Today on the podcast you will learn all about hunter education. I’ll take you through what hunter education class is and the subjects you would learn if you attend one of my classes.
This is meant as an introduction for new “want to be hunters” or anyone just interested in what hunting is all about. You will learn there are several ways to get your hunter education certificate regardless of your learning style or how much time you have available.
I even introduce you to an opportunity to hunt without taking hunter education which may be available in your state or province.
Lastly, I would like to invite you to join the brand new hunting community we are starting at https://greenhorn-hunting-community.mn.co/. This group is a safe place to ask questions and share knowledge related to hunting. The focus of this group is to help new and inexperienced hunters, but veteran hunters are encouraged to join and help mentor their fellow hunters.
Welcome to the Greenhorn Hunting Podcast. This podcast was created with the new and inexperienced hunters in mind. I believe if we don’t intentionally invest time teaching and inviting more people into the lifestyle of hunting, this great tradition will soon fade away.
On today’s podcast, I’ll introduce myself and the mission of Greenhorn Hunting. You will get a feel for my personality and understand what to expect from future podcasts. I’ll also offer a couple of resources that can help guide you through the challenges of hunting if you are struggling to meet your expectations of success.
Whether you are a greenhorn hunter or a veteran hunter, this podcast is your resource to help you experience success in the field and develop true fulfillment by helping others do the same.
You can visit the website at https://greenhornhunting.com and find resources and articles that will get you heading in the right direction if you are dealing with the challenges of learning to hunt.
I have written a guide called Learn to Hunt: 10 Steps to Hunting Success. You can get a free copy at https://greenhornhunting.com/starthunting. These are the steps every hunter must understand before they can truly experience everything the hunting lifestyle can offer.
Lastly, I would like to invite you to join the brand new hunting community we are starting at https://greenhorn-hunting-community.mn.co/. This group is a safe place to ask questions and share knowledge related to hunting. The focus of this group is to help new and inexperienced hunters, but veteran hunters are encouraged to join and help mentor their fellow hunters.
There are three major reasons many people don’t hunt. I will share what those reasons are and how to avoid them.
Reason #1 that prevents people from hunting is they lack a place to hunt. As a new hunter you want to be confident that you can legally hunt a piece of land and not worry about trespassing. This is why it is important to learn where you can hunt. I have a video that talks about some of the options available to you.
Sometimes this has a lot to do with where you live. Not every state has an abundance of public land to hunt so you may need to build some relationships with private landowners. But if you live in the western United States, public land is abundant. There are millions of acres that belong to you the citizens of the USA and with a little investigating, you can quickly find a place to hunt.
One way to assist in finding places to hunt is to purchase a good GPS tool that shows boundary lines and landowner information.
If you have a smartphone I suggest a hunting app called Huntwise. It has a couple of tools that are great for new hunters. I’ll show you all it’s features later, but get a 10% discount when you use the code HW75VEF. If you purchase Huntwise I do receive a small commission, but at no extra cost to you.
Lack of Time
Reason #2 is people believe they don’t have time to go hunting. “It just takes to much time away from the family when I go scouting or shooting.”
Hunting is a lifestyle that lasts all year long. Yes, maybe you only get to hunt 8 days out of the whole year, but you can enjoy the adventure that leads up to those hunting days.
Need to get out of the house for a weekend? Take the family to the place you want to hunt and do some camping/hiking/scouting.
Looking for a family activity to get everyone outside and active? Try a shooting sport like archery or gun shooting and spend weekends together at a shooting event while honing your marksmanship. This builds your shooting confidence and gets you familiar with your hunting weapon.
Lack of Knowledge and Confidence
Reason #3 why people don’t hunt, is a lack of knowledge and confidence when it comes to hunting.
This is the statement new hunters often say to me. “Will I ever learn everything I need to know.”
We all start somewhere. Nothing is learned without starting at the beginning. So don’t get overwhelmed. Just like you, I started with no knowledge of the hunting lifestyle. Time and effort will make you a skilled and successful hunter. The reward of enjoyment and life experiences is worth all your effort.
If you are struggling to find somewhere to hunt, let’s learn about places you can hunt and find you your own little sweet spot.
