We all know that coyotes can show up from anywhere when we’re calling, but what if one pops out of the brush so close that you can’t maneuver your gun to shoot without spooking it? In some circumstances, this is the time to shoot from your weak side shoulder. I’ve just convinced myself—again—that it’s a skill worth learning.
The beginning of the new year found me sitting in the middle of an open field cut in half by a narrow line of spruce and pine trees serving as a windbreak. I was positioned at the south end of this line, looking west, with my right shoulder against a fence post. I “knew” the coyotes would show up from that westerly direction.
A big male apparently followed that line of trees to the sound of my call and stepped out to look me over at 14 yards. This put it just off my right shoulder, and being right-handed, I needed to do a huge amount of movement in order to swing my rifle around and get onto the ‘yote. I could see it was already spooked and set to bolt back into cover at any moment, so I didn’t dare try it. Instead, we just stared at each other.
Fortunately for me, some old training kicked in: Rather than swing my entire body around to make the shot, I slowly raised the rifle, preparing to shoot the coyote from my left shoulder. The coyote didn’t like even that slow movement and backed off another 3 yards. But by then I had the gun up and I dropped him at 17 paces, shooting from my weak side.
That old training I mentioned hearkened back to my law enforcement days, when we had to qualify annually on a rifle course of fire that required us to shoot left-handed—all in an effort to ensure officers could shoot around the left corner of a building without overly exposing themselves to incoming fire. At first, it seemed incredibly awkward, but like anything else, practice yielded improvement.
Shooting off the weak shoulder is a useful tool for a hunter to keep in his bag of tricks. I’ve shot a couple of coyotes this way, and I don’t think I’d have bagged either one if I hadn’t used the technique. The important thing is to try it first at the range. You don’t need to do a lot of practice this way, just enough to convince yourself that it is possible to shoot completely reversed from your normal position.