Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Enough or Too Much Gun

I get the same question over and over from new hunters and even from experienced hunters that should know by now what calibers to use on specific quarry. The questions usually go something like the following. Is a ____good enough to hunt_______? You can fill in the blanks with whatever caliber and the other blank with whatever animal you wish to and the answer should still be the same. Use enough gun to humanely take the quarry you are hunting. It should also have enough energy to cleanly kill if your shot is off just a little bit. Bullet placement is so important in a clean kill. I have harvested surplus doe and exotics on game ranches where we use small fast varmint calibers and out of over a hundred deer taken all were killed cleanly. I also have spent hours trailing deer for clients that had been shot with the latest greatest magnum on the market. The difference was bullet placement. If you shoot a super magnum and the recoil makes you pull the shot it would be much better for you to shoot a lighter less powerful round that you could precisely call the shot. I guided Desert Mule Deer hunters for many years and carried a lightweight .243. That little gun put down many a wounded deer that had been shot by a large magnum but hit badly. If you wish to use a marginal caliber be sure and use the best bullet and power cartridge available and practice so you can put the bullet where it goes. A feral hog hit in the crease behind the ear with a .22 or .17 within 50 yards will go down like a sledge hammer hit it. Shoot it in the shoulder with the same load and all you have done is wound an animal. It seems a lot of people want to hunt coyotes and other predators with a .22 or .17HMR. Those calibers will work but they are by far not the best to use. How many of us shoot everyday, once a week or even once a month. I have guided many self-proclaimed expert shots that must of had something wrong with their rifles or just had bad luck because they could not shoot a decent group at the target range with their guns nor make a normal range shot on game. It is funny but experienced guides can tell which clients will be able to shoot and those who cannot. It is not some psychic sense but mostly how someone carries themselves. A truly good shooter pays attention to the guide and does not have to tell everyone what a good shot they are. The guns and scopes have been taken care of but show some wear. They carry shooting sticks or shooting bags for a rest. The rifle stock and strap fit them. The brands of ammo all match and are the same bullet weight. They do not tell me their rifle was bore sighted when I ask if they checked the zero on their rifle. They don’t tell me their last kill was made at 375 or 450 or 600 yards. If you think you can shoot that far tell me how far your bullet drops at 450 yards without looking at a ballistic chart. Then tell me you have a laser range finder and trained for several months in long range shooting and I might start to consider you did make that shot if you have a tactical ranging scope on your flat-shooting, well-worn, sniper rifle. Now if you can find a 400 yard range within a few hours driving time of your location go try to hit the target when you finally get time to practice. Remember shooting off a steady rest and bench is not like making a shot in the field.

If you question your firearm or caliber, go shoot it awhile before the hunt and you will know if it is enough gun or maybe even too much gun. Good Shooting, Wild Ed


Albert A Rasch said...

Wild Ed,

Sagacious advise! I feel very much as you do, it's not what you shoot, it's how you shoot it.

Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit
Southeast Regional OBS Coordinator

tom said...

Nicely written. Not bragging, just how life's happened so far for me...I shot a zebra in the ear with a .223 at a bit over 300 and I shot a smallish antelope with a .375H&H Mag rifle at about 60 yards over the years. Those are my two extremes. Had to do with rifle at hand, knowing the rifles, knowing the ammo, and careful shot placement. I've also missed a few on the way and anybody who says they never miss is a liar. Worst hunt I ever had was one where I told the guide about one of my better long range shots. Missed two running hogs inside 30 yards. God was punishing me for bragging, perhaps.

African hunting is different than North American hunting in that you very well might be after a mixed bag of disparate game instead of the Texas deer hunter that's going for a white tail or a muley every time if he isn't going for birds or rabbits. Causes a high probability that you will end up with an over or underpowered rifle in your hands when you get a shot opportunity.

Friend of mine, now passed on, said "the heck with multiple rifles" for Africa and just worked up a small range of accurate .458WinMag loads for different occasions and practiced with them where he knew exactly what his ballistics were for each load and ever after just took a brace of identical .458 Rifles and a .44Mag sidearm on his African hunts.

Wild Ed said...

We have an old saying in Texas, "Beware the man with one gun, he probably knows how to use it."

tom said...


I added you to the people I read and stuff linkers. Hope you don't mind. I blame Albert Rasch.

Enjoying the reading. I'm Hill Country, myself. Hays County.

Wild Ed said...

I'm just north of you in Williamson County. Rasch has a great site and we will be featuring some of his stuff here some time in the near future. http://trochronicles.blogspot.com/