Finding a way to squeeze hunting into that ever-growing list of expenses is getting tougher for even the most well-to-do outdoorsman. Not to worry, though, the editors of American Hunter magazine are here to help. While we know that the newest and most expensive gear can get those pages turning, it is of the utmost importance that we aid our readers in the quest to find hunting's hidden bargains. So, read up, save some cash and enjoy the hunt.
Save Money on Ammo with Dry Practice
What used to be a rather cheap day of shooting at the range now must be carefully considered before one spends upwards of $60 for a box of ammo. But we needn't spend $120-$180 every time we shoot. We can save money and still get in quality time on the range. The key lies in dry practice. I call it dry practice rather than dry-firing because we don't really fire a gun during such sessions. Rather, we practice firing an unloaded gun. (No, it won't harm your gun, no matter what Uncle John says.)
It's key to working on the fundamentals of marksmanship. Problems associated with jerking the trigger and failing to follow through are hard to pinpoint during recoil. But they can be diagnosed easily when the gun doesn't actually go boom.
1.) Begin and end every range session with 10 minutes of dry practice. Pay particular attention to the following:
2.) "Snap in" to various field positions. Shooting off a bench prepares you for nothing in the field.
3.) After you obtain sight alignment and sight picture, focus solely on the front sight or reticle-the target should be blurry. Hold your breath and gently squeeze the trigger. Its break should come as a surprise.
4.) Follow through. This is crucial, because dwell time-the period between when the trigger breaks and the bullet actually leaves the barrel-is long enough to affect point of impact if you don't hold still. Your attention should be so riveted on the front sight or reticle than you can actually tell where either are when the trigger breaks. Being able to "call your shots" pays dividends when you follow-up wounded game.
5.) Work the bolt and prepare for another shot-immediately-without breaking position. Never "admire your shot." Doing so may cost you a trophy. --J. Scott Olmsted, Editor-in-Chief
The Cheapskate Hunter
What's the most abundant game animal in the nation, and one that nobody cares if you hunt? Squirrels, of course!
If you're starved for hunting action and for tasty protein, you have several options. Look online to find public hunting areas in your state; Wildlife Management Areas and National Forests are ideal. All of them that contain trees that harbor squirrels. If you have any friends who own forested land outside of the city limits, ask if you can have permission to go squirrel hunting.
You'll need a small game license and possibly a WMA or National Forest permit before hunting. Grab your old .22 rifle and a box of LR cartridges, or your shotgun and some No. 6s, put on tree-colored clothing and go. Once in the woods, you'll need woodscraft, patience and a keen aim, but all of these are free. If you get lucky and bag a bushytail or two, you'll need a knife, some flour, salt and a good spouse to make the gravy. These things can be fairly costly, but not overbearing. --Jeff Johnston, Senior Editor
The $50 Private Hunting Club
Land access is an increasing challenge, one to which outdoor writers are not immune. I've spent the last four years living in a county of 1 million people outside Washington, D.C. I can't afford a lease; urban sprawl is constantly eroding open spaces; and the nearest substantial public land is two hours away.
Utterly frustrated and out of ideas, I was about to plop down two-week's pay for a duck lease when I learned a nearby military base allows hunting for deer, turkeys and waterfowl. Problem solved. I wrote a check for $50 to the base-a fraction of what any lease costs-and was given an ID card permitting me to hunt waterfowl.
Many bases throughout the country allow hunting by military personnel as well as the general public to manage wildlife and boost soldier morale. For a nominal fee, you'll be a member of a pseudo-private hunting club, with access to vast tracts of land depending on the base. You may have to pass an archery or firearms proficiency test, so practice up. To inquire about the hunting opportunities at a base near you, visit themilitaryzone.com. --Kyle Wintersteen, Senior Associate Editor