Similarities and distinctions… Then there are North and South, and Central, in both Canada and the USA. Of course, lest we forget, there are these regions also: NE and SE, as well as NW and SW. Then E and W Central – where do you spend much or most of your hunting days in North America?
Implied in all of that are potential differences in hunting cultures as well as distinctions in topography that defines habitat for a variety of species. Mountain hunting in the Rockies (Canada or the USA) is distinct from plains hunting in central N.A. As one example: The .270 Win is generally referred to as “one of the best” in hunting sports magazines with roots in the western half of North America, whereas I’ve noted far more .308 Winchesters in our deer woods, along with a smattering of oldies like .32 Winchesters, .30-30s, etc.
And so on…
This article will focus on some of those distinctions, cultural implications and different attitudes depending on where we live and do most of our hunting. Of course, like most others, hunters move about in their living and doing… We’ve lived and worked in four eastern provinces of Canada, and some of our extended family has been living and working in several western provinces, including Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia – where they now dwell. But in moving from place to place, we discover particular cultural thinking even within a given state or province, as well as changes in habitat for wildlife.
So, among other things, we need to be restrained in using too many generalizations.
A friend wanted to hunt bear with me. He was a British guy, a year younger than I, with some experience in the British military, but said he didn’t like the recoil of the .308 in the BLR he’d purchased for such a hunt. He liked my Ruger 96/44 (.44 Rem Mag), and asked if that would work… I said “sure”. So he bought this new Marlin in .44 Rem and put a huge scope on it! The range from blind to bait was 35 yards, and he, along with another of my partners, sighted a +500 pounder coming to this bait. They flipped a coin to determine who would get the first shot. It fell on the partner with a .270 Win… and his rifle misfired! That was the first and last time that bear was ever seen! I was hunting over another setup 3 Km away. This (above) was later in the same year (fall season) at the same site on Crown Land about 1 hour from home. Is a .44 magnum adequate in that kind of setup? With a good bullet (at least a 270 gr) in the right place, yes. But I was there to his left with adequate “power”, just in case!
However, that said, it’s apparent from several sources of information, that “the West” has a somewhat unique perception of themselves in several domains, not the least being in hunting. As a generalization, the East appears more “traditional” and less venturesome.
However, let’s be aware of those dangers of “generalizations”! When it concerns hunting and equipment apropo, there are often differences based purely on physical demands, whether east or west, north or south! For example: a rifle for hunting sheep, goats or bears in the Rockies (or mountain hunting in Asia) could be a generic lightweight .30-06 firing a 180gr AB at 2800 fps, or one of the “new fangled” 6.5s… OR – dare I tell it again? – I might choose a lite .35 Whelen shooting a 225gr AccuBond at +2800 fps! Then again, I’ve owned several 300 Win Mags that is, with few arguments, one of the best “all purpose” rifle cartridges extant. Millions are in use for such purposes. However, there’s a current revival of .264 caliber rifles (6.5mm) and some new cartridges to satisfy that rebirth: The 6.5 Creedmoor and PRC seem to be the pace setters, along with Nosler’s creation. To quench the thirst of these new creations, various bullet manufacturers are in a race to produce the best in construction, including aerodynamics and weight. Bragging rights are at high stakes! In the end, however, it’s like a tune up of the historic and famed 6.5 x 55. “Deja-vue all over again” to quote a famed baseball catcher, Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees.
Such choices – one way or the other – will largely be influenced by the personality, experience, and what’s “just right” based on other’s experiences, or unemotional, pragmatic knowledge and thinking! East or West, real knowledge and analysis should result in weapons suited to the hunter, his hunts and region. Yet, it appears that most purchases today are the result of, first emotions, and secondly what so-and-so shows up with at the range.
Objective thinking”… being your “own man”, wherever you live, work or hunt is a rare bird these days. Such a hunter-shooter has his own reasons, regardless of the opinions of others. And they can make their .270 work as well as their .30-06 within certain parameters. Outside those parameters, they may choose something else entirely.
There’s no law that dictates particular rifles for hunting the East or West. In the Traditions OUTFITTER G3, I chose one in .35 Whelen… my son chose another in .44 Rem Mag. Both are capable for the full bag of game in our area – from coyote to moose. His intent is for deer and bear – so is mine. His is lighter and slightly handier due to a bigger hole in the barrel, no brake and a smaller scope. The range generally will not exceed 100 yards in heavy brush and forrested areas. For more open areas – such as marshes, lakes and trails – I chose the Whelen for possible shots on coyote/wolf or even deer to 400 yards or so. Being a very versatile and efficient cartridge, it can handle any chores for North American game – large or small – under most conditions (See my previous piece on a comparison of the new .338 RPM with my “new to me” .35 Whelen – there’s practically NO difference in ballistics using a premium 225gr). If you own and use one rifle for all hunting, forget about the recoil because it just “seems normal”, and won’t kill you despite the media’s hype!
