9 Coyote Hunting Tips From a Northern Guide

More and more hunters are traveling north of the border to hunt coyotes. Why?

Feb 1, 2018 #hunting#varminthunting

More and more hunters are traveling north of the border to hunt coyotes. Why? For three reasons: Hunting pressure is low in Canada, bigger and arguably better fur, and coyote populations are high. These variables combined, create world-class predator hunting opportunities.

As a commercial outfitter and professional guide in Canada, I’m booking more coyote hunters every year. A plethora of TV programs regularly showcase fast-paced calling action, and this, too, is driving demand.

It’s no secret, northern destinations like the Canadian province of Alberta, are well-known for producing heavyweight, well-furred, eager coyotes. But, if you’re dreaming of heading north to hunt, beware — it’s not for the faint of heart. Extreme weather can take its toll. From choosing a destination to booking your hunt, gearing up, sighting in and understanding your ballistics, planning for a northern coyote hunt demands commitment.

Tip #1: Deciding Where to Go

As a traveling coyote hunter, you want a top-notch experience. While coyote populations are growing across North America, the midwestern Canadian prairie provinces of Alberta and Manitoba would be the top choices, with the eastern province of Ontario following behind. Currently, non-residents cannot hunt coyotes in Saskatchewan.

Why hunt Alberta or Manitoba? With vast tracts of agricultural land laced with smaller wood lots, coyotes thrive. Alberta in particular offers some of the most diverse coyote hunting opportunities on the continent. From its rolling grasslands and coulee habitats, to the agricultural parkland areas that hold high numbers of dairy farming operations that attract and bolster coyote densities, Alberta is often the first choice for most predator hunting enthusiasts.

Tip #2: Choosing an Outfitter

Choosing an Outfitter

This collection of fur was collected by Martin Duke from Georgia, on his northern coyote hunt with Alberta Hunting Adventures.

Do your homework to avoid disappointment. Be sure to quiz any prospective outfitters and guides. Aside from the usual questions around cost, duration of the hunt, meals and accommodation, and of course what’s included and excluded in the package, be sure to ask the following questions:

  • What are the best times to hunt?
  • What does a typical day of coyote hunting look like?
  • Do they call, and how do they call (i.e. using mouth or e-calls)?
  • Do they use decoys?
  • How much land do they hunt?
  • How do they handle the fur?
  • What are the average shot distances?
  • Opinions on weather, and how it affects the coyotes.

Once you make your decision, close the deal with a signed hunt contract, submit a deposit and make sure you get a receipt for all payments made. With the paper signed and the dates marked on the calendar, it’s all about properly planning and preparing for your northern hunt.

With the increasing popularity of AR-15 rifles and the easy flow of follow-up rounds it affords for coyote hunting, it is important to remember that AR rifles are banned in Canada. Try as you might, there is simply no way around this legal barrier. The best option is to bring a bolt-action rifle.

Coyotes are smaller targets than most people realize and with variable shot opportunities, a fast flat-shooting gun is a priority. The less calculating you need to do, the more accurate your shots will be.

Tip #3: Bring a Suitable Firearm

Choosing a rifle caliber for coyotes is less about caliber, and more about your comfort with a specific firearm and the bullet you choose. Some prefer trendy calibers like the .204 Ruger or .223 Rem., but for my liking, I’m fond of the venerable .22-250 Rem., mostly because it shoots flatter, hits harder and is unbelievably accurate — but, then again, I’m also a big fan of the .243 Win due to its versatility as a multi-use rifle.

With the increasing popularity of AR-15 rifles and the easy flow of follow-up rounds it affords for coyote hunting, it is important to remember that AR rifles are banned in Canada. Try as you might, there is simply no way around this legal barrier. The best option is to bring a bolt-action rifle.

Coyotes are smaller targets than most people realize and with variable shot opportunities, a fast flat-shooting gun is a priority. The less calculating you need to do, the more accurate your shots will be.

Tip #4: Ideal Ammo

Ideal Ammo

Another important aspect of planning for your northern coyote hunt involves choosing a bullet. The author favours Winchester Varmint X and Hornady V-Max.

