Big Bores for Young Hunters
by Luke Hunter
Published in Airgun Hobbyist, October 2015
I remember well the first time I shot a center fire rifle big enough to harvest big game. Itwas an old .257 Roberts that my uncle loaned me; I was eleven years old. I was scared to death of the noise and recoil. Although a relatively light caliber, I remember dreading the kick of the old rifle. This occurred over fifty years ago and I have no idea of what kind of groups I shot but I bet they would have been tighter if I had been shooting one of today's modern big bore air rifles!
There is nothing that I enjoy more than introducing a newcomer to shooting and hunting. I recently had the privilege of doing just that with Zachary Young. Zachary is a fortunate young man with a great family that takes the time to keep him involved in things that are important to a youngster; baseball, fishing, shooting and now, hunting! I'm not the best with genealogy, but Zach and I share the same bloodline, Zach's grandfather Billy Kilpatrick is my nephew. I think that makes him my great, great nephew, but I'll that for you to deciper.
This summer hog hunt was my first time to meet Zach and I was very impressed with his manners and his personality. I've been a Zach fan since our first meeting. My nephew had been telling me about his grandson and how much he loved fishing and shooting. I thought it was about time for Zach to take his first big game animal and I wanted to spare him the noise and recoil that I experienced at his age. My plan was for him to spend some range time getting proficient with my 45 caliber Texan by Airforce Airguns and when he was ready, take him out to a summer hog hunt.
With target set up and Zach behind the bench, I began to slowly and methodically instruct him in the operation of the Texan. The rifle was topped with a Sun Optics USA four power scope and we adjusted the crosshairs so that they were sharp and crisp for the young shooter's eyes. I am a firm believer in the 350 grain solid lead bullets by Hunters Supply for hunting and with the Texan charged to 3,000 psi, the rifle delivers just enough "kick" and noise for the shooter to know he is pulling the trigger on a serious rifle.
Zach gave me his full attention and followed instructions flawlessly. He was far more calm than I was at his age, probably partly because of his training as hind catcher of a winning little league baseball team; a good catcher has to be calm and collected! But the fact that he was shooting a "big" air rifle without the noise and kick of a center fire probably contributed a bit to the ease of his learning curve as well! Zach would ask when he didn't understand something and I could readily see that I was dealing with a quick study!
Zach's first few shots were closely supervised. I did all the loading and watched closely as Zach pushed the safety forward into the fire position. He was shooting good groups from the beginning. After he shot several 3 shot strings, we placed a new target and with his Grandfather and myself behind him, watched as he loaded and fired the next three shot group.
When teaching youngsters to shoot, it's important not to rush things and when they make slight errors, correct them in a calm manner that doesn't shatter their confidence or rattle them to the point that they are not listening to instructions. But with safety issues, there is no room for error. Teach them that gun safety is their top priority at the bench when practicing and when hunting. When they get into a hunting situation, they will discover that things often happen quickly and they must understand the workings of their rifle so well that much of the act of actually firing the gun is second nature. Make it crystal clear that the muzzle of their rifle must ALWAYS be pointed away from others. This applies at the bench as well when in the woods hunting.
Action and quick success are two elements that are very important when teaching a youngster to fish or hunt. When fishing, it's best for kids to catch lots of bream, white bass or any "action" species that tugs on their line rather than wait for that one big bite of species that are more difficult to catch. The same holds true with hunting. It's far better for a beginning hunter to experience the thrill of at least seeing game, regardless whether he or she actually makes a harvest or not. We were hunting on a great friend's farm on Zach's first hunt and you might say the odds were definitely stacked in our favor.
Rather than target savvy older boars that often become almost entirely nocturnal, I thought it best if Zach's first hog hunt was for smaller hogs that were easy to pattern and not nearly as spooky when they came to a feeder. A group of pigs weighing 40 to 60 pounds had been hitting a corn feeder on a regular basis and early one morning, about 30 minutes before the feeder was set to sling corn, Zach, his grandfather and I were on station with the Texan.
It's rare to have the opportunity to take two hogs when hunting with one single shot rifle but that's just what happened on this hunt. About ten minutes before the feeder was set to go off, we heard the squeal of pigs moving through the brush and soon, there was a group of about eight pigs (they were moving around so much that they were difficult to count) busy vacuuming up the corn around the feeder. By the time the hogs came within view, Zach had a good rest for the Texan and his eye in the scope. I had already instructed him not to wait for instructions to shoot but rather for him to pick out a pig away from the group and when it turned broadside, shoot it low in the front shoulder.
That's exactly what he did! And QUICKLY! Within thirty seconds of the arrival of the hogs, Zach had a fat porker on the ground. At the shot, the hogs hightailed it back into the cover but we reloaded the Texan and it was Grand Pa's time to shoot! Sure enough, in about ten minutes a couple more of the naive porkers trotted back into view and another fat porker added to the upcoming family BBQ.
I wonder just how many of we older big bore air rifle shooters/hunters have given thought to the fact that a big bore air rifle might just be the perfect "first" big game rifle for younger shooters. Zach was fortunate to learn at an early age the power of air when it comes to hunting. For some of us, this knowledge came a bit later in life!
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