Getting into the hunt can be a daunting prospect for someone who has never done it before. The responsible future hunter wants to make the right equipment choices, a process that can sometimes be complicated and confusing, depending on the source of information sought. Even veterans sometimes fall victim to prioritizing conventional wisdom or traditions over old-fashioned common sense. For instance …
• Crossbows are more effective long-range weapons. Not really. Part of the blame here lies with the crossbow manufacturers, who boast of long-range accuracy, up to 60, 70 or even 100 meters. These are not false claims, but they are a bit misleading. With proper practice and under controlled conditions (shooting from a windless bench at an inanimate target), they are able to shoot accurately up to this distance. But compound bows are also in experienced hands.
The only real difference is that crossbows take less time to become effective and the shooter does not have to draw the bow in the presence of game. Otherwise, their trajectory and effective range are very similar. If you are a gun hunter looking to extend your season and range over a compound bow, you might be disappointed with this one.
• Some hunters claim you need a heavier, slower, round-tipped bullet to get through the thick brush often found in the Maine woods, sacrificing the increased accuracy and flatter trajectory of other calibers and bullets. This one has actually been put through its paces in a variety of tests and it turns out that a 150 grain spitzer fired from a .308 or a 30-06 is no more likely to deflect that a 180 grain soft point shot from a 30-30 or a savage .300. The biggest difference here is that older cartridges provide better trajectory at long range. Regarding the kinetic energy on the target, if you put the ball on the target, any of the above will do its job.
On a somewhat similar note, there are controversies over which caliber is large enough for large game like deer, bear, and moose. Some say you need a bigger caliber, heavier bullet, and more kinetic energy. The answer here is similar. People kill deer with a bow and arrow, so if you get the projectile in the right spot you can go pretty light – a plus for younger or smaller hunters.
• Heavier loads are more effective for shotguns. Although this is sometimes true, it is not always the case. Heavier 3 1/2 inch magnum loads have more shot and powder, so intuitively they should outperform 3 inch loads. However, each pistol-choker combination handles loads differently. The key is patterning – how many pellets your gun puts in a 30 inch circle at a given distance. With a little range testing, many hunters find that their weapon model is better with lighter loads, and there is less punishment on the shoulder.
• Fixed flush heads are more effective than mechanical ones. One of the disadvantages of mechanical or extendable heads is that they lose energy when opening. How much energy do you need? Not too long ago we were shooting bows that fired arrows much slower and imparted much less kinetic energy to the target, and we were still killing deer. As stated above, if you put the arrow in the right place, it will do its job.
• Another problem is that extensions are more prone to malfunctions. There was a time when that might have been true. Broadhead manufacturers want people to buy their products and keep buying them, and they will lose customers who fail. Modern expandable flush heads are extremely reliable. They also offer at least one significant benefit. Because they don’t have the hovering wings of fixed-blade heads, they fly like terrain spikes, so they require far less tuning and tinkering to ensure proper flight.
These are just a few examples. Calling on experienced hunters is always a good way to learn, but don’t hesitate to be skeptical if you think their advice lacks logic. It never hurts to get a second opinion.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered guide from Maine who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]
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