Successful Hunter|March - April 2020
Rifles or Shotguns?
Gordy J. Krahn

Most predator hunters consider a centerfire rifle chambered for cartridges such as the .223 or .22-250 Remingtons the end-all solution for all of their fur gathering endeavors. These predator specific rifles and the bullets they send downrange – to their way of thinking – are tailor-made to rug out furred critters while inflicting minimal damage to their valuable pelts. Topped with a variable-power scope, they are capable of reaching out at considerable distances when dialed up, and they also work reasonably well for close action when the scope is adjusted to its lowest setting. Hunters who favor semiautos or AR rifles enjoy large magazine capacity and quick follow-up shots.

Then there are those who take a turkey hunter’s approach to calling in and shooting predators by using their hunting and calling skills and terrain features to coax critters in sure-kill close for a swarm of buckshot. These hunters enjoy unmatched efficiency at close range – easily out to 60 yards with today’s special-duty shotguns, chokes and shot shells – when the action is fast and furious, or multiple predators show up at the scene. By matching shotshell selection to the species, fur damage is generally minimal.

The sad thing is that firearm aficionados from both camps are missing out on their full potential as fur hunters. By excluding one type of gun in favor of the other, opportunities are often diminished or even lost. Why compromise when there’s potential to have the best of both worlds by owning a dedicated fur rifle and a dedicated scattergun, and learning the nuances of when to use one over the other based on a host of criteria?

First off, I think we can agree that this is the “golden age” of predator hunting in terms of special-purpose equipment available. There is a mind-boggling assortment of e-callers and mouth-blown calls, camouflage patterns for every conceivable environment, high-quality binoculars and riflescopes, night vision optics and special-duty rifles, shotguns and ammunition made specifically for predator hunting. Predator-specific bolt-action rifles, such as the Mossberg Patriot Predator, Ruger American Rifle Predator and Remington Model 700 SPS Tactical Coyote, as well as a vast assortment of ARs designed specifically with the predator hunter in mind, are testament to a growing interest in rifles dedicated to hunting furbearing critters. The common thread here is that these rifles are short-barreled and highly maneuverable, have a subdued or camouflage finish, a lightweight synthetic all-weather stock, light/adjustable trigger pull and are chambered for the most popular predator/varmint cartridges.

Many hunters take this specialization further by owning several rifles in various calibers for the different predators and terrain they hunt. A western hunter targeting coyotes, for example, might opt for a long-range cartridge with extra muscle, like a .22-250 Remington, while a fox hunter in the East might favor milder cartridges and bullets, such as the .17 Remington, for close work on thin-skinned critters weighing less than 20 pounds.

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