By Stuart Hoegh
My brother and I each missed several coyotes this year. I have realized that I must change the way in which I prepare to hunt coyotes. In the past I have focused on sighting in my gun out to 200 yards and being comfortable at 300. However, the issue with missing most coyotes is not distance. It is the difficult task of adjusting quickly and taking slightly off balance shots that causes coyotes to get away.
When I arrive at a stand I have an idea of where coyotes will come in; I focus on fence lines, draws and gullies. The problem is that my predictions are often wrong. They arrive from the opposite direction or over a random point on the hill, and I am forced to take an off balance and rushed shot at a fidgeting coyote at 150 yards. Much of my practice in the past has consisted of shooting straight on to the target or even off of a lead sled to sight in my gun. This style of shooting has little applicability to coyote hunting. For example, the final hunt of the year I heard a coyote coming through the grass next to me. I swung my rifle to the right and turned the scope down to 3 power (I usually have it on 6). A coyote trotted out into the field around 150 yards. I turned the scope up to nine power and prepared to take the shot. As the reticle centered on the coyote a second coyote ran through the bottom of my view at thirty yards. I adjusted down to the second, and a third trotted out at twenty yards. It dropped there. Thus, practice for coyote hunting should involve quick adjustments and slightly off-balance slightly positions.
Outdoor Life offers an online Long Range Shooting Course that does a great job of explaining how to shoot a rifle properly. Here are two of my favorite drills from the course. I will practice each of these both facing forward, to the right and to the left.
Setup: Four 1-inch targets.
Range: 100 yards.
Shoot: Using a bolt-action rifle, start with three rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. At the start signal, attempt to place one shot on each target.
Begin with a par time of 30 seconds and work down to 15. Only a 100 percent score, with one hit on each target, is acceptable. The goal is to increase the speed with which this is accomplished.
Skills: This drill improves gun handling, and the ability to smoothly work the bolt and acquire the next target. It requires solid fundamentals in the prone position to prevent recoil from disrupting your natural point of aim.
This drill will build a hunter’s confidence. If you can hit four 1-MOA targets in 20 seconds, a deer’s chest will look as big as a blimp. This also teaches you to manipulate the rifle and successfully make multiple shots under stress.
Instructor at the SIG Sauer Academy (sigsaueracademy.com)
Setup: Draw a grid of 1-inch squares, six rows by six or five by five.
Range: 100 yards.
Shoot: This drill is best shot with a high-capacity magazine-fed rifle to minimize the need to reload.
At the start signal, fire one shot at the top-left box. Then fire a second shot at the box to the right of it, and continue across the top row. When the top row is completed, move to row two. Continue until all boxes have been engaged.
At some point, you’ll find you can’t focus on the reticle clearly and the shots will go astray. When this starts to happen, “reset” your vision by turning away from the scope, focusing on something in the distance, and blinking a few times.
Keep track of the time it takes to complete the grid with clean hits and how many shots you can make before needing to clear your vision.
Skills: The grid drill builds focus, concentration, and marksmanship. It demonstrates that there is a limited amount of time any shooter or hunter can stare through a rifle optic and shoot effectively.