The shooting sports have been an American tradition for generations, and while the technology behind the tools has progressed, the same fundamental nature of the hunt remains the same.
Firearms: Rifles and Shotguns
While rifles and shotguns may have similarities and often look alike, the difference is the purpose and the barrel. Rifles are primarily designed to shoot single bullets which strike a single, usually stationary target, while shotguns are designed to fire a spread of shot or pellets in order to hit a moving target.
All rifles and shotguns have three main parts; the stock, action and barrel. The action is the part that loads, fires, and ejects a shell. The barrel is the tube the bullet or pellets pass through. The stock is the wood, metal or plastic frame that holds the barrel and action.
The main difference between rifles and shotguns is the inside of the barrel. Rifles are grooved in a spiral pattern while the inside of most shotgun barrels are smooth
What Is A Safety?
A safety is the most important part of the gun. Its purpose is to prevent the trigger, or the firing pin, from moving and thereby preventing the gun from firing. A careful hunter always knows where the safety is located on the gun before loading and firing.
However, a safety is a mechanical device. It can fail!
Just because you have the safety on doesn’t mean the gun won’t fire. Safeties should never be used as a substitute for safe gun handling and the observance of all gun safety rules.
Rifles are designed to accurately hit a precise point. They are long-barreled firearms with grooves cut into the barrel of the rifle. These grooves are called rifling and give rifles their name. The rifling makes the bullet spin as it leaves the muzzle, making the projectile much more accurate and stable in flight. Make sure the ammunition you use matches the caliber that is stamped on the side of the barrel.
Photograph courtesy of O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc.
There are three main types of sights for rifles – open, aperture and telescopic.
- Open sights are composed of a post or bead at the muzzle end of the barrel and a blade with a V shape near the action. The spot you want to hit on the target should be lined up so that it appears to set on top of the post. The post should be lined up with the top of the V notch.
- Aperture sights are also known as peep sights. Guns with aperture sights will have a post at the muzzle end of the barrel and an aperture or hole as the rear sight. The spot you want to hit on the target should be lined up so that it appears to set on top of the post. The top of the post should appear to be in the middle of the hole.
- Telescopic sights are also known as scopes. Scopes come in many styles, but the most common has crosshairs that are lined up with the target. The main advantage of telescopic sights is that they make your sights and target appear on the same level. This means that you can keep both the target and crosshairs in focus. Using scopes does not mean you do not need to spend time practicing with your firearm.
Shotguns typically shoot a spread of small projectiles instead of a rifle’s single bullet. This increases the chances of hitting a moving target. They also have a smooth barrel inside.
Photograph courtesy of the Remington Arms Co.
Shotgun styles allow a wide variety of choices including the gauge, the type of choke and the type of action. Shotguns can also fire a single projectile, called a slug, which is similar to a rifle bullet.
Cleaning and Storing Your Firearm
Dirt and debris can easily collect in any firearm. You should clean your firearm after every use in order to ensure safe and efficient functioning. Every hunter should own a fully stocked cleaning kit and use it regularly.
Cleaning kits should include:
- Bristle brushes for each caliber and gauge firearm you own
- Cleaning rods of varying lengths for rifles, shotguns and handguns
- Cleaning patches sized to fit down the bore of each different firearm
- Patch holders
- A Stiff toothbrush
- Bore solvent
The procedure for cleaning all firearms is essentially the same:
- Make sure the firearm is unloaded
- Check for obstructions in the barrel and malfunctions
- Run a patch or bristle brush soaked in bore solvent down the barrel
- Run dry follow-up patches to dry the barrel and check for traces of rust
- Once clean, run a patch with a light coat of gun oil down the barrel
- Clean all exposed parts of the action
- Clean and oil all exterior metal parts
Bowhunting is one of the oldest hunting methods. It was the main form of hunting until firearms were invented in the 14th century.
Photo courtesy of Easton Archery
Bowhunting requires concentration and patience. It is not a method of hunting that you can learn in a day or two. Making accurate shots with a bow takes much practice. In fact, practice is perhaps one of the main things you need to do to be a successful bowhunter. There are both classes and groups that offer instruction in the proper methods of bowhunting and a wise hunter will take advantage of all the instruction he or she can receive.
Why Do People Bowhunt?
People bowhunt for several reasons. It gives them a sense of history. After all, it is one of the oldest hunting methods. It also can be a personal challenge to master the skills of a good bowhunter.
What Do You Need to Bowhunt?
A good pro shop that specializes in bow hunting will set you up with equipment that is right for you. You must feel comfortable with your bow, how it feels in your hand and how it draws. Remember, no matter how good your equipment, it’s only as good as you are so practice, practice, practice.
To become a good archer you must practice and develop the skill of judging distance. In order to place an arrow within the kill zone of the world’s big game animals, you must judge the distance accurately.
The easiest way to judge distance is to carry a rangefinder with you while bowhunting. Otherwise it requires a lot of time and practice. You can develop your range finding skills by either joining a 3D archery club or working with a friend who will place 3D targets for you and let you practice judging their distance. Knowing your hunting area and the distance of different landmarks from your stand also helps.
- A good bow
- Arrows and razor sharp broadheads
- A covered quiver to keep broadheads from cutting the hunter
- Finger protection and/or release equipment
- Matching equipment
Equipment must be matched to the needs of the hunter. A bow should match the drawing ability of the hunter as well as the game that hunter is hunting.
Photo courtesy of Bohning Archery
You should have an experienced bowhunting specialist help you pick the bow that best meets your skill and strength.
Arrows should be matched to the bow and the hunter in stiffness (spine) and length. Arrows should match each other. Not all arrows fly the same or have the same range in flight.
Four Main Types of Bows
In modern times, the recurve and compound bows dominate for sport and hunting practices. Newer materials, including flexible plastics, fiberglass, and carbon fibers, have led to increases in range and projectile velocity.
Hunting with equipment other than modern firearms can be both exciting and challenging. A hunter can find that a special style of hunting game provides a sense of personal satisfaction.
Muzzleloaders were originally developed in the 14th century. Over the years they became more refined but they were finally replaced by the modern firearm.
Muzzleloaders are loaded directly through the muzzle of the firearm. Their range is less than a modern rifle, so making a clean shot with a muzzleloader is a challenge to the hunter. He or she must get close enough to hit a vital area.
People like the challenge of hunting with a muzzleloader as well as the sense of heritage that comes with using such a specialized, historical firearm. However, special precautions must be taken with both the firearm and the powder to ensure that the muzzleloader is safe to fire and to store.
Safety Comes First
Mastering hunting with a muzzleloader can be both exciting and challenging. Many hunters want to use historic guns in the field. However, old metal may not be strong enough to withstand the rigors of black powder explosions. Always consult a gunsmith before using any historic firearm.
Remember that black powder is an explosive. If not handled responsibly, it can be dangerous. Do not expose black powder to an open flame or store it anywhere there is a possibility of a spark.