Don’t panic. Take a breath and relax. Hunting with a rimfire is supposed to be fun. That can’t be the case if you’re already stressing about the load you plan to run through your favorite rifle. The first step is simply identifying the animal you’re going after. Let’s dive in.
Varmints like coyotes and foxes are a favorite target of the rimfire crowd. Keep this in mind: A mature male coyote can push the scale north of 45 pounds, and though coyotes are thin-skinned, they’re one tough critter. If calling song dogs close is your plan, a polymer-tipped bullet is a perfect choice. The sleek nose of a polymer-tipped bullet improves ballistic coefficient and boosts downrange accuracy. A polymer tip also helps initiate expansion as the bullet enters the animal. This creates a devastating wound channel, and often the bullet won’t exit. Those who skin and sell hides will appreciate this fact. So, look to CCI’s VNT 17 Mach 2 and V-Max 17 Mach 2 when coyotes are on the agenda.
Another great coyote-killer is A17 Varmint Tip. Designed specifically for no-jam feeding in the Savage Arms A17, this 2,650 fps round also functions flawlessly in any bolt-action 17 HMR. Fitted with a Varmint Tip bullet, rapid expansion is guaranteed.
While any of those 17 HMR coyote rounds will also prove devastating on fox, those who regularly pursue red, gray and other fox species often prefer a varmint-style 22 LR round like the Mini-Mag HP 22 LR or Segmented Hollow Point 22 LR, which breaks into three equal parts on impact to carve a trio of wound channels.
Those looking to dispatch varmints in traps should consider the 27-grain Short Hollow Point. This 22 Short round promises great expansion and is a solid close-range varmint load.
Small Game Getters
Those seeking to fill the freezer with squirrels and rabbits, or even tasty game birds like grouse, need look no further than 22 LR. This affordable round has a legendary reputation in the small game world and has been used by successful rimfire hunters for decades. When you load with CCI’s Copper-22, you get a 21-grain, non-lead hollow-point bullet leaving the muzzle at 1,850 fps. Other solid 22 LR choices include 22 Suppressor and Quiet-22 Segmented HP.
Of course, if you’re of the 17 HMR faction and want to tote your rifle on small game sojourns, go for it. A polymer-tipped round is not a staple to consistent to success, and you’ll have no trouble dropping a mess of fur and feathers with a small game round like Gamepoint 17 HMR.
Pests like prairie dogs and other small rodents are a favorite of the rimfire crowd. For prairie dogs, ammo choice all comes down to time of year, hunting pressure and your objective. If you’re hunting in May and June when April-born newbies sit on holes oblivious to danger, a 22 LR or 22 Short will work just fine, especially for those seeking action inside 100 yards.
If the goal is to sit down on sticks or a bench and do some long-distance pest-busting, a 17 HMR is awfully tough to beat. Another instance where the 17 HMR shines is when hunting pressured towns. You’ll need to be able to make long shots if you plan on posting a solid daily body count. A polymer-tipped 17 HMR round is ideal.
Remember, when it comes to hunting with a rimfire, keep it simple. Know the game you’re after. Understand the landscape and likely shot distance. Then, go have fun!