Coyote Hunting and Dope: What does it Mean to You?

Garmin xero

It’s 2024, sub MOA factory rifles are cheap and plentiful, high quality factory ammo is relatively easy to find, stable tripods are the norm, and thermals keep getting better and better.  All of this adds up to being able to see and engage coyotes further out than ever before.  Point and shoot right?  Well, not quite.

What all goes into making long distance kills on coyotes?  First off, gear.  We’ll assume you have all of this squared away.


You should have a bolt or gas gun that’s sub MOA.  In layman’s terms it should consistently put up 5 round groups smaller than 1” at 100 yards.  Yes, 5 round groups, ideally 10.

You also need to know your zero.  Doesn’t matter what it is, can be dead on at 100, 200, or 1.5” high at 100.  More on this later.


You need high quality hunting ammo with a bullet suited to coyotes that is sub MOA in your rifle.  This can be factory ammo or your own reloads.

Ideally this is going to be in something fast and flat shooting.  The faster and flatter it is the less drop you’re going to have.

Tripod and Head:

You really need to be shooting off of a stable tripod and ball head/leveling base.  Can you do it off your BOG?  Sure, but a high quality, stable tripod is going to make it easier.


We’re going to mainly concentrate on thermals but the same applies to day scopes.  You need an optic that lets you see and IDENTIFY coyotes at the distance you’re wanting to shoot.  If you’re wanting to shoot them at 500+ yards it takes a lot of thermal to get there; Halo XRF, Pulsar XG50 LRF, etc…  A 25-256 thermal isn’t going to cut it.

Laser Range Finder:

Or LRF.  This is going to tell you exactly how far away the coyote is.  Kind of important info.  There are tons of options for LRFs these days.  For stand alone units you have the venerable Silencer Co Radius, Vortex Impact 4000, and the Trybe offering.  Additionally, there are more and more thermals on the market with integrated or add on LRFs; Halo XRF, Pulsar Thermion series, multiple offerings from IRay, and Rix.


OK, so you have your gear squared away.  Now what?  Well, you need to know your dope, i.e. how far is your bullet going to drop at a given range and environmental conditions.  This is what is going to let you take your gear and put your rounds onto a coyote at distance.

For the purpose of this article we’re going to concentrate on the more mechanical aspects of getting your dope and not get down into the weeds on all of the environmental inputs.

So, what all do you need to calculate your dope?

Ballistic Calculator:

This is a must have.  A good ballistic calculator lets you input all of the information below and will spit out how much drop you’re going to have at a given distance.  My personal go to is the Ballistic AE app on my iPhone.

Sight Height:

This is the distance from the centerline of your bore to the centerline of your optic.  Most of the time this can be calculated from the published height over bore of the receiver or rail on your rifle plus the height of your optic mount.  If you don’t have that information it can be measured.


This one is pretty self explanatory, you need to know where your rifle is shooting on a known distance range.  We’re not going to get into the pros and cons of 36, 50, 100, or 200 yard zero, you just need to know what it is so you can input it into the ballistic calculator mentioned above.

Ballistic Coefficient:

The ballistic coefficient (BC) of your bullet is a numerical expression on how draggy your bullet is which determines how fast it’s going to slow down and therefore how much it’s going to drop.

Most good ballistic calculators have a library where this can be found and selected.  If not, go to the manufacturer’s page for your bullet and it will be published there.  The manufacturer’s published BCs are usually good enough.

G1 for flat base bullets, G7 for boat tails.


So, you have all of the information above and have it entered into your ballistic calculator.  That leaves velocity, how fast your bullet is going.  The key part of that statement is YOUR bullet.  The single biggest mistake we see people making is taking the velocity listed on the box of ammo they’re shooting and plugging that in.  Don’t do that if you want accurate dope.  Sure, you might get lucky and they match up, more often than not they won’t.

So how do you get your velocity if you can’t just pull it off the box?  Well, you’re going to need a chronograph to measure how fast your load is going out of your rifle.

Up until the last decade or so the optical chronograph shown below was just about the only option out there for the average shooter.  They are sensitive to lighting conditions and by design have to be placed down range in front of your barrel making them susceptible to being shot.  Shoot through it and you get a velocity on screen or on a paper print out.  Additionally, since they’re down range you don’t get a muzzle velocity so you need to input how far away from the muzzle it is into the ballistic calculator.


Next up was the MagnetoSpeed chronograph.  This essentially is a sensor that clamps onto your barrel or suppressor which uses electromagnetic sensors to record how fast the bullet travels along it.  A more in depth read on how they work can be found here.

They require different spacers for different diameter barrels or suppressors.  Because they’re attached to the end of the gun they measure actual muzzle velocity.  As shown below you’ll have the actual sensor and a wire connecting it to the display.

Photo credit: MagnetoSpeed

Enter the Garmin Xero doppler radar chronograph.  Put simply, this has made all other chronographs obsolete.  It’s small, light, has an awesome app, can be ran on a tripod or attached directly to the rifle as shown below (this may void your warranty), and just

Garmin Xero c1


Garmin chronograph

We have found this is the best and easiest way to get accurate velocities for your favorite hunting ammo in order to get accurate dope.  It’s also damn handy to have around when doing load development.

If you’re in the market for a chrono, buy the Garmin and don’t look back.