by Naomi K. Shapiro
To become a hunter, you don't necessarily need to spend a lot. If you're for instance a single-game (deer or turkey are examples) hunter, it won't cost you that much to outfit yourself, BUT, if you want to hunt everything, then it can run into lots and lots of money. There are all the licenses you'll need. There are the different regs that have to be met. Then there is a wealth of different equipment for different hunting - -ducks, geese, turkey, deer, varmints, grouse, bear, pheasant, coyotes - -the list is endless. And don't kid yourself- - every type of game requires at least some modification in the equipment you'll need. Decoys, ammo, firearms, bows, arrows, scopes, clothing, gear, and on and on and on. There's no limit- -and don't think there is. Every time a hunter believes s/he's fully outfitted, there's something else they discover they "really need." It's never ending, and that isn't a put down. We all do it.
Most people gradually get into the equipment they need in steps. Some start as kids, or a bit older, and build up what they need as they go along. This type of approach won't "break the bank," and pretty soon, at least the basic equipment is obtained.
Guide Phil Schweik who has been hunting since he was a kid, says that as an example, if you need equipment to deer hunt, you can outfit yourself pretty-well for under $300 – and don't laugh, he is serious when he says that. Phil works for a major outdoor outfitter, and needs to watch his dollars just as most of us have to do. The first thing Phil suggests is to look for a good used deer rifle. You can get them from almost all outdoor outfitters and gun shops - -who test, and insure their quality and safety - -or at a gun show, or maybe a private party. Every year, lots of folks decide that their hunting days are over – age, physical ability, other things that they want to do - -lots of reasons; and usually just before deer season, you'll see a ton of ads for used deer rifles. And the nice thing is that you can get a nice used rifle, anywhere from a $100 to around $200 – and yes, I know – there are used rifles that go into the thousands, but a nice conditioned .270, 7mm mag, .30/.30, or .30-06 will do you just fine. Add on a piece of needed clothing, ammo, an ancillary this-or-that, your license, and you're good to go - -at $300 or less.
Notice in our "bargain basement shop-a-thon," I didn't mention scopes. That's because it's tough to find a used scope that'll fit your particular needs. They're all different, and "no one size fits all." Phil Schweik says that a scope is really a personal thing, and pretty much needs to be "fit" to the particular firearm it's going to be used with. Phil suggests that you start out using open sights, and then when you have the cash, buy a new scope, that fits your rifle and your needs. Phil says the variety of models and costs is almost beyond description. His best advice is that you take your rifle, and go into an outdoor outfitter or gun shop, and have them make suggestions about what you'll need for your particular firearm and your own physical needs, as well. Costs of course will vary all over the map – and don't buy more than you need.
What if, for example, your perfectly trained, mild-mannered, wonderfully loyal companion is at your side performing well, when you both encounter a dog that has not been perfectly trained, is not mild-mannered or loyal, and is sick, in pain, or tired? Then this unpredictable dog approaches your dog and becomes agitated or violent. Even if your dog is perfect in every way, your dog will fight, if for no other reason than to defend himself. And, even though this is your loyal companion, your interference in this struggle can easily end in your own injury. During a dog fight, you are unrecognizable to your dog as his provider and friend. Instead, you are an obstacle to be removed so that he can get back to the task at hand.
It is important to recognize if the fight truly requires your peace-making interference. Are the dogs truly fighting or are they simply growling and threatening one another? If they are just posturing in an attempt to gain superiority or dominance, it is likely that one will submit and the other will accept the surrender. However, if the dogs are truly fighting and neither one appears ready to back down, it may require your assistance.
In your attempts to separate the dogs, do not take hold of either dog’s muzzle (it is quite probable you will be bitten). Do not yell, as this can often elevate their excitement. Do not insert yourself between the dogs, as you will become a target of their violence. Also, do not attempt to break up the fight by hitting the dogs with objects. This will increase their excitement and add pain to an already sticky situation.