For collecting fur, the goal is to have your bullet penetrate, expand or ideally fragment inside the torso, so that there are no exit holes. One hole is better than two, and fragmentation diminishes energy in a hurry. Whether your plan is to keep the fur or take it to market, your goal is to place a good shot, drop the coyote on the spot, and leave only one tiny entrance hole.

Different bullet weights are available for different calibers. Typically ranging from 32 to 58 grains, with some exceptions, each has its advantages and disadvantages. For my .22-250 for instance, I use a 55-grain Winchester Varmint X and love it. With a muzzle velocity of 3,680 fps, it is fast. Made with a polymer tip, it expands rapidly and is fur friendly. Another great option is Hornady’s 50-grain V-Max Superformance. If you’re loading your own, a 52-grain hollow-point boat-tail with a match-grade bullet design is a proven winner, as well.

Tip #5: Optics Make a Big Difference

Optics Make a Big Difference

The author’s ideal riflescope for coyote hunting has variable magnification. He favors a Swarovski Optik Z5 5-25x52 with a ballistic turret.

Your rifle will only be as good as the glass you put on it. For my own coyote hunting, nothing — and I mean nothing — beats my Swarovski Optik Z5 5-25x52 with a ballistic turret. I’m a firm believer in variable magnification optics for coyote hunting. This scope provides a wide range of magnification options for close and long-range shooting. It gives me an enormous amount of light with a 52mm objective lens, and with the ballistic turret I can use presets with the turret rings to eliminate guessing at farther distances.

I’ve watched visiting hunters use 3-9x scopes, and they generally have a difficult time hitting coyotes. I typically suggest that hunters bring something in at least the 3-18x range or greater. The key lies in understanding how to use the riflescope and always using a shooting rest — especially at higher magnifications.

Tip #6: Practice Shooting

Practice Shooting

Visicolor coyote targets are great for showing shot placement.

Practice shooting, and I mean a lot. I can’t stress this enough. Most of our guests are experienced deer hunters. As such, they are reasonable shots, but most have limited experience shooting coyotes. Some have taken coyotes in their home state, but most say that they’ve found calling to be largely ineffective on their own hunting grounds — often due to extreme hunting pressure.

It’s important to remember that coyotes are a small target. Their kill zone is only about six-inches in diameter. Adding to the challenge, they are always on the move. When they stop moving, the shooter must be opportunistic, placing their shot with absolute precision.

My advice is always to zero your riflescope at 200 yards. Depending on your rifle caliber, you’ll shoot best when you don’t need to dial up or hold-over for your shots. Even still, I have some regular hardcore coyote hunters who are real snipers. The constant among these hunters, is that they each have an intimate understanding of their ballistics and how to read wind.

My recommendation to anyone coming to hunt coyotes with us is to become comfortable shooting out to 500 yards with whatever rifle they bring. As a midwest prairie province, we have lots of open ground. Our average shots are generally less than 150 yards, with some racing in as close as 20 yards, but on average, most are taken between the 100- and 200-yard mark.

Even though our northern dogs are larger in size (often heavier than 30 lbs.), they are a relatively small target that is always on the move. Preparing for your northern coyote hunt should not only involve shooting from a bench, but most importantly using whatever shooting rest you plan to bring with you.

Tip #7: Get a Good Shooting Rest

Get a Good Shooting Rest

Sighting in your rifle at the range and practicing from the shooting rest you plan to use on your hunt, is imperative.

An important part of preparing for your northern coyote hunt is getting and practicing with a proper shooting rest. I’ve hosted hunters who didn’t bring a rest, and I’ve also hosted those who have brought a few different ones.

I’m a firm believer in Harris bipods because they are much more durable and versatile than most alternatives. The one I use for coyote hunting is the HB25S because it has three spring-loaded leg extensions ranging from 12- to 25-in. height, and it swivels to compensate for uneven ground. Weighing only 20 oz., this bipod is extremely durable and rock-solid stable.

