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7 ‘Old School’ Deer Rifles That Can Still Bring Home the Venison

7 ‘Old School’ Deer Rifles

For the last decade or so, it seems there’s been a race between gun manufacturers to see who can whip out the fanciest rifle in the most bizarre calibers with ultra magnum velocities with matching price tags.

If you listened to all the hype, you’d think that older guns and standard calibers were no longer adequate to kill a deer or any other game animal.

Yet, millions of older guns sit on gun racks of local Gun and Pawn Shops just hoping someone will come along and put them back into action in the deer woods.

I believe many of these old firearms are some of the most durable and accurate guns ever made.

A hunter looking for a deer rifle can’t go wrong when selecting one of the rifles from the 7 listed below. Not on the list are the Remington Model 700, Winchester Model 70 and Savage Model 110.

Any deer hunter, beginning or veteran, probably knows these rifles are top notch in any of the standard deer getting calibers.

But the list below consist of some rifles you may not have heard of. I want to tell you about 7 of my favorite ones in case you find one tucked back into the corner of a gun or pawn shop somewhere. Then you’ll recognize it for the deer getter it is.

I’ve owned most all the guns and caliber combinations mentioned below and can personally vouch that these old guns will still bring home the venison.

They’re not flashy mega magnums or some new whiz-bang gun of the day, they’re just well-made deer guns that will do their part if you do yours. These are the ‘deer rifles’ you can past down to your kids and theirs for generations.

7 ‘Old School’ Deer Rifles That Can Still Get It Done in the Deer Woods

Note: To see some great vintage gun ads of the guns in this list, click on the thumbnails.

1. Marlin 336 ,30-30

If memory serves me correct, this model was introduced in 1942, or somewhere around there. You can pick up a good used Marlin 336 for a song in most shops these days.

The most popular rounds it was chambered for were the 30/30 and .35 Remington. The 30/30 has killed more deer than most all other calibers combined. And every year it ups it’s total as millions of hunters take to the wood.

The 30/30 is a good caliber out to 200 hundred yards if you know what you’re doing. Beginning shooters and those who only dust their rifles off once a year the day before season opens, should limit their range to around 125 yards or less.

I still shoot the Glenfield Model 30A (a subsidiary of Marlin) that my Dad gave me many years ago. He purchased that rifle used in New Mexico the year I was born. That was his “Deer Gun” and it didn’t matter whether or not it was Mule Deer or Whitetails.

I love looking back through old photo’s of him and my uncle with Mule Deer hanging from meat poles and my Dad with me on one side and that old Glenfield Model 30A on his other knee.

It was the rifle I took my first deer with and one I’ve since killed more deer with over the years.

I’ve seen Marlin 336‘s in Gun and Pawn shops fetching anywhere from $125 to $300. I’d expect to pay roughly $200 for a quality 336 in good condition and hopefully, it would have a decent scope on it.

2. Ruger 44 Carbine

ruger 44 carbine .44 magnumThe Ruger 44 Carbine‘s are getting more and more scarce each year. If you find one of these little brush guns, grab it up!

The Ruger 44 Carbine is a great first time gun for a young hunter or for a hunter who’ll never be shooting out past 100 yards. This little carbine tames the 44 mag round and makes it manageable for those shooters who are slight of build.

The 240 grain 44 Magnum is plenty for any buck who ventures into your stand area. The rifle is compact and quick handling and comes with a rotary clip magazine. You can find clips for these old deer getters on eBay and some gun shops still carry a few.

I’ve heard of a few reports that this gun would not cycle reliably with factory bullets heavier than 240 grains, but I can not personally attest to that. I never found the need for anything heavier than the good old 240 grainers, but it’s something you should be aware of if you’ll be trying bullets of different weights.

As I said above, the Ruger 44 Carbines are getting harder and harder to find. Expect to pay in the neighborhood of $300 to $500, and possibly even more, for a Carbine in Excellent shape.

3. Savage Model 99

savage model 99The Savage Model 99 is an old favorite of many deer hunters across the country. Whether you’re after a Whitetail Buck in the expansive forest of the Northeast or a Mule Deer buck in the Rockies, you can do far worse than carry a Model 99.

The Savage 99 is a lever action rifle that is most known for the two Savage cartridges it was chambered for early on in its production, the 250 Savage and the 300 Savage. Both are good deer rounds, although ammo may be hard to find on the shelf for both in most parts of the country. Later 99’s were chambered for the popular .243 and .308.

Early models of the Savage 99 were not tapped and drilled for scope mounts, although any good gunsmith can do this relatively cheaply. The rifles had a rotary magazine until 1984 when Savage introduced the ’99 with a clip magazine.

The Savage 99 came in both a solid frame gun and a take-down model.

The ’99 was made for nearly 100 years and was chambered in a range of calibers all the way from the 22 Hi-Power to a version that was chambered for the .410.

Savage introduced the  250-3000 Savage in 1915 and it was the first commercial cartridge to break the 3000 fps barrier. Later the name was shortened to .250 Savage.

These rifles have smooth actions and are plenty accurate for hunting needs. Expect to pay anywhere from $300 for a well worn ’99 all the up to a $1000 or more for a rare caliber Model 99 in excellent condition.

Most of the .300 Savages and the new production run of clip-fed Savage 99’s in .243 and .308 in good shape can be had for around $400 to $600.

4. Remington Model 788

remington 788The Remington Model 788 was introduced by Remington as an answer for the economy minded hunter and shooter. I doubt they realized how popular this gun would become.

I bought a used 788 in .308 in the early 90’s. That rifle was the 2nd most accurate rifle I ever owned (the first was a Ruger 77V in 6mm). This rifle would easily hold 1 inch groups at 100 yards with most factory ammo and sub MOA groups with my handloads with Speer 165 grain Hot-Cor’s.

The Remington 788 is a rugged “meat and potato’s” type gun. It’s far more accurate than most people can shoot. The clips can be easily found on eBay should you need more than 1.

The 788 was chambered for most standard short chamber cartridges including the 22-250, .243, 7mm-08, .308 and 30/30.

If you happen to see a Remington 788 on the gun rack at your local gun shop, be sure to grab it. You won’t be disappointed!

5. Remington 760

remington 760The Remington 760 is as fine a deer gun as you can find. It’s a solid pump rifle that many Eastern deer hunters have relied on for years. The Benoits of New England have probably done more for the popularity of pump rifles as anyone.

The Remington 760 and 7600 come in standard calibers such as the .243, .270, 30-06 and .308. You can also find some of these older guns in deer getting calibers such as 35 Whelen, 300 Savage, and the 7mm-08.

These pump rifles are amazingly accurate as well. In fact, although one thinks of Eastern hunters when they think of the Remington pump rifle, they’re used by many a Western big game hunters as well.

Remington pump rifles come in a standard 22 inch barreled version as well as a ‘Carbine’ version with an 18-inch barrel. If memory serves me correctly, the Carbine comes in 30-06 and 308 only…just don’t quote me on that!

The Carbine is a quick handling gun in thick timber. One reason it’s a favorite among Guides who go after a dangerous game like Bears in thick cover.

Expect to pay in the $300 to $600 range for a good Remington 760 or 7600. Extra clips are easily found on GunBroker.com and eBay.

6. Winchester Model 88

winchester model 88The Winchester Model 88 has been around since 1955 when it was introduced for the then new .308 Winchester. The Winchester 88 is a lever action rifle that is chambered for short action rounds such as the .358, .308, .284 and .243.

The Winchester 88 uses a detachable clip magazine which allows the use of spire pointed bullets for greater velocity.

In the late 60’s Winchester introduced a Carbine version of the 88 that was chambered for the .243, .284 and .308. It had a plain stock rather than the checkered stock of the standard version.

The Winchester 88 is very accurate due to its rotating bolt lugs. Rotating bolt lugs very similar to a bolt action rifle. This is one solid gun.

I believe the Model 88 failed to ‘catch on’ because it was ahead of its time. It really didn’t look like any of the traditional deer guns of its time. The .284 and .358 weren’t the most popular calibers, although they enjoyed far more favor back then than they do today.

Expect to find a good used Winchester 88 for $400 to $700.

7. Ruger No. 1

ruger no. 1 single shot rifleI know that it’s said the Model 70 is the ‘Rifleman’s Rifle’ but I don’t agree. I think the Ruger #1 is the ‘Rifleman’s Rifle’. Like it or not, there’s just something positive to be said for someone who has the confidence to use a single shot rifle.

Although the Ruger #3 is also a fine single shot rifle, it was only made in a few calibers including the 30-40 Krag and 45-70. Both of which are more than enough for any deer walking, but the rifles their self are scarce.

The Ruger #1, on the other hand, are still being made. These are accurate single shot rifles. One reason I preferred the No. 3 to he No. 1 is because of the No. 3 was a ‘Basic’ rifle with little to no frills and was accurate. The No. 1, on the other hand, is a high class big game rifle and the price reflect that.

The No. 1’s come in a wide range of calibers depending on the Model. You can get them in anything from a .204 right up to the .458 Magnum.

Another advantage of the Ruger #1 is that the standard length barrel is 26″. Even so, since there is no action, the Ruger #1 is shorter than many standard bolt action rifles with 22 ” barrels.

My ‘Perfect’ deer rifle would be a #1 or #3 with a 22 or 24″ barrel chambered for the 7mm-08. Since that combination is not available (or wasn’t the last time I looked), I’ve been thinking about a No. 1 in the .257 Roberts. (another favorite round of mine)

Ruger No. 1’s aren’t cheap. Expect to pay $500 to $800 for a No. 1 in Good condition.

Good Deer Hunting Guns That Didn’t Make My List

There are many good rifles that didn’t make my list. Guns like the Browning BAR and BLR’s, any number of Sears and Western Auto contract rifles, Remington Automatics, etc. Some rifles I just don’t like. Others, I have never used or have been around.

One that didn’t make my list and that I’m very familiar with is the Winchester Model 94. I know it’s a popular deer rifle, but I just don’t like the 94.

I don’t like the early versions because it takes a good gunsmith to mount a scope with them and the newer side ejection models still benefit from using see through scope rings. I hate see-through rings!

No Magnums Here

I also didn’t list any Magnums. I have never felt the need to use a Magnum caliber on a deer. They’re just not needed. Few hunters can actually shoot one well and if a deer is so far off that you feel you need a Magnum, you need to learn to get closer to the deer.

