Bayou Bucks Magazine July 2012 : Page 20
by Charles Mclin of a hand cannon thinkin riﬂ e hunting. With mos shorter than a riﬂ e. Nov addictive as bowhunting 20 | Bayou Bucks Magazine July 2012
Deer Hunting, Dirty Harry Style
Have you considered hunting deer with a handgun? No matter what you call it, this lesser tried form of hunting will have you staring down the barrel of a hand cannon thinking "Go ahead buck, make my day." To me, it's a cross between bowhunting and Rifle hunting. With most pistols, the maximum effective range will be a little farther than a bow but addictive as bowhunting Novice handgun hunters should be forewarned; this type of hunting can be just asg.<br /> <br /> I first began hunting with a handgun in 1995 and killed my first deer with one in 1996. Looking back on that first kill, I have to laugh. I had three does pass in front of me, and I shot and missed one of them. Right behind the does was a small buck which I also missed. The little buck ran off to the left, and the does ran off to the right. Frustrated, I quickly climbed down to confirm a clean miss. On the ground, I heard a deer grunting and saw the same buck running right towards me. As the little 6 point trotted my direction, I put the crosshairs right on him and thought to myself, "Squeeze the trigger this time dummy. Don't jerk." I ended up hitting him perfectly and so began a passion that I still have today.<br /> <br /> To get started in pistol hunting, one must invest in a gun that is both comfortable and enjoyable to shoot. As with bowhunting, pistol hunting requires frequent practice to develop muscle memory and increased accuracy. Many have reported that practicing with a pistol will lead to better marksmanship with a rifle. This is due to muscle memory that develops in the index finger as a result of practicing a steady trigger pull-a vital skill to mastering a handgun. With a heavy rifle, hands are positioned on the stock in front of and behind the trigger location. This promotes a solid, balanced platform from which to shoot. With the pistol, however, both hands are on one end of the gun and the index finger must pull a 3-5 pound trigger. These factors can make it very easy to torque the gun to the left or right when shooting. A deer that I shot last year is a good example of this. I made a perfect neck shot and dropped her in her tracks. The only problem was that I was aiming at her shoulder and pulled the shot left. Indeed, better lucky than good in that instance. Also, the reason I recommend choosing a gun that you can enjoy shooting is because the wrong pistol will pound both your hands and your wallet. Price some 460, 500, or 454 Casull ammo, and you'll quickly see what I mean.<br /> <br /> The next consideration one should make prior to purchasing a handgun is whether to buy a revolver or a specialty model. While revolvers are generally readily available at any gun store, specialty handguns can be ordered in custom configurations. Some rifle hunters are pleasantly surprised to find their favorite rifle caliber available for these single shot handguns. I like my Thompson Center Contender and its system of interchangeable barrels which allows me to switch from a .22LR to my .45-70 government barrel with relative ease. As I stated previously, this hobby can be addictive. I started off with one barrel and now- well, let's just say I have a few (in case my wife is reading this). Having multiple barrels allows me to practice with the .22 and hunt with a larger caliber for deer. Indeed, with a proper rest and plenty of practice, one can expect a handgun to deliver the same long-range accuracy of a rifle.<br /> <br /> The best bullet and load combination for pistol hunting is a much debated topic. While opinions vary and self-proclaimed "experts" spout off energy and velocity statistics, my personal experience has shown the .41 magnum to be the minimum acceptable deer hunting caliber. Others might argue that a .357 magnum with the right bullet and placement is plenty of gun. It really all boils down to personal preference. I once shot a buck with a .44 magnum that ran 100 yards after being shot right in the front shoulder. The reason was poor bullet choice, not the shot placement or caliber. Hollow point bullets can vary considerably in design and quality for each load manufacturer, so do your homework before buying. The Remington hollow points, for example, have an open profile and are composed of soft materials resulting in fragmentation or "splattering" upon impact. I prefer Winchester and Hornady hollow points because they seem to hold together much better. A firm believer in complete pass through shots, I like to test different brands of bullets by shooting them into dirt piles or water traps. Many pistol hunters choose to take the guesswork out of this process by selecting a rifle cartridge for their specialty handgun. These handguns can be configured for anything from a .243 to a 45-70 government shell.<br /> <br /> Having selected a gun, settling on a reliable and accurate sight system looms as the next big decision. While iron sights can be used effectively inside of 50 yards, average shooters find that their accuracy suffers beyond that range. For some, handgun scopes are the answer. Still, those looking for a quick fix discover that holding a scope at arms' length, straight and level, while acquiring the target and making an accurate shot is easier said than done. The only way to master this is to practice, practice, and practice some more. Combining the aiming precision of a scope with the seamless target acquisition of an iron sight, open red dot sights have proven their worth for pistol hunters searching for a happy medium. Be sure to explore all of these options but remember that the sight is only as accurate as the shooter; practice makes perfect.<br /> <br /> After deciding on a pistol and ammo combination and hitting the range for countless hours, the moment of truth arrives with hunting season. Do you leave the old reliable rifle at home? This is the test; this is gut check time. You can try to bring both, but this can be a bit much to pack in the woods. I have tried this on several occasions and finally just gave up. Just go ahead and make the commitment and bring the pistol. At first, I was afraid that if a big buck walked out I could potentially miss with the pistol. Yes, the chance is greater for a miss, but I have missed a few with the rifle as well. With pistol in hand, you will eventually get your opportunity when that deer steps into range. You'll be shaking like a bow hunter at full draw with one big difference: the only thing you'll be drawing back is a hammer.
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