Learn to Hunt: Choose Your Hunting Weapon Wisely

Learn to Hunt: Choose Your Hunting Weapon Wisely

In this post, I will go into a bit of detail about the types of weapons commonly used for hunting. Your choice of hunting weapon will largely depend on the type of game you are hunting, and your personal preference. The 3 main weapons (that I am familiar with) are rifles, shotguns, and archery equipment.

Rifle – The Long Range Hunting Weapon

A rifle is a type of firearm designed to be held with both hands.  To increase stability, the butt of the stock is secured firmly in the shoulder.  Rifles have rifled barrels, which allow the rifle to have the greatest accuracy and range of all hunting weapons.
Savage 110 Hunter Rifle. A great hunting weapon for long range hunting
The Savage Arms 100 Hunter Centerfire Rifle
Rifles are split into 2 categories: rimfire rifles and centerfire rifles.  Rimfire rifles shoot cartridges of the following calibers: .22 Short, .22 Long Rifle, .22 WMR, .17 HM2, and .17 HMR.  These are smaller calibers than centerfire rifles, and generally are too small to be legal to use when hunting big game.  However, rimfire rifles are great rifles to learn to shoot.  This is because their ammunition is incredibly cheap.  For example, 500 rounds of .22 LR ammo can be purchased at a local store for $3.99.  Rimfire rifles are generally used for small game hunting (rabbit, squirrel, etc.).  Centerfire rifles, on the other hand, shoot larger caliber ammunition and generally used for killing big game species (deer, wild pig, elk, moose, bear, etc.). Rifles have a few different types of actions:


A shotgun is another type of firearm that is designed to be held with both hands, and with the butt of the stock secured firmly in the shoulder in order to provide stability.  Shotguns can either be used to shoot multiple small projectiles in a single shot (e.g., using buckshot for hunting deer, or using smaller shot for hunting small game and birds), or a single projectile (called a slug, and used for hunting bigger game like deer, bear, etc.).
Mossberg 500 Shotgun. A great hunting weapon for turkey and waterfowl.
Mossberg 500 Pump Action Shotgun
Compared to rifles, shotguns are used for significantly shorter range hunting.  While some hunters are capable of obtaining consistent accuracy out to 600 yards, shotgun hunting is usually limited to less than 100 yards. Shotguns can be split into the following types of actions:

Archery – The Close Quarters Hunting Weapon

Archery equipment involves arrows and bows.  In regards to bowhunting, archery equipment can generally be split into two categories: traditional bows and compound bows.  Traditional bows include both longbows and recurve bows, and generally do not have any sights on the bows.  Also, traditional bows are generally made out of wood, fiberglass, or a combination.
A longbow

Archery Seasons

A compound bow
A compound bow
There are some weapons that are allowed to be used during archery seasons, but many hunters in the community (especially the traditional bowhunter community) do not consider them to be proper archery equipment.  These weapons are crossbows and airbows. It might sound elitist to not consider crossbows and airbows acceptable equipment for bowhunting, but there is a some reasoning behind it. Many bowhunters view bowhunting as a greater challenge than firearm hunting. The archery deer seasons generally start earlier than the firearm seasons, so bowhunters get a small amount of time to try to harvest some game without the large masses of people that come out for firearm seasons.  With firearms, as long as the scope is properly zeroed, you can usually forgo shooting practice completely and still be accurate enough to make an ethical kill.  However, bowhunters have to continuously practice shooting in order to be accurate enough to make the shot.  Also, bowhunters have to get much closer to the animal than firearm hunters (longbow hunters usually try to be within 20 yards of the animal). As such, many bowhunters consider the crossbows and airbows to be somewhat of a cheat since you don’t have to continuously practice and you have a much greater range.

My Hunting Weapon of Choice, The Longbow

I have chosen, at least for now, to pursue traditional archery (specifically, the longbow) as my choice of hunting weapon. I’ve heard that traditional archery hunting is significantly harder than rifle or shotgun hunting, and that it is not the best choice for new hunters.  It make sense, since I feel that I am accurate enough to take a deer at up to 200 yards with a rifle, but I am only accurate enough to take a deer at 15 yards with my longbow. So, why have I chosen a longbow instead of a rifle? I’m not entirely sure of the real reason for me choosing the longbow, but I do know what I have told myself are the reasons. My entire career focuses on staying on the cutting edge of technology.  I spend most of my work days implementing new algorithms in scientific models, modifying the code to be efficient on new architectures, learning about potential future architectures, etc.  I think that I was drawn to traditional bowhunting because it is old technology.  Traditional bows have been used for upwards of 64,000 years, and I wanted to pursue the less technological means of hunting. This trait of mine also shows up in my woodworking where I only use hand tools. A second reason could be that it was much cheaper to start traditional archery. In fact, my first longbow was one that I made from a $10 piece of wood. So it seemed like an easier way for me to get into hunting to see if it is something that I want to continue prior to putting very much money into it. Of course, I could get frustrated with longbow hunting and switch to using a rifle. We shall see…

Additional Reading

For a more in-depth analysis of the 3 types of hunting weapons discussed in this post (or for more complete hunting information than I will be able to give on this site), I would STRONGLY recommend The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Volume 1: Big Game.  I haven’t read the 2nd volume, but based on the content in Volume 1 I plan to read it.  It is The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Volume 2: Small Game and Fowl. What do you prefer?  Comment with your hunting weapon of choice!

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