Over the last few years, the AR platform has gained popularity among coyote hunters, and it’s easy to see why.
Ideal cartridge size, semi-automatic capabilities, and the ability to customize the rifle are just a few of the reasons why modern sporting rifles have found a home in the world of coyote hunting.
With many hunters making the switch from traditional bolt guns, buying a Daniel Defense rifle and setting it up specifically for thumping coyotes is about as clear as mud for most! For those who already own a DD but have it set up for tactical or home defense use, the struggle with converting it over to a hunting rifle is just as real. Below I outline a few of the main areas that need to be addressed in order to produce a tact-driving, coyote-smashing machine.
Just like with any great hunting rifle, topping your DD with the right optic is crucial for getting exceptional results. In the world of tactical and home defense shooting, the use of reflex-style sights is very common due to minimal shot distances and the need for quick target acquisition. When it comes to coyote hunting, you’re shooting at a small target over greater distances so using a scope with variable magnification is key. On my personal DD setup, I run a Leupold 6.5x20x50 LR VX3. Some may think that is overkill but when I’m trying to settle in on a cantaloupe-sized target at over 250 yards, having the ability to zoom in my scope is huge! Additionally, being able to adjust the scope magnification based on the terrain, each individual coyote stand, and the situation is very important. Many hunters throughout the coyote hunting community prefer 3×9 or 4.5×14 variable powered scopes to accommodate for those variables.
Although using the exact same scope that I do might be a bit excessive for your personal needs, don’t cut yourself short when it comes to optics. Buy the best that you can afford in a platform that will allow you clear target acquisition in low-light situations. Some of the best coyote hunting happens right before sunup or after sundown so having a scope with at least a 40mm objective lens will give you a greater chance at acquiring the target and making the shot.
In my opinion, the trigger is probably the most important decision when it comes to setting up your DD for coyote hunting! Shooting sub-MOA groups at 100 yards is a must if you want to consistently kill coyotes out to 300 yards. Having the right trigger in your rifle will allow you to make that happen. Not to say this isn’t possible with a mil-spec trigger and a pull of 8+ lbs, but dropping in an after-market trigger like the Geissele SSA 2-stage with a final break of 2 lbs will make it a lot easier for most! Lighter trigger pulls result in less of a chance for the shooter to jerk the trigger or flinch on the break, which ultimately leads to tighter groups. These Geissele triggers come standard in models like the DD MK12, the entire DD5 lineup, and the DD Ambush line.
One of the major misconceptions I’ve run into over the years is that when it comes to using the AR platform for hunting, people underestimate the barrel length and its accuracy. Many have been led to believe that the shorter the barrel, the less accurate the rifle will be. Obviously, this is false! I’ve used everything from a 16 to 24 inch over the years, but the 18’s are my favorite! Although you don’t lose accuracy, you do lose muzzle velocity with shorter barrels. I’ve always felt that the shorter overall length of the rifle, added mobility, and lighter weight that comes with a 16-18 inch barrel far out-weigh the few hundred feet per second that you would gain with a 20 or 24-inch barrel. A 5.56/.223 round traveling 3000 fps out of an 18-inch barrel is more than sufficient for killing coyotes at distances most hunters wouldn’t even be comfortable shooting at!
Even though the sky is the limit when it comes to accessorizing your DD, there are really only 3 additions you’ll find on my coyote rifle: a red-dot sight on a 45-degree mount, a sling, and a bipod. All 3 serve separate but crucial purposes. First, is the red-dot sight on a 45-degree mount. In coyote hunting, things can happen fast and at close range. Having an 8 MOA Burris Fast Fire III dialed in at 25 yards and mounted on a 45-degree mount is extremely useful in knocking down the occasional coyote that decides to do a fly-by past your position running Mach 3. Trying to acquire a target like that in a scope is practically impossible for most! Add a red dot on a 45 mount and now you have all of your bases covered.
Next, comes the sling. Coyote hunting generally involves a decent amount of walking and hauling of other equipment like electronic calls, seats, cameras, and hopefully the occasional dead coyote! Being able to secure your rifle on your body and free up your hands is an absolute must. I personally use a traditional-style sling but a tactical sling will work just as well.
Lastly, is the bipod. As I mentioned earlier, shooting cantaloupe-sized targets at extended distances is no easy task. Add a bipod or shooting rest to the equation and things just became a bit easier! I personally use a Swagger bipod on my DD. Having a bipod that is fixed to my rifle allows me to maneuver into various positions and make quick adjustments depending on where the coyote is at. Add in the fact that I’m as close to bench-rest steady as I can possibly be from the sitting position and most coyotes less than 200 yards don’t stand a chance!