Question of the Day: Does Hunting Make You Better at Armed Self-Defense?

I’m not a big hunter. OK, I’m not big generally (at least vertically) and I don’t hunt. In my 52 years I somehow never got around to it. So I’m thinking of going on a bear hunt. I’m not scared. Uh-oh! Claws! Big sharp claws! Can’t go around them. Can’t run away from them. Must shoot them! Actually, center mass. Anyway, in preparation for this mythical massacre (of the ursine predator not me) I’ve been practicing with my Remington 700 SPS. Imagining a target with a ‘tude focused my mind a lot more than usual. Stance, breathing, trigger control, wait for it . . . wait for it . . . By the same token, I remember Roy Hill’s description of hyper-sensitivity to stimuli during a feral hog hunt—the same kind of situational awareness that could help an armed citizen in Detroit (especially if he used to write a series called “GM Death Watch” (which, amongst other things, called a Marine aviator an idiot). Am I onto something here, or just on something? Oh yes, I almost forgot. BANG!

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

36 Responses to Question of the Day: Does Hunting Make You Better at Armed Self-Defense?

  1. avatarTyler Kee says:

    Going on a bear hunt? Where? When? Does the SPS still have that Eliminator scope on it?

  2. avatarMoonshine7102 says:

    While stalking and/or waiting for your quarry, the hyper-awareness you describe would be an advantage in a self-defense situation. You are “casting your senses wide” in an attempt to acquire your target. Once the target is acquired, though, most hunters I know experience tunnel vision. In a hunting situation this is not necessarily a bad thing, so long as you are not hunting dangerous game. Complete focus on shot placement ensures you won’t have far to walk when you go to retrieve your kill. In a self-defense situation, though, tunnel vision is a good way to get killed if BG1 has BG2 and BG3 flanking you.

  3. avatarKarl says:

    Having played in proffessional paintball leagues I would say has better prepared me than hunting. You have some one who is trying to eliminate you. Situational awareness has to be very good.

    • I will agree with that. Paintball does indeed help you learn to fight…. or at the very least return fire while you are being shot at. Its very similar to simunitions training in that manner. That sort of thing is about as close to a real gun fight as you can safely get. I will also add the caveat that it depends on what type of paintball you are playing… i.e woods ball vs speed ball.

      There is an adrenaline dump (buck fever) that comes along with big game hunting. Never having been in a gun fight I cant definitively say, but I have to assume that it has to be something akin to the adrenaline dump experienced in a defensive gun use. Extensive hunting experience teaches you to push past that… (as does close in paintball/simunitions fights) and perhaps that knowledge can be used to deal with the similar obstacle in a gun fight.

      • I will also add that every person that I know who is an experienced hunter 9 times out of 10 would win in a gun fight against some random street thug attacker…. and none of them have had any military or tactical gun fighter training. I know that is anecdotal, but in my experiences the two do in fact go hand in hand.

  4. avatarcaffeinated says:

    I would say competition shooting offers more benefits when training for defensive gun use. The one thing that “buck fever” demonstrates is tunnel vision the first time you see your targeted species.

  5. avatarTyler Kee says:

    There is no better illustration of the destruction of fine motor skills than trying to click off the safety with a 10 point buck in the crosshairs. I’m sure a bear would only amplify that.

  6. avatartdiinva says:

    I think the biggest contribution of hunting to self defense skills is just the handling of firearms with lethal intent. It is the only legal activity that allows you to discharge a firearm without supervision in a non controlled environment. It is why Virginia allows you to use a Virginia hunter’s education certificate to get a CHL. All a basic CCW class teaches you is how to point the gun in the right direction and kind of sort of hit a target, plus a little law. When you get qualified for a hunting license Virginia assumes that you will be out in the woods killing furry and feathered creatures.

    FYI I don’t expect that you will be shooting down a charging Eastern black bear unless you are pestering her cubs. The last time I saw a Bear in the wild while hunting it was a clear 250 yard shot and the bear was just lumbering along. Fortunately for Yogi, I don’t shoot bear especially when I am alone since this 60 something body won’t be able to drag 300+ pounds of bear back to my car.

    • avatarStant says:

      Lots of folks myself included just go plinking by themselves without supervision in a non controlled environment. To be honest I’ve never even shot at a range if it were not work related or when I was in the service.

