This past deer season was the best I can remember in years with plenty of 200 pound bucks showing up on social media and in photos tacked up by the liar’s bench in many of the small town general store tagging stations. In my local area, big bucks were hanging from game poles all across eastern and northern Maine. I thought, “What if every year could be like this?” It was an intriguing notion.
There is plenty of debate on whether deer mortality rates are impacted more by wintering habitat or coyote predation. I’ll leave that to the wildlife biologists and academics. As a hunter and guide I can tell you a couple of things for sure. Northeast Maine is coyote country and coyotes kill deer. While I‘ve never been a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions, this year I am making an exception – kill more coyotes. If you are new to predator hunting and want to join me this season, here are some tips to help get you started.
Coyotes love swamps, bogs and thick cover. This type of habitat provides concealment and security. It also provides protection from the elements and deer can be found seeking the same. In this environment, thick with alder and tightly bunched spruce and fir, you should expect a 30 to 40 yard range shot at most. That is tight confines for most rifles. A good choice in the deep brush is a 12 gauge shotgun chambered for up to 3 inch magnum shells. 00 buckshot or number 4 shot loads are good picks and will punch through most light obstructions. If you are a turkey hunter, you probably already own a perfect coyote brush gun. My go to heavy cover gun is a semi-automatic Remington Model 1100 chambered in 3 inch magnum stuffed with copper plated number 4 shot turkey loads.
Harvested cropland like cornfields and big hayfields are also prime coyote country. Natural food in the form of harvest leavings and with them, rodents, are readily found by coyotes seeking new food sources as the frigid air moves in and snow blankets the northeast. Insects like crickets, berries and apples are mostly long gone and the hare are wearing white, making it a bit tougher for coyotes to dine on one of their menu favorites. These expansive areas call for a gun that is accurate and capable of reaching out and touching that coyote at 200 yards or more. A perfect choice is a bolt action rifle with a riflescope in the 3×9 to 4×12 range. Popular cartridges for long range predator hunting include the .25-06 Remington, .204 Ruger, .223 Remington and the .22-250 Remington. My go to open country gun is the Remington Model 700 SPS Varmint chambered in .223 topped with a Redfield Revolution 3×9 riflescope.
When the pack keeps on the move, so do I. Here on Tucker Ridge, we have several packs of coyotes that migrate up and down the ridge, into the cedar bogs and up into big timber country. When the snow freezes over and deer have difficulty breaking through the crust when trying to escape, the dogs can be seen in the fields as well. Mixed terrain calls for compromise and flexibility. An AR-15 platform rifle is hard to beat here. An AR is light, easy to maneuver and when equipped with a Picatinny rail, capable of shouldering numerous options such as standard iron sights, riflescopes, night vision and light combinations. The carbine models offer even more flexibility with collapsible stocks and shorter barrels. With an AR you can switch your setup in minutes as the terrain dictates and there are numerous predator chamberings available. My go to mixed terrain gun is a Stag Arms Model Stag-15 chambered in .223 Remington/5.56mm. With a 20 inch barrel and Magpul handguards, it performs nearly as well as my bolt gun, yet is light and comfortable enough to haul across any terrain I encounter in coyote country.
John is a Registered Maine Guide, an NRA Certified Instructor and is the owner of Tucker Ridge Outdoors in Webster Plantation, Maine. He also works as a freelance outdoors writer and is the author of “Life on the Ridge” for the bangordailynews.com Outdoors section. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook @writerjohnfloyd