Big-game hunting season is upon us. If you are a long-time hunter, you know how important preparing for the hunt is. Those people new to hunting will need to choose which caliber of gun to hunt with, and head to the range for practice.
I’ve been asked several times, “What is the best hunting rifle for a lady?” My answer is simply, “The one she is most comfortable with using.”
I have been hunting big game with a Winchester Model 70 .270 for years. Why do I use this rifle? I’ve used it for so long that, quite frankly, it is the most comfortable gun for me to carry, aim and shoot. The .270 is a caliber that is legal in Colorado for shooting big game. It uses a somewhat lighter bullet at a high velocity, which gives it a flatter trajectory. It can reach out and knock down a target at relatively long distances, if necessary.
In thinking about my hunting rifle and why I use it, I decided to ask some other accomplished hunters what caliber gun they use for big-game hunting.
Kirstie Pike, owner of Próis Hunting & Field Apparel, shoots a Remington 700 XHR .30-06. She even recently used it to harvest a mountain goat. The .30-06 is an old favorite for many hunters. My dad hunted with one when I was a child. It is available with a heavier bullet than a .270 and really packs a punch. When I asked Kirstie why she chose to hunt with this caliber, she said, “It’s what I have always hunted with and I am most comfortable with, too.”
Danica Harker, a Babes, Bullets, & Broadheads staffer, shoots a Tikka T3 .300 Winchester Short Magnum. She has hunted multiple big-game species with her rifle and she says she uses it because it shoots far and flat. She said it “fits like a glove.”
Olympic biathletes Lanny and Tracy Barnes hunt with a Browning A-Bolt .270. “It shoots flat and straight. I’ve never had a problem taking down an elk in 1 shot with it. Often times, people try to compensate for a poorly placed shot by using a higher caliber,” said Lanny.
Lanny brings up a good point. We need to be well practiced with our guns. Having a rifle that is sighted in is important, and so is double-checking it before a hunt. In addition, it is recommended to practice different shooting positions while at the range.
When LG and I are hunting, we rarely will be in a situation that is akin to sitting at a shooting bench. A hunter should practice the 4 shooting positions, as well as practice rapid reload and shot sequences.
LG spends a lot of time practicing before her big-game hunts. She has harvested mule deer, elk and black bear. She is a relatively new hunter and is developing her rifle preference. She has hunted and harvested animals with 7mm-08, .308 and .243 calibers.
You may wonder why we’ve chosen to try out various calibers with her. First, the .243 is legal for deer, but not elk or bear in our state of Colorado. LG used the .243 to harvest her first doe when she was 12-years old. We wanted her to be comfortable with shooting, so we opted for the .243 because it was a lighter caliber, and less recoil. It is a fast-flying bullet, but does not offer the same kinetic energy, i.e., knockdown power, of a larger caliber. When LG drew her first elk tag, we graduated her up to a caliber that was not only legal, but also would not have trouble penetrating the vitals of a larger animal – a youth model 7mm-08. She liked this gun for hunting because it was light and easy for her to pack around. Since she is small in stature, the youth model fits her well. She is still comfortable with it. The 7mm-08 offers a heavier grain bullet than a .270, but does not have as much kinetic energy.
This past year LG harvested her first black bear with a .308-caliber rifle. We traveled out of the country for the hunt, and the outfitter loaned her his gun. LG sighted in the .308 before we started hunting. She became confident with it and ultimately tagged her first bear.
Regardless of the caliber you choose for hunting, practice is important. The more comfortable you are with your gun, the better your shot placement will be. That type of confidence aids you greatly when you’re hunting.