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Best Coyote Hunting Cartridges: Rimfire, Centerfire & Shotgun

We take a look at the calibers best suited for coyote hunting and give you some ammo recommendations prior to heading out into the field.

Although Saturday morning cartoons tried to convince us otherwise, coyotes are highly intelligent and insanely cunning creatures.

Coyotes are some of the most prolific and adaptable creatures on the planet. (Photo: NDOW)

Hunting these wily predators is no easy feat. They are naturally cautious, super-fast learners and have some of the keenest eyes and ears on the planet.

These traits make them some of the most difficult animals to hunt successfully.

Sometimes bagging coyotes isn’t as easy as the TV shows and videos suggest, but a good cartridge can help you out. (Photo: Safari Club International)

But the right cartridge can help swing the odds in your favor. If you’re looking for an effective dog-dropper, you’ve come to the right place.

We’re going to walk you through some of the most popular coyote cartridges in the US. We even recommend a few specific loads guaranteed to drop ‘yotes dead in their tracks.

Summary of Our Top Picks

  1. Best Rimfire Coyote Cartridge

    Winchester .17 WSM 25 GR Varmint HE

    The .17 WSM is the fastest rimfire cartridge around, and the energy it delivers certainly reflects that.

  2. Best 5.56 Coyote Round

    Nosler Varmageddon .223 REM 53 GR FBHP

    Varmageddon ammo will maximize the killing power for those that already have a .223/5.56 AR-15s.

  3. Best Bolt-Action Coyote Cartridge

    Remington Premier .243 Win 75 GR AccuTip-V BT

    The impressive velocities and flat-shooting trajectory of the .243 Winchester makes it an excellent round for almost all use cases.

  4. Editor's Pick

    American Eagle Varmint & Predator 6.5 Grendel 90 GR TNT JHP

    The 6.5 Grendel boasts a flat trajectory, terminal performance, and soft recoil, and is available in the popular AR-15 platform.

  5. Best Shotgun Round for Coyotes

    Hornady 12GA #4 Buckshot 2 3/4" V-MAX Varmint Express

    #4 buckshot is a great middle ground that gets you both stopping power and a good amount of pellets to increase hit probability.

Table of Contents

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Why Hunt Coyotes

“Prairie wolf,” “song dog,” “brush wolf,” no matter what you call these North American canines, coyotes are a growing problem across the country.

Coyotes have increased their habitat across North America by 40 percent since the 1950s. (Photo: Chuck Hammill)

They regularly prey on livestock, small game, wild turkey poults, whitetail and elk fawns, and occasionally small pets. This makes them a major concern for ranchers, hunters, and pet owners alike.

The thing that earns coyotes a solid spot on the nuisance species list is arguably their greatest asset — their adaptability. In the late 1800s, when many North American predators were on the decline, coyotes were thriving.

Coyotes have adapted to urban environments with relative ease. (Photo: The Poultry Guide)

Canis latrans, or Coyotes, have the uncanny ability to thrive in almost any environment. As a result, coyotes have spread like a virus over most of the continent.

Once confined to the prairie ecosystems between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River, coyotes now range from Panama to Alaska and call every state in the US, except Hawaii, home. 

A coyote caught on camera in Darién National Park, Panama. (Photo: Smithsonian Magazine)

Although Wile E. had a hard time catching a simple road runner dinner, real coyotes easily carve out suitable habitats in rural, suburban, and even bustling urban areas. In doing so, coyotes regularly compete with native species for resources.

Many places consider coyotes an invasive species, and plenty of hunters consider it their patriotic duty to shoot them on sight.

Choosing the Right Cartridge for Coyote Hunting

Coyotes are culled using everything from .22 LR to .30-06 Springfield. With careful shot placement, almost any cartridge will drop a brush wolf. However, not all cartridges are equally up to the task.

.30-06 Springfield
.30-06 Springfield has long been an American standard for just about every use case, but is it the right cartridge for you?

Here are a few cartridges (and some load recommendations) capable of whacking the snot out of pesky song dogs.

Best Rimfire Cartridges

Although rimfire cartridges may not be ideal for coyote control, they can work in a pinch.

Thankfully, rimfire technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the past two decades, and we aren’t limited to Grandpa’s .22 LR squirrel loads to bring down wily predators.

.22LR vs .17 HMR
.22 LR (Left) vs .17 HMR (Right) are both popular for small varmints, but are also used to harvest larger game by some hunters.

Most rimfire options tend to lack the speed and energy necessary for quick, humane shots. But If you’re hellbent on popping ‘yotes with your rimfire rifle, choosing the correct load is absolutely crucial to your success.

