Over at TTAG’s Free Fire Zone Forum reader Rokurota writes:
Greetings, Kirsten. My in-laws just purchased a 50-acre property with 42 acres of woods lousy with deer and turkey. They have invited me to hunt the land in return for meat. Trouble is, I don’t hunt and have never killed anything bigger than a cockroach. I have asked a hunter friend to introduce me to the sport. I’m sure he’ll have an opinion on a deer rifle and turkey gun. What’s yours? I’m reasonably competent with a rifle on the range. I’ve mostly shot .22LR, .223/5.56 (AR-15) and .308 (Mauser) out to 100 yards. (I am no marksman, though — I need a lot more practice before trying to take a deer.) So maybe what I’m really asking for is: 1. advice on a rifle setup and cartridge; 2. a training protocol to prepare for a first hunt, even if it’s ‘just sit there and watch your friend.’ Thanks.” Click here or make the jump to read Ms. Weiss reply . . .
Im very happy you’ve decided to give hunting a go. As far as the “green movement” and health goes, hunting is about as local, organic, and humane as you can get for meat. The meat of wild animals is also high in a compound called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is lacking in conventional grocery store meat. CLA helps build lean muscle, and burn fat. Not bad, eh?
Health benefits aside, harvesting wild game is a very unique and earthy experience. The hunter is wholly connected to nature, and the hunt is deeply rooted in every creatures psyche. Every creature hunts. Lions hunt for impala, impala hunt for edible grasses. Our ancestors hunted throughout time, and we continue the practice.
Now, just fyi. I use the word “harvest” instead of “kill” because that is what we are doing as hunters. We are harvesting what nature has provided. Each state’s game commission monitors the game meticulously, and issues permits in accordance with what kind of balance is needed. For example, in my home state of Pennsylvania, hunters are needed to manage the deer population. Without management, the deer would overpopulate and get a disease called “wasting disease” where they slowly and painfully starve to death. Game Management equals healthy animal populations.
I said these few tidbits because you are new to hunting, and I wanted to give you some perspective on what you are going to be a part of. You are a nature conservationist, and many non-hunters don’t understand the deep respect that hunters have for nature and its preservation. (Tv programs certainly do NOT portray this well or at all) So thank you for joining us and experiencing first hand!
That all said, I’m going to keep the hunting advice part very simple for you:
1) Attend a Hunters Safety Course- I believe this course is a requirement in every state before you can even breathe at a hunting license. It will teach you the crucial ethics and safety ins and outs of hunting.
2) Firearms- There are a lot of good hunting rifles. To keep it simple, a 30-06 will do a very fine job for your environment (Virginia woods). Its versatile for the woods, and perfect for deer. Id recommend shooting turkey with a 20 gauge shotgun (in the head). If its rifle only, a 30-06 or a .243 will do the trick.
3) Sight In and Practice — Sight in and practice with your rifle, at the distance you think you will most likely be shooting. Hit an inch group in the bullseye at 100 yards and you’re ready. (Yes I’m picky, but you’re after ethical shots on live targets. We owe it to the critters to be good shots.) Know where your bullet hits at closer ranges or a longer ranges (if your comfort level allows), and practice adjusting this without clicking the sights (using your scope’s reticle to aim). This way you will be confident where to aim, when the various opportunities arise in the field.
4) Study the Vitals Zone – On whatever you are shooting, you need to know exactly where the heart is. (It varies on each animal) You want to aim for the heart and only the heart (unless its turkeys with a shotgun, then the head). A broadside shot is the best. If brush is in the way, look for an opening to shoot through. If the animal doesn’t present a clean shot, don’t shoot. Out of respect for the animal, ethical hunters shoot only fast clean shots. Even if its the “trophy of a lifetime”. A poorly placed shot, is no trophy at all.
5) Breathe – Sometimes my heart rate races, sometimes not. But if yours does, take deep, slow breaths until you are comfortable enough to take a solid shot. Like I said, our ultimate goal is a clean, ethical harvest. Take the time you need. You’ll be very happy when the animal drops in its tracks (or not far from its tracks), knowing it didn’t suffer.
6) Hunting is an Art- You’ll learn best from others and your own experience with it. Its best to go with your buddy for your first few times (or always; hunting with others is a good time). He’ll teach you, even if just by observation. In time, you’ll start to learn the animals ways and think like they would. Your five senses will be engaged more acutely than any other outdoor activity.
There’s really so much to say to a new hunter. I hope I’ve shed some light on it. Hunting is a lifelong pursuit. There’s much to learn from it and gain from just being immersed in nature.
I wish you a great and successful hunt. Wild game is delicious! Just don’t overcook it…
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