Hunting and Defensive Shooting… Huh?

For many of us in North America, November is synonymous with hunting season… White-tailed deer is a typical quarry, but for the purposes of this discussion, I refer to almost any big game hunting. So why am I discussing hunting on a blog largely dedicated to civilian self-defense? Simply because I think that the practice has some relevance and value for those of us that choose to carry a gun for self-defense. Hear me out…

I didn’t grow up hunting and only started hunting a few years ago. Fortunately, I have some good mentors and hunting buddies, and I live in an area where hunting opportunities are readily available. I enjoy and support hunting for a lot of reasons, ranging from wildlife conservation and spending time in the outdoors to stocking my freezer with meat that’s probably better than what’s available in the grocery. The argument can certainly be made that no one needs to hunt with the widespread availability of meat and even exotic game in local groceries, but that is a different discussion.

I think that learning to hunt can benefit the individual that chooses to carry a gun for self-defense in a few different ways…

First, there are many that suggest that the act of killing an animal is somewhat of a rite of passage in developing the emotional maturity to be prepared to kill another human in self-defense. While I don’t think it’s a necessary step, I do acknowledge that there may be some value in knowing that you can indeed kill another living thing.

Fundamentally, once someone decides that they will do whatever is necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones, pulling the trigger is not an issue. Indeed, this is where training comes in. If you’ve trained to respond to lethal threats with lethal force, then it is more likely that you will respond appropriately when the time comes. I distinctly remember from my first concealed carry permit class when Tom Givens explained the gravity of the decision to carry a firearm, telling us that we needed to look ourselves in the mirror each day and acknowledge the fact that we might have to shoot someone. I have no doubt that there are some who choose NOT to carry for that very reason, and while I don’t agree with that decision, I can respect it.

But what about hunting? I have pulled the trigger on an animal, and so far it’s the closest I’ve come to knowing how I’ll react when there is a definitive consequence to that trigger pull. As a veteran street medic, I have a somewhat different approach to death and mortality that many would be uncomfortable with, but nonetheless, I still think my hunting experiences have tempered my training experiences with guns.

Aside from the nebulous psychology of killing, there are other good practical reasons to hunt with firearms…

Hunting provides an environment where muzzle awareness and trigger discipline are vital, and requires safe gun handling. Anyone who has completed a hunter safety education course should understand the importance of gun safety while out in the field or in camp. While hunting is hopefully not a two-way range, it also isn’t a flat range and forces you to think about safe gun manipulation, shot placement, and what lies beyond your target in real terms.

Regarding shot placement, hunters owe the animal a quick death and clean kill with a well-aimed shot. Similarly, shot placement is of paramount concern to the armed citizen who is trying to immediately and effectively stop an assailant that may be superimposed upon a background of friendlies. Furthermore, hunters may be better equipped to visualize the true center of mass and accurately judge shot placement on the anatomically vital areas of an adversary that may not necessarily be squared off and upright. This is a fundamental skill that is taught and continually reiterated in hunter education.

Still other important lessons can be learned and reinforced while hunting. Consider tactical patience and improvised positions as two further examples…

When I shot my first game animal, I recall bracing my rifle against a tree in an improvised position, looking through the scope, and patiently waiting for the animal to turn and present an ideal shot. As far as improvised positions are concerned, hunters ideally learn to find a natural point of aim and subconsciously use environmental features to their advantage rather than relying on a perfect stance or a shooting bench.

For some, hunting may present an opportunity to use their actual home defense weapon and ammunition. Many states restrict hunting calibers and weapon choices, but others do not. While there are obviously distinct differences, deer do have some physiological similarity to humans. Likewise, valuable insights can be gained about ammunition performance when hunting wild boar or feral hogs, and hunting regulations are generally much more lenient in regards to feral hog populations. Texas, as one example, doesn’t much care when, where, or what you shoot a hog with on private land. If you want to test out your super-duper new precision AR with a night vision scope, go for it! Want to see how well your carry ammo penetrates? You can find out! (But please use enough gun, hogs are tough…)

Finally, if successful, the hunt will involve at the very least field dressing the animal. This is important simply to prepare for the blood and guts involved in gunfights. I’ve treated a number of stabbing and shooting victims, and they can sometimes be quite bloody and messy. For those of you that aren’t in the medical field, there may be some value to seeing what an actual gunshot wound looks like.

If hunting isn’t for you, no problem… But do consider the implications and think about the issues. Perhaps learning to hunt may even help to bridge the gap and bring together some disparate groups for the common good. Remember, in terms of our gun rights, whether we’re hunters, concealed carriers, competitive target shooters, or part of the growing urban-dwelling gun culture 2.0, we’re all on the same side!

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