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Beyond the Basics: Advanced Firearm Selection for Big Game Hunting


When you get more experience in the world of big game hunting the first thing that happens is that you want to start really dialing in your setup. What worked two seasons ago is no longer adequate for your needs. The entry-level or even intermediate tools you’ve maybe used for years are no longer what you want to keep hunting with.

This is understandable. Few hobbies suck up as much of our time and money as hunting. This is because hunting is more than just a hobby: it’s a way of life, a passion, and a method for appreciating God’s creation in all its glory in a way that non-hunters just don’t get the opportunity to. 

Most hunters are into perfecting everything about a hunt. So it should come as no surprise that firearm selection is somewhere at the top of everyone’s list. It’s certainly true that you can bag a lot of deer with a rudimentary bolt action rifle. Your grandfather had no trouble doing that, year after year. That said, if you yearn to get into the weeds of how to select the absolute right rifle for your needs, we’ve got you covered. 

When it comes to choosing the right rifle for a specific hunt, there are common but oversimplified suggestions such as “take the rifle you shoot most confidently” or “use the biggest gun you have.” However, these statements fail to address the nuanced considerations that hunters should weigh.

Ultimately, the decision depends on four key considerations rising to the top: weight, ergonomics, ballistic performance, and terminal performance.

The Weight Of The Gun

Autumn hunting season

The process of choosing the appropriate rifle for a hunt always commences with a careful consideration of the hunt’s requirements. The initial questions are practical: How extensive is the on-foot journey? What elevation gain should be anticipated? And, how many days will you spend in the field?

The longer, more extensive, and higher the hunt, the greater the significance of weight. The timeless saying, “An ounce in the morning is a pound in the evening,” resonates strongly after a week spent in mountainous terrain.

Opting for a light rifle presents minimal downsides. While a lighter rifle tends to exhibit higher felt recoil compared to a heavier one chambered in the same cartridge, effective solutions such as quality muzzle brakes and suppressors exist. Managing a steady sight picture may pose challenges with a light rifle, but assessing the trade-offs involves recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses before making a decision.

The Importance Of Ballistic Performance 

Man hunting with Rifle

Distinguishing itself from terminal performance (discussed later), ballistic performance encompasses the journey of a bullet from the muzzle to impact, facing challenges such as gravity, wind, and other environmental factors. The effectiveness of this ballistic performance, dependent largely (though not entirely) on the selected bullet and its velocity, plays a crucial role in hunting.

The significance of ballistic performance is contingent upon the hunting location and the shooter’s comfort with specific ranges. If one doesn’t anticipate shooting beyond 300 yards at a large animal, the differences in ballistic performance among modern hunting cartridges may seem inconsequential. Within 300 yards, environmental factors exert minimal influence on any contemporary bottleneck cartridge.

The Importance Of Terminal Performance


Terminal performance refers to the projectile’s ability to ethically and safely harvest a game animal swiftly. The nuances of terminal performance in bullet selection can be debated endlessly, but the current focus is on rifles, or more specifically, cartridges.

Choosing a rifle chambered in a round that maintains sufficient energy for the pursued game at the maximum range is a prudent decision. Only the hunter can determine their maximum range. For instance, a valid Wyoming bison tag prompts careful consideration. Shot opportunities on bison in Wyoming often occur near the Teton or Yellowstone National Park borders. If a mortally wounded bison crosses back into park property, rangers may contest the right to keep the animal. 

Opting for the 338 Ultra Mag doesn’t guarantee that a bison won’t run several hundred yards after a well-placed shot, but it maximizes the impact damage, reducing the likelihood of the bison crossing the park border. The “bigger is better” logic is applied similarly when hunting brown bears or in areas where self-defense against large bears is a concern. The same reasoning might influence caliber choice when hunting on small public land surrounded by private ground.

The preference is to err on the side of a more powerful firearm rather than risk being underpowered, though this doesn’t mean automatically opting for the largest rifle available regardless of the game being pursued.