The .30-30 is still a favorite in eastern woods for whitetails, and the .35 Remington for Maine’s black bears in typical eastern ecological systems. But I’m also certain of it’s good use for bears and bambi in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and so on.
In hunting, much of the world is the same, though sometimes great distinctions do occur east or west, north or south. It’s therefore a matter of knowing the area, the game, and clear thinking in choosing wisely for our next hunt. That may be a .416 Remington or a Plain Jane .308 Winchester. Hey! There are likely some of those in the East and West, and….
But some regulations relative to rifle calibers, BP and shotguns do exist, depending on species, seasons and jurisdictions; It’s ironic that I could use any cartridge up to a .270 magnum for groundhogs in season, in an area otherwise limited to shotguns and BP during deer season! For bear, however, till the start of deer season in those same areas, I could use my .458 Win Mag. So “absolute freedom of choice” is often a narrow one constrained by the regs – East or West.
<From my trail cam: During this hunt on private farm property (about 1/2 hr from my home), my partner was a neighbour to the owner of this property which was leased to crop growers. This was the “back half” that was filled by brush, woods and swamp. My partner was the owner of a neighboring farm (that I’ve hunted deer on) where at one time he kept cattle, then switched to sheep. He hunts both coyote and deer on his own property. The point is: This was bear season. He was using his BP rifle over this bait (and shot a good one), and I was 350 yards away in a tree stand watching another bait in a different type of setup. My rifle was a 9.3 x 62 that couldn’t be used on those properties during deer season a couple of months later!
<My stand in that tree, 350 yards away (as flies the crow, but much farther in walking). We couldn’t see each other, but I heard his shot around 6 pm. The bear was retrieved 3 and 1/2 hours later in pitch darkness, in a swamp! He just about stepped on the bear before it was found. I was there to give a hand.
In reviewing my own choices since I became a handloader forty-two years ago, I progressed from a “generalist” to more of a “specialist”, to use gunwriter John Barsness’ identification of handloaders. Over time, I became more interested and attracted to “magnum” cartridges and larger bores, and with a clearer view that “medium bores” were the best compromise for anything from bambi to brown bears as a single choice. Brown bears and grizzly have never, and never will come into view in my scopes, but there has been a sharp focus on the hunt of black bears and moose since 1989.
From that date until about twenty years ago, we had a huge population of groundhogs in this area that have since been pretty much whipped out by various means: domestic dogs, poison and new crops (mainly corn and Canola, but also others) – so less wasted acerage and weed-filled agricultural land. So I traded or sold my .223 Rem, .25-06 and 6.5 Swede. The smallest rifle cartridge I retained was in 7 Rem Mag, and eventually that was traded for a medium. The last of the sub-mediums was a much loved .300 Win Mag – the final use of which was in killing a good whitetail buck… at 35 Yards! No, there was no meat loss – a pencil-size hole between neck and shoulder… the buck collapsed right there. The bullet blew up inside like a grenade! A .35 Whelen will do the same things without acting like a bomb, and might be a better choice on big bears and moose.
Arguments? Of course there are! Say, are you from the West?
When all is said and done, with multiple sources of information at out fingertips, any hunter East or West, North or South, will chose what they want as rifles and cartridges for hunting or just plain recreation…. After all, one of my partners chose a .44 Rem Mag and the other a .270 Win for a big bruin hunt. East and West thinking as partners in the same blind? I ‘ve read too much already (in my view) of the .270 Win in publications and Internet sources from a western perspective, but rarely (or never) of a .35 Rem or .44 Rem Mag for elk, grizzies or moose (except in handguns)! Yeah, I know the country (even in mountains) is much more open than here in the East. And I’ve watched quite a few videos of western hunting in both Canada and the USA.
Gulp… there I go with too many generalizations….
Yeah, you’re right, there are places in “the West”, where shooting game is as “tight” as anywhere in “the East”!
< Another friend, and sometimes partner, shot this 300 lb class bear under his stand (He’s a BIG man!). That’s his Marlin “Marauder” in .35 Rem in his hand. The bear never moved from its tracks after a 200gr RN finished his day! A Maine type hunt in Ontario, Canada.
Till the next….