The emphasis here is on HUNTERS, not necessarily shooters, though being a hunter that uses a rifle as his/her tool for the job doesn’t exclude him/her from also becoming a “shooter”.
A majority of the men I encounter at the rifle range would mostly be “shooters”, and perhaps less than 50% are also hunters. I don’t know the total current membership, but it’s well over a thousand. The OSHAWA CLUB and TARGET RANGE has been around, at the same location, for 100 years and incorporated in 1939. Back in the day, most were hunters. When I joined the club in 1988, membership was about 350, of which the vast majority of rifle shooters were also hunters, and a goodly number of the 350 was due to the shotgun sports “up top” where the clubhouse was, and still is. While any member can be involved with the shotgun sports (and there is international competition scheduled from time to time): skeet, trap and sporting clays, it appears a vast majority are elite business men, or retired as such if their equipment and vehicles are any indication. I don’t participate, not because I’m negative about it, but since it holds little personal interest.
< I shoot at the 50 yd, 100, 200 and 300 yd berms. To the left is a pistol range, and further left a range for bow hunters. In the upper right-hand corner of the pic, over the trees is the clubhouse and shotgun sports. I’ve been a member here for over thirty years. That’s my .458 Win Mag ready to shoot over the Chrony.
How things have changed in the last fifteen years or so – hundreds have joined as shooters, not hunters! Then some “old timers” no longer hunt but enjoy bringing out some of their vintage rifles just to shoot them… or have added something new for fun!
Politics has also stuck its nose in by passing laws that force shooters and hunters to practice at Federally authorised ranges. Of course, there are rifle and shotgun hunters and shooters (the hunter being also a shooter) who have built their own “ranges” on their private properties, mostly farm land. I’ve a former hunting associate who does that very thing. But since he’s a sheep farmer, and also works for the Provincial Government as an assessor of damage to livestock by predators (fox, coyote, wolves and bears), he totes a .243 Win on his own property of several hundred acres in protection of his sheep. He also has a private range where he practices with his .243 Win and .50-cal BP.
< Brian, the owner of the sheep farm, is doing the skinning. Ken, my partner, is holding the leg as an assistant. That was a bear I’d shot the day before with my 9.3 x 62. Brian auctioned the hide and that was his “payment” for his share in the matter. On this farm there is a personal range.
So, basically, many handloading hunters join ranges for development of hunting loads, practice, sight-in, and some “fun”. Unless a hunter is somewhat reclusive, he will enjoy the comradeship at a range where hunting stories are free – they don’t have to be “the whole truth and nothing but” – something like “fishing” tales, and information is shared about “loads” – but few will give “all the details” – like a secret recipe in cooking where a necessary ingredient is conveniently forgotten or left out!
In talking with a fellow hunter-shooter “the other day” at the range before shooting could commence at 9:30 a.m. , we discussed his .375 H&H with which he’d shot a Cape Buff. I asked about his bullet and load since I’d owned a couple of .375 H&H’s. He rambled on a bit about what he was currently shooting, mentioning IMR 4064 and RL-15, but never did answer my question! Hunters will gladly describe what they successfully used (if they remember or know!) Shooters often won’t!
That’s a preamble to our question: Why do HUNTERS choose the rifles (or rifle) they do in actual hunting, or in planning for a hunt? In my last blog, I suggested several possible influences to that choice.
A generic single rifle choice, such as a .30-06, .270 Win or .308 could be common for an adult North American hunter for most game starting out. That would involve some knowledge of their ballistics and application.
But for a young hunter of 12 or so, who is under the supervision of a licensed parent or “guardian”, the recommended choice will likely be different. There are several good choices available for youth: If there’s a family heritage of hunting and shooting, it could be something with about 1800 – 2000 ft-lbs energy at the muzzle: a 25-3000 Savage; .30-30; .257 Roberts, etc. Today, a common cartridge for youth is the .243 Winchester. Then again, far more depends on that young person themselves: Their background, likes, strength, intelligence, adaptability, etc.
As concerns the “fairer sex”: Again, there are many variables: Interest level, experience, age, adaptability, intelligence and physical strength.
