Sitting in the cold – and I mean really cold – eastern Nevada air as the sun rose behind me, I didn’t really know what to expect on this coyote hunt. Eric Conn and I have our backs to the sunrise and .260 Remington 700 Magpuls on sticks. While the sun’s light and warmth have just kissed the peaks of the mountains in the distance, the eight degree morning was a new thing in my hunting experience. Pause – Half of you are laughing at me now, mocking the balmy eight degree temperature and the guy sharing the story; the other half think anyone hunting in that frozen moment is flat out of his mind. Both should note that I never said I was cold, but more on that later.
While I’ve shot coyotes as targets of opportunity on multiple occasions, this hunt would be different. We were going up against an intelligent, wary and well educated foe, seasoned in the battle of man vs. coyote. Our area of operation wasn’t far removed from recent coyote hunting contests so the remaining numbers were probably the smartest in region, not having fallen for the fake propaganda of hunters’ calls.
The prospect of sitting motionless in any weather hoping that my adversary will magically show up isn’t really my idea of a good time. Some of you are shouting “Dilly Dilly” at your screen while others wonder what kind of hunter I must be (or not!). It is what it is, I prefer action adventure hunting, and our guide Kendall from CODA Hunts was in full agreement.
Our plan of action was to roll into an area where we suspected the foe might be loitering, hide the truck to avoid tipping them off, advance on foot three to eight hundred or more yards and blare propaganda into the void. I believe we mostly blasted the sounds of a distressed rabbit screaming, “Come finish me off and eat me!” If our prey didn’t show up in fifteen minutes we’d be off to set up the next ambush somewhere else. Perfect.
Our Remington 700s are Magpul versions with threaded twenty-two inch barrels. No silencers, but we could have used them… These are detachable box magazine fed rifles so we load up five rounds of 120-grain Barnes TTSX in a magazine then march to our shooting positions. Note that, five rounds.
So there we sit as the sun creeps down the mountains in the distance, waiting silently in the bigger silence, then in blare of the FoxPro propaganda call, then again in the vast silence. It might be up to ten degrees at this point, but thankfully I’m comfortable in my camo camp chair Kendall brought and sitting warmly.
For this hunt in and out of the snow and mountains I packed base layers, my Team Wendy balaclava, my old hiking boots and some almost new Disruptive Shadow Technology camo from Slumberjack. Layering like I did, I stayed warm. Okay, maybe not warm all the time, maybe I got a bit chilly once or twice, but I was never cold except for my gloved hands. Mostly they were warm, but not entirely.
As I sit contemplating my satisfaction with that, eyes darting back and forth searching out our adversary, a loud BOOM comes from Eric’s direction, followed by another! He can run the Remington 700 bolt pretty quickly. “Did you see them?” They both ask me? Nope, I was looking to my right at that point. “Did you connect?” I ask.
Not even close it turns out. Our optics were zeroed before they were shipped on the rifles, but were zeroed no more. And that is why I’ve been such a big proponent of the quick detach DLOC Return To Zero mounts from ZRODELTA since long before they were branded as such.
So we pause to zero our guns. They are way off. My 5th round finds its home so I reload and shoot one more from the fresh magazine to confirm. Having removed my right glove I can barely feel the Trijicon 2.5-10x scope dials. But at least I know when my turn to shoot comes I’ll be on target. We’ve lingered long enough, time to move on.
At times we’re up the mountains with the wild horses. Other times we’re in the flats full of thick cover ideal for coyote concealment. The temperature warms enough to shed a layer here or there, then chills again.
We’re not seeing much for a while, moving frequently to new areas. We head deeper into the mountains and leave the truck on the side of the road. Hiking up and over one ridge line we then advance to the pinnacle of another to set up again. This time Eric is on my right while our guide Kendall takes his usual spot between us. We blare the propaganda and a curious coyote shows up in Eric’s lane of responsibility. The coyote is moving fast, towards us, then skirting our position. I wonder when I’m going to get a shot. So far no matter which side I’m on, the adversary seems to prefer approaching Eric. That’s silly. Here Eric is definitely the better hunter.
