A couple of years ago, I penned a piece for the blog highlighting the value that hunting may have for the average concealed carry civilian. I stand by what I wrote and it is still one of my personal favorite articles. I thought I would revisit the subject and share a little of what I’ve been up to that doesn’t necessarily fall under the normal content covered on the blog.
I maintain the opinion that hunting is a useful hobby for defensive minded individuals, for a variety of reasons, and is central to being comfortable with guns for many Americans. Just a few months ago, on the Civilian Carry Radio podcast, Tom Givens explained one reason for the loss of American familiarity with guns by highlighting the fact that in his childhood, 50% of Americans held hunting licenses. Now, that number is only 8%. I’m old enough to have witnessed some of that decline, as Tom further explained that during the Reagan years, the balance of majority rural population tipped over to a majority urban population. While today there is no doubt a strong urban gun culture, fewer and fewer people are growing up around guns in the home, and not many city dwellers really understand where the food they eat comes from.
This past week, I had ample opportunity to contemplate the subject in some 45 hours spent sitting in deer stands while the deer were unfortunately not moving. (I had only one shooting opportunity the entire week, and I missed that one. Doh! My shot went low at 150 yards, and I only nicked him on the belly. Found a tuft of white hair and two small drops of blood, and he was long gone to be hunted another day.)
Before my hunting trip even began, the first thought that occurred to me was refining the concept of gear layering. 1st line, 2nd line, and 3rd line. Or if you prefer, primary, secondary, and tertiary. My primary gear was carried on my person, in pockets or on my belt. Secondary gear was carried in a butt pack, and could be ditched if necessary. I didn’t really have tertiary gear in this instance, but my gear bag in camp could potentially be categorized in that manner. In a long range patrolling context, this is typically broken down into gear carried on the body for 1st line, gear carried on a battle belt or chest rig for 2nd line, and a pack carried on top of all that as 3rd line. These items are ditched in inverse order to gain increased mobility. Going back to hunting, I actually do often mimic this practice when hunting locally, with secondary gear carried in a Hill People Kit Bag or vest, and my butt pack representing the tertiary load-out. This also somewhat applies to life as a concealed carry practitioner, especially if you incorporate an EDC bag or a get home bag into your daily travels. Basically, it comes down to prioritizing the importance of the items you carry, with those that you judge most vital carried at all times, with no intention of ditching them. I lump my pistol, a flashlight, a knife, my wallet, my phone, and a tourniquet into that category. I may carry other stuff with me in a winter coat or a bag that stays with me whether I’m in my personal car or the ambulance, but the items above are always with me. In that manner, my EDC is essentially my 1st line gear.
The next thing that I had a lot of time to think about was emotional control. As a relatively new hunter, I can attest that “buck fever” is real. While this physiological response is quite different than being faced with a lethal threat, it is also very similar. If you refer back to my AAR of Mike Pannone’s Advanced Pistol Class, specifically the discussion of using available time and perception of available time, this is directly related. Now, I know that my rifle is capable of the shot I missed. I’m personally capable of the shot I missed. I’ve shot further on a range multiple times when I’ve zeroed my rifles. But when I spotted the buck and perceived a brief window of opportunity on a moving target, I missed. In truth, I probably had the time needed to refine my aim, I just didn’t perceive that time. This is no doubt due to my lack of experience shooting at wild game. There are corollaries here for those of us that pack weapons to defend ourselves in high stress situations. As was mentioned by the SWAT cop in our group, you will fall back on your training when someone is trying to kill you. Make sure it’s good training. I never had the opportunity during the week for another shot, but I can guarantee my mindset about taking another shot was different after I missed.
This leads directly into the next thing that occurred to me as I sat and waited and watched in a stand. Weapons proficiency is just as vital for hunters as it is for concealed carriers. Being able to safely load and unload your weapon, and knowing it’s status is of vital importance when moving to and from a deer stand and being driven to and from stand sites in vehicles and ATVs. In addition, with a group of hunters in close proximity, established safety protocols are needed to prevent injury. Unfortunately, in hunting environments, this isn’t always the case. I didn’t get all the details, but the lodge owner related how a client once shot him in the lower leg with a .44 magnum at close range while trying to shoot a hog. Carry a tourniquet!
A further corollary of weapons proficiency is positional shooting. Now, there are those who may suggest that shooting from a blind or stand doesn’t involve much positional shooting, but I would argue that the lesson of “place the weapon, then place yourself” that I learned from both Kyle Defoor and Mike Pannone when shooting from behind barricades and around vehicles was echoing in my head as I figured out how to best rest my rifle and line up shots while sitting in the stands.
Finally, I want to talk a little bit about knife fighting. Now, I have mixed feelings on relying on a knife for self defense, but I have still trained on some ways to do so. The reason that this came to mind is directly related to Kyle Defoor’s discussion of “switches and timers” in relation to anatomical targeting with weapons systems. After a week of seeing no game, we had the opportunity to change tactics and hunt for hogs with dogs. This hunt culminated with my friend dispatching a hog with a knife placed in the heart of the hog. In Defoor’s parlance, this would be a “timer” dependent on the hog bleeding out. Conversely, a “switch” would be a .30-06 bullet in the hog’s ear and head. Returning to the knife fight analogy, understanding correct targeting anatomy and the bleeding involved is the key takeaway here. We didn’t have to change clothes or anything, but stabbing a hog is a somewhat messy affair, as dispatching the hog relies on exsanguination. Stab it in the wrong place, and you’re not going to get the desired effect. Now, some may be uncomfortable with the visual of running a hog down with dogs and killing it with a knife, but I think it is a useful exercise for someone who legitimately relies on a knife for personal defense, just to get a taste of the physical realities involved. I intend to take an old Ontario Combat Knife with me next year and find out for myself (it’s the only knife I own that’s big enough). Can we say barbecue?
These are just some of the many things that I had time to contemplate last week. I enjoy hunting for a variety of reasons, and the opportunity to practice lessons from previous training is just one facet that I wanted to explore here.
Now, because we all like gear, I want to talk a little about my new rifle. I’ve always hunted previously with an old Browning A-Bolt II chambered in .30-06. It is an eminently capable and refined weapon, but I really want to get a new stock with a reduced length of pull to update it to better suit my stature and needs. Having read a great deal about the 6.5 Creedmoor, and it’s recent explosion onto the hunting scene, I decided it was time for a new hunting rifle. We live in a time when budget rifles are capable of great accuracy and incorporate many innovative design features that stem from their more expensive and higher end predecessors. Accordingly, I selected a Browning AB3 Micro Stalker chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. The “Micro” denotes it as a “youth” model (see my previous post on adults using youth models). Compared to my .30-06, the new rifle is an absolute joy to shoot, and is probably the most accurate rifle I own. It is comparatively lightweight, short, and handy. I topped it with a Leupold VX3i 2.5-8×36. The scope is compact and offers sufficient magnification for the kind of hunting I envision.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is an interesting development. From my research, I understand that while metric calibers have not been historically embraced by Americans, the 6.5 bullet has a long history in European weapons, and has almost a magical ballistic coefficient that lends itself to superb accuracy with retained terminal ballistic effect. Flat shooting, low recoil, and sufficient knock down power. What’s not to love? I will probably take my .30-06 for bear, and I would love to hunt with my .30-30 for the sheer nostalgia of it, but the 6.5 Creedmoor is the new jewel in my collection of hunting implements, and I intend to put quite a bit of time in behind the trigger as I practice for future hunts.
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