If time is your challenge, let’s learn to schedule activities such as shooting and scouting. Plan out your hunt time like you do a doctor visit. I promise your soul will thank you for it.
If knowledge and confidence are preventing you from learning to hunt. Then get a copy of Learn to Hunt and start building your knowledge and confidence. And ask questions when you’re stuck or confused. We are here to help you learn and enjoy the hunting lifestyle.
I want to post ads on job boards across the internet that say, ” New Hunters Wanted”.
Between 2011 and 2016 the number of active hunters dropped by 2 million people. With the decline in hunting participation, it’s obvious we need to find ways to actively recruit new hunters.
Older Hunters Are Out
The information points to a number of older hunters hanging up there red felt hats and the generations behind them aren’t taking their place. How can we stop this trend?
Like any important cause, we must get involved. That is what fostered greenhornhunting.com. A website focused on educating the new hunters looking for mentoring and guidance.
Are You a Potential Hunter?
The statistics tell us that there are over 32 million people in america that shoot firearms and 23 million that enjoy shooting archery. Even if 50% of those groups crossed between disciplines, that would still mean there are over 40 million Americans that participate in shooting sports.
Now with only a little over 11 million of those people calling themselves hunters through the purchasing of tags and license, we definitely have several potential applicants. See the real challenge here is “what is keeping those shooters from becoming hunters?”
I feel from the posts I read on social media and the articles that ask questions of new hunters, the real challenge is confidence. Many of these shooters would become hunters if someone was there to guide them.
Hunting was injected into my bloodstream when I was brought into this world. My family hunted because the wild game was a primary food source. I easily forget that the reason hunting comes so easy for me is because I had a long mentorship program through my father and my uncle. These guys invested many hours teaching me the ways of the hunter.
Hunting Mentors Needed
So the real gap between these millions of shooting advocates and them becoming hunters is mentoring. I often wonder if I would be the avid outdoor guy I am today if those men hadn’t invested so much in me.
My dad can’t physically hunt anymore and my uncle passed away a few years ago. The tradition lives on through my brothers and me. We are teaching our kids the hunting lifestyle and the opportunities that come with it. It’s not a forced thing like it was when I grew up, I guess I could have just stayed home. But we are introducing them to hunting lifestyle and they love it.
So how do we stop this downward trend and bring in new hunters?
It starts with mentoring. And I’m all for helping kids get started in the sport, but the ones we need are adults with dollars to spend and a heart to lead the coming generations. As a Hunter Education instructor it blows me away how many people come through my classes in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, even 50’s that have never hunted. But darn it they are going to give it a try before it’s to late.
Are you a veteran hunter that just doesn’t really care if you kill another animal? I understand, no worries. But wouldn’t you like to know that many generations from now the hunting tradition still carries on? See the reason our hunter population is shrinking as I said earlier is that you guys are leaving and no one is coming in to take your place. So I guess I’m asking that you find a replacement at a minimum. But if you mentor just 2 more then you helped double our numbers.
Where Should You Start?
So I first want to say thank you for being concerned enough about the hunting tradition that you took time to read through my article. I just want to find ways to change this growing trend of shrinking hunter numbers. This is why I wrote an e-book that is focused on giving step by step instruction for new hunters that need mentoring, but I may never meet them. I welcome veterans to read it also and help me make it better.
Just click on the link below and it will take you to the page where you can get a free copy.
Before you start hunting, you need to understand how to make a vital shot on an animal. Your goal as a hunter should be to make a shot that will produce a quick lethal kill. You can help yourself accomplish this by establishing some preset guidelines.
Today we will talk about 3 important things you need to consider and have set in your mind before you see an animal.
Establish Your Effective Range
Effective range is the maximum distance you know you can place a vital shot on an animal consistently. You will establish your effective range during shooting practice.
For instance, my effective range is out to 300 yards with my rifle. I am very confident that I can place a bullet in the heart and lung area consistently at that distance or closer. Now, when I am hunting, if I range an animal at more than 300 yards, I immediately know I need to get closer to take the shot.
Now hear what I am about to say. It doesn’t mean I can’t take a shot at more than 300 yards, but I know I can put a bullet in a 3″ circle at 300 yards or less. That kind of confidence will make a world of difference when I squeeze the trigger.