Case in point. I used to work with a guy who talked his wife into buying him a .340 Weatherby Magnum one year for Christmas. At the time I lived in Arkansas and he hunted the same general area I did. The Ozark Mountains. His excuse was that he needed the rifle to “reach across the clearcuts to touch ‘dem big boys”.

He only shot this rifle a day or so prior to the Gun opener and only in camp. Which meant the target was never more than 100 yards away (I visited their camp several times).

After the first few times of shooting the gun, he became afraid of it and would try and have other people site it in for him. I shot the rifle on several occasions.

Needless to say, of all the years I knew him, he only shot two deer with that rifle and both were under a 100 yards. Both were badly mangled due to one bullet hitting the front shoulder first and one hitting the rear leg bone on the other.

Another guy I worked with bragged to everyone in earshot that he used a 7 Mag and a .338 Win. Magnum for deer hunting. The other guys at work who hunted out of his camp said he would find a spot where he could see the furthest, usually a clear cut, and open up on anything that walked into few.

The running joke in camp was “When is Bud starting the Revolution?” Surprisingly, for all the firepower this guy had, he never killed a buck large enough to enter into the company’s big buck contest. Go figure.

If you run into any of the ‘Old School’  guns listed above on a gun rack, know that they’ll do a good job for you. Don’t hesitate to put the gun back into the field. Hey, chances are they’re experienced deer killers anyway!

5 Military Surplus Rifles For Deer Hunters

5 Military Surplus Rifles

Not all deer hunters have gun cabinets full of $1000 deer rifles. Some deer hunters can’t afford such rifles and some only hunt deer once a year and can’t see spending hundreds of dollars for a rifle.

For the bargain hunting deer huntermilitary surplus rifles can offer a great way to get their hands on a good hunting rifle at bargain prices.

I picked these rifles because you can get them for a song. These military surplus rifles are solid and come in good deer calibers, plus the rifles in the list are budget priced. Many can be had for under $200.

Even though the M1 Garand, Springfield 1903 and M-14 Semi-Auto’s are more than adequate for deer, or any other big game for that matter, you won’t see them on the list due to their price tags. Some of these guns can set you back a grand or more!

I also do not consider the M1 Carbine an adequate deer rifle, even though I’m sure it has taken a few. Besides, it’s hard to find a “bargain” M1 Carbine!

It should go without saying, but I’ll repeat it here. You should have any Military Surplus rifle thoroughly cleaned and checked out by a competent gunsmith before shooting it.

Here are 5 Military Surplus Rifles for budget minded deer hunters.

SKS Rifle

sks military surplus rifleI’m going to start with the most popular military surplus rifle on the market today. Probably even more popular than the AK-47 semi-auto knock offs.

A budget minded deer hunter can get a SKS for under $200 (much less in many cases). The nice thing is, many manufacturers now stock a huge variety of accessories for the SKS, including Sporting stocks and Scope mounts.

The SKS rifle is a semi-auto that shoots a 7.62×39 round. It’s 30 caliber round that has less power than a 30-30. I’d consider the 7.62×39 cartridge a 100 yard round at best. Soft nose expanding type ammo is easy to find.

Click here to browse SKS Rifles online for sale.

NOTE: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU USE FULL METAL JACKET AMMO FOR DEER HUNTING IN ANY CALIBER!

Yugoslav M48 Mauser

yugoslav m48 mauserThe Yugoslav M48 is a Mauser rifle that is chambered in the 8mm round. This round is more than suitable for and Deer that walks.

Of the Mauser M48 rifles that I’ve shot, accuracy tends to be hit or miss. Some that I’ve shot are very accurate (2 inches or better at 100 yards with iron sights) and some are questionable (worse one was about 4 inches at 100 yards). Overall though, these rifles are known to be accurate shooters. Many were put into service as Sniper rifles in several countries.

I’d certainly check the bore and crown before I bought one of these rifles, then have it checked out by a Gunsmith. A good Gunsmith can probably accurize one of these rifles if you have one that wants to shoot crazy.

Expect to pay between $100 to $200 for a Yugoslav M48 Mauser rifle. I have seen some in Pawn Shops for less than $100, but not often.

Click here to buy Mauser Surplus Rifles and Accessories.

30-40 Krag

30-40 kragI hesitated to put this gun into this list because good quality Krags are getting harder and harder to find and when you do find them, they can be pricey. But, I’m still seeing a few Krags for under $400 at Gun Shows and every once in a while I’ll see one in the Classified section of the local paper for peanuts.

The 30-40 Krag rifle is pretty darn accurate, at least in the rifles that I’ve shot it in.

The Krag comes with a side magazine, something I’m not crazy about but most people do get used to it after using the rifle for a while. The box magazine will hold 5 rounds. Most ammo manufacturers offer at least one flavor for the 30-40 Krag.

1909 7.65 Argentine Mauser

7.65 argentineMy first contact with a 7.65 Argentine was at a deer camp many moons ago. I had just gotten married the Month before and my new brother-in-law invited me to a deer camp to hunt. The deer camp turned out to be an old school bus in the middle of the woods, with no heat other than a single burner propane stove! It got down to 19 degrees that night. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for the sun to come up the next morning!

My brother-in-law came out carrying this carbine military rifle and explained to me that it was a 7.65 Argentine. It had a shortened barrel and an attempt had been made to “sporterize” it. He swore to me that he’d taken several deer with it already, but I didn’t believe him 100%. I about laughed when he handed me some of his “hunting” rounds. The were mil surplus FMJ’s!

I said “Bub, you’re using FMJ. I think you need to get some sporting ammo” and after a little bit more discussion, he agreed. The next surprise I was in for was finding ammo for the 7.65 in the middle of nowhere. We finally found a box of Norma’s at a Pawn Shop a few towns away and boy were they pricey!

That gun shot like a dream though. It shot a helluva lot better than my brother-in-law could shoot it. Anyhow, I tried to buy it off of him several times and he refused. I tried to trade it to him and he refused (I suspect it was because he didn’t like me…go figure).

The 7.65 is close to the .308 in size. Performance wise, it can handle any deer you want to take on. It has more than enough “power” for deer sized game.

Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $200 for a good quality 7.65 Argentine Mauser. I’ve seen a short version of the 7.65 Argentine and I’d try to find one of those, the standard model has a 29 inch barrel!

Enfield No. 4 Mk 1 .303 British

enfield no. 4The Enfield No. 4 can be found in quite a few variety’s and most can be had for under $200. The 2A Enfields made in India in the later years are chambered for the 7.62 NATO round (.308).

There is also a “Jungle Carbine” version of the Enfield 303, but from what I’ve read, they’re notorious for being inaccurate.

The .303 Britishround is more than enough round for any deer that might walk by your stand. Most of the standard model Enfield No. 4’s are more than accurate for deer hunting. Ammo is reasonably easy to find for the .303 unless you’re in the middle of nowhere!

Click here to see some British Enfiled Military Rifles for sale.

Sporterizing Military Surplus Rifles

Many of these military surplus rifles can be sporterized. Just remember it comes at an additional cost!

I’ve seen many sporterized version of military surplus rifles and many need to be in the local junk yard. I’ve owned a few of these also!

Some of the most beautiful rifles I’ve even seen have been sportorized mil surplus rifles. Make sure the Gunsmith that sportorized your rifle is competent. Ask to see some of his other work.

If you’re buying one already sportorized, look it over real good. On some of the military surplus rifles, the bolt will hit the scope bell when thrown up. This means you’ll have to either use see thru mounts or have the bolt turned down and possibly even ground down a bit.

Make sure any rifle you buy is looked over by a competent Gunsmith.

These military surplus rifles will give you years of service with little maintenance. Because that’s the way they were designed!

Blacktail Deer Hunting Tips & Tactics

Blacktail Deer Hunting Tips & Tactics

I had been sitting just below the crest of the low ridge with my back against a tree for more than 2 1/2 hours, and the close of the day’s legal shooting hours was approaching.

I was on the dark side of a mountain, there was a heavy overcast, and it was getting increasingly tough to see into the brush.

Blacktail bucks that have lived to acquire any age and wariness become almost totally nocturnal during the early part of the hunting season, and I knew that if one was going to show, it would be dark–or the closest thing to it.

The “clearing” I watched was only 20 yards across and not totally free of brush. There was a deer trail along the edge of it–not a deeply rutted or even well-defined trail but an almost imperceptible series of large tracks.

Big blacktails are usually solitary during hunting season and often travel their own trails just off the main trail. This was just such a situation, and I had high hopes.

Suddenly, a ghostly shadow revealed itself just over the crest of a rocky outcrop below me and to my right. At first I thought it was a raccoon, but as the form moved I realized it was some distance behind the rock. It was a deer screened by brush, and when he moved again I saw it was a buck.

 

For several minutes I saw nothing more, then–quickly and silently–the buck emerged not 10 yards away. There I sat, in full view of a good buck so close I could almost spit on him, and my rifle lay across my lap. I held my breath as the buck stopped, staring straight ahead, and then began walking again.

The blacktail is perhaps our hardest deer to hunt. Its elusiveness, combined with the ultra-dense country in which it lives, ensure that sportsmen who take on this challenge have their work cut out for them.

When he passed out of sight behind a clump of brush, I raised the rifle. The buck wasn’t stopping, and when he reappeared on the other side of the brush, I fired before he could walk out of sight for good. I found him a few yards away, shot through the heart.

Blacktail deer are found along the Pacific Coast from northern California to Alaska, and many hunters consider a good buck of this species to be the toughest of all deer to tag. Blacktails usually inhabit coastal mountains that get a lot of moisture, and the dense jungles of ferns, vine maple, salal and countless other plant species can make deer almost impossible to see. Much of this country is steep and full of moss-covered, slick-as-grease blowdowns, and a wrong step will send you tumbling head over heels down the mountain.

Blacktails in this country are virtually unhunted. Fortunately, the wary bucks also inhabit gentler, more huntable slopes–many of them fairly readily accessible. One thing you can count on is that blacktail bucks will always be in or near heavy cover, and about the only time they venture into the open during hunting season is after dark.

The rugged coastal mountains that many blacktails call home truly stack the odds in favor of the deer, and many areas are under-hunted.

I live in blacktail country, and few days pass that I don’t see at least several deer on my property. At some times of the year it is not uncommon for me to see 40 or more does and small bucks just before dark, but seldom will a big buck venture out in daylight unless it is during the preseason–when bucks are usually bunched up–or later in the year during the rut.