I’ve used monopods and portable shooting sticks as well, and I’ve watched clients using them. While some prefer shooting sticks, the majority shoot best from a bipod mounted to their rifle. Regardless of your personal preference, a shooting rest is an imperative piece of equipment for your northern coyote hunt.

Tip #8: Understand Coyote Anatomy

Understand Coyote Anatomy

Northern coyotes are typically larger, well-furred, and eager to come to the call.

Again, because coyotes are a small target, understanding anatomy and shot placement is imperative. Perfect broadside or quartering toward shots can be ideal, allowing the shooter to aim at the shoulder or chest.

Send a bullet downrange with your crosshairs locked on this vital kill zone and the coyote will collapse on the spot. Shoot as they are running or standing quartering away, and the risk of an errant bullet increases substantially. Many coyotes are killed with less-than-perfect shot placement, but damage to fur, or a less-than-expedient kill, are often the result.

Tip #9: Prepare for the Weather

Prepare for the Weather

Planning for northern coyote hunt means getting warm clothes, from head to toe, a suitable rifle and ammunition, and a good shooting rest.

Finally, one of the most important aspects of planning for your northern coyote hunt is acknowledging and gearing up for the weather. Most commercial coyote hunts are offered from early December through the end of February. Winter in Canada can be mild or extreme.

Daytime highs can be variable and range from above freezing to well into the negative double digits. I’ve guided winter coyote hunters in 40-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, but I’ve also guided them in as low as minus 22 Fahrenheit, as well. Add the potential for deep, crusty snow and possible heavy winds to the equation, and the weather can add a challenging dynamic to your northern hunt. Thankfully, most days are somewhere in between, but savvy hunters will always plan for the worst and hope for the best.


With this in mind, cold-weather clothing is must. Not that long ago, I would encourage our guests to bring either Ravenwear fleece or King of the Mountain wool apparel. Decent options, both are fairly heavy and bulky to wear.

Now, thanks to some amazing innovations, I encourage our guests to bring Sitka Gear – either their Whitetail Fanatic fleece or their Incinerator garments. Designed specifically for hunting in cold conditions, they insulate and block the wind, keeping hunters well-protected. I wear the Fanatic line myself, and swear by it in any weather colder than 32-degrees.

Keeping your hands, feet, head and neck warm are equally important. With coyote hunting we are often hiking for up to 15 minutes in order to get to prime calling destinations. During the walk, we generally heat up and then have to sit motionless while calling for up to 30 minutes. I like fingerless wool mitts because they help wick the moisture from my hands, but in extreme cold they aren’t warm enough. With the majority of body heat lost through your head, a wool or pile equivalent hat and, for extreme cold, a balaclava are a must. Keep your head, neck and face warm, and you will maximize your comfort during each calling session.

Sitka Gear’s Whitetail Fanatic accessories the Gore Windstopper Berber beanie and neck gaitor, and the Incinerator Flip-Mitt are my top choices for coyote hunting. Also made with a Windstopper laminate and Primaloft Down, if you need your fingers free, you can flip off the mitt and manage with full dexterity in the glove.

Thermal heat pads or chemically activated heat packs can be a lifesaver on a northern coyote hunt. Available through most commercial outdoor outfitters, either battery-powered or chemical-reacting hand and foot warmers placed strategically in boots, gloves, and throughout one’s clothing, can literally warm up your world when you are sitting motionless during any given calling session.


Footwear, too, is critical. With many winter boots on the market, in my experience, nothing beats the Cabela’s Trans-Alaska Pac Boot or Cabela’s Saskatchewan Pac Boot (the camouflage version) for extreme cold. I encourage all of our hunters to bring two pairs of boots. An insulated Gortex hiking-style boot for warmer conditions is better. We often hike fair distances to set up, so a boot of this description can be more comfortable. But when it comes to extreme cold, insulation and warmth become top priority.

In the end, proper planning and preparation for your northern coyote hunt will go a long way in making it more enjoyable. Take these steps and you’ll be well on your way to a successful hunt.

About the Author

Kevin Wilson is a freelance writer, seminar speaker, show host, and professional outfitter/guide. Find out more about Kevin here.

Kevin WilsonEdmonton, Canada
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