underwood ammo and the .357 SIG is a high-velocity, flat-shooting pistol round, well suited for taking coyotes at ranges farther than any other pistol cartridge.
What Caliber is Best for Coyotes?
Coyotes are varmints and medium-sized pest animals. They’re smaller than deer, so the best deer calibers may be too large for hunting coyotes.
Your local coyote can range from 20 to 50 pounds, depending on where you are in the United States. The average yote stands 24 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 30 pounds.
So, you don’t need something powerful to take one down. And if you use something too big, well, you can damage the pelt past the point of usability.
.30 cal is the largest caliber I’d use against a coyote.
These predators are small enough that it’s actually hard to have a caliber too small to take them. Many coyotes have been harvested with .17 cal rifles, though at short range.
Light bullets just don’t hold enough kinetic energy for effective terminal performance at mid to long ranges.
A heavy .17 Hornet bullet is 30 grains and travels at about 3,000 feet per second, delivering about 800 foot-pounds of force right after the muzzle.
.223 Remington can send a 69-grain bullet at about the same speed, resulting in 1,340 foot-pounds. More than twice as heavy as the .17 caliber bullet and over twice the kinetic energy (KE).
Momentum equals mass times velocity so that heavier bullet will also have more momentum.
Go up to .308 Winchester and you can get the same speed with a 125-grain bullet. It’ll put out 2,600 foot-pounds at the muzzle, an excessive amount of energy to dump into a 30-pound animal!
So, if you want the best combination of effectiveness and lack of damage to the pelt, you want a .22 caliber firearm. (Not a .22 long rifle!)
Best Long-Range Caliber for Coyotes
However, if you want to shoot past 300 yards, stepping up in caliber will give you a boost to your ballistic performance. Longer, heavier bullets maintain velocity longer and buck the wind better.
You don’t want to go too big because big bullets mean big holes, excessively damaging the coyote’s pelt.
.243/6mm caliber is the sweet spot for long-range coyote hunting.
You can go larger, but then you risk devastating the animal if you have to take a short-range shot. .30 cal goes a bit far as the bullets get wider but not longer, so many coyote hunters will actually lose hunting range by using .30 caliber rifles.
Remember, you want to harvest animals with a clean kill, not blow them apart.
Next Best Rifle Cartridges for Coyotes by Caliber
Now that you have an idea of how caliber will affect your coyote hunt, let’s look at specific cartridges.
I’ll go over my favorite cartridges in each caliber and explain why you may or may not want to use them.
Smaller than .22 Caliber
It’s perfectly valid to shoot a coyote with a gun chambered in a cartridge smaller than .22 cal.
However, keep in mind that you’ll have to get awfully close to the yote to deliver enough kinetic energy for a swift kill.
Perhaps the most famous .17 caliber cartridge, the .17 Hornet is great at taking down coyotes if you have great shot placement and the patience to let them get close.
A .17 Hornet rifle will be light and relatively quiet.
However, you’ll have to pass on shots that could only be accomplished with larger rounds.
If you aim to minimize damage to the coyote’s pelt, then you want to consider using a rifle chambered in a .204 Ruger.
This cartridge is actually based on the .222 Remington Magnum, which is larger than the .223 Remington, so you’ll get blazingly-high velocities (up to 4,200 fps!) and tiny entrance wounds.
As mentioned before, .22 is the sweet spot caliber for coyote hunting for most folks. Every .22 bullet below will give you good velocities and small entrance wounds while dumping enough energy into the coyote to drop it, provided you do your part.
.223 Remington and .22-250 Remington are among our top 5 picks for best coyote cartridges, but they aren’t the only good options in this caliber.
The larger cousin of the .17 Hornet cartridge, the main reason to use a .22 Hornet over other .22 options is the lack of recoil.
It carries only slightly more KE than .17 Hornet, so keep in mind it’s still a short-ranged hunting round.
.224 Valkyrie was developed to maximize the distance one can shoot a .22 caliber rifle.