There are three or four primary tactics that take blacktails consistently. Stand hunting is one of the best, whether it be from a tree stand or from the ground. The keys here, as with most types of hunting, are to find the right sign and pick a good spot. Tracks, droppings and rubs will give you some idea of where the deer are feeding and bedding. They may bed in a mature forest, but there is not much food there, so in the evenings deer head out to feed in spots that get more sunlight. Clearcuts are prime locations.

Blacktails generally feed downhill in the evening and then go uphill to bed in the morning. Keep in mind that any worthwhile blacktail buck is going to keep under cover, so locate your stand accordingly. You may find beds and tracks in the open, but you can bet the sign represents either does and fawns or the nighttime activity of bigger bucks.

To get a good buck in the daytime, you’ve got to somehow hunt the thick cover. There’s a fine line between a stand that’s in cover heavy enough for daytime deer action and one that’s open enough so you can see well enough to get a shot.

There are those who take blacktails by still-hunting, but unless you’re lucky, you need uncommon hunting skill to get a blacktail this way.

For the most part, blacktails do not migrate much because the majority of their coastal habitat does not get a lot of snow. Consequently, their home range is small, and they know it well. A blacktail buck knows all the escape routes and where and how to bed to get notice of approaching danger. Since the cover is heavy, it is difficult for a hunter to move through the best of it quietly.

Experienced still-hunters usually rely on the rain. Some don’t attempt still-hunting unless the forest is soggy wet from rain, which muffles the sounds of dry sticks and fallen leaves on the forest floor. Rain is usually not far off in the coastal areas where blacktails are found, particularly later in the season.

If you hunt with a partner, it is often possible to benefit from working together. One person can position himself along a travel route from a known bedding area while the other person circles around and approaches the bedding cover from the opposite side. As with all types of blacktail hunting, you’ve got to keep the wind right, and the person on stand has to approach the area without being seen, scented or heard.

This type of hunting is often hit and miss, but it can be productive. Several seasons ago, my hunting partner and I found a heavily timbered bedding area that surrounded a relatively small peak somewhat open on three sides. We came back several days later and drove my truck to the east side, where I dropped off my hunting partner. I then made a wide circle around to the south, far from the peak, and parked. Then I sneaked into position at the west side of the peak along the edge of the timber–about half a mile from where I’d left my partner.

At the appointed time, my buddy entered the east side of the timber and began still-hunting toward me while I waited. After about 15 minutes, a good buck broke out of the timber at a dead run, passing within 50 yards of my position and heading for a large timbered area down the hill. I swung on him with a .240 Wby. Mag., and just as he disappeared again into the timber I let go a round. We found the buck, piled up 30 yards inside the cover.

Although sitting a stand may be the most effective technique, glassing distant clearcuts can lead you to blacktail bucks. Just be prepared to shoot at long range.

Unlike with mule deer in open country, it is difficult to spot and stalk blacktails. Some hunters do glass for blacktails in clearcuts in steep country, but rather than stalk in close, they shoot at long range. Glassing for blacktails is different because the dense vegetation means you’ve got to look painfully closely and carefully, often for long periods. You’ll be lucky to see even a tiny part of the deer–a flick of an ear, a glint of sun on an antler tip, an off-color “rock.”

Not just any clearcut will hold blacktails; the growth has to be just right–high enough to give the buck cover and make him feel comfortable, yet open enough to actually see deer. The good thing about clearcut country is that there are lots of logging roads for hunters to walk and landings that provide good platforms for glassing. Bucks also frequently bed below landings, so listen and watch for one at close range as you walk out to the edge.

While you don’t read much about rattling for blacktail deer, it’s a tactic that can work during pre-rut and the rut itself. Like other deer, blacktail bucks do lose much of their wariness during the rut. The western Oregon general blacktail season, for instance, usually runs from late September to early or mid-November. The latter part of the season often coincides with pre-rut, and the archery and muzzleloader hunts often fall during the peak of the rut.

Blacktail deer are not large; live weights for mature bucks normally run 120 to 140 pounds. Like with other deer, weight can vary drastically, and a very big buck might go 200 pounds or more. An ideal all-around blacktail rifle might be a flat-shooting .25-06 Rem. or .270 Win. The 6.5×55 Mauser, 7mm-08 Rem. and other cartridges of this ilk are all good choices for blacktails.

If you’re a still-hunter, a fast-handling lever-action carbine in .30-30 Win. carries well in the brush and shoulders quickly. A receiver peep sight is fast and not as susceptible to rain as a riflescope.

Blacktails are smaller not only in body size but in antler size. To give you some perspective, the minimum score for a typical blacktail to make the Boone & Crockett record book is 130: The minimum score for mule deer is 193; for a northern whitetail, 172; and for a Coues whitetail, 110.

Blacktail numbers often run high in good habitat. There are plenty of them around. Seasons can be liberal, and permits are usually readily available. In Oregon, for example, you can purchase a blacktail tag over the counter. Add to this fact that there is plenty of rugged country to get away from other hunters, and blacktail deer hunting is an often-overlooked opportunity.

.243 Performance on Deer- Is a It Good for Deer Hunting

.243 PERFORMANCE ON DEER

Okay, I know I’ll probably get flamed for this, but I think it’s something that needs to be discussed. I know it’s discussed every hunting season by at least one Outdoor magazine and in every Gun Shop and in every Deer Camp.

The topic of these discussions/heated arguments in deer hunting circles is…

Is the .243 A Good Deer Rifle?

The simple answer is Yes…and…No.

First of all, the 243 is a necked down 308 that uses a .24 caliber bullet (6mm). As everyone knows, the 308 is a great round for Deer and other Big Game. That doesn’t make all of its offspring great Deer rounds though!

I’ve owned a .243 and a 6mm. The 6mm was a Ruger 77V and was without a doubt the most accurate rifle I ever owned. But I only used it for Varmints and never once tried it on Deer sized game.

I did use a 243 with 100-grain bullets one year to take a small buck at about 60 yards. He was feeding along, calm and perfectly broadside.

The shot was perfect double lung and he leaped forward at the shot and piled up 50 yards later. Not everyone has had the same experience with this round.

In the past, the 243 suffered from poor bullet construction. Sometimes the bullets blew up on impact, sometimes they didn’t expand at all while other times they did exactly what they were supposed to do.

Bullet construction has come a long way over the years, but I still do not consider the 243 an ideal Deer cartridge, especially for beginners. Deer hunters can improve the performance of the 243 by reloading the round with premium bullets.

Sadly, the 243 Winchester is what beginners are handed a lot of the time as their first Deer rifle.

When the 243 Is Not Right For Deer Hunting

One of the problems I see now is beginners headed out to the field with the light 55 to 85 grain loads for the 243. Most of these loads have fragile bullets as they are intended for thin skinned varmints, not a tough old ridge running White-tailed Buck Deer.

Part of the problem is that so-called ‘experts’ behind the ammo desk and Gun writers are pushing these rounds on unsuspecting Deer hunters because they think lighter and faster is the way to go.

Another problem is that if you’re not practicing regularly, you may not be as familiar with the rifle as you should be. Many beginners (okay, most) will get a terrible case of “the shakes” when it comes down to the moment of truth when that buck deer comes into view. Heck, even most of us old-timers do! The difference is, those of us who have hunted for years and are experienced, have learned how to control “the shakes” and focus on the shot.

A poor hit on a Deer is made even worse when using a small bullet in a round like the 243. The extra damage caused by a .26 or 7mm caliber can mean the difference between finding a marginally hit animal or not.

In my opinion, the minimum caliber that should be allowed for Deer hunting is the 243 with a 95-grain bullet. I can’t believe the States that allow 22 calibers to be used for Deer.

Yeah, I know they’ll kill a Deer but so will the 22 Rimfire and even the little 17’s. Why not allow them to be legal rounds to hunt Deer with? Having said this, it doesn’t mean I think the 243 should be used by beginners.

To me, the 243 is to Deer rifles what the 410 shotgun is to wingshooting. Sure, it will get the job done, but it’s not for beginners!

How many of you that consider the 243 the ideal rifle for beginners would consider the 410 ideal for beginners to use Goose or Turkey hunting? Even though the 410 is used every year to take both, I don’t know anyone who would put 410 in the hands of a new hunter when going after those two birds.

The fact of the truth is that the margin for error is nil when using a small caliber like the 243. Everything has to be just right and everything, including the bullet, has to do its job. There are other low recoil rifle rounds that give you extra “knock down” than the 243 Winchester round. (FYI: this is no measurement of “knock down” power, just of .ft .lbs of energy)

Speaking of bullets again, if I were going to be hunting Deer with the 243 Winchester, I’d choose either the 95 and 100-grain bullets in a strong design like the Nosler Partition.

Forget about using fragile bullets like the Ballistic Tip, even in the heavier bullets, for Deer sized game. A hit on a shoulder blade or other bone could cause the bullet to explode on impact.

When the 243 is Right For Deer Hunters

In the hands of an experienced and seasoned Rifleman, the 243 is more than adequate for Deer sized Game.

I once read an article by an Outdoor writer, I think it may have been Jack O’Connor or Jim Carmichel, that told a story about a man who used the .243 for Elk. He killed Elk every year with his rifle, everyone being a neck shot. He saw no need to buy a “real Elk gun”.

Does this make the 243 an ideal Elk Rifle? Methinks not!

However, in the hands of that Gentleman, it certainly was.

And so it is for Deer Hunting. I know a guy who kills 2 deer a year for his freezer. It doesn’t matter what they are as long as they’re legal. He has used a 243 Winchester for over 20 years and it’s the only “Big Game” Caliber rifle he owns.

Every deer that I’ve seen him kill has been a neck or head shot. He’s hunted out of the same two stands year after year for the last 20 years. His shots range from 30 to 300 yards. In his hands, the 243 is the perfect caliber for Deer.

A seasoned hunter knows how to control his/her excitement when they see their buck. The seasoned hunter has the patience to wait for the “perfect” shot placement opportunity. The seasoned hunter knows which bullets perform best in his/her rifle and they can put those bullets where they need to go at the moment-of-truth.

Many new hunters cannot do these things due to a lack of experience. They don’t have the experience to wait and to recognize when a Buck is nervous and about to bolt. They haven’t learned how to control their breathing when putting the crosshairs on a Buck.

It’s for this reason and mainly this reason alone, that I do not consider the .243 Winchester an adequate rifle for Deer hunting in the hands of a Beginning Deer Hunter.