Establish your effective range. Decide before you go hunting, what is the maximum yardage you will shoot. This will help you be confident in your shot.
Quick note – If the conditions are not perfect ( wind and rain) and/or my rest is not solid, this can have an affect on my shot. In many cases my effective range will be reduced by these factors. Consider the elements and your shooting position when setting up for the shot.
Where Should You Shoot the Animal
You need to decide where on the animal you will try to place your shot. You want to hit a vital organ that will lead to a quick death. So let’s discuss a vital shot and the location of vital organs on big game animals.
My years of experience has taught me to aim for a vital organ that will bring the animal the least amount of suffering and myself the highest potential for recovering the animal. This means I usually aim for the heart or lungs.
Heart – The heart is usually located in the bottom 3rd of the chest cavity behind the front leg. A well placed shot in the heart will certainly produce a deadly outcome. I would encourage you to think of the heart as one of your primary targets when taking the shot.
Lungs – The lungs are the largest target on the animal consuming a majority of the chest cavity. The lungs typically lay behind the front leg and stretch to the last couple ribs.
The lung shot is my favorite shot. It is extremely deadly and usually will produce a solid blood trail. My one suggestion is to always shoot from a direction that will allow you to penetrate both lungs at the same time. An animal with a hole in only one lung will often require a follow up shot.
Liver – The liver lays behind the lungs near the stomach. A liver shot is fatal, but can take some time to cause death. If I know that I have shot an animal in the liver, I will always attempt to make a follow up shot.
The liver is not a vital organ I try to hit, but I am certain the animal will die if shot there. For this reason I am very patient and intentional as I track an animal I feel may be shot in the liver.
Brain – A bullet to the brain can mean instantaneous death for an animal. Probably one of the quickest ways to bring a large animal to the ground. But even though the brain is an easy target to locate, it is a relatively small target. I rarely take this shot unless I’m very close and have an extremely good rest. Beware! An animal can move their head suddenly and change your impact point.
Broadside – The broadside shot is when the animal is allowing you to see it’s entire right side or left side from chest to tail. This position gives you the best opportunity to place your bullet or arrow through both lungs or the heart at the same time. This is the position that gives you the largest target and offers a quick vital killing result.
Quartering Away – This is when the animal is looking away from you but you can still see part of it’s right or left side. This shot still allows you to shoot at the heart and lungs. But it reduces the size of the lung target relative to the angle of the animal.
You need to consider the shot angle when shooting at a quartering away animal. I always aim through the animal by considering where the bullet should exit. If I feel it will exit out the front chest without hitting the opposite lung, than the shot angle is to severe and I won’t shoot.
Quartering Toward – This position is when the animal is facing you at an angle that still allows you to see it’s right or left side. Again like the quartering away, you need to consider the degree of the angle. The other obstruction at this position is the front shoulder bone. If a bullet or arrow strikes a large bone like the shoulder, it can change the point it could impact a vital organ.
Think Before You Shoot
You can shoot an animal when it is standing in any position, but aren’t we trying to produce a quick lethal kill? Therefore, I recommend you wait for the animal to give you the shot you need to accomplish that goal. This is why you need to decide what position the animal needs to be in before you shoot.
You need to consider again the angle of the bullet and where it should exit if it passes all the way through. This position also runs the risk of the bullet or arrow going into the stomach cavity. You will not enjoy field dressing the animal if the stomach has a large hole in it.
There are many other positions an animal could present to you. I encourage you to think about those positions and their possible results. Ask yourself this question and make up your mind before you go to the woods. What position does the animal need to offer you before you will shoot?
A Deadly Combination
Would you like to know what I’m looking for when I’m hunting? Below is a perfect scenario.
If I have a solid rest and the deer is under 300 yards and standing broadside to me, I like my odds. With nothing covering the heart and lung area, I’m going to make that shot. I’m very confident in my ability and the outcome of this opportunity.
If the animal is offering me something different than this scenario, I’m going to filter it with the things I know and you learned above. I want to give myself the best chance for success. I have established some strict guidelines before I will shoot.
Would you like a copy of an E-book that will help answer more of your hunting questions? Just enter your name and email below.
