Predator hunting is an intensive pursuit that requires patience, determination and much skill to be successful. Coyotes, mountain lions and other predator species can be notoriously wary, and once called in, don’t always afford hunters a second chance after a misplaced shot. Paradoxically, they can also be reckless at times, rushing in to the sound of a distress call or of another predator occupying its territory.
By David Hart
For Predator & Predator Hunting
In either case, predator hunters need to have complete confidence in their ammunition and their ability to take an accurate, ethical shot, sometimes without a lot of time to prepare. This boils down to stoking rifles and shotguns with the right load for the job.
Because shots can come at varied distances, and often without a lot of time to determine precise holdovers, most hunters using rifles prefer a fast cartridge with a reasonably flat trajectory over its effective range. To minimize damage to the valuable pelts found on most predators and to maximize lethality, these cartridges also typically feature a bullet that fragments or expands rapidly after penetration. For shotgunners, a load with large shot, such as BB or buckshot, is what’s needed for close-range predators.
Thankfully, a large number of ammo manufacturers are producing loads specifically designed to meet the unique needs of predator hunters. Here’s a look at some great ammunition options for knocking down coyotes, foxes, bobcats and even mountain lions.
American Eagle Varmint & Predator
Brand new for 2016 is Federal Premium’s new American Eagle Varmint & Predator line of ammunition. This ammo combines accuracy, consistency, reliable performance and affordability to create a perfect round for dedicated varmint and predator hunters. The loads come in 50-count boxes and feature Federal brass and primers paired with a Tipped Varmint or jacketed hollow- point bullet, depending on the caliber. The line includes popular varmint and predator calibers ranging from .17 and .22 Hornet to medium calibers such as the .223 Rem. and .22-250 Rem. on up to the larger 6.8 SPC and .308 Win. American Eagle Varmint & Predator will be great on everything from prairie dogs to coyotes and mountain lions. ($33.95-$52.95; FederalPremium.com)
CCI A17 Varmint Tip
In collaboration with Savage Arms, CCI developed a .17 HMR load purposefully designed for the new A17 semi-auto rifle. While tailored for the A17 rifle, it also does fine through bolt-action .17 HMR rifles. CCI’s A17 Varmint Tip shoots a little hotter than most .17 HMR loads, producing muzzle velocities on average about 100 fps faster than other cartridges with the same bullet weight. The load’s Varmint Tip results in explosive expansion on impact, making it a perfect choice for smaller predators such as foxes and bobcats. It comes in a 200-round pack. ($66.95; CCI-Ammunition.com)
Hornady Superformance Varmint
Hornady’s Superformance Varmint line has been around for a little while, but in 2015 the company added a .243 Win. 75-grain V-Max offering. Like all the Superformance Varmint loads, this one shoots at a remarkable velocity, pushing the 75-grain pill at a brisk 3,580 fps. It also retains its speed well, managing a velocity of around 2,155 fps at 500 yards. While some consider a .243 Win. to be slightly overkill for most smaller predators and even coyotes, it’s a good choice for long-range shots on coyotes and for larger predators such as mountain lions and wolves in those areas where they are legal to hunt. ($37.04; Hornady.com)
Winchester Varmint X
Engineered to meet the demands of predator hunters, Winchester’s Varmint X line offers loads in many of the standard varmint/predator calibers. The Varmint X bullets feature a high ballistic coefficient polymer tip that maximizes long- range performance and initiates quick and violent expansion on the target. Bullets also utilize a thin jacket with a sidewall designed for explosive fragmentation. The Varmint X loads come in a box of 20. ($19.99-$26.99; Winchester.com)
Hornady Heavy Magnum Coyote
Not all coyotes are shot at a great dis- tance. When a coyote manages to sneak in close or comes rushing into a hunter’s set with reckless abandon, the best tool for the job can often be a 12-gauge scattergun. This load from Hornady packs 11⁄2 ounces of coyote-killing nickel-plated lead shot into a 3-inch magnum shell and utilizes Hornady’s Versatite wad to ensure dense patterns and a short shot column. The Heavy Magnum Coyote loads are available in either BB or 00 buckshot and boast a velocity of around 1,300 fps, which should be plenty lethal on any coyote within 50 yards or so. ($17.92; Hornady.com)
Nosler Trophy Grade Varmint
Nosler’s bullets and loaded cartridges have a well-earned reputation among big game hunters, and the company’s Trophy Grade line of ammunition represents one of the finest for larger game. Luckily, Nosler doesn’t leave varmint and predator hunters out of the mix either. The company produces a Trophy Grade Varmint line of ammo that meets Nosler’s unsurpassed quality standards while adhering to the unique requirements of predator hunters. Ammunition in the Trophy Grade Varmint line is loaded with either Nosler’s venerable Ballistic Tip Varmint or Ballistic Tip Lead Free bullet for rapid expansion on target. A .223 Rem. load with Nosler’s recent E-Tip is also available. The Nosler Trophy Grade Varmint loads are available in many of the popular predator hunting calibers and come in a box of 20. ($24.40-$41.30; Nosler.com)
Hornady .17 WSM
Hornady is another company that has embraced the .17 WSM cartridge. In 2015, it introduced its first .17 WSM load, a screamer that launches a 20-grain V-MAX bullet at a remarkable 3,000 fps. The lightweight, high- speed bullet bridges the gap between Horna- dy’s .17 HMR rimfire loads and its centerfire .17 Hornet offerings. The V-MAX bullet retains more than 2,000 fps as far away as 200 yards from the muzzle, far exceeding the potential and performance of rimfires such as the .17 HMR and .22 WMR. This .17 WSM comes in a box of 50 and should have plenty of bite for varmints and smaller predators inside of 200 yards or so. ($21.41; Hornady.com)
American Eagle .17 WSM
The .17 Winchester Super Magnum (WSM) is one of the more interesting cartridges introduced in the last several years, particularly for varmint and predator hunters. It shoots incredibly fast and offers performance approaching some of the .17-caliber centerfire loads in a rimfire cartridge. Federal Premium saw the benefit of this and introduced a .17 WSM load in its American Eagle ammunition line in 2015. The load offers a tipped 20-grain varmint bullet with around 3,000 fps of velocity, making it perfect for varmints and predators at greater distances than most other rimfires.($19.95; FederalPremium.com)
Barnes updated its VOR-TX lineup of rifle and hand- gun ammo in 2015 with several new offerings. Two of these were 5.56x45mm NATO loads with 62-grain and 70-grain options loaded with Barnes’ TSX all- copper projectile. These are perfectly suitable loads for any predator hunter using an AR-type rifle chambered in and built to handle the 5.56 NATO cartridge’s pressures. The two VOR-TX loads deliver rapid expansion on thin-skinned game such as coyotes and deer, helping to minimize the amount of pelt damage on predator species. Muzzle velocities for the 62- and 70-grain projectiles are 3,000 fps and 2,850 fps, respectively, and these loads come in a box of 20. ($24; BarnesBullets.com)
Nosler’s Varmaggedon line of ammunition carries a fitting name, as it spells a near certain ending for any varmint or predator unlucky enough to be caught in its path. Ammo in the Varmaggedon line features either a highly accurate polymer tip or a hollow point combined with a flat base design. Both designs initiate the needed rapid expansion after penetrating a target. Loads are available in a wide and diverse range of popular varmint and predator calibers. All ammunition uses quality Nosler brass and comes in a box of 20. ($21.30-$40.50; Nosler.com)
This story originally appeared in the DDH sister publication Trapper & Predator Caller and is published to help deer hunters interested in predator hunting and management.
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