As I stated above, there are other great choices of low-recoiling rounds for deer hunting that pack a bigger punch than the .243. Check ’em out before buying your potential new hunter a .243.

Nothing’s worse for a new hunter than to shoot a deer and not be able to recover it because of a marginal, or a poor, hit. Put the odds in their favor by using a larger round! If you must give a beginner a 243, then, by all means, make sure you use premium ammo like Fusion 243 ammo. It’s a reliable bullet and one that will work well as long as the shooter does his or her part!

Top 7 Mistakes Deer Hunters Make: Deer Hunting 101

Top 7 Mistakes Deer Hunters Make

This subject came to mind when I received an email from a reader asking what mistakes he should avoid when starting out deer hunting.

Geez, talk about a loaded question (no pun intended)! After a little thought, I’ve come up with the 7 most common mistakes I believe new deer hunters make.

While it’s obvious that most of these mistakes are often belong to a beginning deer hunter, I’ve seen veteran deer hunters also make some of these mistakes (myself included).

If you see one that should be on the list, drop me a line. So, here are my top 7 mistakes I see deer hunters make. In no certain order.

1. They fail to scout

Now when I say scout, that’s exactly what I mean. I don’t mean lollygagging around the woods taking potshots with a .22 a few days before the season. I mean getting out weeks before the season opens and scouring your hunting area real good.

Even if you’re familiar with the lay of the land, you’ll be surprised from time to time by what you find. Lots of things can change from season to season, that’s why it’s important to get out and scout!

2. They fail to become proficient with the weapon they’re using

The funny thing is, the definition of ‘proficient’ changes from hunter to hunter. Some may believe it’s being able to shoot a 2″ group at 100 yards.

Others think if they can hit a 12″x12″ piece of paper at 50 yards, that is all they need. When I was a kid, my dad used to hang a one-gallon paint bucket on a limb at about 50 yards. If he could hit it with his open sighted 30-30 Marlin, then his gun was “sighted in” and he was perfectly happy.

And he killed a lot of deer with that gun, few were rarely shot past 50 yards though.

I think most of us would agree that a scoped modern rifle should be able to put at least 3 rounds inside 3 inches at any range up to 100 yards. If the gun can do that, then the shooter should practice proper breath control and trigger squeeze.

For bowhunters, I believe they should be able to keep all their arrows inside a 5 or even 6-inch group out to 40 yards. Obviously, I’d like to see them also keep at least 3 arrows in a 3-inch circle out to 40, but I had trouble doing that at 40 yards with my old compound.

Only when I started shooting instinctively did my accuracy improve greatly. I just could never develop the form to shoot accurately with sights out to 40 yards.

3. Lack of Patience

Over the years I’ve learned that many times I found that a lack of patience was really a lack of confidence in most cases. Funny that you have no trouble sitting in a blind until noon if you’re seeing deer, or if you think you’ll be seeing them.

But a lot of people have a problem sitting still even an hour or so before they get up and start walking around. Which by the way, is another mistake beginners make!

I can’t tell you how many deer I’ve watched impatient hunters spook because they were out of their blind or treestand by 8 or 9 and started walking around.

If you’ve done your scouting properly, there should be no reason for you to be out plopping around the freakin’ woods at 8 or 9 a.m. You’re better off going back to camp and making coffee for everyone else who will be filing in a few hours.

4. They call too much

I think beginners and even some veterans should have their deer calls taken away. I’d bet that the majority of deer hunters have never heard a real deer in the woods.

And of those hunters, the majority of them have never listened to a pro on a CD or DVD call deer. They may have seen one of the TV show cowboys do it, but few have taken the time to hear real deer call in the woods.

Even if you’re using an excellent grunt call like the MAD Grunt/Snort/Wheez call, you can easily over call and spook deer!

Usually, one of two things happen”

  • The hunters will go out and call long and hard for a few days and when nothing shows up, the proclaim to everyone they meet from here on out that deer calls are jokes and do not work.
  • Or, they use the call a few times and when a big buck doesn’t magically show up, they lose interest and leave the call at home or back in camp.

I’ve been deer hunting for nearly 30 years now and I’ve heard deer vocalize only a few dozen times over the years. Of course, I probably spend a lot more time scouting and deer hunting than the average Joe as well.

Deer make soft subtle sounds, even a buck trailing a hot doe doesn’t grunt near as loud as many commercial call sound. Plus, deer don’t make a continuous sound every step they make!

5. They use too much scent

Like over calling, a lot of deer hunters are relying on that magical deer in a bottle to produce a buck for them. Many deer hunters subscribe to the theory that more is better. That just isn’t true!

I dearly loved to watch the late Ben Rogers Lee. I use to have nearly all of his deer hunting videos and I learned a lot from watching them.

However, I cringed when he would pour a whole bottle of his deer scent on a tarsal gland or rag and say something like “Now you can’t get too much of this scent on the ground, use plenty so the Buck can really smell it”.

I know he was just selling deer scent, but then again the guy didn’t have a problem killing deer. He knew them just as well as he knew the habits of Turkey. But beginners thought his ‘secret to success’ was all that deer scent he was pouring out!

Deer can put bloodhounds to shame. If you’re going to use scent, use only a few drops. I think the majority of deer hunters would do far better without scents than with them. Most don’t know how to use them properly or when to use them.

I personally don’t want a deer to know I’m anywhere around when he comes by my stand. Sure, I’ve had scents work and I’ve had them spook deer, especially when using a Doe in Estrous scent during the rut.

Many small bucks that have had their butts whipped will spook. So will does. They know that if a Buck is present, it’ll be cold nosing them and pestering them for a long time. So they will avoid another doe who smells like she is ‘in’.

That’s why most of the time you’ll find me using a deer scent like Wildlife Research’s Trails End #307. I’ve used it for many years and it doesn’t seem to spook deer in my area during the rut. I’ve also seen it attract several deer that I know of, including a few bucks.

6. Fail to plan

There’s a saying in the business world that goes something like “If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail”. The same could be said about deer hunting.

Do you have backup stand locations for different wind directions? What if there are hunters in your area, do you have an alternate plan? Have you ever went hunting and forgot your weapon at camp or home? Have you ever forgot your release or shells?

You should have alternate hunting stand locations mapped out and know which wind directions they are good for. Plus, a simple checklist that you check before heading out will keep you from forgetting an important part of your gear.

Over the years I’ve heard of more than one story about a deer hunter who went ahead and sits in their stand even though they had forgotten their weapon or ammo only to have a buck walk by within range. I bet you’ve heard one or two stories about unprepared hunters.

7. The use cheap equipment

When I say ‘cheap’, I mean poor quality equipment. I can’t tell you how many people just want the cheapest piece of equipment they can find. Whether it’s the cheapest bow, treestand, game camera or rifle, it seems their only requirement is that the equipment is cheap.

How many times have you seen someone ask a question in the forums like “What’s the best and cheapest bow?” or “What’s the best and cheapest cold weather hunting clothes?”

It’s okay to save a buck (no pun intended), but simply being a cheapskate because you’re tight is a whole different matter.

Poor quality hunting equipment can come back to bite you when you need it the most. Like scopes, rifles, bows, clothes, boots and other deer hunting products, sometimes it’s better to save up a little while longer and buy the good stuff.

Don’t get me wrong. Although I see beginners make most of these mistakes, making these mistakes don’t seem to know the difference between a beginning deer hunter and someone who’s been hunting for decades.

The only thing I can see is that serious deer hunters make fewer of these mistakes than the weekend warriors. I believe it comes down to how serious you are about deer hunting. The more serious you are, the more you’re likely to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them.

Shotgun Patterning: Why Do Hunters Pattern Their Shotguns?

Shotgun Patterning

why do hunters pattern their shotguns?

Pattern-testing is extremely important because it will reveal many things about a shotgun that can prove to be invaluable in the field.

Steel patterning plates work quite well with lead shot and soft nontoxic shot such as Bismuth and Tungsten-Matrix, but they should not be used when testing loads containing steel shot or other equally hard nontoxics such as Hevi-Shot and Tungsten-Iron. Pellets from these could bounce back and hit the shooter.

Pattern Plate From TeagueChokes

You can make your own patterning board by attaching heavy cardboard to a couple of eight-foot, wooden 2x4s with their ends buried about 18 inches into the ground.

You will also need plain paper measuring 36 to 40 inches wide. A roll can be purchased at most paper supply houses, or you might check with your local newspaper publisher to see if unused scrap paper of that width is available.

Use a heavy-duty staple gun to attach a sheet of paper to the backboard, and you are ready to shoot your first pattern. The soft backboard used on a rig of this type makes it suitable for testing all types shot.

I do a lot of pattern testing and find the Targomatic system from Baker Engineering (www.targomatic.com) well worth the $99 price tag.

I prefer to pattern-test while sitting at a benchrest with my elbows resting atop something soft. In a pinch, a coat or duffel bag will do. It is important that the gun be held steady as its trigger is squeezed. If you find it too tiring to support the shotgun with your arms, try resting the back of the hand that holds its fore-end atop a soft support.

pattern-test while sitting at a benchrest

 

Testing heavy shotshell loads from the bench can become uncomfortable, so don’t be bashful about placing a sausage-shaped “sissy bag” from Brownells (661/623-4000, www.brownells.com) or Sinclair International (219/493-1858, www.sinclairintl.com) between the stock and your shoulder.

why do hunters pattern their shotguns

Shotgun and shotshell manufacturers test their products by shooting a pattern at 40 yards and then drawing a 30-inch circle around the highest concentration of holes in the paper (the .410 is tested at 25 yards). They then count the pellet holes in the circle and compare it with the number of pellets in the load to determine a shotgun’s choke or a load’s performance.

Since patterns fired with the same gun/choke/load combo can vary from one to the next, the manufacturers usually fire a minimum of 10 patterns and average them for the final result.

What you have just read is quite useful for those who desire to compare the performance of their shotguns and loads to the industry standards, but for those of us who take most game birds closer to the muzzles of our guns, shooting at closer ranges reveals more useful information. Since most of the bobwhite quail I bag hit the ground 15 to 25 yards from the toes of my boots, I am more interested in how a gun/load combination performs at those ranges.

A shotgun used for wingshooting should place the center of its shot pattern either dead on the shooter’s hold point or slightly high. If you find that your gun is shooting too high or too low, it can be cured by changing the amount of drop at the comb of its stock.