Popular .22LR Ammo
The great thing about .22 LR is if you plan to hunt with one, most rifles double as great and inexpensive plinkers too.

Because eastern coyotes can push the 60-pound mark, projectiles that expand while delivering deep penetration will help maximize tissue damage and ultimately put down more predators.

.17 Winchester Super Magnum

The .17 Winchester Super Magnum is a relative newcomer to the rimfire game, but it is seriously impressive. The .17 WSM is the fastest rimfire cartridge ever created.

These guys are seriously screaming as far as rimfire cartridges go. (Photo: AllOutdoor)

With the right load, these little boogers can thrust a 20-grain bullet downrange at a blistering 3000 fps with 400 ft/lbs of energy — not bad for a rimfire.

Winchester Varmint HV .17 WSM

“HE” stands for High Energy, and that is exactly what these Winchester loads deliver.

Although the 25-grain version is a bit sluggish compared to the speedier 20-grain loads, they deliver the same terminal energy, and the heavier projectile can penetrate up to twice as deep.

Best Rimfire Coyote Cartridge
22
at Kygunco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Deeper wounds are generally deadlier wounds, and more penetration lets you stretch the effective range of your rimfire rifle.

.22 WMR

Although the .22 Magnum is somewhat wimpy when it comes to predator performance, it is popular among hunters whose primary goal is pelt recovery.

.22 WMR has been a staple for hunting small varmints for a long time. Newer projectiles have given it a new lease on life. (Photo: Outdoor Life)

With its relatively low velocity and limited penetration, you’ll want to choose your shot placement very carefully. Loads featuring jacketed soft points or good old-fashioned FMJs will be your best friend if you’re using .22 WMR.

CCI Game Point .22 WMR

These 40-grain jacketed soft point projectiles exit the muzzle at 1875 fps with 312 ft/lbs of energy. With wide expansion, better-than-decent weight retention, and surprising penetration, you’ll need to dig deep to recover your bullets.

Available Coupons

The best part — although they do a number on a ‘yote’s organs and soft tissue, they are super mild when it comes to pelt damage.

.22 LR

Although .22 LR isn’t a long-range go-getter, if you enjoy calling coyotes right into your lap, there’s no reason you can’t use this traditional rimfire. Keep your shots inside 30 yards, and shoot for the brain whenever possible.

.22LR (CCI vs Winchester vs Super Colibri)
.22 LR may be underpowered, but can still be formidable with proper shot placement at close distances.

CCI Velocitor Hypervelocity .22 LR

CCI Velocitor is one of the fastest, hardest-hitting .22 LR options on the market today. If you want to turn Granddaddy’s squirrel gun into a ‘yote-dropping machine, these are it.

9
at Kygunco

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The 40-grain hollow points expand to .31 inches and can penetrate beyond 14 inches in ballistics gel.

Although these .22 LR may not be the most effective choices for coyotes, they are incredible pelt-savers.

Best Centerfire Cartridges

.223 Remington

Hands down the most popular and affordable dog-dropping cartridge on the planet, the .223 Remington is as effective for sniping ‘yotes at distance as it is at bad breath range.

Looks can be deceiving, both .223 (left) and .22 LR (right), use the same diameter bullet.

Plus, .223 is the most common chambering for AR-style rifles. Because ARs facilitate rapid follow-up shots and are super easy to handle in the field, they are the preferred weapons of choice for many serious predator hunters.

With a quality optic, a spot-on zero, and high-performance ammo, the .223 Remington can drop ‘yotes dead in their tracks out to 300 yards. As a bonus, these cartridges produce only nominal hide damage.

Sig Sauer Varmint & Predator Tip

Featuring a lightweight, ballistic tip bullet, Sig’s Varmint & Predator loads deliver a faster muzzle velocity and a flatter trajectory than standard .223 loads, letting you milk as much long-range accuracy as possible from your modern sporting rifle.

Available Coupons

Although the jacketed lead core projectile is designed for explosive fragmentation in soft tissue, they are relatively gentle on predator pelts.

Nosler Varmageddon

Nosler designed these loads specifically for high-volume varmint shooters.

Best 5.56 Coyote Round
29
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Made with a lead-alloy core and a copper-alloy jacket, Varmageddon projectiles feature a metallic black polymer tip. The design holds its integrity under extreme velocities and expands immediately on impact.

.243 Winchester

One of the planet’s most versatile cartridges, the .243 Winchester is perfectly capable of dropping 50-pound coyotes, 700-pound wapiti, and everything in between.

.243 Winchester
The .243 Winchester is one of the most versatile cartridges ever devised for small to medium game.

