Keeping your property safe from nuisance animals such as coyotes, wild dogs and vermin requires a good rifle and considerable effort. When you’re going to be varmint hunting, you’ll need a reliable, accurate rifle that won’t cost you an arm and a leg in ammo and maintenance. The Ruger Mini 14 has a reputation as a solid gun for hunting over medium ranges, and its reliability is well-known in shooting circles.
While coyotes in most areas are wary of humans, they may become a menace to your poultry and other farm animals or pets. As you probably already know, experienced coyotes are usually bold enough to steal from human-inhabited areas at night or even during the day.
Why a Mini 14?
The Mini 14 is popular amongst shooters of all types – recreational, hunters, law enforcement and competitive shooters. Perhaps this is due to the different variants that the rifle come in, including Tactical, Target, Ranch and the Mini 30. The rifle works with any brand of ammo and its self-cleaning mechanism makes it a low-maintenance option for a daily workhorse rifle.
While the Mini 14 is not ideal for combat, it certainly packs a punch and can be an effective deterrent for would-be assailants or trespassers on your property. It is better suited for getting rid of varmints, plinking and hunting small game.
The .223 Remington or 5.56x45mm caliber is capable of meeting most vermin elimination needs on a ranch or farm.
Let’s Talk About Accuracy
While the Ruger Mini 14 started out as a rifle for hunting coyotes and the like, it also won over shooters with its accuracy. However, over time the consistency and accuracy of the weapon dropped and soon the Mini 14 was considered less accurate than other rifles from the competition.
The manufacturer decided to retool its manufacturing machinery in 2005 and shut down its factory for this purpose for a year. The new and improved Mini-14 has been manufactured since 2006 and some refer to the new rifle as the “580,” due to the three-digit-series number that appears ahead of the serial number. It has tighter tolerances after the factory retool, so shots are more accurate and owners of the newer gun report 2.5’’ groups at 100 yards.
Owners of older models also report high accuracy, but you won’t be guaranteed the accuracy of newer 580 models in every gun.
Now let’s have a look at our six key tips for going after those annoying coyotes.
Get a Great Scope
Coyote hunting usually means staking out a spot and bagging your prey around dawn or dusk, when the lighting conditions are far from ideal but coyotes are at their most active. Because most newer Mini 4s come with integrated scope mounts, mounting a scope is easy.
When you go to buy a scope, keep in mind the range you’ll be shooting your targets. The furthest you can expect to hit a coyote reliably with the Mini 14 is 150 yards, so 1.5x to 5x will be sufficient. If you would like to know the range accurately, you could use a rangefinder. Here are some great recommendations.
When it comes to selecting a scope for the Ruger Mini 14, make sure you get the biggest objective lens that you can afford. The objective is the light-gathering lens on the far end of your scope, the bigger it is, the better the low-light ability and the better you can shoot. An objective that is at least 50mm is best.
Use the Right Ammo
While out hunting coyotes, your choice of ammo may depend on whether you’re hunting for a state bounty on the carcass, in a tournament or for the pelt. Some factors that go into choosing the right ammo include accuracy, trajectory, projectile performance, and recoil.
For accuracy, you should keep in mind that the average coyote does not present a large target, and over long distances, hitting its vitals can be a challenge. The more accurate the shot, the more humane the kill and the higher the likelihood of a single-shot kill. In order to have a flatter trajectory, your bullet will need a high muzzle velocity, which is dependent on the grain and size of the ammo. High-velocity ammo is great for putting down the animal, but not so great for preserving the pelt, as it may tear the skin upon exiting the body.
If you wish to preserve the pelt, then select slower, frangible ammo, such as the .223 Remington. It’s probably not going to penetrate enough to exit the body. It’s easy to get and pretty cheap, so you don’t have to feel guilty about using it on pests.
Find a Good Spot
In order to make your coyote kill, you need to spend the time to get to know the habits and movement pattern of the coyotes in the area. Look for tracks, scat and kill sites, and listen for coyote vocalizations.
Also think about how much hunting others may have already done in that area, as coyotes living in heavily-hunted areas are wary and easily spooked.
Once you’ve figured out what places the coyotes in the area are likely to frequent, it’s time to set up in the best position. Think about visibility, cover and lighting. You should remain upwind of the animals in order for them to not smell you.
You must also sit as still as possible as the slightest movement can alert the coyote’s fine-tuned senses to your presence. Obviously smoking, whistling or using any electronics that emit light or noises should be avoided.
Lay the Trap
If you want to succeed in drawing the coyote into your sights, you’ll need to bait a trap with some sort of decoy or bait. Electronic callers are very popular for coyote hunting, as they can imitate the squealing of prey or mating calls.
Your choice of coyote call will vary with the season. Some hunters always use the same call for each hunt, while others try to vary the call used. An electronic caller is ideal for this purpose as you can select from multiple sounds.
In winter, the coyote mating season starts, so the sound of a female coyote in estrus will attract males. Learn all you can about the different vocalization made by coyotes in order to more effective at selecting the right one.
You might use meat or a toy animal to draw the coyote in as well, and for such cases, try to have the toy animal move as if it’s weak or injured. The bait can distract the coyote from noticing your presence and provides a visual focus.
Get Set Up
When setting up for hunting coyotes, keep in mind that these animals are both cunning and cautious, so you’ll have to conceal your presence even from afar. Look for gullies, ditches, creeks, hills or fences that can hide your form. Use the surrounding terrain to your advantage, and never expose yourself against the skyline.
Keep enough distance from the point where you expect the coyote to emerge from cover or pass through to give yourself time to aim and shoot. But it should not be so far away that you will be unable to get a clear view. It should be free of visual obstructions.
If you have a good set of binoculars, you should be able to see the coyote from a mile away in open territory. A 100-yards distance is enough to shoot the coyote while keeping far enough away to avoid spooking it.
If you don’t succeed in bagging an animal on your first couple of tries, don’t give up! While hunting coyotes is rewarding, it also requires patience and planning. You should reflect on what you learn from each failure and try to form a strategy based on your study of the surroundings and habits of the local coyotes.
You might need to switch to a different call or relocate to a position that offers coyotes less cover to hide. Remember that predators like the coyote have evolved to be cunning and careful, giving them a huge advantage in sensing danger. You need to outwit and outlast your prey to effectively bag it.
If you follow these steps, including staking out the territory, employing the necessary camouflage, using callers or bait, and setting up in the right spot, you will have all the necessary ingredients for a successful hunt. Ensure that you use the right ammo for your Ruger Mini 14, and it will definitely aid you in getting rid of these animals that can pose a threat to your livestock, pets and poultry.
Josh Lewis is a lifelong gun fanatic and shares his thoughts on the best rifles and accessories on his website Gunmann.com.