Like a lot of hunters across the Carolinas, Bryson Hopkins of Charlotte began hunting coyotes in the past few years, first as an attempt to help the deer population, then because he learned he really enjoys expanding his hunting season and honing his hunting skills which are put to the test against coyotes just as much as any other wild animal.
On his first hunt, Hopkins carried his deer rifle. He’s carried a shotgun ever since.
“I’m really comfortable shooting my rifle, and I wanted to use it for coyotes, thinking that using it year-round would help me with deer hunting. But after that first hunt, I learned it just wasn’t the best choice for me,” said Hopkins.
The best choice, he decided, would be a 12-gauge shotgun.
“You can certainly kill a coyote with a rifle, no doubt. But on my first hunt, I had two coyotes that I could have easily killed with a shotgun, and I’m almost ashamed to say, I didn’t kill either one,” he said.
“I had permission to hunt coyotes on some land, but the landowners didn’t want me using hunting stands, so I was sitting on the ground just inside the woods, and overlooking a clearing that trail cameras had photographed coyotes in,” he said.
Using a distress call, Hopkins saw a coyote almost right away on the opposite end of the clearing, and just inside the tree line there. It was in full alert mode, so Hopkins hit the call once more, prompting the coyote to bolt his way much faster than he’d anticipated.
“By the time I got my rifle up and found him in the scope, he was 30 yards from me and closing fast. Then I heard a loud noise coming up behind me on the right side. It sounded like a person running,” he said.
Hopkins thought it was the landowner’s wife, who wasn’t happy her husband was letting him hunt there, so rather than pull the trigger, he looked to his right and saw something he wasn’t expecting.
“Less than 10 feet away from me was a different coyote, and he was slamming on the brakes so hard that pine straw was curling up in front of all four paws,” he said.
As the second coyote gathered its wits and ran off, Hopkins couldn’t gather himself in time to take a shot at it, and when he looked back to the clearing, the first coyote was nowhere in sight.
“I had so much trouble finding both of them in my scope because of how close they were and how fast they were moving. Ever since then, I’ve carried a shotgun, and I have killed more than one coyote during the same hunt a couple of times. And if I’d had a rifle those times, I don’t believe I would have been able to do that,” he said.
"A shotgun allows you to hunt thick brush without the problem of finding a coyote in the scope. You’ve got many more chances to hit a coyote that’s close to you with a shotgun than you do a rifle,” Hopkins said.
Another reason he prefers a shotgun is that, like his first hunt, he’s had multiple coyotes come to his call at the same time.
“Even when they don’t show up together, they have charged my way at the same time. Having a shotgun allows you to wait until the nearest coyote is very close to you before you pull the trigger. Then all you have to do is swing your gun in the direction of the second dog and pull the trigger. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades – and shotguns,” he said.
The third reason for his fondness for shotguns is because he’s had several other coyotes backdoor him, meaning his only hope for shooting them is to wheel around and fire quickly, which simply isn’t an accurate shot with a rifle.
“Often, I’ll hear one coming behind me just like that one coyote did on my first hunt. I’ll slowly turn my head his way, and if I can spot him before he realizes I’m there, I know I’ve got a great chance at turning towards him while mounting my gun, and if I can do that much, pulling the trigger on a scattergun is a guaranteed kill. That’s just not the case with a rifle,” said Hopkins, who uses Heavi-Shot Dead Coyote in 3” for his 12-gauge Remington 11-87.