Handgun hunting should be all about matching your skills against the game animal so you can stalk within your effective range and make a clean, humane kill. What pleases most of us handgun hunters is the challenge of using woodscraft to get close to the game. In fact, the hunter who is enamored with long-range shooting might be happier sticking with rifle hunting.
For this reason, the handgun hunter should never pass up an opportunity to study game animals, learn their habits and practice stalking skills. Going out in the offseason and just wandering the woods can be extremely educational as well as a nice way to spend a day. The more one knows about the habits of wild animals and the use of terrain and cover, the better handgun hunter one will be. It also helps to have the mindset that allows you to pass up a shot at a trophy animal when you know it is beyond your maximum effective range and there is no way of getting any closer. Wish that buck a good day as it wanders over yonder hill or, better yet, plan for how you will ambush it tomorrow.
Another critical gun-handling consideration is the fact that most handgun hunters use a revolver and cock the hammer to make an accurate single-action shot at game. So far, this is the recipe for success. However, the hunter may get into position and cock the handgun only to find the game has moved and there is no longer a clear shot. So the hunter quickly jumps up to find a new position while holding a cocked gun and stumbling around on rocky, uneven ground. The plan has just turned into a recipe for disaster.
One can certainly let the hammer down and then cock it from a new position. However, another method is to simply put the thumb of the support hand between the hammer and the gun frame. The fingers of the support hand cup the frame and trigger guard and the gun is held safely and securely.
Finally, you may have noticed that throughout this piece I refer to practice. That is simply because making an accurate shot with a handgun is difficult, more so than with a rifle. The more practice sessions you put in before your hunt, the greater your chances of success.
Another way to increase your chances of success measurably is to attend a good handgun hunting school. Instructors can quickly and easily diagnose your problems and offer sound corrective measures. They will show you some solid shooting positions and greatly improve your marksmanship and gun-handling skills. In short, they will cover the things that I have mentioned in this article and give the student good, sound suggestions for implementing them.
For the past couple of years, I have participated in Gunsite Academy’s new handgun hunting class. A group of us gun writers and industry folks played students and helped the Gunsite staff hone the curriculum to meet the needs of the handgun hunter. This class was scheduled so that it coincided with the opening of the Arizona javelina season, allowing students to take their freshly tuned skills out and match them against this great Southwestern game animal.
Ed Head, operations manager, tells me the Gunsite Handgun Hunting Class is now available to the public. Contact him at 928-636-4565 for details, or visit www.gunsite.com.
Another shooting school I recommend is Thunder Ranch in Oregon (541-947-4104). Clint Smith, the facility’s head honcho, is one of the best, most practical instructors working today. He is an outdoorsman and a handgun hunter who can have a student headed in the right direction in no time flat.
The value of attending a professional shooting school cannot be minimized. You can practice on your own for years and still not have the kind of success that a few days at a shooting school will provide. Shooting schools are relatively expensive but the good ones are worth it, and that’s why I only recommend those I have personally attended.