Skip to Content

The 5 Best Animals To Hunt With a .17 HMR

The 17 HMR is among the finest commercial rimfires cartridges available. It is accurate, easy to shoot, and a well-placed shot is fatal for most animals. It’s widely considered one of the most accurate rimfire rifles and the best small game hunting gun available on the market. 

The best animals to hunt with a 17 HMR are raccoons, rabbits, prairie dogs, squirrels, and coyotes. The 17 HMR is one of the most accurate rifles for hunting, and precision is of the utmost importance when hunting small animals.

The rest of this article will delve into the best animals to hunt with a 17 HMR. 

Male Hunter Holding a Rifle Over His Shoulder in a Prairie

1. Rabbits

Every year, almost 1.5 million Americans go rabbit hunting. Most states permit rabbit hunting, and some even pay professional hunters to reduce the rabbit population in areas where they’ve become invasive. 

While hunting rabbits may seem easy, you’ll have to prepare thoroughly for a successful hunt. Rabbits are excellent listeners and are likely to hear you from a distance. If you wait long enough, they may escape what they believe to be a threat. 

Most shooters choose the 17 HMR as their weapon of choice for rabbit hunting since it is the most effective and precise rimfire cartridges. 

The typical rimfire’s rifle trajectory is not as good as the 17 HMR, which also has a faster velocity. Considering that a lighter projectile is less wind-resistant, a faster projectile also means less time for winds to steer the bullet off course. 

Because of this, 17 HMR is an excellent choice for rabbit hunting.

2. Squirrels

Squirrels are challenging to hunt because of their unpredictable movements and ability to move through tree canopies. Squirrel hunting seasons are long, and hunters can legally chase squirrels for several months or more per year. 

The 17 HMR is popular for squirrel hunting because the soft recoil makes it a pleasure for hunters to shoot. At 100 yards (91.44 m), the 17 HMR fires flat enough to be effective while delivering 88 ft pounds (119 Joules) of energy.

The 17 HMR cartridges offer advantages beyond just being a flat-shooting varmint cartridge. Compared to other alternatives, the 17 HMR delivers far less flesh damage while providing an even flatter trajectory and typically higher accuracy.

Simply put, as long as you do your part to make an excellent shot, a 17 HMR will allow you to strike a squirrel from just about any visible distance.

When hunting squirrels, however, avoid shooting through the trees unless you’re an experienced hunter. There’s a high chance that the bullet may bounce off the tree and injure you. 

Related How To Choose the Best Rifle for Target Shooting.

3. Raccoons

The 17 HMR is a long-range knockdown weapon that is flat-shooting, very adaptable, and built on a rimfire platform. It has a flatter trajectory than the 22LR, so you might want to use this for small game like raccoons if you’re further away.

One important thing about a 17 caliber bullet is that the bullet diameter is less than that of the case. This gives you more accuracy when you’re hunting raccoons to help protect ground-nesting birds or just for pleasure.

The 17 HMR can use bullet types well-known to centerfire shooters and has outstanding ballistic eco-efficiency, resulting in a perfect shot from a distance of 200 yards (183 m) or fewer. 

4. Prairie Dogs

Although relatively harmless, prairie dogs are pests in many areas. They breed swiftly, similar to other small mammals, and an uncontrolled population might seriously harm the meadows and farms they graze on. Livestock, such as horses and cattle, can suffer severe damage from the tunnels they dig.

Prairie Dog

They may also spread fleas and carry diseases that are potentially dangerous to humans and livestock. 

Hunting prairie dogs is different from hunting other animals because of their relative speed. The most popular caliber for prairie dog hunting is undoubtedly the 17 HMR because of the good velocity and medium wind drift characteristics. 

It is also the cheapest option and readily available. The 17 HMR is a powerful, flat-shooting, versatile rimfire cartridge that gives long-range knockdown power. It is the best option for medium to long-range shooting of prairie dogs and better than the 22LR for this animal. 

While they’re not as twitchy as rabbits, they are certainly aware of their surroundings, so you’ll have to be patient and quiet when hunting them.

5. Coyotes 

Coyotes are another pest that you could hunt with the 17 HMR. However, you’ll have to manage your distance and shot placement extremely well when doing so. Coyotes are much bigger than varmints typically hunted with the 17 HMR, but a well-placed shot should still drop the animal immediately. 

Nevertheless, most experts won’t recommend shooting coyotes with a 17 HMR unless you’re closer than 100 yards (91.44 m) from the animal. From further away, you may even need two or three shots to finish the coyote, which is against hunting ethics. 

If you’re an experienced hunter, a 17 HMR may not be right for you in this case. However, if you can get close enough, this rifle should do the trick.

For more, check out Best All-Around Camouflage Pattern Across Multiple Biomes.