This E-book takes you through the 10-steps I use to help me enjoy every hunt. When you know all the steps involved in a successful hunt, you will be better equiped to consistantly fill your freezer.
Every hunt needs to start with a hunting strategy. Before you go to the woods or leave camp, you need to have a plan for the way you intend to hunt that day. You aren’t sure what type of hunting strategy to use? Here are the 7 strategies we use to be successful. Each strategy has it’s own purpose and preparation process.
Still hunting is simply moving through the animals habitat stealthily and stopping frequently to listen and observe. You are trying to spot the animal before it spots you. This means that you will move slowly and often stand in one position for extended periods.
This hunting strategy is a great way to hunt a new area for the first time. We use this strategy to learn where the animals sleep, eat and drink. As you move slowly through the animals habit, you should take a mental inventory of these important parts of their habitat.
When you still hunt, you should consider your silhouette and always try to keep a low profile. I always try to stand in front of a bush or tree allowing it to break up my human outline. Many people will stop behind the bush for cover, but this limits your shooting opportunities.
When you are stalking game, you are following signs of a particular animal or you are closing the distance on an animal you have already spotted. A stalk could start when you find a fresh track in the snow or spot the animal laying under a tree across the canyon.
This hunting strategy requires that you pay attention to the elements. In most cases you will need to consider the wind direction and terrain as you stalk the animal. Take time to consider your approach before closing the distance.
While stalking you should always be alert, looking for other animals that could ruin your approach on the desired animal. Patients is often the formula of a successful stalk.
Posting is the act of sitting or standing in one location for a long period of time. You may know where animals like to travel through or visit regularly, but an elevated stand or shooting blind is not practical.
When posting and awaiting game animals, you should be in a comfortable shooting position with a rest. You should also have a pair of binoculars to scan the terrain.
Give yourself the best chance for success by learning how to judge the distance to your target or carry a range finder when it is legal. Posting often offers you the element of surprise which gives you a chance to take your time when taking the shot.
A ground blind is a structure on the ground designed to conceal you while waiting for animals. The covering could be a man made structure of synthetic materials like nylon or plastic. These type of blinds will need to be removed at the end of hunting season. Usually we will construct a blind from the natural materials around the location we want to hunt. We use the branches and old logs found laying nearby.
A ground blind is something that should be constructed or placed many days before a hunt to limit noise and human activity. You will be limited to the blind while awaiting approaching animals, so consider wind direction and shooting lanes when placing the structure.
I also suggest placing markers in your shooting lanes to help you quickly judge the distance to the animal. Markers are usually pieces of ribbons that mark designated yardages. These yardage markers give you a quick reference when it’s time to shoot at the animal. I also recommend doing this when shooting from an elevated stand which we will cover next.
Hunting from an elevated stand gives you the ability to see over obstacles and avoid the animals normal line of sight. This type of hunting is restrictive though in the sense that you are fixed at one location. You must wait for the animals to approach your effective shooting range.
Elevated stand hunting is a great way to hunt animal travel corridors in thicker cover. Always be aware of the dominant wind directions when placing an elevated stand. Consider where you expect animals to approach your shooting lanes.
Lastly with elevated stands, you must always inspect them for any excess wear or needed repair. And never sit in an elevated stand without the proper fall protection device.
An educated hunter knows the sounds of his prey. Whether it is the bugle of the bull elk, the grunt of a whitetail deer or the gobble of a strutting turkey. Knowing the sounds and what they mean can make all the difference when hunting.
You can use game calling to locate, entice or pursue game animals. There are mating calls and fighting calls and many other interesting sounds. Learn what the different sounds are for the animal you are hunting and their typical response to certain sounds.
Game calling can be challenging to learn and master, but the reward is amazing. When you can mimic the sounds of a wild animal and convince it that you are an animal also, that is a true achievement.
Even if you don’t feel you are a good game caller, it is important to learn all the sounds of the animal you are hunting. Knowing the sounds of your prey is a skill every hunter should develop.
Driving is the act of using one hunter or more to push animals to another hunter or group of hunters that are posting.
You must first find an area you believe the animals are bedding or hiding within. The posting hunters need to find locations outside the area you plan to drive where they expect animals to travel when they leave the cover. It is important that the hunters that are posting are aware of all other hunters locations. They must plan their shooting lanes so they will not be shooting in the direction of other hunters.