There was a time in which history records that every family member from youth to grandparent was expected to be physically able, and know how, to use the family firearms to put meat on the table, and for personal and family protection. In many instances that was not “firearms” but “firearm”, singular.
In today’s world of hunting, rarely is a firearm necessary “to put meat on the table”. It is generally considered for “recreation” or “sport”. Of course, in most (not all) hunting scenarios the meat must be consumed by the hunter and his family, or friends and associates, or given to a local “food bank” (with legal permission). Even in most parts of Africa, the meat belongs to “the community”. And Alaska: While the major towns and cities (Few there are!) have markets where fish, pork and beef are sold, yet most in the “outback” must forage protein using a firearm. Also, since Alaska and the Canadian Yukon have the largest ungulates and bears, it behoves them to own the most suitable weapons for both defensive and offensive purposes.
< A typical African village in the area I visited in early 2000.
< No mater the rifle-cartridge used, it can’t do this job!
In the world of hunting today, Africa, Alaska, the American Northwest, and the Canadian North have kept the production of medium and big-bore rifles alive! Of course, beyond that necessity, many shooters want to experience that kind of power! It’s like wanting to own a twin-turbo sport Mustang instead of a utility four-banger with 150 hp. As an enthusiast myself, I find it very intriguing that more and more of the Sport SUVs are turbo-charged V6’s with around 400 hp! Yet they still give better mpg than some of the older V8s of the the late past century that produced less than half of 400 hp! Around here there are more late model pickup trucks than any other type of private vehicle. At around $65,000 average per pickup, that’s well beyond my reach, but not to say I wouldn’t like one, and the excuse would be “for hunting”!
So you don’t “see the need” for 400 hp, while 1/2 of that is more than sufficient? Are you then as “efficient” in all other choices of life? Whether we like it or not, our choices are a reflection of who we are and what matters to us… assuming we’re not going head-over-heels into debt! Cars, trucks and SUVs may be just a “tool” to some, while house, furnishings, electronics, gadgets, clothes and investments must be the “best” – no expense considered too much. It’s a reflection of who they are… and who we are!
Same with rifles for hunting: I’m not making a fashion statement, but for security and success while hunting anything, anywhere under all conditions, I choose rifles and their cartridges based on what I consider “best” , not just “good enough”! I don’t need a .458 Win Mag for black bear hunting, but through experience I’ve learned that a “hot” loaded .45-70 will drop ’em “right there” without a CNS hit! It’s easy work to load a .458 Win like a “hot” .45-70! I like the .458 Win because it’s more flexible than any other, and due to it’s versatility in bullets from 250gr to 600gr, it’s straightforward in making equivalent black powder loads of less than 2000 ft-lbs at the muzzle all the way to 6000 ft-lbs from particular propellants and 450gr to 500gr projectiles. It’s a lifetime of work and experience to accomplish all that one rifle in .458 Winchester Magnum is capable of! But to use that as a justification – no matter it’s truth – still falls far short of making it a choice strictly based on need – unless one lives in remote Alaska, the Yukon, or spends scores of thousands of dollars in hunting Africa’s DG. But even then there are other choices. My honest rationale for owning a .458 Win Mag is because I like Big Bores, and in my thinking, it’s the best of it’s class!
< Mine doesn’t get lonely, like a hunting dog left behind when need or companionship calls for it!
So, a mammoth amount of time in research, analysis, work and experience is involved at home, the range and the field to bring it all together in deciding on a rifle and load for anything, anywhere, and under all conditions.
After a full month of “mammoth” commitment and work with one rifle – the G3 in .35 Whelen – I’ve finally found rest with the results. Working with two propellants – RL-17 and CFE 223; a full box of 225gr AccuBonds, plus a few others; four trips to the range and two in hunting; and three rifle scopes! Results: an accurate load of 69 grains of CFE 223 under the 225gr AccuBonds, in Rem .35 Whelen brass, 3.45″ COL, ignited by WLRM primers for a corrected average of 2835 fps/4015 ft-lbs, sighted dead-on at 100 yards.
Or, we can read the opinions of fifty-two others on the Internet who are keyboard “experts”… ! Yet… a handful of intrepid handloaders are! Thank you!
Til the next…