      • avatartdiinva says:

        We live in an urbanized society. Most people have no opportunity to plink. They go to the range and shoot paper targets in controlled conditions.

  7. avatarMichael B. says:

    I don’t think it does. Hunting animals who don’t know you’re there and reacting to the imminent threat of death posed by a human criminal are apples and oranges.

    I think hunting could be useful for legal manhunters, like some combat soldiers or LEOs tracking a fugitive that ran off into the woods, in teaching them effective tracking and ambushing skills. That is, if you don’t sit in a tree stand all day long.

  8. avatarAharon says:

    RF,

    I read an article recently that bears are drawn to tobacco like cats are to catnip. Just in case you become lunch, have you made arrangements for Dan Zimmerman to take over the legal ownership of TTAG?

  9. avatarimrambi says:

    As a hunter, and carrying for self-defense, I would say hunting does help, but in a limited fashion, with self defense. Both use firearms, both involve aiming and hitting your target, both require proper firearm safety, and some situational awareness. After these things, the differences are much bigger.

    Hunting big game requires a big caliber, and a heavy bullet. Most (not all) hunting firearms have a scope (centered for 100 or 200 yrds), and are long guns, whereas self defense will be using handguns and iron sights. You use situational awareness if you are stalking the animal or if you are sitting in a blind, but like others have stated, once you see your target and identify that it is proper game and decide to go for the shot, you get tunnel vision. You will make one or two shots, and that will be about it. If the game doesn’t drop, it will soon, if you hit it. You are not scanning around for other potential threats as you would in a self-defense situation.

    The best thing for self-defense scenarios would be Action Pistol, IDPA, IPSC, or 3 gun. You want something to teach you not only situational awareness but also to use your surroundings for cover.

  10. avatarDon says:

    If you need to defend yourself by being quiet and sneaky (which is indeed a really legitimate tactic), I’d say sure, but not compared to paintball or airsoft.

    I embarrassingly got into airsoft a while ago. I learned a lot of lessons about “combat”, most of which were about how nearly impossible it is to do without getting “killed”. I also learned that I’d likely die quickly if I was ever involved in it. Totally humbling experience.

    There were some guys at work who were into the airsoft thing and I made fun of them and asked them if they wanted to shoot some “real guns”. They said “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it” and seeing merit in that I begrudgingly went out with them. What I didn’t realize is they were really serious about it. They had all kinds of gear and camo, and signaling worked out. The guns were surprisingly sophisticated, as were their combat techniques.

    The first thing that struck me (after a hail of little plastic bbs) was that in a CQB scenario, I was dead in about 10 seconds after initial contact with the enemy. Effectively everyone else was dead in about a minute. What began to sink in was “holy crap… everyone’ s dead within a minute. That’s how long it takes to become dead in combat.” That’s kind of sobering. I was hooked.

    We progressed into all kinds of other scenarios, in a part of the local forest that was mined for coal in the late 1800s. (Foghorn may know of the place if he spent time in Central PA). There are “ruins” of railway structures built into the woods to load up the coal and cart it out, there are mountains and valleys and ponds left from the mining activity. The terrain provided infinite possibilities.

    We did team stuff, ambushes, unequal team ambushes, stalking, etc. It’s a bit of a rush, and in the moment you feel some level of fear, particularly when a squad is stalking you, or when you are responsible for backing up a squad as a sniper. After doing this for a few years I have to say that we improved massively in terms of tactics, but mostly everyone still ends up dead within about 15 minutes. Again, a sobering thought when considering “what if this was real?”. Our “massive improvement” was relative to how it started out… but clearly a long distance away from what would be required to do this for real.

    Observations from this “play combat”:
    1) The hardest thing to do is to not be seen.
    2) The second hardest thing to do is to spot others.
    3) If you attack without sufficient cover, you are dead. If you don’t have the high ground, you are dead.
    4) If you use a trail, you are dead. If you are near a trail, you are dead.
    5) If you are a sniper, everyone will be trying to spot and kill you.
    6) If you are not a sniper, the sniper will kill you.
    7) Handguns are useless in the woods. Two people with rifles don’t get that close without either being dead.
    8 ) Once you get in even a moderate distance firefight, if your main weapon fails, you are dead. There is no time to switch to a backup even if you are carrying one.
    9) Shooting is the easiest part of combat, operating the weapon is the thing you probably need the least practice and training for compared to all of the other stuff. All of the other stuff, tactics, not being stupid, finding the enemy and not being seen… this stuff is practically impossible by comparison.
    10) PA hunting camo makes you damn near invisible compared to military camo in PA forests.