Lowering the comb with a wood rasp (or having it done by a gunsmith) will lower your eye in relation to the muzzle of the gun and cause the gun to shoot lower. Increasing comb height by the application of layers of adhesive-backed moleskin will cause it to shoot higher.

Applying layers of the same material to the left side of the comb will cause the gun to shoot farther to the left (for a right-handed shooter) while removing wood from that side of the stock will cause it to shoot farther to the right.

Some guns may require more drastic measures. A practical option for a pump or autoloader with no rib on its barrel is to have a gunsmith adjust pattern point of impact by carefully bending the barrel in the proper direction. A barrel with a rib can also be bent, but since a portion of the rib will likely have to be broken loose and then resoldered back in place, it can be expensive.

Another option is to install an optical sight on a shotgun and then zero the gun like a rifle. This option is popular among turkey hunters, but I doubt if wingshooters will ever accept it in great numbers.

The best fix for any type of gun that doesn’t shoot where you are looking is to have an eccentric screw-in choke fitted to its barrel by Briley Manufacturing (800/331-5718,www.briley.com).

When this type of choke is installed, its bore and the bore of the barrel are intentionally misaligned by the precise amount needed to shift pattern point of impact by the desired amount and in the desired direction. It doesn’t affect pattern quality.

Spending some time at the pattern board can also reveal a gun’s preference in loads and shot sizes. Just as deer rifles often shoot more accurately with some loads than with others, so it goes with shotguns–except in the case of scatterguns we often see differences in pattern quality.

Last but certainly not least in importance, testing a shotgun will reveal how the effective diameters of the patterns it shoots are affected by changes in choke constriction, shot sizes and load quality at the various ranges at which game birds are usually taken. For example, if most of your shots are inside 25 yards and the effective pattern diameter delivered by your gun/choke/ammo combination measures smaller than 25 inches at that distance, you should seriously consider switching to a choke with less constriction.

Moving to the opposite extreme, if the effective pattern diameter of your long-range load measures much greater than 40 inches at 40 yards, you might need to tighten up the choke in order to deliver adequate shot density at that range.

How to Choose a Place to Practice Shotgun Patterning

Hunters have a range of choices when it comes to choosing a place to practice shotgun patterning.

However, there are legal and safety issues to observe before one decides to go for shooting practice.

I would recommend you seek guidance from your local shooting range.

Practicing at a local shooting range has a lot of benefits. For example, ranges always observe local, state, and federal laws that govern shooting ranges.

Apart from expertise skills acquired in a shooting range, you get top-range safety equipment for shotgun patterning. I am at talking about hearing and eyesight protection. Shotgunners know that a scope and a rangefinder are invaluable in patterning tests.

ear and eye safety

While some ranges are open to public shooting, others only allow private members.

You can choose either place depending on where you feel you can get the best shooting techniques.

It is advisable to observe the rules and commands when practicing in a shooting range.

It is important to learn what the range officer means by the commands “cease-fire” and “range is active.”

7 Best Scopes For AR 15 Coyote Hunting 2020

Best scopes for Ar 15 coyote hunting

We all love a good coyote gun. The AR 15 is the right choice if you are looking at shooting at small game. Hunting Varmints such as coyotes is becoming a popular sport for hunters who do not want to hang their guns at the end of deer season. Interestingly, no one wants a coyote in your backyard because of their destructive nature.

Having the AR 15 is not adequate without a good rifle scope. Of course, a good scope offers you a tactical advantage if you are looking forward to enjoying shooting a coyote. Below we look at some of the best scopes for AR 15 Coyote Hunting.

  1. Vortex Crossfire II 3-9×40 Rifle Scope, V-Brite Reticle

Vortex Crossfire II with the V-Brite reticle is your choice if you prefer hunting in low-light hunting

Vortex Crossfire II 3-9×40

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The Vortex Crossfire II 3-9×40 is one of the best scopes from Vortex Optics. For Coyote hunters who are worried about the distance, Vortex Crossfire has got you covered with the 3-9x power that allows you to spot the game at up to 400 yards away.

Talking of Vortex Crossfire II, the V-Brite reticle is exemplary considering Vortex Optics relies on V-Plex reticle for speedy target acquisitions.

Vortex Crossfire II with the V-Brite reticle is your choice if you prefer hunting in low-light hunting and not to forget a good illumination powered by a CR2032 battery.

Vortex Crossfire II turrets have 60 Minute of Angle (MOA) of elevation, and the windage adjustment is amazing. We are talking about ¼ and 15 MOA clicks and revolutions respectively.

With amazing specs and features as well as a pocket-friendly price, you are guaranteed of a fun-filled coyote hunting escapades.

Pros

  • Illuminated reticle
  • Weatherproof
  • Multi-layered optics
  • Fast-paced V-Plex reticle
  • Pocket-friendly

Cons

  • Fixed optical bells

 

   2. Simmons Matte Black Riflescope

Simmons Rimfire

Simmons .22 Mag Riflescope series

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The Simmons .22 Mag Riflescope series is your ultimate AR 15 coyote hunting riflescope. We are talking about a riflescope that has 3/8-inch dovetail mounting rings as well as a durable coated glass.

Coyote hunters look for riflescopes with a quick target acquisition which is exactly what the Simmons Rimfire offers you. In addition to this, you experience about three and a half inches of eye relief.

Besides the Quick Target Acquisition advantages, you are looking at riflescope that gives you sight stability thanks to its SureGrip adjustments.

The Simmons .22 Mag Series riflescopes are the right one if you like making fine-tuned calculations. If so, you can use the TruZero elevation and windage adjustments to get your calculations right.

With this riflescope, you can get clear and accurate visibility at 50 yards thanks to the riflescope’s Trueflex reticle.

Durable and fully coated optics in Simmons .22 Mage Series riflescopes make the gadget weatherproof.

Pros

  • Rapid target acquisition
  • 60/60 adjustment range
  • Stability
  • Weatherproof
  • Pocket-friendly

Cons

  • Weak knobs

 

   3. Nikon Prostaff 4-12×40

Nikon ProStaff comes with multicoated glass lenses

Nikon ProStaff 4-12×40 riflescope

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Nikon ProStaff 4-12×40 riflescope should be on your list of AR coyote hunting riflescopes. Do not worry about long-range shots, for you can get the coyote at 100 yards.

The Nikon ProStaff comes with multicoated glass lenses. The 150 Ballistic Drop Compensating (BDC) reticles in Nikon ProStaff makes you feel like a pro predator hunter with that mid-range to long-range shots.

Do not forget that Nikon ProAtaff uses MOA graduations for elevation.

The Nikon Prostaff Rimfire weatherproof packaging is a hunter dream come true. Talk of cavities filled with nitrogen and sealed O-rings, multi-layered lens, amazing light-transmission clear glass, zero stop, HD imaging, and top-notch visibility in low light.

Pros

  • 98% light transmission
  • Has sub-tensions giving you some latitude
  • Weatherproof (fog proof, waterproof, shockproof)
  • Pocket-friendly

Cons

  • Lack of tight grouping

 

   4. Leupold Mark AR M-3. 3-9×40

Leupold is a serious manufacturer of riflescopes

Leupold Mark AR M.-3 .3-9×40

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Leupold Mark AR M.-3 .3-9×40 is for the pro hunter. Some hunters revere its performance and consider it an assault rifle scope. Yes, you had it right, Leupold Mark AR M.-3 is for the big dogs: AR 15, M-16, Standard .223 Remington, and .224 Valkyrie. I guess these admirations are because Leupold is a serious manufacturer of riflescopes.

The Leupold Mark AR M.-3 .3-9×40 is for those seeking to save time as well as take precise shots. We all know that with a Leupold Mark AR M.-9×40, you can take a coyote down at 500 yards.

The Leupold Mark AR M.-9×40 comes with a multi-coat 4 lens systems and therefore, improving your clarity. You can use this scope even at low-light conditions.

Leupold Mark AR M.-9×40 has Mark Ar Mod 1 P5 dial, and a better elevation thanks to BDC turrets that work amazingly irrespective of elevation and wind.

The Argon/Krypton glass bend ensures that Leupold Mark AR M.-9×40 is not affected by thermal shock. Yes, this makes it even better as the riflescope is 100% waterproof.

Pros

  • Outstanding accuracy
  • 100% waterproof
  • Works well in low-light conditions
  • Durable

Cons

 

    5. Trijicon ACOG Rifle Scope

Trijicon ACOG 4x magnification

Trijicon ACOG Rifle Scope

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Trijicon ACOG is one of the best scopes to ever come from Trijicon. It is a high-end scope, and that means it is a favorite for hunters and military operatives. With the Trijicon ACOG you can hunt at night since it is suitable for low light environments.

Trijicon ACOG 4x magnification is something to behold. You can gun down your coyote at 800 yards. A good eyepiece giving you the ease of viewing the target makes the ACOG your scope of choice.

ACOG has 32mm objective lens and therefore, making this scope the ultimate choice when hunting in low light. The addition Chevron .223 ballistic illuminated reticle makes you look like a real pro hunter.

Trijicon ACOG comes with a TA51 scope mount and the turrets caps well fixed on the optic body. Well, the Trijicon ACOG matte black finish makes the scope have an outstanding outlook.

Pros

  • Effective in hunting moving targets
  • Lightweight
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Wide eyepiece

Cons

  • Fixed magnification

   6. UTG 3-9×32 1̎  Bug Buster

UTG Bug Buster Rifle Scope

UTG 3-9×32 1̎ Bug Buster

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The UTG 3-9×32 1̎ Bug Buster is not your scope if you are an amateur hunter. The Bug Buster scope is for the pro hunters. It has features that bring out the best of a hunter.

The UTG 3-9×32 1̎ Bug Buster has emerald-coated lens giving you an amazing clarity. The 1-inch lens tube allows optimal light transmission and therefore, improving vision. Also, a premium zero-reset allows you to make adjustments with ease.

The UTG 3-9×32 1̎ Bug Buster is nitrogen filled, making it weatherproof.  Talking of clarity, the Bug Buster’s Emerald Coated Lens allows excellent light transmission.

True to its high-performance nature, the Bug Buster has Mil-dot reticle for great targeting. I must say, the Bug Buster comes with easy-to-adjust features. We are talking about easy adjustments of your knobs: zero-lockable and zero-reset turrets and a 1/4 MOA (Minute of Angle) per click.