As I remember it, and maybe he’ll comment otherwise below, Eric couldn’t get a clear shot. The coyote changes course and comes right toward me, in and out of the brush. Suddenly, it’s right in front of me, no more than twenty yards away. I’d planned for a long shot and had my Trijicon scope on 10x magnification and couldn’t find the coyote when it presented itself. Frustration explodes in my head as the adversary turns and sprints away, now visible, now hidden. I send two errant shots downrange. My error in judgment on display I don’t have much to say as we head back. It’s seems like a long hike back to the truck. I won’t do that again I think to myself.
Scope dialed back all the way, we’re still up in the mountains a bit later and I finally get my chance at glory, not to mention redemption. We’re set up short of a ridgeline where coyotes will hopefully come bounding in to our propaganda call. The back drop is another much taller ridge behind that, some 450 or so yards back.
We commence the propaganda broadcast. Still smarting from my last encounter I’m focused. So focused on my own scanning near and far that I don’t know what Eric’s just shot at. Even now I don’t recall, but there on the far slope I spot a lone coyote ripping left to right. I jump up from my seat and off my sticks and bring my scope onto the running target. It’s a small target at 450 or so yards and 2.5x magnification, but I’m feeling this one as it seems to happen in slow motion. Holding the Remington 700 offhand, I pull the crosshairs ahead to lead my target and it disappears into a clump of trees. No worries, given it’s speed and trajectory I anticipate where it will pop out and bring my 700 smoothly onto that space and pause. BOOM! I send the .260 Barnes TTSX downrange as the coyote appears just above where I anticipated it. A plume of dust and startled coyote runs away. “Incredible shot!” shouts Eric, followed in the same breath with “…had you made it!” The shot was so close that neither he nor Kendall knew where it landed. It was right there, just not quite on the money. So there I am thinking that’s going to be the title of this story, “Great shot – had you made it!” Fortunately, the hunt wasn’t over.
Back to a slightly lower elevation covered in thick brush two to three feet tall. Should we take the Remington 870 DM shotgun along this time? No, we just leave it the back seat as we do like our Magpul equipped 700s a lot. We hide the truck, gear up, trek a few hundred yards, take our seats and start the propaganda. There will be no long shots here. We should have brought that shotgun, I think to myself. No sooner does that though wander off than I have a coyote pop out of the brush no more than 25 yards to my right!
It’s back in the brush for a fraction of a moment, reappearing some feet further right. BOOM! Nailed it! The coyote is down, but not done. Shot placement should have been better.
Run the bolt fast. Click.
My body temp soars as I realize I’m out of ammo! As if it realizes what’s happening the wounded coyote magically comes to life and disappears stealing any chance of us having pictures, checking wound channels or enjoying the satisfaction of the moment. Yes, there was blood and we tracked it a short distance. But the brush was too thick, the area too vast.
“A little back up?!?” I say perhaps a bit too loudly to Eric, Kendall and anyone else in earshot in that desolate place. But it was my own folly not having reloaded my magazine. I feel badly that the coyote expired some moments after it should have. I’m told many writers wouldn’t even share this story as it happened. It’s just not the best ending. But it is how it went.
From my Remington 700 to my layering and old boots, my kit worked perfectly. Essentially, I was never even cold. Out of four hunters on that trip, I’m the only one that connected with a coyote at all. The animals had been effectively hunted in the area, much to local sheep ranchers’ delight. And while that didn’t make for much of a body count for our group, I loved all of the experience except perhaps the obvious bits I’ve shared here.
The adventure of hunting and exploring a new place, testing myself in a colder climate and making new friends was awesome. And in the end, knowing that I was the only one of four hunters to connect a shot was somewhat satisfying.
Hunting as we did was fun and exciting. We never sat for long, almost always on the move. When the coyotes showed up, it was a rush. I can’t wait for the next opportunity!