After the posting hunters are set, the driving hunters spread apart and walk through the cover headed in the direction of the posting hunters. The drivers try to encourage animals to move in the direction of the posting hunters. I prefer that the drivers talk loudly with each other so that everyone is aware of their location throughout the drive.
This hunting style requires some planning and everyone needs to stick to the plan. It is best to have about 6 hunters. Usually the animals will be running when they leave the cover, so have a call you can make that could cause the animal to stop out of curiosity. But be ready to shoot because they may not stop for very long.
Use What Works for You
Understanding the different hunting strategies and when to use them will increase your success as a hunter. Some strategies you may find work better for you than others. Don’t feel you need to use all of them.
But when you are planning your next hunt, consider each hunting strategy and how you could apply it to the hunt. You may find yourself discovering new ways to hunt the same area. Changing strategies can change results.
My family and I love the holidays. It’s a great time to get together and reflect on the past year and all of it’s ups and downs. We talk about the kids and how they have grown. We remember the loved ones that are gone and tell old stories. But the theme that is constant in so many of our stories old and new is hunting.
Our families, both my wife’s and mine, enjoy the outdoors and the lifestyle it offers. We all connect as we talk about the challenges of the previous hunting season and the successes. Everyone gets to be part of the conversation. My dad always remember a story or two from years past that relates to a current conversation about a hunt. The community and fellowship is a great atmosphere to be part of.
Planning for Next Year
This time also offers a great opportunity to talk about next years hunts. My brothers and I will plan the coming year and talk about the places we would like to explore. Our wife’s remind us that we need to include some quality family time also. Some of our wives make sure we plan for them to join us.
We talk about what hunts we are planning for the kids. Turkey and bear hunts in the spring are great opportunities to get our kids out there and enjoy some spring camping together.
Part of the discussion is the draw odds for special hunts and what tags we are considering applying for in the coming year. We talk about the success of others and the opportunities that may be available.
Don’t Waste Another Year
Have you thought about learning how to hunt. Are you looking back at the previous year wishing you had some hunting stories of your own to share? Did you try your hand at hunting and just never felt confident in your skills. Let us help you change that.
Greenhorn Hunting was created for you. We are breaking down hunting to a simple ABC system that takes away the intimidation of learning how to hunt.
You can learn to hunt. I will help you find places where you live to access great hunting opportunities. You can teach your kids the value of the hunting lifestyle or even learn right along with them.
If you are ready to learn how to hunt or you want to grow your skills as a hunter, connect with Greenhorn Hunting.
We are not about finding the biggest animal. We are about building a lifetime of memories.
Shooting accuracy is a skill that can developed over time. But there are 3 things you need to consider before you head to the practice range.
You may be one of those fortunate people who are just naturally gifted when it comes to shooting, that’s awesome if you are. You may be like I was and struggle with jerking the trigger and have a fear of recoil. Regardless of your current shooting skills, this article will help you increase your shooting accuracy.
Does Your Dominate Eye and Rifle Shoulder Line Up?
It really is interesting to see if you are actually shooting your rifle correctly in relation to your dominate eye. What does that mean? It means that the shoulder you place the butt of the rifle against is on the same side as your dominate eye.
How can you figure out what is your dominate eye? Let’s walk through a couple simple steps.
Locate a small point on the wall across the room from where you are now.
Extend your arms full length and bring your hands together making a very small triangle in the middle of your hands.
Center the point on the wall in the middle of your triangle with both of your eyes open
Begin to slowly draw your hands toward your face until they touch your nose
Which eye is looking through the hole in your hands? This is your dominate eye.
Is your dominate eye on the same side of your body as the shoulder you rest the rifle against? It should be if you want to shoot accurately. If your dominate eye is on the opposite side of your shooting shoulder, you need to consider a change in your shooting style.
How to Shoot with Your Dominate Eye
There are 2 options here.
One is to use a pair of shooting glasses and black out the side your dominate eye is looking through. This will allow you to continue shooting your rifle with the same shoulder, but train your non-dominate eye to be your shooting eye.
