An Introduction to Hunting and Rifle Selection
“One shot at a time,” a simple phrase I’ve repeated more than once. It’s a hunting reference, meaning you normally have one opportunity at a time to dispatch an animal accurately and humanely. It also carries a larger meaning for me though when it comes to introducing prospective hunters to hunting for the first time.
It would be a true understatement just to say that there’s a lot that goes into hunting. There is an incredible amount of knowledge and skill required to make a successful hunt. But if you take one shot at a time, meaning tackling one element of hunting at a time and not getting ahead of yourself, eventually you will have all the pieces necessary to be successful. You may not actually take any game your first time, but that’s what makes it a hunt. Nothing is guaranteed. Everything must be worked at. And nature will always remain unforgiving.
Hopefully, I haven’t scared you away though, because hunting is an enjoyable and fulfilling activity that offers great satisfaction, especially when it comes to being able to put food on your table that you have harvested and processed yourself. Hunting is for anyone with a healthy respect for nature and enough discipline to learn the ins and outs of the process. I encourage men and women, young and old to explore hunting and what it can offer.
If you’ve thought about exploring hunting but felt daunted by the steep learning curve, I have a few tips that I’ve shared with Los Ranchos Gun Shop customers before. Follow these and you will be well on your way to becoming a successful hunter.
First, as with all firearm related practices, know the laws. I can’t overstate this enough. Not only is proper gun safety essential, it’s just as important to know the laws surrounding hunting in New Mexico. Here is a quick and easy link to begin familiarizing yourself with the hunting laws in our state.
It may sound like a lot already, but I am going to give you the most helpful piece of advice right now: find an experienced hunter and learn everything you can from them. Your best source for easy-to-follow knowledge and advice is going to be from someone who is already familiar with the hunting process in New Mexico. As long as you know them to be safe gun handlers and ethical hunters, it’s the perfect way to discover and fall in love with the world of hunting.
Don’t personally know anyone that hunts? That’s okay too. Like almost everything else in life there are people who you can hire just for this purpose. A competent hunting guide will help you learn everything from rifle and caliber selection, to drawing for a hunt, scouting, field dressing an animal and even processing the meat in some cases. As far as rifle choice, that’s where we really shine at Los Ranchos Gun Shop. We can make helpful recommendations to make sure you have the right equipment for maximum success. Some things we suggest include considering synthetic stocks for hunting here in the desert. Many of the hunting grounds in the southwest require hiking and the harsh high desert climate can be unforgiving on a wood stock that traditionally comes on some bolt action rifles.
Speaking of bolt action rifles, those will probably be your primary choice for best all-around hunting rifle because of their ease of use, mechanical simplicity, and the fact that you will only be taking one shot at a time in the field. There are alternatives though, including lever-action, pump rifles and, of course, modern sporting rifles, which are semi-automatic but can still serve the same function as a hunting rifle.
You will also need a good scope to magnify your field of vision. The typical distance for hunting takes place within 300 yards, so a 3×9 or 4×12 scope should be more than sufficient. Having a properly mounted scope and proper rifle set up will yield much better results than something straight out of the box. We have expert armorers and gunsmiths at Los Ranchos Gun Shop that can help you choose the right gear and provide services from mounting an optic, to bedding the action and floating the barrel for improved accuracy and stability.
As a general rule, a lighter hunting rifle will often be more expensive because of the engineering and machining required to cut weight while still remaining rugged and accurate. That’s not to say that you need to fork over a lot of cash for a good hunting rifle. We frequently recommend Ruger and Savage Arms as well-known manufacturers of hunting rifles that offer very affordable and durable firearms.
Hunting calibers and ammunition are also important subjects to discuss. While it would probably take several articles to cover every detail, there are a couple of crucial points to remember. First, you always want to use dedicated hunting ammo – soft-tipped, non-jacketed bullets that will dispatch an animal quickly and humanely. Using jacketed range rounds can result in a shot passing right through the animal without killing it. The objective of a good hunter is always to shoot to kill, rather than just maiming the animal and causing unnecessary pain or injury.
Generally, calibers under .30 are great for smaller game and varmints. These calibers include the 25-06, 22-250 and the common .223 rounds. For larger game such as elk, oryx and antelope, you should consider rounds that are .30 and up, including 30-06, 30-30 Winchester, 308 and 6.5 Creedmoor.
As with a self-defense handgun or any other firearm, fit and feel is crucial. You must have a rifle that fits your body properly and feels comfortable to use if you want to be successful in the field. Come visit us at Los Ranchos Gun Shop in Los Ranchos, New Mexico, and we can help you select the best hunting rifle that you feel comfortable handling. We are always here to answer any questions you may have. We look forward to sharing our hunting expertise and enthusiasm with you.