The Science Of Ergonomics

Determining the “best” ergonomics for a hunting rifle is largely dependent on personal preference, with barrel length and stock volume emerging as crucial factors for consideration.

Barrel length introduces a trade-off: a shorter barrel offers a lighter and faster-pointing rifle, enhancing the ease of carry and maneuverability in dense terrain. However, this advantage comes at the cost of increased noise and a reduction in velocity. Generally, a one-inch decrease in barrel length can result in a loss of 25 to 50 feet per second (FPS) of muzzle velocity, depending on the cartridge, powder, and projectile.

The volume of the stock and the shape of the trigger-hand grip are subjective choices. Stocks with vertical grips, tend to have higher overall volume compared to stocks without vertical grips, such as the CLYMR platform.

Understandably, advanced firearm selection for big game hunting is a highly subjective and complicated topic. But we hope we’ve given you some food for thought to drill down into the topic. 

Which factor is most important to you when it comes to selecting a firearm for big game hunting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


The Future of Hunting with Firearms


Hunting has long been a tradition for many individuals and communities around the world. For centuries, hunters have relied on firearms to pursue game and provide sustenance for themselves and their families. However, with the advancements in technology and changes in society, the future of hunting with firearms is facing new challenges and opportunities.

One of the main challenges that hunting with firearms is facing is the increasing scrutiny and regulation of gun ownership and use. In many countries, there have been calls for stricter gun control laws in response to mass shootings and other gun-related crimes. This has raised concerns among hunters about their ability to continue pursuing their sport with firearms. However, many hunting organizations and advocates are working to promote responsible and ethical hunting practices in order to protect the future of hunting with firearms.

Advancements in technology have also had an impact on the future of hunting with firearms. The development of high-powered rifles, advanced optics, and other hunting gear has made it easier for hunters to take down game from longer distances. While this can be beneficial in terms of accuracy and efficiency, it has also raised concerns about fair chase and the ethics of hunting. Some argue that the use of technology in hunting can diminish the challenge and skill required to be a successful hunter.

On the other hand, technology has also provided new opportunities for hunters to connect and share their experiences with others. Social media platforms and online forums have allowed hunters to share their hunting adventures, tips, and techniques with a global audience. This has helped to build a sense of community among hunters and promote the values of conservation and ethical hunting practices.

Despite the challenges and opportunities facing the future of hunting with firearms, it is clear that hunters are committed to preserving this important tradition for future generations. By promoting responsible and ethical hunting practices, embracing new technologies, and advocating for the protection of gun rights, hunters can ensure that the sport of hunting with firearms continues to thrive in the years to come.

In conclusion, the future of hunting with firearms may be uncertain, but with dedication and perseverance, hunters can overcome the challenges that lie ahead. By embracing new technologies, promoting ethical hunting practices, and advocating for gun rights, hunters can ensure that the tradition of hunting with firearms remains a cherished pastime for generations to come.

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Ambush Hunting: An Unforgettable Experience


Ambush hunting, also known as still hunting or stand hunting, is a popular method of hunting that involves waiting in a concealed location for a target animal to come within range. This type of hunting requires patience, stealth, and a keen eye for spotting game. It can be a thrilling and unforgettable experience for hunters looking to test their skills and enjoy the natural beauty of the outdoors.

One of the key aspects of ambush hunting is the element of surprise. By setting up in a strategic location and remaining still and quiet, hunters can catch their prey off guard and increase their chances of making a successful shot. This type of hunting requires a good understanding of the terrain and the habits of the target animal, as well as the ability to remain undetected for extended periods of time.

Ambush hunting can be done from a tree stand, ground blind, or natural cover such as a fallen tree or rock outcropping. Hunters must carefully choose their location based on factors such as wind direction, visibility, and access to food and water sources. Once in position, it is important to remain still and quiet, using binoculars or a scope to scan the area for signs of game.

