GH 4: Pick Your Hunting Weapon and Practice

Selecting a Hunting Weapon

On today’s podcast, we will tackle the controversial issue of choosing the right hunting weapon for your next hunt. When I say weapon it could mean a rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader or bow. But in an attempt to keep this series simple we will talk about choosing the right rifle first. Later in the podcast, we will discuss choosing the right bow if archery is something you are considering.

So how should you go about picking the right rifle for your next hunt? Well, my first question is do you already have a rifle that will work? If so, maybe you don’t need to listen to this podcast. But are you shooting it accurately? If your shooting skills could be better than maybe you should stay tuned. Your current rifle could be the problem.

If you go on Facebook or other social media platforms, you can see all kinds of conversations about what is the right caliber of rifle for hunting a deer or hunting an elk. But in my 38 years as a hunter and 10 years as a hunter education instructor, I don’t think there is one perfect rifle for everything and everyone. Each person is different and their needs are different. 

So I’m going to share my two cents on this subject and if you agree or disagree, please feel free to let me know. I love a good healthy debate.

A person’s hunting rifle is a personal thing and it should be okay for you to use whatever rifle you choose as long as it is legal according to the hunting regulations. 

What Makes it the Right Rifle?

I will say though that I have a couple of criteria that are major factors in choosing the right hunting weapon. 

  1. Does it fit you? 
  2. Can you shoot it comfortably? 
  3. Will it do the job?

Does it fit you?

This question is related to how the rifle feels when you hold it. 

Is it too heavy?

Can you hold it up comfortably and make an off-handed shot at 50 yards and hit the target where you are aiming? Lots of questions as we go through this section. I really want you to consider your hunting rifle and if it is the right one for you. Because if you have a hunting rifle that doesn’t fit you then you aren’t going to shoot it as accurately as you should and that will cause unnecessary frustration.

Is the stock too long and you find yourself reaching for the trigger when you are shooting? Many rifles have different stocks available for them when you purchase them new. Just a 1 ½ inch difference in length can make a lot of difference in your ability to squeeze the trigger comfortably.

But I’ll also ask is your rifle stock to short? Do you find yourself very uncomfortable trying to shoot, because you feel bunched up behind the rifle? Is your eye to close to the scope and you find yourself searching for a clear picture? This happens a lot when dad buys you a gun at the age of 12, but then you are still hunting with it at the age of 18. Don’t sell the gun, it could still work, maybe you just need to buy a stock for it. If you do, keep the old one, it may fit your son or daughter someday. 

Do you already have a rifle and these questions resonate with you? I recommend going to a gunsmith or a gun store with knowledgable employees and ask for help. Get the gun you currently have to fit you properly, or buy a new or used one that is perfect for you. Yes, I can shoot lots of guns and hit where I’m aiming, but with my guns that are specifically sized to fit me perfectly, I shoot them with way more confidence and control. 

So this leads me to my next point of using a gun that you can shoot comfortably. In hunter education, I discuss this all the time because I’m often teaching kids and women. So if you are a man and a hunter please hear what I’m saying. Don’t ask someone to shoot a caliber of rifle that recoils so much they will certainly feel the results of that shot the next day.

I want you to enjoy shooting your rifle and hunting, but a gun that recoils too much for a shooter will lead them to a destructive path. They usually develop a flinch when they shoot which leads to poor accuracy which leads to low self-confidence. And this can lead to poorly placed shots and wounded animals that aren’t recovered. These are all things I want you to avoid.

But what usually happens when you are shooting a gun that recoils to the point it hurts, you will probably quit shooting all together and maybe even quit hunting. I certainly don’t want that. Believe me, you can own a hunting weapon that will get the job done and not kick like a mule. Now before I say this I want you to know that there are many options, but this is the one we choose for our house.

The Hunting Weapon We Choose

My wife and 3 kids all shoot a 7mm-08 caliber rifle with a 139-grain bullet. My son has killed 2 deer and a bear with his, my oldest daughter has killed 3 deer, my youngest daughter 2 deer and my wife a bear and an elk. All of these animals died with one shot to the vital area (heart and lungs) and recovered in under 100 hundred yards. We have so much confidence in this caliber in our house that they don’t need a different rifle.

