By John Howle
There was a time in many parts of Alabama when the sighting of a deer track was enough to generate plenty of talk and excitement. As deer populations grew, so did the availability of a large variety of firearms and calibers. Today, there are firearms designed for just about any age, gender and shooting style to sufficiently harvest deer and larger game.
There are quite a few reasons handgun hunting has a relatively large following. Obviously, the handgun is lighter, easier to carry and doesn’t take up as much space in a tree stand or ground blind. In addition, there is a huge selection of calibers to choose from for any size game.
This past fall, I had the opportunity to try some of Thompson/Center’s firearms (www.tcarms.com
) on a handgun-only hunt at White Oak Plantation in Tuskegee. The thing that impressed me was the accuracy and ease of shooting of the handgun. Even with higher calibers, like the .308 and .270, the design of these handguns allows the arms to absorb the recoil instead of the shoulder.
I’ve spent considerable time on the range with one of T/C’s handguns, the .270. This particular handgun came in the Pistol Hunter’s Package. This package includes an Encore Pistol with a 15" barrel, rubber grip and forend, and a 2.5x –7x variable scope with rings and bases. Finally, the package includes a carrying case that will house extra barrels. Using Federal Premium bullets, the handgun was able to deliver accurate shots from both the bench and in the woods.
Before choosing a handgun for hunting, consider the game you will be hunting and the distance you will be shooting. Even though, for instance, a .270 handgun would have the same potential down range as the .270 rifle, the handgun requires using a solid rest for the most accuracy. This solid rest can be natural, like a stump or the side of a tree, or it can be manmade like crossed shooting sticks. Regardless of how well you can shoot off-hand, the shot should only be made by using a solid rest to ensure an ethical harvest.
Before heading into the woods, know the capabilities of your handgun. If you can consistently keep tight groups at 75 yards, but not at 100, keep the shot under 75 yards. Shoot on the range continuously until you are comfortable and confident with your accuracy and handling of the handgun. In addition, make sure to use eye and hearing protection. The higher caliber pistols can be extremely loud and permanent hearing loss can occur without protection.
One of the easiest ways to familiarize yourself with the handgun is to rest the gun on some type of sand bag on a shooting bench or table. If you don’t have a sandbag, you can use a sack of corn or feed. Another option is to make your own bag. First, cut the legs out of a pair of blue jeans. Next, sew one end of the jeans together, and fill the jean legs only two thirds full of sand. This will allow you to fold the bag over for extra height. Finally, sew the other end together.
For more information on the "Handgun Only Hunt" at White Oak Plantation, visit www.whiteoakplantation.com
, click on hunting, then, 2008 Handgun Hunt.
Rifling Through the Choices
If long rifles are your style, you can find a caliber to meet any hunting situation.
There is a school of thought out there about the bigger the caliber, the better the hunting. Granted, large caliber deer rifles certainly have the foot-pounds of energy to take deer at long distances, however, flinching can be a major problem for the shooter.
If you know the recoil will kick you in the shoulder as hard as a rented mule, the chances of flinching are increased. Even a slight flinch will have you missing the entire target at distances under 100 yards. Many modern bullets in higher calibers are being created that advertise less recoil, so the shooter can keep most of the energy and save the shoulder.
If you want to get youth involved with deer hunting, obvious choices would be calibers providing enough foot-pounds of energy down range as well as lighter recoil. Choices like the .243 and .30-30 are widely popular for their reduced recoil. Another choice you might not be as familiar with is the 7-30 Waters.
The 7-30 Waters was developed by Ken Waters in the 1970s to give better performance to the .30-30 Winchester cartridge. In the 7-30 Waters, a 7 millimeter bullet is housed in a shell casing slightly larger than a .30-30. This is done to prevent the 7-30 bullets from being loaded into a .30-30 firearm.
T/C has both pistols and long rifles chambered in the 7-30 Waters in their Contender series of firearms. This caliber is suitable for whitetail deer, has great down-range performance and recoil is held to a minimum. Federal Premium offers the 7-30 Waters in a 120 grain bullet (www.federalpremium.com
). Younger shooters will like the simplicity, lower recoil and performance of the single shot format, but, more importantly, you will appreciate the safety.
On the Range
Whether your choice is a handgun or rifle, ample time should be spent on the range familiarizing yourself with the firearm and shooting multiple rounds over the course of a typical summer. If you have an isolated area on your farm, a simple shooting range can be constructed with little or no cost. Simply find a suitable backdrop, like a dirt bank, and step off the appropriate number of yards. A range of 100 yards is ample distance in most cases.
Always be within arm’s reach while introducing youngsters to the shooting range and only allow them to progress to higher calibers when they are physically and mentally ready. Also, make sure everyone present is wearing hearing and eye protection during shooting. Finally, choose a firearm that fits your shooting style so you can make a wise investment.
John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.