My choice though is to learn to shoot with the gun on the other shoulder and not spend time trying to retrain your eyes. I understand that it may feel awkward at first, but this will allow your dominate eye to do what it was meant to do. Stay focused on the target.
I have helped many people work through this process. If you are left eye dominate, you should shoot with the rifle against your left shoulder. If you are right eye dominate, you should shoot with the rifle against your right shoulder. This will help your shooting accuracy tremendously.
Resting Your Rifle – the Bipod Advantage
You will not hit the same spot on your target with 5 shots from a standing position as accurately as you will with 5 shots from a prone position. I know, common sense right? Well it is amazing how often I see people shooting their rifle and not shooting from a prone position or finding a way to rest their rifle for a comfortable shot.
Shooting accuracy increases when the barrel of the rifle moves less, so find a way to minimize barrel movement. This is why everyone in our house has a set of bi-pods on their hunting rifle. Bipods give our rifle an adjustable support system at the mid point of the barrel. In some cases this eliminates the need to place a hand on the forearm of the stock. For me this is much more comfortable when I don’t need to extend my left arm.
We use our bi-pods on the practice range as well as in the field. As my kids shoot using the bi-pods at the range, their confidence in their shooting skills increase. When we are hunting, we are constantly looking for a resting point for our rifle as we consider where an animal may appear.
This simple step can make a world of difference in your shooting accuracy.
Breathing and Heart Rate – Reducing the Internal Distractions
You need to be as comfortable and as calm as possible each time you shoot. How do you accomplish that in the heat of the moment? That big buck is right in front of you and the opportunity could be gone in seconds.
Well, how should you prepare for that moment? It is a skill that can be learned at the practice range. Follow this exercise and you will be training yourself for this situation. Let’s talk through some steps.
Be aware of your surroundings and what is in front of and beyond your target. (Use a rest when possible)
Quickly bring your shoulder against your rifle and focus the crosshairs on your desired impact point. (Do not focus on the whole target, only the point you want to hit the target.)
Take a deep breathe and exhale slowly 2 times keeping your crosshairs focused on the desired impact point.
Take a 3rd deep breathe and release it slowly as you squeeze the trigger while holding the crosshairs on the point you plan to hit. (Your rifle should fire before the 3rd breathe is completely released)
This will not simulate all the aspects of that big buck standing right in front of you. But practicing this will train your mind and body to work together when the opportunity comes.
When you consider and practice these aspects of shooting, your accuracy will improve. Give yourself the advantage when the moment of decision comes and you need to make the shot.
If you have questions or comments about this article, please email me at email@example.com.
Quick Tip – You can practice these skills with a pellet rifle as well as your hunting rifle. Ammunition for the hunting rifle is expensive, so we use our pellet rifles sometimes to practice good shooting skills.
When I teach you shooting skills in hunter education, you will learn proper shooting techniques and good marksmanship. I teach you how to properly sight in your rifle and most importantly I help you discover if you are shooting with your dominant eye in the scope. We discuss the importance of proper breathing and the role it plays in making a precisely placed shot.
But before we talk about shooting with accuracy, you need to consider 3 basic disciplines related to shooting. Finding the proper shooting position for the shot, practice often so that you are confident in yourself and your rifle, and know where to place the shot on the animal your are hunting.
There are 4 basic shooting positions (prone, sitting, kneeling and standing) and you should learn each one and when to use it. These shooting positions are designed to give you the most secure rest to support your rifle while positioning yourself in a way that allows you to see your target.
You notice in the photo that each position elevates the rifle barrel a little more allowing you to see over obstacles. As you elevate the rifle though, you also see that the arms supporting your rifle for a steady shot loose their support point. Look at the prone and how steady the rifle looks, now look at the standing and notice the only support is your floating arm.
Learn these positions and practice shooting from each one. Always use the position that gives you the best support and still allows you to see your target.
You need to practice shooting. Shooting practice will build confidence and accuracy. The more you handle your rifle the more you will become familiar and confident with it.
Learn to squeeze the trigger. I believe that most missed opportunities when shooting at an animal are due to bad shooting habits. When you learn to squeeze the trigger while focusing on your target, your accuracy will increase.
Shooting regularly can be expensive though. May I suggest that all of your practice does not need to be behind your hunting rifle. When you learn proper shooting techniques, you can practice those skills with an air-soft gun or a .22 rifle and save a load of money on ammunition.
