I have been looking for a yote rifle. I want a good accurate lightweight (under 7 1/2 pounds unscoped) rifle with minimal pelt damage. I have thought about a 223 or a 204. It needs to be good out to 250-300 yards.
I have never used one myself, but have seen many coyotes taken with the .17 Remington. It hardly ever leaves an exit wound. Can't get much easier on pelts than that. I would think the .204 would be about as good.
I have used a .243 Win for a lot of coyotes. It will reach out and touch them like Thor's Hammer. Now for the bad news, the bullet always exits the off side of the coyote leaving a hole in the hide from 1/2 dollar size up to "Oh my God" size. I have used a .222 for smaller size exit holes, I would imagine a .223 would be similar.
When calling coyotes, I used a 10 gauge with 31/2" copper coated BB's. It would kill them out to 60 yards very reliably without a big gaping hole in the hide.
I bought a .17 Remington, but to date have not shot a coyote with it. I did shoot a big boar 23 lb. **** with the 20 gr. Remington factory load, 4 shots and 4 hits on him and I had to finish the job with a club. 4 rounds was all I had with me. The 20 grain bullets were penetrating the hide and blowing up on the layers of fat under the hide and not penetrating to the vitals. I have some 25 grain bullets that I will try next fall.
I am not certain that the .17 Remington is an all-around coyote rifle. I haven't really given it a thorough trial yet.
Might give a true 5.56 AR15 platform a try. Upper would be20" 1:7or1:8 twist with 77 grain VLD HP, BERGER bullet. Set iron sights at 25 meter point blank range. Your iron sights will be 0:0 at 25 meters and 300 meters. Internal wound chanal is devastating, but generally the bullet fragments and does not pass through the body. If you want to use a scope later, just retract iron sights. If you decide to use both iron and glass, you just need to cowitnes the iron and glass sights. With a 62 grain VLD you may be able to reach out to 500 meters.
If buying ammo off the shelf, maybe you might want to look at any of the calibers mentioned above and see what ammunition is readily available in your area, the prices of them, and mainly what bullet is available for "varmint" loads to minimize the pelt damage you want. In other words, buying a rifle in a caliber that needs expensive ammo that is hard to find, or without the best bullet for your needs may be something to think about? I've shot a lot of Coyotes, but never cared what happened to the pelt, and just used whatever I had rather than a varmint specific bullet or caliber. I'd probably lean towards the .223 and 22-250 if I was going to set up specifically for Coyote pelts here though, but that's just a personal impression...?
Good luck to you.
Mine is a Marlin 22-250 with a bull barrel but it may be a little heavy for you. Try one with the standard barrel and you should be right in the ballpark. I know that you will love the ballistics and with a good scope, a tack driving tool! I also really like the ballistics of the 204s but really have no personal experience with them,,,, yet.
Mine is a .17/223 wildcat. Identical to a .17Rem. At 4000+FPS, 3 to 4 hundred yds is doable. You must choose your bullets wisely though. I use 25gr. Hornady HP's. They never exit on Fox. Kinda just blow up on entry and turn the insides to jello lol.
For a rifle that light and the distance you are wanting to shoot and pelt damage at a min you want the world.
I use a rem 700 in 222 rem. I do not shoot out over 200 often (dad gets them with a rem 700 hb in 22-250). Most shots coming it to the caller seem to be 50-100 yards. I still use mouth calls and a decoy sometimes. In the Midwest my shots over 200 yards are few.
17 rem will wind drift and I had one with major copper fouling issues that the rem 700 in 222 rem replaced. Don't get the one hole in but pelt damage is min. A 22-250 or 243 win can blow a nice exit hole in minimum distance.
My advise look at a 223 and sit a bit more still so you don't have to punch them at such a far distance. Uneducated coyotes rarely hang up over 100 yards. Educated ones will hang up at 200 to 400 yards.
Our normal setup includes me calling with 12 gauge shotgun. Younger relative with my 222 rem on a small buff and my father setup upwind crossing with the heavy 22-250. I take most of the under 40 yards with the shotgun.
I use my Browning A-Bolt chambered in 243 WSSM. Longest shot and kill on a coyote so far was just over 350 yds. I reload for this rifle and have settled on two loads. The one I shoot most for coyotes is loaded with a 75gr Vmax bullet at just over 3400 FPS. The long shot was made with the second load and using a a 85gr Barnes TSX bullet at 3100 FPS.
I would think the 243 Winchester would be a good choice for you.
I think the 223 or 22-250 options are good as well but I like having the option of using the rifle for deer as well. We have a minimum caliber for deer.
I would recommend either a Marlin XS or a Savage SS Axis II in 223. Both come with great triggers and with the addition of good to moderate priced glass and a new Boyds stock you have an accurate, low priced rifle that will shoot minute of angle all day long. Using the right ammo you can minimize your pelt damage and still get DRT performance.
you can minimize pelt damage with the right bullet choice. I'm using 55gr Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint. But I've been considering going to a Barnes Varmint Grenade. Barnes claims they seldom exit coyotes.
As far as a rifle, I would take any Savage EXCEPT an Axis. Search "savage axis flex" and you'll see why. I've owned one, it's all true.
My buddy has a Tikka, they're good too, and Ruger M77's