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The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game: Volume 1: Big Game Paperback – Illustrated, August 18, 2015
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Gear is like booze. As you get older, you realize that quality is more important than quantity. I’d rather own one reliable, straight-shooting rifle than an arsenal of cheaply built guns. But a painful fact about high-quality hunting gear is that it tends to come at a high price. When you’re considering your gear budget, it’s important to step back and take a wide-angle look at your spending habits. I was once hunting elk in Montana when a guy pulled up to a trailhead in a shiny new $40,000 pickup in order to study a distant mountainside through a pair of $20 binoculars that would do little more than impair his natural vision. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if that guy actually owned that truck, but you get my point: a serious hunter would have sacrificed the status car in order to afford a set of hard-core binoculars that could tear the mountainside to shreds.
That said, it’s certainly true that gear does not make the man (or woman). If you don’t have the discipline and drive to become a good hunter, no amount of high-dollar equipment is going to make up for that. But my theory on gear is that the hunter should be the weakest link on a hunt. I expect my gear to outperform me, so I have only myself to blame for my hunting failures. If I bail on a hunt early, it better be because I couldn’t hack it, not because the sole of my boot peeled off or my rifle scope started making rattling noises after getting dinged on a rock.
When it comes to selecting hunting gear, I’ve found that personal recommendations from experienced hunters are far more valuable than any insights you might glean from reading descriptions about a product in catalogs. When a hunter tells me that he’s been using a piece of gear for three seasons and has logged dozens of days in the field with it, I start to listen. In fact, most of the gear that you’ll encounter in the following pages came to my attention in just that way: as recommendations from folks I trust. I then put the items through my own series of tests. The opinions that you’ll be reading in this section come from decades of serious hunting, years that have been punctuated with many moments of great triumph—and many more moments of misery and frustration.
Don’t be intimidated by anyone’s experience, including mine. There have been and still are a few good writers with vast experience in the firearms field. There are also plenty of plain old fools writing about guns and shooting and plenty of younger fools, as well. Gun writers, especially those who have to produce a regular column, love controversy. That column becomes a beast that must be fed every month, so the columnist is always hungry for something to write about and controversial ideas generate reader interest and response. Perhaps it is understandable if they sometimes go overboard. Just don’t go overboard with them.
Hunters take the subject of rifles so seriously that arguments about calibers can literally end friendships. People are willing to go to blows in defense of their favorite gun’s reputation, and I suppose it’s for good reason. Your rifle is one of your most important pieces of big game hunting gear. If you lack faith in your rifle’s ability to shoot straight and true, it becomes hard to perform all the necessary work that goes into a successful hunt. While there are many styles of rifles on the market, including a rapidly increasing array of AR-format weapons, the tried-and-true bolt-action rifle is still the standard go-to weapon for serious big game hunters. Properly tuned and outfitted, and with a disciplined and well-practiced shooter, a high-caliber bolt-action rifle topped with a variable-power scope can meet 95 percent of the big game hunting challenges that this continent has to offer. For maximum versatility and ease of finding ammunition, stick to common, time-proven big game calibers such as .270, 7 mm Rem Mag, .30-06, .308 Winchester, and .300 Win Mag (plus the short magnum versions of these same calibers). These might seem a tad heavy for a North Carolina whitetail deer hunter, and some might be a tad light for an Alaska hunter who’s itching to tangle with a coastal brown bear. But they are all superb guns for a generalist hunter who wants to be ready for anything without having to burn up his paychecks on an arsenal of weapons. After all, the North Carolina hunter might eventually run into one of that state’s 500-pound black bears, and the Alaska hunter might get tired of trimming around fist-sized exit holes blown through his game meat by a mule-kicking elephant gun.
Cartridge nomenclature is some very tricky business and manages to baffle the majority of firearm owners. The American system is particularly vexing, though the majority of American cartridges do provide the caliber (the diameter of the rifle bore) first in the name. For example, a .30-06 is a .30-caliber round, meaning that the bore diameter is 0.3 inch. The remainder of a cartridge’s name isn’t so formulaic. In the case of the .30-06, for example, the name comes from the fact that it’s a .30-caliber round that was first designed in 1906. The .300 Savage is another .30-caliber round, though “Savage” comes from the name of a rifle manufacturer. Adding to the confusion is the fact that so-called .30-caliber rounds actually measure 0.308 inch. Thus, a cartridge called the .308 Winchester is in fact the same caliber as a .30-06; like the .300 Savage, it carries the name of a rifle manufacturer.