Pros

  • Multi-color mode
  • Weatherproof
  • Resettable turrets
  • Great eye relief
  • Durable
  • Good design

Cons

  • Best suited for pro hunters

 

   7. Sightmark – Photon Xt 6.5x50mm Digital Night Vision Rifle Scope

Photon XT

Sightmark – Photon Xt 6.5x50mm Digital Night Vision Rifle Scope

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The Photon Xt is a high magnification rifle scope. With the 6.5x magnification, 50mm lens and 640×40 resolution, you are guaranteed of a good shot for up to 200 yards. The 50mm objective lens allows optimal light and therefore, giving you a clear view of the target.

The multi-colored digital reticle mode is an effective feature when shooting from a long distance. Besides, you will enjoy using the built-in laser and therefore, shooting at a target is easy.

The scope comes with a digital windage and elevation adjustment system. However, do not worry since you can set up scope as it comes with a full kit and rings ready to mount.

Pros

  • High magnification (6.5x)
  • Multi-colored digital reticles
  • A video output feature
  • Comes with a ready kit

Cons

  • Bulky
  • Premium price

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Scope for AR 15 Coyote Hunting

There are some factors to look out for when choosing the best scope for AR 15 Coyote Hunting: magnification, objective lens, reticle, cost, durability, and weight.

Magnification

Magnification is everything when it comes to the best scope for AR 15 coyote hunting.  I would recommend you look for a scope that suits your hunting environment. Remember, some hunters like hunting at night while others are okay during the daytime.

Go for high magnification scopes if you are hunting at night or on open fields. A medium to low magnification is okay during day time. Besides, each hunter has a unique shooting style, and therefore, the scope’s magnification is critical.

Now, hunting in deep woods does not require a high magnification scope as compared to hunting in open fields.

Objective lens

Depending on whether you hunt at night or during the daytime, you must have a scope that gives you a good sight. You do not want to miss the varmint as it crosses the field. Always go for rifle scope with bigger objective lens.

For coyote hunting, I would recommend you choose an objective lens that is at least 50mm. I can guarantee you that with a bigger objective lens, you can get a clear shot at the coyote if not better.

Reticle

A high-quality reticle is everything in a hunting rifle scope. Of course, you need a scope that helps you pinpoint a fast-moving coyote. Remember, coyotes move around nonstop, and sometimes, hiding. Fast Focal Plane reticles are commonly used in hunting coyotes.

However, Mil-Dot reticles are your choice if you want to drop the coyote from a long distance. Moreover, with crosshair reticles such as the fine duplex and wide duplex, you can pinpoint the coyotes at a longer range.

Cost

When buying a rifle scope for AR 15 coyote hunting, it all depends on your budget. As an amateur coyote hunter, do not go for the high-end scopes. Remember, a high-quality scope is slightly expensive but worth the price.

Durability

Durable rifle scope must withstand hunting the coyotes under extreme conditions. I am talking about hunting in extreme weather conditions and tough terrain. Sometimes, you crawl and move between bushes and therefore, need a rugged scope for such conditions. When buying a scope for AR 15 coyote hunting, check whether it is weatherproof; water-proof, shockproof, and fog-proof.

Weight

Hunting coyote is no easy task if you decide to carry weighty accessories. You do not need the total weight of your rifle and scope to slow you down. Choose a lightweight scope that makes your shooting experience easier.

[Checklist] 7 of the Most Essential Bow Hunting Gear That a Savvy Hunter Must Have

Bow Hunting Gear

Bow hunting, or bowhunting as it’s commonly referred, is one of the most rewarding and personal challenges a true hunter will either love or hate!

There is no guarantee that you will find success when bow hunting, but it sure is worth the challenge.  On some days it may be the weather that affects your shot, on others… it may be your hunted prey that won’t cooperate.

While the bow hunting guides on this website won’t guarantee success, the bow hunting equipment guides, accessories and bow hunting tips you find will definitely give you the edge while bow hunting.

The more prepared you are for the hunt, the better your odds of successfully finding, stalking and killing your prey!

Bow Hunting Equipment Guides

In order to be successful at bow hunting, you should have the right equipment for what you plan to hunt, whether it be deer, elk or other prey.  Even if you are armed with the correct bow, it doesn’t guarantee you will be successful the first time out.   The key is to put in plenty of practice so you learn from your mistakes.

Hopefully, the next time out you will have a better chance at getting off the right shot and hitting your target!

Broadheads

When you are out in the woods or field with your bow you absolutely need to make every shot count.

Missing out on a large rack or a big hunk of meat because you came onto his turf unprepared is inexcusable, and that will never happen when you’re packing a lethal set of broadhead arrows.

Broadheads enhance penetration over field point arrows and greatly increase the damage done.  More devastating clean-through shots are the results, with shorter trails leading to your trophy.

Broadhead arrows are the choice of bow hunters who respect their game animals enough to take them out quickly.

Today’s field of manufacturers is crowded with outstanding technology, razor-sharp blades that are either fixed or mechanical, accuracy that is second to none, and varying sizes to match the game you’re setting your sights on.  Look for the best broadhead arrows in the business from top names like Allen, Grim Reaper, G5, Rap and NAP.

Compound Bows

Today’s top compound bow manufacturers keep pushing the technological envelope which leads to better performance in every generation of models.

Cam designs include single and dual set-ups as well as hybrids that deliver all the power while being extremely quiet.

Another feature to look for in the compound bow you choose, from top makers like Mathews or McPherson, is a draw weight that fits your build.

While many hunters want to pull 70-lb bows for the fastest speeds and flattest trajectories you’ll do better to choose the compound bow you can handle the best while still delivering good speed and power.

The fast 70-lb compound bows can be tough for those with a medium or small build to handle, and a 50-60 pound model would serve you better.  Even 35-50 pound bows will do the job.  The key is to find one you can be deadly accurate with since accuracy outperforms power in the field.

Other quality compound bow brands you’ll want to consider include industry pioneer Hoyt along with PSE and Jennings.  All of these compound bow manufacturers offer a wide range of outstanding products that will improve your performance while chasing the big game of your dreams.

Crossbow Hunting Bows

Men have been taking down dinner with crossbow hunting bows for more than a thousand years.

The tradition continues with absolutely the most extraordinary equipment ever produced.  Today’s crossbow hunting bows pack years of research and development into each model that actually simplifies the process for you – simply cock, aim and shoot while highly advanced engineering kicks into action and does what is was made to do.

You’ll enjoy tremendous accuracy from PSE Crossbows and Excalibur Crossroads while Barnett Crossbows and Horton Crossbows might give you the edge in speed.

But it’s really splitting hairs – which these crossbow hunting bows could probably do from 30 yards at 400 fps– because all of today’s top manufacturers produce models that would make Medieval man’s head spin.

Now that crossbow hunting bows are legal for use in most areas of the country perhaps it is time to see what all of the fun and hunting success is about!

Longbows and Recurve Bows

While today’s compound bows are hot sellers many hunters have never lost their love for longbows and recurve bows. Still, others are continuing the method migration from rifles and shotguns to a more traditional, natural and sporting way to hunt.

Before compound bows took center stage many archery companies like Hoyt Archery were turning out world-class longbows and recurve bows and today others have entered the field.

When you peruse the highest quality longbows and recurve bows you’ll find manufacturers that are very familiar to bow hunters.

Martin Recurve bows, PSE Longbows and recurve bows, and Bear Archery recurves shoot amazingly well and are creating a new generation of adherents.

Newcomers to North America include New Zealand based Archery Imports longbows that are stunningly efficient and a pleasure to shoot.  Accuracy, speed, power, and performance are all part of today’s best longbows and recurve bows.

Related: How to Pattern a Hunting Shotgun

Bow Hunting Sights and Range Finders

If you can see it better, you’ll hit it more often, and if you know how far away it is your aim will be much truer.  That’s the basic philosophy that drives the top makers of today’s Bow Hunting Sights and Rangefinders.

These technologically innovative products offer you advantages unheard of before – an enhanced vision with fiber optics and accuracy that lets you learn your ranges and increase your ability to put your arrowhead or bolt right where it needs to be.

When you walk into the brush or climb the tree stand with and Apex bow sight or an HHA Sports Trophy sight as part of your setup you know you’ll be on the money.

Copper John sights and Trophy Ridge models let you focus on good mechanics without worrying about distance and aim.  Peruse today’s top models and make your next hunt a memorable one.

Bow Stabilizers and Releases

If you are going to become the most lethal hunter you can be spending some time shooting at targets is part of the bargain.

But when your bow is vibration and your wrists are hurting it’s easy to call it quits before your skills are optimized.  That’s where the right bow stabilizers and releases are vital.

Bow stabilizers are crafted to absorb bow vibration so your hands don’t.  A by-product of the vibration reduction is a corresponding reduction in sound, and if you’ve ever had a deer out-quick your dart because he heard it coming you know how important a quiet shot is.

Today’s best bow and accessory makers also design and offer quality bow stabilizers and releases.

The favorites among today’s hunters include PSE bow stabilizers, which are also known as Vibracheck stabilizers, Limbsaver bow stabilizers, Trophy Ridge bow stabilizers, and Apex bow stabilizers.

They deliver the job of quieting the action and sound of your bow so you can give your full attention to making your shot calm, accurate and deadly.  Add one to your setup today and start shooting with more comfort, balance, and effectiveness tomorrow.

Bow Hunting Tree Stands and Blinds

Your silent partner in taking more deer this season will by your hunting tree stands and blinds.  Whichever way you go, they play an important role in concealing your presence and offering you the right shot for the situation.

Hunting stands from top manufacturers like Summit tree stands and Lone Wolf keep you comfortably situated, free to take your shot while remaining totally safe.  Also, look at quality models from API tree stands and Gorilla tree stands.

When hunting from the ground makes more sense hunting blinds from Ameristep or Primos give you concealment in the woods or field.  They offer portholes and windows covered with shooting mesh to let you get a stealth shot from virtually any direction.

Choosing the right hunting tree stands and blinds is an important choice when you want the best outdoor experience possible – one that includes bringing home a trophy animal of a freezer full of meat.

Hunting Weapons List- The Must Have Hunting Weapons for Serious Hunters

best hunting weapons list

This section will give you helpful information on how to choose the weapon you plan to use hunting. This information intends to be helpful not all encompasing.

Hunting Bows

hunting weapons
Bowhunting more than any other style of hunting can be more of an art than science. Each archer must adopt a shooting style to fit his/her shooting abilities and personality.

The selection of a bow and its accessories will be a personal and subjective choice.

Choosing a bow and its accessories is largely a matter of personal taste.