One of the most rewarding aspects of ambush hunting is the sense of anticipation and excitement that comes with waiting for a target animal to appear. As the sun rises and the world comes to life, hunters can experience the thrill of seeing wildlife up close and personal. Whether it’s a majestic deer, elusive turkey, or wily coyote, each encounter is a unique and unforgettable experience that will stay with hunters for a lifetime.

Ambush hunting also provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in the natural world and connect with the rhythms of the wilderness. By spending hours in quiet observation, hunters can gain a deeper appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the ecosystem around them. The sights, sounds, and smells of the forest come alive in a way that cannot be replicated in any other setting.

In addition to the excitement and camaraderie of the hunt, ambush hunting also offers a practical benefit in terms of conservation and wildlife management. By targeting specific animals and populations, hunters can help regulate populations and maintain a balance in the ecosystem. Responsible hunting practices, such as selective harvesting and adherence to hunting regulations, ensure that wildlife populations remain healthy and sustainable for future generations.

Overall, ambush hunting is an unforgettable experience that combines the thrill of the chase with the tranquility of the natural world. Whether you are a seasoned hunter or a beginner looking to try something new, ambush hunting offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature, test your skills, and create lasting memories in the great outdoors. So grab your gear, choose your spot, and prepare for an adventure like no other. Happy hunting!

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The Art of Duck Plucking: Tips for Hunters


After a successful duck hunt, the idea of plucking each bird one by one might sound like a chore, especially when cold and tired. However, the effort is well worth it for that perfectly seared duck breast with crispy skin. Here are some tips to make the job a bit easier.

Dry, Wet, or Wax?

There are various methods of plucking ducks, but dry-plucking is often favored. This involves plucking a dry bird by hand. While it’s not the fastest method, it is very effective. Wet-plucking, which involves dipping ducks in scalding water, is generally ineffective for waterfowl due to their waterproof feathers. Another method is waxing, which involves dipping the bird in hot paraffin wax and peeling it off with the feathers once it cools. This can be messy and is only practical if plucking many birds.

Choose the Right Birds

Not every duck or goose is a good candidate for plucking. The best species to pluck are dabbling ducks like mallards, wood ducks, or pintails, and smaller geese like specklebellies and snows. Canada geese are generally harder to pluck and often have tougher breast meat, making them less ideal. Always check for wounds before deciding to pluck a bird. A few BB holes are normal, but birds that are badly shot up are better skinned.

Prepare for Plucking

Chilling the birds whole for 24 hours before plucking helps tighten the skin and dry out the feathers, making them easier to pluck. This can be done in a refrigerator with the bird placed on top of cardboard. Warm, loose skin is more prone to tearing. Decide how you want to cook the bird before plucking. If you plan to roast or smoke the whole bird, pluck the entire bird. If only the breast meat is needed, pluck just the breast. Wings are often not plucked due to the minimal meat they provide.

How to Dry-Pluck a Duck

Dry the bird if it’s wet, as moisture makes feathers stick to your hands. Start with the down feathers on the chest, pinching small amounts between your thumbs and pulling in quick, upward motions. Keep the skin taut with your other hand. The neck and sides below the wing can be tricky due to the larger contour feathers. Pluck these one feather at a time with swift motions. Avoid grabbing large handfuls of feathers to prevent tearing the skin or leaving quills behind. Molting ducks may have pin feathers, which are more difficult to pull. Work carefully around any tears or holes, holding your finger over the hole to pull the skin tight. Use a blowtorch to singe small down feathers that were missed, particularly around wings and foot joints.

Once plucking is complete, process and remove the guts as usual. Rinse the skin well to clean any blood or char from singeing feathers. The birds can then be frozen for later use or prepared immediately for a meal. For whole roasting, try a recipe like roasted duck with apple chutney. If searing the breast meat, pair it with fries and blue cheese butter.

While plucking ducks can be tedious, it becomes a fun task when done with hunting buddies or family. The reward of a delicious meal makes the effort worthwhile, as no one who has enjoyed a seared duck breast ever regrets plucking it.

Do you have any tips for plucking? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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