Things are a little clearer with cartridges that were developed in the days of black powder, as the name carries the caliber and the original grain weight of the charge. A designation such as .45-70 would have indicated a .45-caliber bullet with a 70-grain charge of black powder. Sometimes you’ll see an additional number on the end. For instance, a .45-70-405 would be a .45-caliber bullet weighing 405 grains and charged by 70 grains of black powder.
The European stuff is simple, which should be expected from a continent that embraces the metric system. A 7.62×39 is a 7.62 mm bullet with a case length of 39 mm. Across a wide variety of European cartridges, there is little or no variation in their system.
And then there are the “wildcat” cartridges, which find their genesis as experimental cartridges designed by tinkerers and ammunition manufacturers who blended available cartridges to make Franken-ammo. For instance, the 7 mm-08 comes from loading a 7 mm bullet into a .308 Winchester casing in a process known as “necking down” (reducing the neck of the case to accommodate a smaller bullet). Some of these wildcat experiments were successful in filling gaps between standard cartridges and are now produced by major ammunition companies.
CHOOSING A RIFLE SCOPE
The one thing to remember when considering the price and quality of a rifle scope (yes, there is a direct correlation) is this: better scopes buy you time. That is, a high-quality scope will function better in low light conditions than a cheaply built scope, allowing you to shoot effectively earlier in the morning and later in the evening. Staring through scopes while you’re inside your favorite big-box sporting goods store will rarely show you the differences that you’re paying for.
For a great do-it-all rifle scope, get a good-quality 3–9×40 mm scope with adjustable parallax from a reputable manufacturer such as Leupold, Nikon, or Vortex. Plan on paying at least $350. Never buy a scope that doesn’t carry a warranty. There are many alternatives to the 3–9×40. For close-range shooting, say out to 200 yards, a 2–8×30 mm is all the scope you need. The smaller magnification allows for a huge field of view, making getting on target a breeze. When hunting in the West or anywhere else that requires longer-range shooting, a scope with a 50 mm objective and a top end magnification of 16× or even 24× will help pull those critters in close for exact bullet placement. The 50 mm objective lens also draws in more light, buying you time during low light conditions.
Common Reticle Types
What the Hell Is Parallax?
Imagine an old-fashioned speedometer in a car, where the needle sits in front of a fixed circular face printed with numbers. Now picture that speedometer when viewed from the passenger’s seat. From there, it’s hard to get an accurate reading on the needle’s position. While this isn’t a perfect analogy, it helps explain a vexing problem that many people have with rifle scopes. Scopes with a fixed focus (that is, any scope without an adjustable objective or an adjustable parallax knob) are prefocused at the factory. Typically, fixed-focus scopes meant for center-fire cartridges are focused at 100 yards; fixed-focus scopes meant for air rifles or rim-fire cartridges are focused at 50 yards. This doesn’t mean that these scopes are out of focus when looking at objects at other distances—your eye does the work of correcting the focus. It could mean, however, that you’re looking at the crosshairs from the passenger seat. In other words, it might seem that the crosshairs drift around on the target with slight movements of your head. To correct this, make sure that your fixed-focus scope roughly corresponds with the distances that you’re most likely to be shooting at. With a .22, that’s probably going to be a 50-yard focus, and with center-fires, 100 yards. But if you’re going to get serious about shooting accurately at longer ranges, you’ll want a scope with parallax adjustment.
- Publisher : Random House; Illustrated edition (August 18, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 081299406X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0812994063
- Item Weight : 2.8 pounds
- Dimensions : 7.97 x 0.96 x 9.94 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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If you're a new hunter, these books are a great purchase though - if I'm being honest - they fell just short of what I was truly hoping they'd be.
The positives are many...
At a technical level: The writing is excellent. Topics are covered in depth and with excellent clarity. In the midst of every discussion, great stories and anecdotes are woven such that you feel like you're reading a beautiful cross between a manual/textbook and a hunting memoir. It's an engaging read that I found hard to put down. The book is VERY well organized and the ideas flow into one another in a very sensible way. As the author states, you'll want to read this book from cover-to-cover without skipping things. Concepts and illustrations build on the material that came before it, and there's a lot of information you can apply from one discussion (say hunting something as seemingly foreign to me as an East Coaster like bighorn sheep) to another (like the more recognizable whitetail deer).
