John's Journal...

Steve DeMers - Master Predator Hunter

Bigger Equipment Isn’t Always Better

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: I first met Steve DeMers of Whitehall, Montana, on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere after he’d just taken a coyote at 1,102 yards when I was hunting with Central Montana Outfitters of Great Falls, Mon. I couldn’t believe DeMers had made that shot until a friend of mine, Chad Schearer, the public-relations director of Black Powder, Inc., told me, “John, I was beside him with my binoculars. I heard the report of the rifle, and after what seemed like an eternity, the coyote just fell over. It was an incredible shot.” In 1974, DeMers began hunting coyotes for their pelts. Today he hunts them for the government as a wildlife specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reduce the damage coyotes do.

When Steve DeMers realized he was over-gunned and over-range-findered (see Day 1), he renewed his search for the perfect combination of equipment. He scrapped his Click to enlargeoversized equipment and began shooting a .300 Magnum. While much-more successful with the .300 Magnum than with the .50, this rifle still didn’t seem the exact right fit for him. He continued to experiment with rifles and calibers until he settled on the 6.5x284 with a Nesika action from NesikaBay Precision.  

“The 6.5x284 is a much-more accurate gun in the field than the .300 Magnum,” DeMers mentions. “Too, the 6.5x284 only has a slight recoil, so through my scope, I can see where the bullet hits after the first shot. Often if the coyote doesn’t know where the shot has come from, it will run a few yards. Then it will sit down and look for you, giving you the chance to take a second shot. The recoil of the larger-caliber rifles never really bothered me. But I couldn’t see through the scope where the bullet hit after I fired it. But I knew if I’d missed a shot with the 6.5x284 because I’d estimated the windage incorrectly, I still could make adjustments to my scope with the windage and elevatioClick to enlargen and shoot more accurately on the second shot by seeing where the bullet hit in relation to my target.”

Originally, DeMers shot a 9-twist barrel, but most manufacturers recommended an 8-twist barrel for this caliber. DeMers considered a Krieger barrel an outstanding barrel for this caliber, however, Krieger only made an 8-1/2-twist barrel. After shooting the 8-1/2-twist 30-inch barrel, DeMers decided it performed much better for him than a 9-twist in another brand had. DeMers uses a fully-adjustable Master Class stock designed for shooting prone. He’s modified the stock to fit him and his hunting style. He uses a Nightforce 8-32x56 NXS riflescope, a modified Sinclair F-class bipod and 142-grain Sierra MatchKing moly-coated hollow-point boat-tail design bullets with 49 grains of Hodgkins 4350 powder that delivers a 3,000-feet-per-second muzzle velocity. 

Replacing the Battleship Range Finder:Click to enlarge
DeMers really liked the extreme accuracy of his battleship range finder, since very-few range finders at that time could range out to 2,000 yards. But he also recognized its impracticality. After much experimentation with different types of range finders, DeMers discovered the Leica Locator. “I wanted the best binoculars/range finder available,” DeMers emphasizes. “Being serious about taking coyotes, I had to purchase quality equipment. This binoculars/range finder Leica Locator sold for $5,700 when I bought it. These binoculars compensated for slope, whether shooting uphill or downhill. With most range finders, I exhausted much of my laser range-finding ability when hunting in bright light or snowy conditions. But regardless of the conditions, I could range accurately out to 1,400 yards, even on a flat, snowy surface, with the Leica Locator.”

To learn more about Central Montana Outfitters, visit

Tomorrow: Fine Tune Your Shooting and Your Gun and Remain Consistent

Check back each day this week for more about "Steve DeMers - Master Predator Hunter"

Day 1: Becoming a Consummate Long-Range Shooter and Choosing the Right Equipment
Day 2: Bigger Equipment Isn’t Always Better
Day 3: Fine Tune Your Shooting and Your Gun and Remain Consistent
Day 4: Calling Coyotes
Day 5: Protecting Humans from Wildlife and Wildlife from Humans


Entry 466, Day 2