    It is indeed frightening how hard even this “play combat” is. Once again, quite sobering. Totally humbling.

    -D

    • avatarI_Like_Pie says:

      That is an excellent post worthy of its own header in this blog.

      People, in general, do not understand how vulnerable they are if SHTF.

    • avatarmtyd05 says:

      if by military camo you’re talking about ACU’s that’s not saying much.

      • avatarQajaqon says:

        Stadard issue camo in the military is for general use.
        It is not worn to “hide” you. Much like the green standard issue daily use uniform in the fifties and sixties. If you are in combat and regular forces you are usually not hiding from anyone, you are just trying to stay out of lines of fire .
        You are to be “in uniform”.

        • avatar"Dr."Dave says:

          Thats why the .gov spent billions of tax payer dollars developing our current camoflage uniforms, right?

          Thats why they did all those studies to determine which patterns were effective, and which werent?

        • avatarQajaqon says:

          Yes…

          We dressed to the culture or purchased ‘camo’ from commercial/civilian makers of regional camo to be the most effective.

        • avatarDon says:

          Good point.

          -D

  11. avatarRalph says:

    If you really want to learn about hyperawareness, allow me to suggest a nighly walk through Central Falls, where the animals are also armed.

    I’m not being disrespectful to hunters when I point out that the most dangerous animal that the hunter will face is the guy with the gun standing next to the hunter. While hunting accidents are rare, the game eats the player about as often as man bites dog.

    So no, I don’t think that hunting improves self defense, but then again, it doesn’t need to. Hunting stands on its own as an American tradition.

    • avatarJohn D says:

      You’re right (as usual)- hunting doesn’t improve self defense (excepting maybe a bit more expertise in weapon handling), but a hunter WILL know how to gut and skin the bad guy!

  12. avatarWade says:

    Woah Farago, I don’t think a bear hunt is a good first hunt…. Why don’t you start smaller, and a little less intense, like deer or hogs?

  13. avatarvirtualjohn says:

    I definitely think hunting improves situational awareness, learned control of adrenaline effects, quick decision making on whether to take a shot, fast target acquisition and some hard earned poker skills. All of these (including the poker skill),
    I think might help in any defensive gun use. I hunt the Colorado mountains and plains for big game. The varying terrain and game call for different styles of hunting. Some involve more stealthy movement than others. All require awareness, judgement (both considered and quick) and gun-handling skill.

  14. Yes and no.

    Yes because any good hunter is paying a lot of attention to his environment, which is semi-decent practice for situational awareness in a self defense situation. There’s also the element of keeping cool and taking a well aimed shot, which I suppose could be helpful as a core lesson in self defense.
    There’s often the element of surprise. The last deer I shot was with my SKS (legal to hunt with here). When I silently slid the safety down and lined up my shot was certain it was going to be an easy kill (the deer was only about 150 yards away), when I had a clear shot at the vitals and squeezed the trigger……and got a loud click instead of a bang. The click apparently alerted the deer and I had to quickly re-chamber a round and line up another clear shot at the vitals before the deer made a run for it. I ended up dropping it cleanly with a single shot through the chest. Turns out I’d had a faulty primer, which had never happened to me before when hunting. Stuff like that make’s you think on your feet.
    Then again the potential to miss a massive buck and being attacked by a weapon wielding threat are two very different things, and training for one wouldn’t likely be sufficient for the other.
    Good luck bear hunting.

  15. avatardustyvarmint says:

    I’ve hunted boars and bears with a bow as well as many other animals including African Plains’ game. Boars from the ground at close distance. I don’t believe this prepares one for self defense. SD training under duress is a far better tool. Good luck hunting, though.

    Happy shooting, dv

  16. avatar"Dr."Dave says:

    The concept that shooting an animal will help you shoot an armed attacker that is shooting at you is ridicilous.

    So is the idea that using fake guns, be they airsoft or paintball markers, will prepare you.

    As some one who has litterally fought for his life, as well as played paintball, hunted animals, etc, I can tell you that honestley they come no where close to how actuall combat feels.

    In this case, dropping a bear with a bolt action rifle is simmilar to a gunfight with pistols at conversatonial range how?

    Oh, an adrenaline dump? Because that makes situations the same, right?