Many bowhunters eagerly make use of all the most modern compound bows and the latest accessories. While others prefer a more traditional approach and use long bows and use accessories sparingly. Either will give you years of enjoyment!

Though a hunter need not to buy the most expensive bow and it’s accessories it does make sense to invest in quality equipment.

If possible seek the advice of a hunter you respect or from a reputable source before purchasing your hunting equipment.

No matter what style of bow you choose compound or traditional you will need to determine three VERY important variables: eye dominance, length of draw and draw weight.

See our section on Choosing a Bow to see how to determine your length of draw and draw weight.

Eye Dominance

Bows are configured for right-handed and left handed people. Your choice should be determined by eye dominance not just by being left handed or right handed.

In most cases, hand and eye dominance match, but occasionally a right-handed person will have a dominant left eye or vice versa.

To figure out which of your eyes is dominant, point at a distant object with both eyes open. Now close your left eye, then your right.

When you look through your dominant eye, your finger will still appear to point at the object, but when you look through your subordinate eye, your finger will appear to shift to the side.

If your eye dominance matches your hand dominance, simply select a bow configured for your dominant hand. In the rare case, your hand and eye dominance are mismatched, it’s best to choose a bow based on your eye dominance rather than your hand dominance.

Though it may feel weird and cumbersome at first, in the long run, a person will become accustomed and become a better shooter. Research shows most successful archers sight with the dominant eye regardless of hand dominance.

Hunting Rifles

best hunting weapons

Choosing the right rifle and the correct ammunition will make your hunt much more enjoyable, and can really boost your odds of being successful.

When selecting a rifle for hunting, you should consider how it fits, the sights, how heavy it is, plus its action and caliber.

A properly fitting gun will help you fire a more accurate shot. A stock that is too long for the shooter can get caught on your jacket, in your armpit.

If too short, the scope could strike a person in the eyebrow, giving them what’s known as “scope bite.”

Read: How to Get Started in Long Range Shooting

Stock lengths can vary GREATLY with each model and manufacturer.

Downfalls of improper fit are the amount of drop you will encounter. While your cheek is pressed firmly against the stock of the rifle, your shooting eye should line up with the sites.

Too much drop will prevent you from placing your cheek against the stock, and the recoil could cause the stock to slam against your cheek. More than likely to leave a mark! A gunsmith can almost always change the length of the stock for you if needed.

If hunting in heavy brush where you must use short sights, buy a low power scope or a peep sight that has a large aperture. Either one can be aimed quickly and very accurately.

Variable power scopes within the ranges of 1.5x to 7x are ideal for this purpose. Open sights, which are standard on most rifles are difficult to line up quickly and more important accurately.

Another important consideration in choosing a rifle is weight.

  • Most rifles used for hunting today weigh between six and nine pounds. Lighter guns are more comfortable to carry, and the heavier guns have less recoil.
  • Heavier rifles are easier to hold steady and are better for stand hunting and long-range shots. It is recommended that you use a sling to tote your rifle when you are not hunting.

The action you choose will largely depend on your need for a quick second shot, accuracy plus your personal preferences.

Keep in mind not all calibers are available in each type of action. Actions can vary from the very reliable and sturdy single shots to fast shooting lever actions, pumps, and semi-automatics.

Most actions will function fine without oil for short periods of time. If you do a lot of shooting in very cold climates, you may want to consider using a graphite lubricant.

Important: Most states have laws that specify minimum calibers and cartridges for hunting Big Game animals.

Shotguns

Shotguns and slugs are most commonly used for deer hunting in densely populated areas, many states don’t allow rifle hunting.

Some of the southern states permit you to use shotguns with buckshot only. The ideal shotgun for deer hunting is one that has a rifled barrel and special sights or a scope.

Rifled barrels shoot slugs more accurately than do smoothbores, but you have to make sure they are carefully patterned.

Rifling causes the slugs to spin and stabilize, allowing shots at deer up to 125 yards away. Slugs guns and ammunition are available in all the popular gauges with the 12 gauge being the most widely used.

Read: The Beginners Guide to Hunting with a Handgun

Muzzleloaders

Muzzleloaders or “smokepoles” as they are commonly called can only fire one shot so you better make it count. Due to technology over the last few years, they have become very accurate and reach out to around 125 yards.

Many states have seasons allowing you to extend your time in the field.

Hunters can choose between caplocks and flintlocks.

Many hunters prefer the flinlocks, though the caplocks are likely to misfire less often. They come in a variety of calibers the most common being .50 and .54, which are the most preferred by hunters today.

You have a choice of round balls, conical bullets, and pistol bullets. Check with your local state to see which are allowed for hunting.

Getting Started in Long Range Shooting- Understand the Pitfalls

LONG RANGE SHOOTING

Long-range shooting is one of the hottest trends among today’s riflemen. In some ways this is really good because it has driven the manufacturers to create a bow wave of excellent new products. We have a whole bunch of fast new cartridges, so many that it’s downright confusing, but they’re all wonderful. Some of them, at least theoretically, offer more accuracy than the previous generation of belted magnums, and a few offer genuine increases in trajectory-flattening velocity.

We also have a lot of rifles that, right out of the box, offer significant improvements in accuracy. To me this is even better to play with than new cartridges. Hunting scopes and this new breed of “tactical scope” are more rugged than ever, plus–a big plus–they have genuinely repeatable adjustments and a variety of reticles to help judge range and allow a more precise hold at extended ranges.

This is all good, and the best part of it all is that it has given guys like me lots of things to write about. So we’ve written about long-range shooting, and many of you have done it. With or without the new equipment, you’ve honed your skills and increased your capabilities until you are genuinely dangerous at much farther ranges than you once thought possible. This is also good; riflery is about getting better, not standing still.

 

I do have a rub with this thirst to extend the range envelope, however, and that’s when it is taken hunting. Don’t get me wrong. There are circumstances where long shots are appropriate, and the very word “long” is very subjective. A great many hunters, perhaps the majority, have no business shooting at game much beyond 200 yards. There are others, a minority, who are perfectly competent out to 400 yards and beyond when the conditions are right. There are a very few who, on a calm day, in good light, with plenty of time to set up and think it through, can shoot considerably farther with confidence and reliability.

It is not my place to tell anyone how far he should or should not attempt to shoot at game, so I’m not going to put a figure on how far is too far. It depends a whole lot on the circumstances and the conditions at a given moment, as well as an individual’s skill. I can say that, with all the new equipment, I occasionally hear people telling about shooting game at 700, 800 or even 1,000 yards. This is sort of like pornography: It’s very difficult to define, but you know it when you see it. I can’t precisely define a range limit; it varies with every person, and no two situations are alike. But I can say that I am totally opposed to shooting at game at the ranges mentioned above.

Here’s a perfect setup for a long-range shot. The light is good, the game is undisturbed, and a steady rest can be obtained. If the wind is calm, and if you have the equipment and know how to use it, maybe you should take it–if you can’t get closer.

Note that I am not suggesting that shooting at such ranges is impractical. Long-range shooting is fun, and long-range competitive shooting is fascinating. Thousand-yard shooters continue to raise the bar, now shooting groups that many of us would have trouble matching at 200 yards. And the stories are just now starting to trickle in about the shooting feats of some of our snipers in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. This is all great stuff, but to my mind it has nothing to do with hunting.

THIS ISN’T COMBAT
The variables that make long-range shooting difficult are the same whether we’re talking target shooting, hunting or tactical shooting (which I take to be a euphemism for police and military sniping or preparation for same). The list is long, but it includes knowledge of distance and knowledge of trajectory for the proper hold; adjusting the hold for wind; sheer accuracy, which includes the inherent accuracy of the rifle and load, the shooter’s skill and the degree of steadiness and stability that the current circumstances allow; and, finally, pesky little things like shooting angle, light and temperature. Long-range target shooting is a wonderful sport and the best way in the world to learn about these variables. One of the lessons to be learned is what you can do and what you cannot do.

“Long range” is a very subjective judgement. I took this New Mexico elk at about 410 yards. These days some argue that this isn’t long range at all. I think it is, especially on a big, strong animal like an elk, requiring near-perfect shot placement.

Tactical shooting for real is the ultimate test. I have never been to sniper school, but I have commanded Marine scout/snipers on numerous occasions. The training is wonderful but no less wonderful than the great shooting these folks have done. Snipers have played an important role in American military tactics since our Revolution, although it has only been in recent years that we have had formal schooling and an official “Military Occupational Specialty” (MOS) for the trade. Some have passed into legend: Timothy Murphy, whose felling of a British general during the battle of Saratoga may well have changed the course of the American Revolution; Alvin York, not a designated sniper but one helluva rifleman; Carlos Hathcock, Marine Distinguished Marksman, whose incredible exploits in Vietnam led to several books.

As riflemen, we admire their skill, but I consider it an exceptionally bad idea to try to replicate their feats in game country. Hunting is not combat. The stakes are immeasurably higher in the latter, at least to the shooter and his teammates, but the two situations couldn’t be more different. As hunters, we have an obligation to take our game cleanly, efficiently and humanely. It is preferable to do this with one well-placed shot, but we all know sometimes this isn’t possible, so we are prepared to follow up with additional shots until the game is brought to bag. This is not the preferred situation, but it’s acceptable. What is not acceptable to any hunter worthy of the name is wounding and losing game.

In combat, the situation is much different. While the military sniper always seeks the best shot he can get, the real goal is almost always to take the target out of the fight. A nonfatal hit is perfectly acceptable under most conditions because most hits will take most men out of the fight, and near-misses will cause a lot of men to rethink their next move. Perhaps more important, in most armies a wounded soldier must be recovered and cared for, which expends resources, takes other enemy soldiers out of the fight and just may expose other targets during the recovery process.

Folks, this has nothing to do with hunting, where the only goal is to take your game cleanly so you can recover it. Let’s review some of the challenges in long-range shooting as they apply to hunting situations.

DISTANCE AND TRAJECTORY
Thanks to the laser rangefinder–a truly wonderful tool–near-perfect knowledge of distance is now within everyone’s grasp. Used correctly, the laser rangefinder does remove one of the critical variables in long-range shooting.

Of course, this is only half the battle. Once you know the range, you must also know where your bullet will hit at that range and adjust accordingly.