The round succeeds at this task and has even greater velocities than .22 Nosler, even with heavier bullet weights, making it a fair long-range hunting round.
.224 Valkyrie gives you the best performance you can get with a .22 caliber round in an AR-15.
However, this cartridge suffers from being overhyped. Ammo can be expensive and hard to find in stock.
One of the most powerful .22 caliber rounds out there, the .220 Swift lives up to its name by being able to push a 50-grain bullet almost 4,000 feet per second!
This makes it a flat-shooting .22, great for hunting coyotes at longer ranges than people who stick to .223 Remington.
Of all the .22 caliber coyote hunting options, the .220 Swift will be the most effective at the longest ranges, almost making it the best choice.
.220 Swift has a reputation for burning out barrels, though. It’s also somewhat expensive to buy and reload.
Dishonorable Mention: .22 Long Rifle
Some people have used .22 long rifles to harvest coyotes.
This underpowered round requires you to get very close to the animal and is likely to just wound it even with the perfect shot.
Never use a .22 LR gun to shoot coyotes unless you’re in a survival situation and there are no other options.
Jumping up in caliber increases bullet width, allowing you to load more massive bullets for greater momentum.
This gives you both better knockdown power and a farther range, making the various 6mm cartridges perfect for hunting those pesky yotes.
As previously mentioned, the .243 Winchester is my top pick for the best long-range coyote cartridge. But here are a couple more worthy options.
“Creedmoor” is a well-known name for maximum-range shooting. However, it’s only a good, but not great, coyote hunting round.
That’s because the 6mm Creedmoor is a necked-down 6.5 Creedmoor developed as a target shooting cartridge. Maximum velocities but lower barrel life and excessive power when used on yotes.
If you already have a target or deer hunting rifle like the Ruger American Predator in 6mm Creedmoor then you can use it for coyote hunting.
However, if you’re picking up a rifle specifically for coyote hunting, I’d recommend one of the other 6mm choices.
My favorite coyote hunting round is the 6mm ARC, also called the 6mm Advanced Rifle Cartridge.
Hornady developed this round to fit .243 potential in an AR-15 platform.
It’s a great long-range shooting round for both target shooting and hunting and has comparatively low recoil.
6mm ARC doesn’t reach .243 Win velocities because it fits the 6mm bullet into a shorter case.
This is an advantage for coyote hunting because the slightly weaker energy potential means you’re less likely to blow apart the animal’s hide.
The main problem with 6mm ARC is that it’s a new round so it can be hard to find commercial ammo.
For reloaders, though, I’d recommend 6mm ARC over any other coyote hunting cartridge!
Here we start to get into the realm of too effective.
You’ll put down the coyote at extreme ranges. Expect a damaged pelt, though.
When people think of long-range shooting today, the 6.5 Creedmoor is what pops into their heads.
Like .243 or .308 Winchester, you can use 6.5 Creedmoor to hunt coyotes. And you can do so at ranges farther than either of those rounds.
If you want to brag to your friends about taking yotes farther than anybody else, 6.5 Creedmoor is a good choice.
But if you want to recover the fur, consider something weaker.
My favorite hunting rifle is chambered in 6.5 Grendel, which I believe to be one of the most versatile chamberings possible for AR-15-style rifles.
6.5mm bullets are a bit big for coyotes, though.
However, since 6.5 Grendel is weaker than 6.5 Creedmoor, you can use it as a very effective coyote-hunting round at extreme ranges with less pelt damage.
Here we get into the largest bullets I’d recommend for coyote hunting.
Any bigger and you shouldn’t expect to recover much of the carcass!
7.62×39 and .30-30 Winchester
Some say that the venerable .30-30 Winchester cartridge has taken more deer than any other cartridge.
.30-30 and 7.62×39 are almost identical ballistically and both will knock down a coyote with one shot.
However, their medium-velocity, heavy bullets will limit your range and potentially spoil the animal’s hide.
If you’re going to use a lever-action rifle for hunting coyotes, then .30-30 is a great choice. If you already have an AK, it’s a capable coyote hunting rifle.