There are two effective ways to bring the fight to an end. The first one involves spraying or throwing water into the dogs’ ears. This allows enough of a surprise and pause that you can intervene and pull them apart. The second method depends entirely on the presence of both owners. Both you and the other dog’s owner (or another willing bystander) grabs a dog by the hindquarters and walks them backwards. Ideally, you should walk in a circle so that the dog is a bit out of balance. Once the dogs are separate, they must stay apart for at least several hours. In most cases this will require that the dogs be tied or crated.
Call 'em varmints. Call 'em critters. Call 'em small animals. Whatever. They're available, and they're a real hoot to hunt.
Whether it be a rodent (including squirrels, chipmunks and gophers), raccoon, possum - -whatever -- hunting varmints is great sport for some people, and keeps the populations of these animals under control. (We don't consider coyotes a "varmint," so, while we haven't forgotten them, we don't include them as we feel they're a special breed apart from "the usual suspects."
State or area regs for "varmint hunting" change regularly, so check them carefully, including what/where/when you can hunt; restrictions on numbers; and what you have to do with the animals once you've killed them. Regs are particularly rigid when it comes to the use of ANY weapon in zoned/populated/incorporated areas like towns, villages or cities. All of these things should be checked thoroughly before you start playing "John Wayne".
Guide Phil Schweik relates that varmint hunting is usually the first and easiest way to have kids or novices experience hunting. It's inexpensive. It's a lot of fun, it's readily available everywhere, and It gives someone the opportunity to experience and respect the totality of being one with nature in every wondrous aspect of that scenario. And most importantly, it's a great way to teach SAFETY first hand. We're probably "preaching to the choir" when we say this, but it's absolutely essential that you have your kids or novice hunters take a hunter-safety course – and it doesn't matter if it's just to use a BB- or pellet-gun. Do it! Insist on it! Don't let anyone get near any type of weapon without the completion of a comprehensive safety course. Phil Schweik, who is as experienced an outdoorsman that has ever "walked this earth" takes a hunter safety course each and every year! And as we've said before, if it's good enough for him, it should be good enough for everyone else! Safety is always and uniquely "job one".
OK, off the "soap box" and onto the "fun."
Phil Schweik says that the first thing he used as a kid was a BB gun. You could nail a chipmunk, gopher or squirrel in the backyard -- and don't kid yourself, these critters cause a lot of property damage. They dig lots of holes, they spread disease, they damage wiring, they dig up gardens, they get into your garage and home, and all around they can be very destructive and a classic nuisance. Our fifteen years living in a home on a lake in the middle of a national forest taught us never to underestimate the destructive power of these little critters.
After using a BB gun, good numbers of people "graduate" to a pellet gun. Air-powered. And don't kid yourself, a pellet gun can be very powerful and potentially dangerous.
According to Phil, once the kid or novice hunter has the needed experience, the general and very useable "lifetime" weapon of choice for general varmint hunting is a .22 caliber rifle. We've seen varmint hunters "overcalling" with a .30-06, and even once, if you can believe it, my husband spotted a guy using a 300 grain bullet in a 45/70, short barreled guide gun on a gopher. I suppose he thought he had spotted the likes of a grizzly or bison -- and of course a 45/70 has a kick worse than a "boilermaker" with a double shot of rot gut. Phil suggests a .22 autoloader, which can fire semi-automatically with large numbers of bullets available. Lots of hunters enjoy this type of shooting and many have started using a "beamed" laser scope. These .22 caliber rifle outfits are not particularly expensive, and they're light, simple to maintain, and easy to operate. And one of the reasons hunters like this type of setup is that these animals are small and fast -- the laser scope really helps. And if you think it doesn't take skill to shoot one, you're wrong. The animals are fast. They skedaddle all over the place, turn on a dime, and can quickly disappear up the backside of a tree.
What do you do with the critters once you've shot them? Depending on the regs, you can bury them, OR leave them for a day or so. In the forest nothing is ever wasted, so check in the morning after some varmint is shot and it likely will be gone. Nature has its own special way of "clean up." Just ask any crow, weasel, or feral cat.
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