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Sixgunning Coyotes

By Clair Rees

Sixgunning Coyotes

Temperatures began soaring as Troy Hartwick struck out across the Wyoming desert. Inhaling the pungent, dry sagebrush aroma, I slung the Model 70 from one shoulder and followed in his footsteps.

I’d spent two days gunning prairie dogs with the 10-pound .223 WSSM rifle. That evening over dinner, I cornered Troy, head guide at Spur Outfitters, and talked him into helping me call coyotes the following morning. I was ready for a change of pace.

I’d brought a new PreyMaster electronic call along and was curious to see how the local coyotes would react to it.

After a half-mile hike, Troy stopped at a sagebrush-studded mound overlooking a broad valley. “I’ll set the speaker over there,” Troy said, heading toward a patch of prickly pear 40 feet away.

I turned the call on as Troy headed back to the makeshift blind, and the speaker emitted the plaintive cries of a fawn in distress. Troy checked for hidden cactus before stretching out behind the sagebrush. I was still trying to get comfortable when I glanced up and saw a wide-eyed coyote slamming on the brakes just eight feet - not yards - away!

I frantically bolted a round into the chamber. Meanwhile, Wile E. had reversed course and was really packing the mail! My 20-yard snap shot hit at the coyote’s feet, triggering a stutter step any NFL quarterback would envy. My second shot drove a Triple-Shock bullet completely through the critter lengthwise.

Sixgunning Coyotes
The author bagged this coyote at 28 yards.He owns a pair of .45 Colt Taurus Gauchos, one in stainless, the other in blued steel.

That coyote had been within dead-cinch range of any of the single-action revolvers I owned. The next time I hunted songdogs, I decided I’d leave my rifle at home and carry a sixgun.

I’ve often shot prairie dogs with scoped revolvers and single-action Contenders, but I’d never tackled predators with a cowboy-style revolver. Inside 40 or 50 yards, I was confident of hitting a bobcat or coyote with a fixed-sight sixgun. Limiting the range would add challenge to an already challenging sport. Too, it’s easier to carry a handgun holstered at your hip than lug a heavy long-barreled rifle around!

The next time I hunted yodel dogs, I teamed up with Ty Herring, who mans the technical support line at Barnes Bullets. Ty brought a .223 AR-15, while I had one of my .45 Colt sixguns. If a coyote remained out of range of my revolver, Ty would take him with his .223.

I’d recently acquired a pair of .45 Colt Taurus Gauchos. These $500 sixguns were both affordable and highly accurate. They shot exactly to the point of aim at 25 yards, something few fixed-sight revolvers will do without skillful tinkering. Single-action .45 Colts were preferred by cowboys who used their hoglegs to protect cattle from four-legged and two-legged predators.

At 50 yards, a 225-grain semi-wadcutter or 250-grain lead .45 Colt bullet packs nearly 400 foot-pounds of punch. With a 25-yard zero, these bullets will easily stay in a yodel dog’s boiler room at more than twice that distance. Some handgunners are skilled enough to kill coyotes at 100 yards over open sights. I wouldn’t attempt shooting beyond 50 yards.

Sixgunning Coyotes
The author takes aim at a coyote with his fixed-sight Taurus Gaucho that shoots to point of aim at 25 yards.

When Ty and I headed for Utah’s desert country, I took along a new Johnny Stewart electronic call. The call was fitted with a remote-control unit that allowed operating it from 90 to 100 yards away. Coyotes really home-in on the sounds a call makes. If those sounds originate too near your blind, you might not see a coyote that comes to visit.

Effective camouflage is vital if you hope to coax a coyote into handgun range. Once you start calling, movement of any kind is a no-no. The world’s best camo won’t hide you if you’re wiggling around or scratching your nose.

Again, I played “fawn in distress” music on my call. Savvy coyotes have heard every rabbit call on the market. They run the other way when they hear an ersatz bunny squall. An injured fawn also represents a much larger meal that coyotes find hard to ignore.

Five minutes after I switched on the call, a highly agitated mule deer doe charged from the tree line. Head erect, she hurried toward the sound. I turned the call off, but she kept on coming. Blowing and snorting, she pranced through the sage, looking for the crippled fawn.

As the frustrated doe continued her search, Ty nudged me and pointed to a hillside 400 yards distant. My Steiner binocular quickly picked out a coyote on his way to investigate. Just before he reached the tree line, he sat down to listen for the cry to be repeated.

When I triggered the remote, the doe stared to our right, then wheeled and disappeared into the brush. Another coyote appeared where the doe had stood only moments before. He’d sneaked in behind us, passing within yards of Ty’s truck parked on the far side of the ridge. I told Ty to take the easy 90-yard shot. That ended the morning’s hunt.

Two weeks later, we tried again. We used the same setup, with Ty manning his scoped .223 and me carrying the Taurus .45 Colt. I rested the sixgun’s barrel over my Steady-Stix bipod, prepared for 50-yard shooting. If a dog showed up at 20 or 30 yards, I’d ignore the bipod and shoot with my elbows resting just forward of my upraised knees. Placing your elbows directly on your kneecaps is a bad idea, as this offers less-certain support. At that range, I’d be able to hit a songdog’s vitals, even from the standing position.

Another doe promptly responded to the call, giving virtually a repeat performance of what we’d seen earlier. I turned the call off to prevent the deer from finding the speaker and stomping it into smithereens. Every so often, I’d give the call another 15-second blast, then thumb it off again. It was comical to watch the doe’s obviously puzzled reaction.

We were so engrossed in the deer’s antics we nearly missed seeing a coyote’s head pop over a sagebrush 80 yards away.

“Bring him in closer,” Ty whispered. “This could be your turn to shoot.”

While the coyote looked hard for the suddenly silent faux fawn, the mouse squeaks I began making got his attention. Ty and I froze in place as the coyote drew slowly closer, finally moving inside the 30-yard marker I’d lasered earlier. I waited until he turned his head in search of the rodent, and thumbed back the revolver’s hammer. Then I quickly aimed and fired.

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Today!The bullet caught him in the center of his chest, and the coyote died on the spot. If you’re looking for prime pelts, December or January is the time to hunt. Ranchers are happy to have you shoot coyotes at any time of year.

Sixgunning coyotes is great practice for handgunners hoping to try the same trick with deer or pronghorn. I’ve shot a couple of deer and four or five pronghorn bucks at point-blank range. Three years ago, I took my largest white-tailed buck (163 points and change) with a scoped Thompson/Center handgun. After a few more yodel-dog hunts, I plan to try my luck with a sixgun when deer and antelope seasons arrive.

Reprinted from the December 2006 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine

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