Big Game Hunting – What You Need To Know

Big Game Hunting – What You Need To Know

There is one skill every big game hunter needs to develop, maintain, and perform every time when hunting – accuracy.

Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” Wyatt Earp

Being accurate is central to the hunting ethic, and is not dependent on species, location, weapon, or method of hunting. It is as vital for a 15-yard bow shot on a deer from a tree stand in the Pennsylvania hills as it is for a 200-yard shot on an eland in South Africa, or a 385-yard shot uphill on an elk in Wyoming.

The first day on the range after seven months without shooting shows just how much skills can deteriorate. That group is hardly impressive, but will quickly get tighter with some more trigger time. As the season gets closer the emphasis will be on shooting from positions and situations as close to real as possible

Without accuracy all the work, time, money, and gear that went into your hunt could be wasted – leaving only bitter memories of what might have been. On my first muzzleloader hunt a few years ago in Oklahoma I took two deer in two days, and both times I experienced some anxiety because after pulling the trigger the smoke from the barrel completely obscured my view and I didn’t even know which way the deer ran after being hit. In both cases I walked to the last place I knew the deer was and immediately found blood, saw a trail leading away, and without taking another step I saw each of them about 30 yards away, dead as a post.

Skills get rusty; work to keep them sharp.

No, I’m hardly a Super Hunter, and my dirty little secret is most seasons I fail to tag out, for any number of reasons. But so far I’ve been lucky enough to have never been skunked because of a clean miss or failure to recover a wounded animal. I say ‘lucky enough’ because I know bizarre things can happen, like an unseen twig altering the flight of a bullet just enough to miss or wound the animal. It happens.

However, if accuracy becomes your mission those bizarre occurrences will be rare footnotes in your hunting history. An old First Sergeant once told me that “You cannot teach attitude,“” but I think he was wrong. I’ve changed my attitude about any number of things, mostly motivated because of pain or failure, and because I wanted to do something better. Be a better hunter by making accuracy your overall goal, and you will be a more proficient hunter:

Old meets new with next season’s kit: a classic lever action side-gate with open sights in .30-30, and a Buck knife purchased in 1975 at the Post Exchange at Fort Bliss. More than 100-years-old, the .30-30 is still an effective deer round, if it hits accurately, and it shoots well in this brand-new, color case hardened Henry rifle. Open sights reduce my effective range, making a modern rangefinder essential, and good binoculars are always invaluable when hunting.

Hunt within your skills and ability

Establish your maximum range, and do not take shots with which you are not comfortable. It can be maddening to wait, and wait, and wait for a clean shot to present; or to watch that animal walk over the horizon, out of range. Do not take poor shots. Remember though, that shooting paper from a bench at the range is valuable, but it tells you nothing about your ability when you’re wearing a thick coat and the wind is howling. Practice under real conditions.

Know the limits of your equipment

Some people hunt with very basic gear – a rifle with open sights, a knife, and hunk of rope to drag the critter out. That’s great, and hunting with ‘primitive’ equipment can add a challenge to those who want it. However, good boots, clothes to keep you comfortable, a good riflescope, rangefinder, and binoculars will all increase your odds for accurate shots.

Work to get better

If you failed to tag out last season identify the reason(s) why and work on that over the summer. Skills get rusty; work to keep them sharp.

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Jeff Davis
Outdoor writer