Placing the Shot
Your first goal when shooting an animal is to harvest that animal as quickly as possible with the least amount of suffering. When you place your shot in the vital area (heart and lungs) of a deer, this usually results in a quick clean kill. But in that adrenaline filled moment, how do you know your going to hit a vital organ? My answer is knowledge and practice.
An important part of “shooting skills” when hunting is knowing where that shot needs to be placed on the animal to quickly harvest it. So you should study your prey and understand their anatomy. Take time to understand where the animals vital organs are located in relation to the position they may offer you for a shot. In other posts we will discuss animal positions in more detail, but you should always try to shoot the animal when they are broadside to you.
This deer is broadside and offering the best opportunity to place a shot in the vital area. This area contains the lungs, heart and liver.
Skills Develop Over Time
You will hear me say this many times as you hang around Greenhorn Hunting. “These skills are not formed overnight. But dedication will develop them quickly.”
If you shoot the rifle once from a shooting bench and it hits the center of your target, this does not necessarily mean your ready for the hunting blind. Things change quickly in the field and you need to be comfortable with the gun and ready to adapt to the shooting scenario.
Give yourself the best opportunity to succeed by being informed about the animal you are hunting and practice shooting your rifle from many positions.
Welcome to another hunter education class topic. Today you will learn more about hunting rifles, also known as firearms, and how they operate. When you understand these things about your hunting rifle, you will have more confidence in how to handle it.
So what is a firearm? Basically, it is a mechanical device that uses pressure from a burning powder to force a projectile through and out a metal tube. In other words, a hunting rifle is a tool that is pointed at the desired target and when you squeeze the trigger an explosion within that rifle sends the bullet to its desired target. With practice and understanding, you can hit that desired target where you want consistently. We will discuss that in a different post.
Now to properly handle your firearm you need to understand the 3 main parts of that firearm. Those parts are the action, stock and barrel. We will start with the action which is the mechanical part of the rifle.
The first part is the action of the rifle. The action contains all the moving parts of the rifle that load, unload, fire and eject the shotshell or cartridge. Within the action are the trigger and safety also. So what type of action does your firearm have? If you have not yet bought a hunting rifle, I will make suggestions at the end of this post. There is an action type I prefer for begining hunters.
Below is a list of the actions available and a little info about each one.
Bolt Action – The bolt action operates like a bolt on a door. You simply lift the bolt up and pull back on it to eject a cartridge. Once the bolt is open, you can visibly see the cartridges in the magazine. This action also allows you to remove the bolt and store separately if you would like for safety reasons.
Lever Action – This is the action seen in the old west movies. To operate the lever action you simply push the lever downward and forward. This movement will eject the cartridge from the barrel. To be certain you have emptied the magazine, you must operate the action multiple times until no more cartridges are ejected. Then open the action and look to be certain that no more cartridges are present. This action usually has a hammer on the back of the action that needs to be released to a safe position when carrying. The hammer can be difficult for beginners to operate safely, but with practice, it can be mastered.
Pump Action – This action allows the shooter to re-cock the firearm without taking the gun down from the shoulder which helps you keep your eye on the target. This is why it is used mostly in shotguns for bird shooting but can be an option on a hunting rifle. You operate this action by sliding the forearm of the stock forward to load and backward to unload. Similar to the lever action, you may want to operate the action multiple times until you are confident the magazine is empty and then do a physical inspection also. Some people call this a slide action.
Semi-Automatic or Autoloading Action – When you squeeze the trigger of a semi-automatic action rifle, the gases from the cartridge are used not only to send the bullet down the barrel, but those same gases work with the action to automatically eject the expired cartridge and load in a new ready to fire cartridge. This action uses a handle or bolt which needs to be pulled backwards toward the butt of the stock to load a cartridge. If the action locks open, then the magazine should be empty. If the semi-automatic action closes after you pull it completely open, then the firearm should be loaded and ready to fire. This action like the pump action allows you to keep the firearm on your target and ready to fire a second shot, unlike other actions which require you to lower the firearm to reload.