Similarly, the last section of the book on butchering is clear, detailed, and beyond helpful... Principles for butchering large animals are presented in general terms where needed so you can apply concepts to whatever animal is in front of you. But specifics are given where appropriate, too.
In addition to the technical aspects of the book, it's absolutely beautiful. The photography, layout, and colors draw you into the book and make it all the more engaging. I'm not usually someone who gets into aesthetics, but this book's got 'em and I'm sure people who enjoy that more than I do will be well-pleased.
Throughout the authors make a beautiful case for conservation of both these beautiful animals and the public lands on which they can survive and be enjoyed by us all.
But, there are a couple of places where I felt the book just fell short of being EVERYTHING I'd hoped. For one thing, there's nothing on identifying sign and tracking... There's reference to rubs, scrapes, trails and the like in the varied sections on different animals. However, I can't think of a place where a photograph of any of them. As a novice woodsman, a big part of locating productive grounds and the animals that inhabit them will include being able to know what to look out for (short of an animal's silhouette slipping through the brush) and how to read the story it's trying to tell you. For example, I found what I thought was a scrape in the woods and, all excited with my newfound woodsman skills, showed it to another hunter. At a glance they said, "That's not a deer scrape. It's from a turkey." I'm sure that I'll make more mistakes like that in the woods until I have more experience - after all, nothing's better - but I think this is a definite gap in the book's content as a 'complete guide'.
I also think a little more practical examples might've been helpful... I'd have appreciated something like an example hunt for one of the more popular animals in the book (say elk, mule deer, or whitetail). Seeing pictures of a map and how the authors dissected it, where they entered, what they found scouting, how they approached the hunt based on that info, etc would've help me put the excellent information in the book in order inside my head.
So, if you're a new hunter, I think this book is a must read... I'm sure there are other, species-specific books that will include more nuggets pertaining to your animal of choice. But, I'm also confident that none of them will do more to make you a well-rounded hunter and put you in a better position to utilize the game you harvest than these books will. AND you'll just have a ton of fun reading it along the way.
(Side note: I have a decent background in firearms use and think that the firearms treatment here is very good - especially for the novice. However, I wonder whether some of the information - like understanding caliber, cartridges, etc - would've been better treated in a separate volume in order to focus more on the hunting-specific aspects of shooting or to leave room for some of the topics I thought were omitted. It's hard to figure out if I'm being biased here, so I just offer this as a note rather than a praise or critique.)
I bought this book via Kindle but after a once-through reading decided to buy the paperback version of it so my other family members could read and reference it too. Once I got the book in hand I re-read it and I'm glad I did. For whatever reason I picked up a lot more from the paperback than I ever did from the Kindle version. I guess it probably has something to do with the reference-book feel this book has and the ability to skip around and gather in the whole picture of what this book offers up. The Kindle format works really well for a novel or a mono-formatted book like a historical non-fiction.......this book is neither.
One thing I want to point out about Rinella..........his style of writing (and talking) and his methods, tools and attitudes towards the animals and pursuit really make sense to me. As a transplanted Mid-westerner now living and hunting in the West myself I can really identify where he's coming from on having to evolve from Midwestern traditions and methods about hunting to the Western US approach to the critters out here in the West. Until I'd read Rinella I hadn't stumbled across anyone that eloquently and accurately describes this transition.
This is a fantastic foundation and introduction to hunting. Nothing will beat real, hands on experience, but as Rinella himself says, you have to learn the rules before you can break them. This is one of those books that my kids will grow up reading. I would still consider myself new to hunting and this book is getting me very excited about hunting in general again and providing a deep longing to get outside.
As far as quality goes, there are pictures and illustrations that explain nearly everything. If there's something that doesn't quite stick after reading it, you need only glance up to the corresponding image and vice versa. Rinella and team have done a great job making this information very accessible. The writing is simple, but not in an uninformative way; it's easy to pick and up read and I find myself getting lost in the pages as if it were fiction.
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you are interested at all about hunting and how to get started in it, do not look any farther. This should be required reading.
Top reviews from other countries
First package the book was pretty beat up, replacement arrived the following day in great condition