Hunting for Food- A Primer Part 2: Shooting

I began learning how to hunt in the spring of 2016 at 23 years old. Hunting was not a common activity for anyone in my family or that of anyone in the community I grew up in. Over the years I have learned a lot from others and through my own experiences. From those experiences, I have tried to boil down the lessons I’ve learned and knowledge in this series of posts as an introduction to new hunters and a way to further my own understanding. It is something that I wish I found when I was first learning how to hunt and my hope is that it can serve as useful to others.

Part 1: Fundamentals and background

So you’ve found your target. You’ve researched the area, spent time on the ground, glassed the area or set up your tree stand and are now ready to make the kill. For this you need a weapon of some sort. Admittedly, this area is a weakness of mine as I don’t know much about different calibers. But you will need a rifle or bow. Check your local regulations to see what is allowed in your area. It may be more worthwhile to pursue archery, as in most areas the season is longer and a greater area is open to hunting. Note that archery hunting is much more difficult if you are pursuing the spot and stalk method of hunting.

I’ve seen this book recommend often as the one to read on firearm ballistics. I am awaiting a copy from the library and have not read it yet.

If you are hunting small game, a .22 LR will be your weapon of choice. A larger rifle like a .270 or .30-06 is necessary for larger mammals and a shotgun for birds.

Archers will require different arrowheads depending on which animal is being pursued. Broadheads are used for large mammals, with smaller and different heads being used for small mammals and birds. Most states will require bowhunting courses similar to the Hunter’s Education course that will explain this facet in more detail.

Does anyone you know have a rifle or bow? See if you can borrow it or if they are interested in going with you. Interested in getting your own? There are plenty of options for used firearms through online craigslist like sites or other areas like pawn shops. Ask around or research prices online first to make sure you aren’t getting swindled. If you are interested in purchasing one new, then all your usual sporting goods stores will suffice (i.e. Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods etc). Ammunition can also be purchased at these areas. Depending on where you live and the political climate, ammunition can be almost impossible to find or very expensive. I am writing this as of September 2021 during the first year of the Biden administration and there is usually either nothing available or less than 10 boxes of .30-06 ammo (my main caliber) in the whole town at any one time.

The following quote comes from Dave’s blog, who I joined on his buffalo hunt , who has taught himself to hunt over the past decade or so in Montana. The following paragraph is sound advice and you may find the rest of the article worth reading as well.

“Assuming you have a background in hiking, backpacking, and other outdoor activities, the first thing you need to learn to do is shoot. Rifles are the easy way here, because the learning curve is simplest, the effective range is longer, and their killing power provides for a greater margin of error than a bow. As will be addressed later bowhunting provides some unduplicable opportunities, and if you get truly into hunting you’ll want to be able to do both, but nonetheless rifle is the simple way to start, for a variety of reasons. The rifle question is the subject of multiple other posts, but my short answer is as follows: get a bolt action in 7mm-08, .308, .270, or .30-06. These cartridges are versatile, and factory ammo is common and inexpensive. Buy the first two if you’re a smaller person and/or you anticipate not hunting elk or bear often, and the later if you’re larger and/or might hunt the big critters frequently. Get a Ruger American if you want to spend less, a Tikka T3 or Remington 700 if you want to spend a bit more, and a Kimber Montana if you want to spend still more and if you’re pretty certain you’ll get obsessed and end up with rifle weight as a priority. Put a Leupold 6×36 scope on it, buy a bunch of ammo, and shoot a lot.”

Depending on your quarry, there are different ways to get close to an animal. For animals such as ducks and birds, it may involve decoys. For many animals within the deer family it can involve specific calls or brush breaking. Learn what calls the animals make, there are plenty of videos on YouTube. Practice making those calls at home, until you feel like you are more or less mimicking exactly that of the real thing. Stalking will take on much greater importance once the animal is in sight. You will occasionally need to have the ability to move quickly, quietly and discreetly over all kinds of terrain in order to set yourself up with a good shot and get closer to the animal. This will best be learned by spending time out in the country.

With extensive training (shooting), you can expand your range as your skill develops. But the further you go out, the more variables are brought into the equation and the higher the chance that you will wound the animal. At this time, I don’t like to shoot beyond 200 yards. I prefer within 100 yards or closer if I’m able to close the distance between myself and the animal.

Some variables to consider before shooting:
Terrain If you shoot the animal, where will it fall? Are you in thick brush or along a steep cliff? Will you be able to track the animal and retrieve your kill?
Wind This will be more of a factor prior to shooting as you approach your target, in order to avoid detection. Always be cognizant of wind direction if you are spotting and stalking.
Obstructions Is there anything that may deflect your bullet or arrow between you and your target?
Location of other humans or animals I believe this is self explanatory

For almost all animals, the best place to shoot is around the chest area. Your hunter education course will provide illustrations and more detail on this. This offers the largest area and the greatest likelihood of killing your target due to the concentration of organs, specifically the lung and the heart. If you are going to take another animal’s life, it is best to do it as quickly and cleanly as possible, with minimal suffering involved. When you shoot, you shoot to kill. You may feel excited, but need to await the right opportunity.

In the next post, I will explain the practice of field dressing and taking an animal out of the field.

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