But here is my point related to shooting comfortably. My youngest daughter was under 100 pounds when she started hunting and the recoil of this caliber and brand has never been a factor. Find a caliber and a bullet that you shoot comfortably and can build perfect confidence in.

Will the rifle you are shooting do the job? We could have this debate forever and never get to the perfect answer. As I stated a minute ago, the 7mm-08 with my kids or my wife shooting it will do the job. But we need to reiterate that it comes with a well-placed shot. Our goal as hunters should be to kill an animal as quickly as possible with the least amount of suffering. 

That is why you want a rifle that fits you, you can shoot comfortably and will do the job you want it to do. Don’t settle for an almost perfect rifle if you can afford it. You may risk the confidence you deserve in your hunting firearm.

Choosing the Right Hunting Bow

Before we get into discussing practice and how important it is in building confidence. I want to address the bow hunters that are listening. 

If you own a bow that meets the required poundage in your state necessary for hunting, then maybe you don’t need to listen to this part of the podcast. I don’t want to push you to spend money you don’t need to spend. But just like hunting with a rifle, you should get a bow that fits you perfectly. You will shoot it more accurately, which leads to a higher chance of making a great shot on your animal.

Make sure you are not sacrificing success on your hunts because you’re just using what you have available. In many cases, a qualified archery shop can help you take the bow you have and make some adjustments that will improve your shooting. 

It will benefit you if you’re not sure, to find someone and ask. Does this fit me properly? Should I use a different arrow with my current setup? It may cost a small fee to get some advice from an archery pro, but don’t you want to give yourself the best chance to be successful.

If you get the right bow setup and the right arrows to match. I promise your confidence will increase.

What Makes Good Hunting Practice

Now let’s talk about practice. I ask my hunter education students, why do NBA players turn and go toward their opponent’s basket after they shoot? It’s because they expect the ball to go in the basket. When you shoot at a deer, do you want to hope it hits where you wanted or do you want to know it hit where you wanted? Well an NBA player doesn’t get where he is by luck, it took a lot of practice.

And here is the thing, you don’t need to shoot your hunting rifle every time you practice. At a dollar a bullet sometimes for ammunition, that can get expensive. But you can practice with a 22 long rifle or even a pellet gun and work on your shooting form and squeezing the trigger. The ammunition for these is way less expensive. In later podcasts, we will discuss some of the techniques I have used to help people improve their rifle shooting.

Now practicing with a bow and arrow is usually way less expensive. You can shoot an arrow, go retrieve it and shoot again. At least until you get so good you start robin hooding arrows. But my suggestion when it comes to archery practice, Practice at longer distances more than closer distances. I do this because if I get steady and proficient at 40 yards, it makes shooting at 20 yards a piece of cake.

What is Your Hunting Weapons Effective Range?

So all of this practice should lead to one thing. You should be developing your effective range. Now you may ask, what is an effective range? It is the greatest distance at which you can place a killing shot with confidence.

So to help you understand that more I will share my effective range. When I shoot my 300 Winchester Magnum at 300 yards or less, I’m confident I can put the bullet right where I want. That is my effective range with my rifle. If the deer is 350 yards, I want to get closer because I want to make sure the bullet hits the vital area. Make sense?

So to wrap this up I want you to decide what rifle is right for you. Should you continue to use your current rifle or bow? Do you need to buy a different rifle or bow? This is a personal choice. Consider the points in this podcast and decide what gives you the best chance for success.

Hunt with the right hunting weapon. You will have the confidence that you can make the shot every time. 

If anything in this podcast is tripping you up, please send me an email and ask questions. Contact me at Don’t spend too long at this step. Let’s make a decision and start practicing.

Join the Greenhorn Community

Don’t have someone in your immediate family or a close friend to show you the way? Then join me and the Greenhorn community. You can learn from us and experience the joys of hunting.

So a couple of simple ways to do that.

  1. Subscribe to this podcast.
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  3. Join the community of greenhorn hunters and greenhorn mentors at

Remember when you mentor someone, you’re making a difference. We don’t need more heroes, we need more guides.