For those of you lucky enough to live in pro-rifle hunting states, you have the opportunity to achieve some of the greatest successes that hunting has to offer with nearly unlimited range and the power to fell any size game from whatever distance. Of course, you also have the chance of adding your name to some of the most colossal hunting blunders of all time—some of them comical, some not so much.
For the “Reach out and touch” factor (yeah, I’m getting tired of that saying too…last time I use it…honest), you can’t beat a rifle and the kajillion different calibers and configurations that are available to you when using such a tool to bring down game. Be it herbivore or predator, correct rifle + correct cartridge + correct animal = perfect hunting combination. Of course, the question is…do you have the correct rifle, cartridge and animal?
To rifle hunt or not to rifle hunt?
- Virtually unlimited range, hampered only by weather and the limits of your eyesight—further enhanced with the use of optics.
- Modern, powerful cartridges that can swiftly, cleanly and humanely put down just about any game animal.
- Rifles are easy to transport—even the heavy ones—and rarely hamper any hunters trek into the woods or any hunting location.
- Minimal accessories and additional equipment necessary—once uncased from the vehicle it’s literally as simple as remembering the bullet cartridges, maybe a magazine and the rifle itself.
- Location and season restricted. While this may be the case with most forms of hunting, rifle hunting finds itself one of the most restricted forms of hunting across the country, on average.
- You get one shot. Unless you are hunting with a suppressor (and even if you are) you will only get one shot to make one kill. While practicing with your hunting implement is mandatory in order to accomplish this with any form of hunting tool, the unmistakable noise that issues from a rifle guarantees this.
- Lots of ammo to choose from: While this may seem like a benefit at first glance, the reality is that if you do not know what you are doing and have not received good advice, sometimes there is too much of a choice to know what is the right way to go.
- The accessories do add up. While technically you only need the rifle fitted with decent but basic open sights, the ammo, maybe a magazine and perhaps a sig to make carrying easier; there also exists an entire industry heel bent on selling you bits and bobs to outfit your rifle with smoother triggers, adjustable triggers, precision barres, rails and hundreds and hundreds of different optic choices from scopes to red-dots to laser range finders to night-vision.
Clearly the decision to hunt with a rifle will be based upon the rules and regulations of your hunting locations. My advice to students has always been start simply and work your way up. Do your homework and find the best quality for the cheapest priced rifle that you can (used is a good way to go) with basic hardware. Take it to the range and put 50 rounds through it at various distances so that you can really measure what the rifle can do. THEN you should start thinking about additional hardware for upgrades. Maybe you don’t need any, but usually we can always find a reason to spend money. Coolness factor alone usually spurs this—I mean really, who doesn’t like the look of a magnified scope mounted on your gun?
Just remember that if you do go used, buy it from a reputable dealer that you trust and/or have it evaluated by a gunsmith before purchasing it. This is going to be a very personal thing here, so you really cannot go by trust and what sellers say it can do. This is not the kind of purchase I would recommend for Gunbroker if you are not versed in purchasing rifles and can evaluate it yourself.
Also worth mentioning is that if you cannot disassemble and clean your rifle, you should stick to bow or shotgun hunting. Nothing will disappoint your more than the results from shooting a filthy rifle.
The questions of bringing down game for rifle hunting:
So how do you bring all these combinations together and select the correct tools for the job at hand? While common sense dictates some of the decisions, others are not so obvious. While we don’t want to blow a softball-sized hole in the side of our deer, at the same time, we don’t want to horrifically wound the animal so they scamper off and live years in pain from being hit by a round that was far too small to bring them down.
You cannot be afraid to ask questions. Is a .223 caliber round enough to bring down a deer? What about a .243? .270? What’s the difference and why? Should I go as big as a .30-06 for elk or is it too big? What if you are a left-handed shooter? Can you work the actions properly and cleanly? What are the benefits and detriments to a longer or shorter barrel? Why would you select lever-action over a bolt-action or vice-versa? The questions can be as endless as the possibilities. Ask them.
Looking at the pros and cons for rifle hunting are a great starting point for your first tip-toe into this form of hunting, but they are not enough to make the decision for you. Even if you are already a rifle target shooter, you still need the research and time put in so that you can make the right choice.