    By that logic, taking your car to the race track, running from the cops, or any of a thousand other situations that trigger a flight or fight reflex will help you win a gun fight.

    Sure.

  17. avatarMark says:

    Hunting is being a sniper. Self-defense is fast and close; try Cowboy Action for that.

  18. avatarTom says:

    Does Hunting make you better at DGU? Yes and No.
    Hunting involves shooting animated unpredictable animals in usually a limited time frame. Hunting involves carrying a loaded firearm over an extended relaxed time period, spotting the game, suppresing the excitement of the hunt, keeping your wits about you, and bringing the weapon to action, aiming, and firing.
    I would say Upland hunting might be better as the action tends to get a little short, quick, fast,and furious after trudging over hill and dale for an extended period of time.
    I would say that skeet and trap might be beneficial to some degree as well. Fast and moving targets involving deflection shooting.
    Is doing all of this better than shooting at a large stationary paper target at known ranges at leisure? Probably.
    Will all of this give you ultra realistic combat training and make you a member of Seal Team 6? Probably not.

  19. avatarKWAL says:

    It probably does improve the bear’s self defense tactics, but not much the other way. Who are you defending against on the hunt? Hopefully you don’t meet a very well trained bear who is willing to defend himself. If you want to work on YOUR self defense while hunting give the bears rifles.

    • avatarQajaqon says:

      Second that.

      Hunting is not a ‘defensive gun use’ activity. Offensive gun use is the intent.

      Situational awareness, timely shot placement, proper/safe gun handling, knowing where everyone is in relation to where/what you are shooting, knowing what is legal to shoot/kill and seeing it as such(male/female/age/size/type of bear), and ability to do what it takes to complete the actions(in this case killing the bear as humanely as possible) are all ‘training’ for defensive gun use.

      Oh, and, Robert, prepare for the worse. Practice putting another round in the chamber as swift as possible. Sometimes bears can be unpredictable.
      That will be your direct DGU training.

  20. avatarVigilantis says:

    One thing hunting will teach you is to to place a shot in a vital organ in a 3-dimensional target, instead of in the center of the 2-dimensional paper targets most “tactical” shooters use. It sounds like a simple thing to do, but realizing that you’re shooting at something several inches behind what you can see, and picturing its relative position in the body becomes important (and potentially tricky for the uninitiated), especially if the animal is at an angle.

    This could be a useful skill if you were using your weapon to defend someone other than yourself, at a distance.

  21. avatarFrank says:

    Better at self defense i’m not sure, but, it does make you a better shot. There is no arguing with that. When I say a better shot, I mean better then the average Joe who doesn’t hunt. Also the hunter does know how to take a life. That may be cold but it’s the truth.

  22. avatarJoseph says:

    In my opinion hunting does not make you better at armed self defense.

    It’s been my experience that “hunting” is a proactive activity whereas self-defense (armed or otherwise) is an inherently reactive activity. When it comes time to pull the trigger or fight off “buck fever” while you are hunting typically you have had hours to think about what you intend to accomplish and how you intend to accomplish it you are mentally prepared and ideally the target (deer, bear, hog etc) is unaware of the danger you represent.
    Your physical safety is not threatened and as such the adrenaline dump that you might experience or the tunnel vision and possibly hyper-awareness or hyper-sensitivity to stimuli that you may benefit from are not a result of your “fight or flight” response they are more the result of satisfaction/anticipation more like a pleasure or fulfillment stimulus than anything else.

    Self defense on the other hand is in almost every way the polar opposite of hunting. First of all you must REACT either conciously or otherwise to external stimuli with little or no warning. This is complicated by the fact that your life is in danger, which stimulates the so-called fight or flight response. In a very short period of time with little or no reliable information you must make, commit to and carry out a decision which could cost you your life. This is why people freeze in such situations as they are unable to commit to a decision, they neither fight nor flee.

    So in my opinion and also in my own personal experience hunting does not contribute to armed self defense proficiency in any real way since the two activities are so fundamentally different from one another. The only real way to become better at armed-self defense is to train yourself to react and to think scenarios through, go to the range, practice drawing, target identification and accuracy under as diversified conditions as you safely can. Also you can never go wrong by training in other types of self-defense so long as you don’t allow yourself to be seduced by impractical or showy crap (for instance learning the highly stylized Brazilian dance-fighting system Capoeria is probably a bad idea.)

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