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Rifles & the Eastern Coyote



The dying rabbit call echoed eerily off the nearby hills as I intently scanned the thick brush around me, straining to hear or see the telltale signs of a hungry coyote closing in on me. There is nothing quite like playing the role of the prey to the hunter for quickening one’s pulse and sharpening one’s senses. I continued calling for over 30 minutes with no tangible sign that anything besides the farm-dogs along the ridge heard my calls.

And then, something happened. What it was, I’ll never know. I heard nothing. I saw nothing. And, yet I sensed that something was there. Slowly, but not slowly enough, I turned to my right and suddenly, not 20 yards behind me, the snow exploded! All I saw was the tail of a huge coyote disappear into the nearby swale. My Remington 1187 came up and tracked the movement, but it was far too late. I didn’t even get the safety off. I had been hunted and I had been had. Chalk another one up for the elusive Eastern Coyote.


Of course, not being willing to leave well-enough alone, I had to know what happened. The tracks in the foot-deep fresh snow didn’t lie. I back-tracked the dog who had originally approached from directly in front of me where it would have offered an easy shot — had he maintained that path. Instead, just prior to breaking the brush in front of me he had stopped, apparently sat in the snow, then worked his way around me and downwind, keeping out of sight and inside the brush line surrounding the frozen beaver swamp.

Once having reached a point about 100 yards away, the coyote turned towards my call sounds and silently approached up a stream bed using cover and a silent-approach to his advantage. How long he was there before I turned — and how close he would have approached had I not moved — I’ll never know. Such is the disappointment and excitement of coyote hunting!


The Eastern Coyote has increased their populations in recent years in all of the eastern states. They provide challenging hunting opportunities as anyone who has hunted them will attest. Sneaky, cunning and suspicious, these predators are extremely difficult to bring in to shotgun range. Their noses are second to none as are their eyes and ears. One of the best ways to fool these wily woods dogs is to increase the range from hunter to animal. New Jersey’s regulatory change to allow select rifles for use on coyotes will allow the Garden State hunter enhanced opportunities to harvest these predators by increasing the hunter’s effective range.

Certain types of rifles are now legal to use for coyotes during daylight hours from one-half hour. before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset during the Special Coyote/Fox Season. These include all .22 caliber rimfire rifles loaded with a maximum bullet weight of 50 grains and all center-fire rifles not to exceed .25 caliber and with a maximum bullet weight of 80 grains. All rim-fire and center-fire rifle ammunition must be loaded with either soft point or hollow point bullets. Fully jacketed bullets are prohibited.

New ammo regulations affecting special permit coyote and fox hunters expand the choices for daytime hunting (see chart Small Game Hunting) to include shotguns with shot not smaller than BB or larger than #4 Buck. Pellets must be lead or a tungsten-nickel-iron hybrid.

For the ultimate coyote hunting experience, muzzleloading rifles of .44 caliber or larger are also permitted.

As with any firearm, hunters must remember to insure the correct identification of their target before shooting and that the background beyond their target is safe. It is also important that hunters using scoped rifles remain tuned-in to their peripheral vision, always duly aware of nearby people or structures which might require passing on the shot.

Hunters participating in the Special Coyote/Fox Season who wish to use an enumerated rifle must possess while hunting the following:

A valid 2014 Coyote/Fox Permit.

A valid 2014 Hunting or All Around Sportsman’s License.

A valid Rifle Permit.

A predator calling device.

Note: The use of bait is prohibited.

For details on the new ammunition legal for harvesting coyote, see Coyote/Fox Season, Small Game Hunting.

Additionally, rifles — while not needing to be plugged — must be loaded with no more than three cartridges. All harvested coyotes must be reported to any of the regional Fish and Wildlife law enforcement offices within 24 hours of the kill. Hunters should leave their name, CID# and daytime phone number. 174548.png


Know Your Ammo

With new regulations this year expanding coyote and fox hunting opportunities (see Small Game Hunting), hunters should spend some time at the range to learn what rounds will shoot well from their firearm and what will be effective for taking coyote or fox.

Now legal during the daytime hunting hours of the Special Permit Coyote and Fox Season, modern rifle ammo allowed falls between .17 caliber rimfire up to a maximum of .22 caliber rimfire loaded with soft-point or hollow-point bullets with a maximum weight of 50 grains. Centerfire rifles shall be a maximum .25 caliber loaded with soft-point or hollow-point bullets with a maximum weight of 80 grains.

The goal is to use a safe round that will shoot fast, flat and accurately plus will disintegrate on contact with anything leaving all of its energy within the quarry. Hunters will want to research online about rifle rounds for coyote and fox or talk with knowledgeable sporting goods store staff and experienced fellow hunters. Match the round with your target species to ensure you are using an effective harvest tool.

It’s critical to practice shooting outdoors under field conditions that will simulate hunting. Small, light loads must contend with interference from wind not present at an indoor range.

Also new this year, shotgunners hunting daytime hours during this Special Permit Coyote and Fox Season may now hunt only with shot sizes not smaller than BB nor larger than #4 Buck. Pellets must be lead or a tungsten-nickel-iron hybrid. As in past years, shells for night hunting of coyote or fox during this season must contain pellets not smaller than #4 fine shot or not larger than size T. Pattern your shells at the range and select the load that performs best from your firearm.

Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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