These lightning-fast cartridges produce mild recoil yet deliver a serious thrashing on prairie wolves. Plus, there are rifles chambered for this popular cartridge in every design under the sun, including the AR-10 platform.

Remington Premier AccuTip-V

Remington’s Accutip-V uses a ballistic tip, boat-tail design to produce match-grade ‘yote-busting accuracy.

Best Bolt-Action Coyote Cartridge
40
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

These loads produce impressive in-flight ballistics. However, their terminal ballistics will absolutely knock your socks off.

On impact, the gold polymer tip is forced backward, causing the thin jacket and soft lead core to shatter, delivering violent on-target performance. Those brush wolves won’t know what hit ‘em.

6.5 Grendel

First introduced in 2003, the 6.5 Grendel has earned a devoted fan base. This is as close as you’ll get to 6.5 Creedmoor accuracy from an AR-15, only this one lobs a heavier bullet.

6.5 Grendel
6.5 Grendel has quickly become one of the most popular intermediate AR-15 cartridges around.

If you want a modern sporting rifle capable of popping predators and harvesting big game, the 6.5 Grendel is a strong contender.

American Eagle Varmint & Predator

Affordable and consistent, American Eagle Varmint & Predator loads feed and function reliably in semi-auto rifles. They are topped with Speer TNT projectiles, which feature a paper-thin jacket with internal fluting that produces explosive expansion on impact.

Available Coupons

If you’re looking for tack-driving, long-range accuracy, and mega-destructive terminal performance, American Eagle Varmint & Predator definitely delivers.

7.62x39mm

Although unreliable antique Soviet rifles might be the first things that come to mind when you hear “7.62x39mm,” this cartridge is also a favorite chambering for American-made ranch rifles like the Ruger Mini Thirty and American Ranch Rifle.

7.62x39mm
While known for its military usage, 7.62x39mm can be a capable small-medium game cartridge with the appropriate bullet choice at the correct distances.

Both are great truck guns ideal for targeting vexing varmints that might be cruising the edges of your cow pasture.

Remington Core-Lokt

A practical truck gun deserves a practical cartridge, and it doesn’t get more practical than Remington Core-Lokt.

Featuring a tapered copper jacket locked to a solid lead core, Core-Lokt soft points have probably been used to fill more deer tags than any other load on the face of the planet.

Available Coupons

The expanding soft point slows penetration in soft tissue, but you’re still likely to end up with a massive exit wound on close-range canines. These loads deliver quick, humane kills, but beware, they tend to mangle hides beyond use.

12-Gauge Cartridges

The 12-gauge shotgun really is a jack of all trades. Ducks, small game, whitetails, and coyotes — the 12 gauge does it all.

Types of 12ga Shotgun Shells (L to R: Bird, Buck, Slug)
Shotguns are the most versatile guns out there, and coyote hunting is one of the many bases it they can cover.

While you won’t be using your scattergun to snipe long-range song dogs, a 12-gauge is the perfect tool for handling in-your-face action, especially in dense cover. If you like to call them in hot, a 12-gauge will quickly become your new best friend.

Hornady Varmint Express #4 Buckshot

With these Hornady Varmint Express #4s, you get a full twenty-four .24-caliber projectiles heading downrange at 1,350 fps every time you pull the trigger. And because these loads use Hornady’s Versatite wads, your shot patterns will be tighter than a tick out to 50 yards.

Best Shotgun Round for Coyotes
15
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Final Thoughts

Although all of our recommended cartridges and varmint loads are capable of dropping coyotes, ultimately, “the best” is whatever you can handle with confidence and consistency.

Coyote hunting can be both fun and, in some cases, a necessity. Picking a good cartridge can help you get the job done right. (Photo: Lee Thomas Kjos)

Feel free to share your favorite coyote-culling cartridges in the comments section below. Want to increase your coyote-catching skills? Check out our recommendations for The Best Predator Calls.

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4 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Mark

    Problem with .223 loads listed is that 40 and 55 grain is recommended for a 1:9 twist rate. Mine is 1:7. I need a minimum of 62 grain or more.

    October 26, 2022 7:58 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dave

    No .22-250? Darn good varmit cartridge.

    October 26, 2022 5:18 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Scott

      Was just about to ask the same thing. A 22-250 bolt action with Hornady 50 gr VMAX ammo has a muzzle velocity of 4000 fps. Zeroed for 220 yards has a point blank zero from the muzzle out to 270 yards with a 3.5" impact area.

      October 27, 2022 5:17 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Donnie Kee

      I totally agree! I have taken totes at 400 yds with, testifying to its accuracy. It’s my go to gun here.

      October 27, 2022 5:32 pm
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