Do not think that this is just a matter of getting one of today’s fastest and flattest-shooting magnums. Flatness of trajectory helps but not as much as you might think. Thousand-yard competitive shooters generally sight their rifles inordinately high at short range to simplify holding on their known-distance targets. Hunters cannot do that. If you sight in more than three inches high at 100 yards, you must hold low at the midrange distances. This is very difficult to make yourself do, so misses at about 200 yards are almost a certainty. With a normal sight-in of perhaps three inches high at 100 yards, we have a lot of cartridges that will allow shooting without holdover to 400 yards and change. This is a very far poke and gives a great deal of flexibility, but push them much farther and it simply doesn’t matter what you’re shooting. You will have to adjust your hold, and in order to do this you must know your trajectory.

 

It isn’t impossible, not at all. At the Battle of Adobe Walls, scout Billy Dixon is credited with knocking a Cheyenne off his horse at nearly a mile. In Cuba and the Philippines, American troops using trapdoor Springfields silenced Spanish and insurgent positions at 1,100 yards. Today most of our military sniping is done with match 7.62mm NATO ammo. Downrange ballistics aren’t impressive, but these kids are deadly–and consistently deadly–at 1,000 yards and beyond.

So the issue isn’t really trajectory at all but how well you know your trajectory. It can be learned, but ballistics charts won’t tell you what you need to know. The only way to effectively shoot at distance is to actually shoot at distance–a lot– with the exact rifle and load you intend to use. Few of us actually shoot at 400, 500 and 600 yards, and if you don’t, you have absolutely no business shooting at game at these distances.

It takes both a steep angle and considerable distance before the uphill/downhill trajectory phenomenon becomes critical, but at long range this is a factor that is very difficult to judge and must be taken into account.

This is because ballistics charts are only a guide. Your barrel may be faster or slower because of internal dimensions. It may be longer or shorter. The height of your scope above the bore may be different from the standard used on the charts, and this throws off everything. At medium ranges these differences may not be enough to matter, but at long range everything matters. These things can be learned, but it takes hundreds of hours and thousands of rounds at genuine distances.

Another supposed shortcut is the scopes that allow you to dial-in the range. Some are useless and some work very well, but none is so good that it provides a textbook solution without actually shooting at real ranges to verify each increment of adjustment. Personally, I have found very few “dial-in your range” scopes to have adjustments consistent and accurate enough to make this possible. Because of this, I much prefer to leave the adjustments alone and use reticles with additional stadia lines or aiming points such as mil-dot reticles. These work, but again, you must shoot them at actual ranges under ideal conditions because the textbook solution is very unlikely to be a perfect match to your rifle and load.

WIND
Once you get past knowledge of distance and trajectory–and with practice you can get past them–you must deal with wind. There is nothing simple about this. Even on a formal rifle range with range flags blowing, it’s hard to figure. In the field it is almost impossible. There are great little wind gauges that will give you the wind speed and direction, but this only applies at the rifle. You also must judge the wind at the target and along the way between you and the target.

It’s a simple thing to learn that a 10-mph crosswind will blow a .30 caliber 180-grain spitzer bullet with a muzzle velocity of 3,200 fps somewhere between 14 and 20 inches (depending on the exact bullet) off course at 500 yards. But what does a 10-mph wind feel like? And how do you tell if the wind is the same at the animal?

This excellent Yukon Dall ram was taken with one of my longer shots. The wind was dead calm, I knew the distance and the trajectory, I had a good rest, and there was absolutely no way to get closer. Sometimes it’s appropriate to take a long poke.

There are clues as to what the wind is doing downrange, like waving leaves and moving grass. With experience, a few really great riflemen–like Carlos Hathcock–develop an innate feel for it that is almost like a sixth sense. But there’s no way to be sure. In sniping, given the vertical presentation of a human and the relatively narrow target, misreading the wind probably means a miss–or a perfectly acceptable wounding shot. In hunting, with the horizontal presentation of four-footed animals, misreading the wind is much more likely to mean a wounding shot. Sometimes, of course, it’s calm. Sometimes there’s a very mild breeze that seems consistent. If everything else is accounted for, then you can take the shot. But if there’s much more than a puff of breeze, you probably need to get closer. And guess what?

The hunting country where long shooting is most likely–plains, mountains, tundra–is usually windy country.

ACCURACY AND STABILITY
For serious long-range shooting there is no such thing as too much accuracy. The kind of group that we think of as perfectly adequate for hunting accuracy–say, 11?4 inches at 100 yards–is nowhere near good enough. With normal spread, that’s more than six inches at 500 yards, which is still well within a deer’s vital zone. Except very few rifles and riflemen can hold a group to that normal spread at extreme range.

Again, the only way to know how well you and your rifle can shoot at 500 yards is to actually shoot at 500 yards. Once in a great while you run into a rifle that groups better farther out than up close, but don’t count on it. I figure the standards for a serious long-range rifle are about the same as for a serious varmint rifle. I want consistent groups of 1/2 inch or less at 100 yards, and I feel a whole lot better if I can break the quarter-inch barrier.

The Trouble With Long-Range Shooting

The good news is that both rifles and ammunition are considerably more accurate than ever before. This is at least partly because American riflemen have demanded better accuracy, and the manufacturers have responded. Barrels are better, and factory ammo is a whole lot better. Today it isn’t unusual to get the kind of groups with factory ammo that were once the exclusive province of precision handloaders. So, while accuracy will always be somewhat mysterious and, in a given rifle with a given load, may prove elusive, you can get the raw accuracy you need.

The next question is whether you can apply that accuracy under field conditions. There are no shooting benches in hunting country, so the perfect conditions that produced your best groups no longer apply. Obviously, there are many ways to get steady, such as over a pack, with a bipod, even a good prone position. But however you do it, getting steady is an absolute requirement for taking a long-range shot.

This means that even if everything else is right, sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t take the shot. Things like vegetation and uneven ground may make it impossible to get into a steady, supported position. The bottom line is that, somehow, some way, you simply must get absolutely steady. If you can’t, then there isn’t a shot.

 

Again, it’s the same story: A miss is the really good news. At very long range, the average shooter who hasn’t spent a lot of time shooting at distance will probably miss. On the other hand, the shooter who has done the homework–knows the distance, knows the trajectory, understands wind drift and has the accuracy required–will probably not miss by much. Which means a wounded animal.

ANGLES AND THINGS
Hopefully, we all understand what happens when shooting at uphill or downhill angles. The effect is the same. Gravity acts upon the bullet only on the horizontal distance, which, whether it’s uphill or downhill, is a shorter distance between you and your target. This means your trajectory is stretched out. It doesn’t mean that your bullet rises when shooting at steep angles, but since you are sighted-in above your line of sight at shorter ranges, this is the effect.

This is not something to lose sleep over at short to medium ranges. It takes a fairly steep angle and considerable distance before the effect is worth worrying about, but way out there you’d better worry about it.

A beautiful place but a very unpleasant memory: It was from exactly this spot that I missed the biggest bull elk I’ve ever seen. I failed to take into account the uphill angle and shot right over him. The good news is that I missed him cleanly.

Shooting at angles is a bit like doping the wind. Some detailed ballistics charts and computer programs will tell you what the effect is for a given load at a given angle and distance. You could print out this data and carry it with you, just like a wind-drift chart. But in the field, can you accurately measure the angle? Can you really tell the difference between a 25- and a 40-degree slope?

As I’ve often written, I do not actively pursue long-range shooting in the field. But I do practice for it and know how to do it. If conditions are right and there is no way to get closer, I will take a shot at, say, 500 yards and change. I have never taken a shot at game at 600 yards or beyond and don’t intend to.

At 500 yards and change, most of my shots have been successful–with two notable exceptions. Both times, once on a downhill shot and once on an uphill shot, I failed to read the angle correctly, didn’t adjust for it properly and shot right over the top. The good news, of course, is that I missed cleanly both times.

It’s important to remember that temperature affects velocity, and as altitude increases, retained velocities are higher because of reduced air friction. Any shift in velocity will impact your carefully memorized and annotated ballistics data. If you do all your hunting close to home, this isn’t a big deal. But don’t think you can work up your data at sea level in Florida and use it in the Canadian Rockies. As with shooting angles, it takes both a lot of distance and a radical shift in outside temperature or altitude to make a difference, but we’re not talking about normal shooting ranges here. Out at the quarter-mile mark and beyond, you need to know if you’ve lost or gained a couple hundred feet per second.

BULLET PERFORMANCE AND ENERGY
This is one long-range variable that applies only to hunting. In target shooting, the criteria for long-range bullets are accuracy and aerodynamics; all the bullet has to do on arrival is punch a hole through paper. In combat you can argue endlessly about what might be best, but international treaties stipulate nonexpanding bullets. So match-grade spitzer boattail FMJs are almost universal.

Brush and other obstructions often make it very difficult to get into a really steady shooting position. This kind of position is ideal for middle ranges but simply is not steady enough for genuine long-range shooting.

This is not fine in hunting. Ideally, you want the same bullet performance at long range as you get at close range: enough penetration to reach the vitals coupled with enough expansion to create a large wound channel, disrupt vital organs and dispatch the animal quickly. This is not only a humane consideration. The faster the animal goes down, the quicker and easier it is to recover your game. No matter where the hit, the farther an animal is able to travel after receiving a bullet, the greater the chance of losing the animal.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to obtain the same expansion at long range that you can get routinely at close range. Velocity is always a key contributor to bullet performance. Way out there, your velocity has dropped off considerably, so bullet expansion will generally be less, and less rapid. It also becomes more erratic. Most of the guys who shoot game at long range tend to use bullets that are both very accurate and generally quite frangible. Many use Sierra MatchKing hollowpoints, which is not specifically a hunting bullet but is very accurate and generally quite effective, especially at longer range. Others use polymer-tipped bullets like Nosler Ballistic Tips.

In my experience it doesn’t much matter what you use. At extreme ranges, when velocity has dropped off dramatically, bullet performance is no longer consistent. I have seen even quick-expanding bullets like these act just like solids at longer ranges. Energy drops off right along with velocity, and as expansion is reduced, energy transfer is also diminished. What this means is that as range increases, shot placement needs to be even more precise because you can no longer count on bullet expansion and energy transfer as hedges against poor shot placement.

Personally, I don’t want anything to do with shooting at game at 600 yards, but when conditions are right, I have several friends who make this work on a routine basis. So my limits need not apply to you, but there are limits.

In terms of hunting ethics, our image as hunters and the future of our sport, the stakes are much higher in hunting than in the other venues. As range increases, a near miss is an increasingly likely result. And hunting is the one shooting venue where a near miss is absolutely unacceptable.