Break Action – The break action works similar to a door hinge. You simply move a lever or push a button to release a mechanism that allows the firearm to break open at the back of the barrel. The butt of the firearm is pushed downward which opens access to the back of the barrel. With the break action, you do not have a magazine, each shotshell or cartridge is loaded independently before it is fired. This action usually incorporates a hammer like a lever action which again can be a challenge to operate at first. Practice operating this hammer on the break action with good muzzle control can instill confidence and safe handling.
Revolving Action – This action is named after its revolving cylinder. The cylider rotates each time the firearms hammer is cocked or the trigger is pulled. This action is typically found on handguns, but it can be found on older carbine rifles. My warning with shooting a revolving action is to be aware of the placement of your hands. In order for the cylinder to rotate there is a small gap between the cylinder and the barrel. This is where gases are released when the firearm is fired. Therefore, it is important that your hands are placed correctly on the revolving action firearm so you do not get any fingers near the revolving cylinder where serious injury could occur.
The stock of a rifle is the part that is placed against your shoulder and also the part you grip firmly with your non-trigger hand. It is typically made of wood or synthetic materials. The stock of your rifle is very important because it’s size and shape will determine how the gun fits you. Of course, if it fits comfortably than that will have a direct affect on how well you shoot it.
The stock is different on each gun based on the action of the rifle. A bolt action rifle has a one piece stock. All the other actions will have a 2 piece stock typically. The part of the stock that rests against your shoulder is called the butt. The part of the stock you grip firmly in front of the action is the forearm.
The design of a stock can also have some relation to the amount of recoil of your hunting rifle, so you can add padding to the butt of the stock if that is a concern. But if you add padding, remember this will increase your reach to the trigger and could affect the fit of the rifle.
The barrel is the long metal tube on top of the rifle. A cartridge is loaded into the barrel of the gun by the action and when the trigger is squeezed the barrel contains the explosion which sends the projectile to its designated target.
On top of the barrel is the sight alignment system. This can be open sights of some type or a telescopic sight. Also at the end of the barrel where the bullet exits we call that the muzzle. The muzzle is the most important part of the firearm in my opinion. It should always be pointed in a safe direction regardless of the gun being loaded or unloaded.
The barrel is really the performance part of your hunting rifle. Your accuracy can be affected based on your barrel design. In another post, we will discuss barrel designs in more detail, but to simplify for now you need to understand the importance of a well-maintained barrel.
If you purchase a new rifle, then you should have no concerns. Just keep your barrel clean with regular cleaning. Cleaning your barrel will prevent lead build-up and dirt from disrupting your accuracy.
If you have an older rifle with the original barrel, its probably had many rounds of ammunition shot through it. Be aware that there could be some wear in the riflings. The riflings are grooves and lands inside the barrel that cause the bullet to twist as it leaves the muzzle. The twist of the bullet caused by the riflings directly affects accuracy. If the lands are worn from years of use or corrosion, you will become very frustrated with your firearm as you try to sight it in. So if you are using an older rifle, I suggest that you have a seasoned hunter or gunsmith inspect your firearm.
My Hunting Rifle Suggestion
So what action for a hunting rifle would I suggest if you are just starting out and need to purchase one?
I can answer that with the picture below. This is my daughter Kadey and this is one of her 10th birthday presents. At the age of 10 in Idaho, Kadey can hunt big game animals with a mentor at her side.
I chose this same bolt action rifle for all 3 of my young kids. It is the Savage Axis youth model in a 7mm-08. It is affordable and fits my kids very well. The caliber, 7mm-08, is my favorite in recent years because it provides the kinetic energy to quickly take down a deer with very little recoil. My younger kids love shooting this gun.
I like the bolt action because it gives them a simple action to operate. It’s easier when the time comes to load a cartridge into the chamber. This particular model also allows my kids to remove the magazine before unloading the cartridge from the chamber. This prevents them from accidentally loading another round. This makes it easier to unload the gun when crossing obstacles such as fences or streams. The bolt action requires her to remove the gun from her shoulder to shoot a second shot. This increases her focus to make the first shot count. If gun storage safety is a concern in your home, then you can remove the bolt and store it in a separate location from the rifle.
If you have any questions about this article or about firearm actions and hunting rifles, I’m here to help. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to help you.