In other words, using these cartridges is fine if you already have them. If you’re looking for a coyote gun, pick something else.
.308 Winchester is a great all-around hunting cartridge because it can take a large variety of game and, due to its popularity, has a large variety of commercial loads available.
The main problem with the .308 Win is that it’s a full-size rifle cartridge and thus can be too powerful for 30-pound yotes.
However, Federal and Underwood both manufacture dedicated varmint loads that turn your .308 rifle into a great coyote gun.
My favorite .30 cal cartridge for hunting coyotes is .300 Blackout, and it’s not because it’s the most powerful or the farthest shooting.
Instead, it’s because this cartridge is optimized for suppressed shooting.
Whether you’re hunting at night or just want the advantages of a suppressor during the day, .300 Blackout will let you take advantage of this advanced hunting technique.
Unsuppressed, .300 Blackout is still a fair coyote hunting round, roughly equivalent to 7.62×39 or .30-30.
Next Best Pistol Cartridges for Hunting Coyotes
Because of their high mass and low velocity, Pistol rounds are only good hunting rounds at short ranges. You can still hunt with pistol cartridges, though, with some caveats.
While .357 SIG is my preferred cartridge for coyote hunting, here are a few more capable options to choose from.
Please don’t hunt coyotes with a 9mm pistol.
However, a 9mm carbine can make for a good, if short-ranged, coyote hunting platform.
.40 Smith & Wesson
.40 S&W is slightly more powerful than 9mm, though it’s only a good coyote round when used in a carbine.
In contrast to 9mm and .40 S&W, 10mm is an acceptable cartridge if you want to hunt coyotes with a pistol.
Use full-power loads and stabilize your arms against a solid object.
.38 Special and .357 Magnum
If you’ve got a revolver, both .38 Special and .357 Magnum are good at knocking down coyotes.
Keep your shots within 75 yards for .38 SPL and 100 yards for .357 mag, use hunting (not high-penetration lead round nose!) ammo, and your wheel gun will serve you well.
Larger revolver cartridges, such as .44 Magnum, run into that too-powerful problem where you’ll blow through the coyote instead of making a clean kill.
Quick Note: Shotguns for Hunting Coyotes
Basically, any shotgun can take down a coyote if you load it with a slug or buckshot. #4 buck is recommended for shorter ranges and 00 buck if you want to maximize your range
This applies to .410 as well, though I’d stick with slugs only.
However, larger-gauge shotguns will let you load more pellets, increasing your chances of striking the animal with a pellet.
Remember that “long-range” for 00 buckshot is 75 yards. With #4 buck, stick to 50 yards or less.
Coyotes are tricky yet satisfying to hunt.
They’re smaller than many expect, so .22 caliber rifles are perfect for taking down these smart predators.
.223/5.56 is one of the most common coyote hunting cartridges.
If you want a better yote-taking cartridge then try .22-250 Remington.
.243 Winchester is an excellent choice if you want to stretch your legs and take coyotes past 300 yards.
You can go down as small as .17 HMR to put down this wily varmint, though keep in mind that you need perfect shot placement at less than 50 yards.
What’s your favorite coyote hunting round?
Is 6.5 Creedmoor Too Big for Coyotes?
6.5 Creedmoor is not too large to take coyotes, though it’s on the large side and can damage the pelt more than a smaller round.
Is 5.56 Good for Coyotes?
5.56 NATO is a great round for hunting coyotes. It has enough power, low recoil, and is inexpensive.
Is a .223 Big Enough for Coyotes?
.22 caliber bullets are a good size for harvesting coyotes. .223 Remington has more than enough power to put down a yote with a .22 bullet.
Can You Hunt Coyotes with a Rimfire?
Rimfire cartridges tend to be on the weak side, though you can still hunt coyotes with .17 HMR and .22 Magnum if you let the animal get close and have a perfect shot placement.
Is a .22LR Good for Coyote Hunting?
.22 long rifle is too weak to hunt coyotes ethically. It’s more likely to wound a yote than kill it.