The Johnny Stewart caller wailed away with the pitiful sounds of a young jackrabbit in distress. I had just settled into a cozy notch in front of a large boulder surrounded on both sides by sagebrush. The shaded boulder was on a hillside that overlooked a small, sunny valley and the surrounding sage-covered hills. Three to five minutes into our calling sequence, I saw a large male coyote, in his prime, top the hill in front of me as he came trotting down a fence line. The sun was glistening off his beautiful, silver tipped coat, and the snow accented him like a field of diamonds. He stopped to check the wind, which would be the last thing he would ever do as a 52-grain Speer HP smacked home. The bullet was powered by 27 grains of Winchester 748 powder and a Remington 7 ½ primer in Remington brass. Harvesting this dog coyote was the pinnacle of the hunt.
I was hunting in southern Idaho’s immense, rolling BLM land at the invitation of a friend – an up and coming varmint hunting guide named Joe May of Nampa, Idaho. This wasn’t the first time we have hunted together, as we had spent a memorable week chasing barren ground caribou in the immense open tundra of northern Alaska. On this hunt, the openness and view was awe inspiring compared to the brush-choked closeness of South Texas where I call home.
I’ve hunted coyotes for most of my life, but this trip produced a number of firsts for me. This was the first time I’ve experienced the efficiency and realism of an electronic caller. The first time I have ever hunted Idaho. The first time I’ve ever had coyotes so close that I could have reached out and grabbed one.
Among all firsts, one thing that wasn’t a first for me was using a familiar and friendly cartridge. My coyote hunting has always been done with one small, deadly accurate, efficient cartridge: the .223 Remington.
I’ve hunted with several makes and models of both handguns and rifles chambered for this outstanding round. I’ve killed thousands of prairie dogs with a Thompson/Center Contender wearing a 14” barrel and topped off with either a 2.5-8x Leupold or a 3-9x Burris. This combination of scope/handgun and caliber has accounted for more game than all of my other guns combined!
I’ve hunted coyotes from Illinois to Idaho and from Texas to Alaska and all with a rifle or handgun chambered for the .233 Remington. I’ve used rifles from manufacturers such as Kimber, Remington, Thompson/Center, Ruger, and Winchester. I had a Model 70 Featherweight in Colorado that never met a load it didn’t like and would spit any bullet I loaded into a ½” group or less.
I’m not alone in my affinity for this fine round. Joe May has chased coyotes, striped squirrels, and yellow-bellied marmots all over the great states of Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, and Oregon, harvesting an embarrassingly large number of animals (86 coyotes last fall alone!) and all with a trusty Remington 700 chambered for the faithful .223.
Through our hunting experiences, Joe and I have found several bullets that give the .223 many different faces. Hornady’s outstanding V-Max line is superbly accurate and very affordable. Sierra’s new BlitzKing is a real winner, Speer’s Explosive TNT line is “dynamite” on varmints, and the ever faithful Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet is the standard by which all others are measured.
The .223 Remington has the ability to shoot bullets weighing from 35 grains all the way up to the super heavyweights like the 77- and 80-grainers. However, for calling coyotes into the gun we have found the 40- to 50-grain class of bullets perform like the Hammer of Thor on game. One-shot, “knock them in their tracks and send them to Valhalla” performance is the standard for this class of bullets.
If the distance is long, or you have a coyote that hangs up around 200 yards or more, the Speer 52-grain match hollow-point is the one I reach for and have never found it wanting. One shot and the animal simply slumps to the ground. Flat trajectory and varmint harvesting power … What more can you ask for?
If you haven’t tried the .223 Remington when calling predators and varmints, you’re really missing out. It is deadly accurate, has a small appetite for powder, shoots a variety of bullet weights well, and the recoil is minimal. Shoot one and you’ll see why we believe it is the best caliber for shooting coyotes called into the gun. Shoot straight and always keep the wind in your face.
This article written by Ken Tebbe.