Shotguns for Coyotes: Are They for You?

Shotguns for Coyotes: Are They for You?

A scattergun can offer some benefits to a caller who wants to increase the odds of bagging a few more dogs.

By Travis Osmond

Ron was on the call about thirty feet behind and upwind of me. He was making sweet music with his old OLT call when he whispered, “Shoot him Travis!” Those are the words you don’t want to hear when nothing is in sight. I was scanning the brush like mad trying to pull the outline of a coyote. For what seemed like an eternity, I was straining for the slightest movement or figure but couldn’t see anything. Ron again whispered, “Shoot Him!” Frustrated, I turned around to see Ron pointing the camera behind me and to my right. I slowly turned my head around and there, not twenty feet from me in the thick brush, were two ears scanning my location. In one fluid motion, I came to my knees with my Benelli Super Black Eagle II locked and loaded for action. For a split second, I saw that “Oh Crap!” look in that coyote’s eyes as his stare and my front sight bead connected. In a whirl, he was scooting country but it was too late, my #4 Buck caught him high in the back. The coyote’s last move was an awesome aerobic somersault over a patch of Blue Sage.

Every caller that has been calling for awhile has his/her little habits and routines that they continue to use time and time again. I am no different. I have my favorite gun, my favorite calls and I even have my favorite pair of pants when the weather isn’t too cold. The way I see it, a guy could literally spend a fortune on the new gismos and gadgets available on the market today that are supposed to make you a better caller. My favorite word to hear is “Guaranteed,” when it is being used to describe coyote calls, guns or any other equipment. I was at our local sporting goods store a few weeks ago (in the call section of course), admiring a very expensive new call when a sales guy approached me and told me how much the call had improved his success and that he “Guaranteed” me that I would kill more coyotes with it. Whether or not his claim is true, it made me chuckle inside. Folks, I don’t care what anyone tells you, there is no “Guarantee” when it comes to coyotes.

Over the years, I have played with different set-ups, calls, scopes, bullets, loads, bipods, guns, shooting sticks, binoculars, rangefinders, scents, gloves, seats, socks, boots, compadres and even sitting positions. I can’t say that there is a perfect combination out there, but I have developed a feel that works for me. One particular item that I’ve been carrying more and more with me is the shotgun.

For years, shotguns have been seriously overlooked and have had a bad rap when it came to using them for coyotes. However, trappers and aerial gunners have been using scatterguns for years. With the new loads available today, shotguns are becoming a more effective tool for shooting coyotes.

A scattergun can offer some benefits to a caller who wants to increase the odds of bagging a few more dogs. Now, I’m not “Guaranteeing” that you will kill more coyotes by simply carrying a shotgun, but it will open a couple of options for you.

I think the most important element of hunting with a shotgun is the patience one gains through bringing coyotes into shotgun range. For years, the effective shotgun range has been in the 35-40 yard range. However, since the invention of denser metals and alloys, I’ve heard of callers who have killed coyotes out past 75 yards. Personally, my farthest kill was at 55 yards, but I know I could have reached out a little further. For years, I’ve used the old 12-gauge Federal, 2 ¾-inch High-Brass loads in 4 Buck. There are several great loads on the market today including those from Remington, Hevi-Shot and Winchester.

It takes extreme patience on the caller’s part to get an ol’ grey dog into shotgun range. But, once he’s there, the chances of killing him increase. Especially if there are two or more coyotes coming at once. The shotgun allows the caller to drop the close dog(s) and rifle the others. It takes practice, but it can be effectively done.

I first read about shot-gunning coyotes in an article that Gerry Blair wrote many years ago. He talked about using his 10-gauge shotgun to hunt coyotes. I personally shot a 12-gauge model but, if the 10-gauge is your fancy, go for it. The 20 and 16-gauge models can do the job but I feel you are really limiting yourself when it comes to pellet count at longer distances.

Shotgun for Hunting Coyotes
The Author with a successful stand shooting his 12 gauge shotgun at close range
Any good turkey gun will do as a coyote gun. Coyotes can be rough to bring down, so a gun/load needs to deliver tight, bone-breaking charges. These can be obtained using a standard full choke, although pattern density may increase with some loads when they are squeezed through an extra-full choke. Some companies are even making chokes designed for their specific load for optimal patterns.

While you can get by with smaller shot if your target is at closer ranges, I consider No. BB (.18 cal.) the minimum size. Larger shot sizes such as BBB (.19 cal.), T (.20 cal.) and No. 4 Buck (.24 cal.) are much more efficient at bringing down the coyotes. Larger pellets such as 3 Buck and 1 Buck deliver more energy, but the lower pellet counts may not be dense enough to consistently place a sufficient number of pellets into the coyote’s boiler (see chart below).

Most callers tell me that their shotgun is just a pain to carry around and doesn’t help them much. This can be true and if it doesn’t fit into your style of calling, don’t use one. I personally don’t carry a shotgun on every stand, but the number of stands I do carry one on is increasing. I usually sit with the shotgun across my lap for quick access with the rifle ready. Doing this allows me to pick up the shotgun in a hurry if needs be.

As far as shotguns go, I fancy the semi-automatic variety, but pumps and break-actions work well also. I would avoid the single shots based on the fact that I sometimes need a quick follow up shot. I fancy a fiber optic front bead for quick target acquisition and for use in low light conditions.

As a final note, make sure you shoot your shotgun with the load you want to shoot prior to going out in the field. Make sure you are holding good patterns at the distance you think you are going to shoot. A good practice is to shoot at coyote silhouettes and count the number of pellets in the coyote. This will help you understand your load and gun’s ability. If you don’t like what you are seeing, try a tighter choke or pick a different load and keep shooting until you find the load that works for you.

Get out there and give it a try! If you are patient and really work at getting coyotes into shotgun range, your success will improve. “Guaranteed!” Ha!

12-Gauge, 2 3/4-inch
Load Size Pellets
Winchester Super-X No. 4 buckshot 27
Remington Express No. 4 buckshot 27
Environmetal Dead Coyote No. T Hevi-Shot 42
Federal Vital-Shok No. 4 buckshot 34
Federal Power-Shok Magnum No. 4 buckshot 34
Federal Magnum Wing-Shok No. BB 74
Environmetal Dead Coyote No. T Hevi-Shot 51
Federal Vital-Shok No. 4 buckshot 41
Federal Power-Shok Magnum No. 4 buckshot 41
Federal Ultra-Shok No. BB High-Density 69
Federal Magnum Wing-Shok No. BB 94
Remington Express Magnum No. 4 buckshot 41
Winchester Supreme No. 4 buckshot 41
3 1/2-inch
Environmetal Dead Coyote No. T Hevi-Shot 55
Federal Ultra-Shok Waterfowl No. BB High Density 81
Winchester Super-X No. 4 buckshot 54
Federal Magnum Wing-Shok No. BB 112
Winchester Super-X No. 4 buckshot 54


  • Krisna Caipaer

    This is an excellent article. Gun fit is another point of interest. Purchased shotguns are sized for large people, and the tail and stocks can be shortened to make them fit properly. If it’s cold outside, you’re wearing a heavy coat, you and/or your sibling aren’t 6’4′′, and the hunters pattern shotguns haven’t been fitted, the stock is probably too long, interfering with your natural aim.

  • SArticle

    Use the proper firearm for the hunt. Because birds are close-up and fast-moving, shotguns are the best choice. You use a rifle to hunt deer and other large beasts because it has more range, power, and is slower moving.

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