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by Roy Yeager a.k.a. reflex264 Last updated: 2018-10-25 17:20:06
Bow Hunting with a Handgun
Since my handgun hunting sickness began in 1978, I have gone through stages of conflict over the real purpose of handgun hunting. I have blamed it on ease of carry versus a rifle, more challenge than a rifle, too many Ross Seyfried articles, and just about anything else you can imagine.
The older I get, the more I realize that it is all good. I like holding something at arm's length no matter what configuration it is. Obviously, an XP or Encore isnít much different than carrying a rifle. If I stuck with Ross, everything would be a .475 or a 45 Colt 5 shot. I now categorize my handgun hunting.
Recently, I have gone back to my roots as a bowhunter, except with a handgun instead of a bow. I started out rifle hunting, then diversified. For a few years I really liked seeing the whites of a deerís eyes before taking them. Archery hunting was peaking at that time with more and better equipment hitting the market, so I spent the better part of 4 years chasing them with a bow.
During this time, I still handgun hunted a lot and was very successful. I had my pet Ruger 45 Colt loaded up as stiff as the manuals would allow and used it to take a lot of deer. I actually lost count of them. I started developing a taste for better stand setups, such as if I was bow hunting. Using open sighted handguns and setting up for closer shots became more fun. The more I did it, the more I learned from the experience.
So what did I learn from hunting bow setups with a handgun? The first thing was have better control of my scent. I always did so while bow hunting, so it made sense to that the same rules would apply to handgun hunting up close. Washing my clothes with scent free and UV blocking detergent was the first step. Spraying my clothes with odor eliminating sprays and finding out which ones worked and which ones don't was an interesting lesson. Every new scent control product that hits the market isn't always better than what came before it. The original HS cover scent worked about as good as anything else. A product called Odornix was the best. Originally developed for autopsies on decaying corpses, it uses an enzyme that attaches to the scent molecules to keep them from getting airborne. It just worked. While using it, I have been eight feet from a deer that never knew I was there. My boots would be scrubbed with scent-free soap, then sprayed with one of the scent eliminators. My safety harness and orange vest got the same treatment. All of my clothes went into scent bags. The only things that I couldn't totally block the scent of were the guns and holsters. For that, I would do my best to keep them covered once in the treestand.
Even with all this work, I still hunt the wind as much as possible. The wind shifts, though, and you canít stop that. Removing all the scent I could definitely helped.
Picking the right gun for the job at hand was the next lesson. If you are trying to have close encounters with deer and you are gearing up for a long shot, it's more than likely you will find yourself relying on your equipment and shooting skills, rather than your hunting skills. It is tempting to carry a long range rig when trying to bow hunt with a handgun. I decided that if I tried to limit my shots to 50 yards and under, and carried a gun set up for such shots, then my close encounters would happen in spite of me. It is the same principle as leaving a rifle at home if you want to kill more deer with a handgun.
At this point, knowing your gun and understanding both your own and your gun's limitations is the key to success. I have a 1961 Flattop 44 Magnum and a New Model Bisley 5 ĹĒ barreled .44 Special that would both serve me fine on 50 yard shots. If I wanted to draw it down to 25 yards, one of my Charter Arms Bulldogs or a Glock 22 or 23 is appropriate. Just be sure that whatever load you carry will penetrate deeply enough to reach vital organs and leave a large enough wound channel for a quick bleed out.
In the smaller guns such as the Glock 23 and 22, a 165 grain jacketed hollow point such as the Sierra JHP or the Speer Gold Dot work very well. Using my 6Ē barreled Glock 24, the longer sight radius and extra velocity from the longer barrel make shots in the 40 yard range very doable. That is still within my 50 yard bow range limit.
In the 44 Special, a hard cast bullet in the 240 to 250 grain range with either a large meplat or a semi-wadcutter design has served me well. They donít have to travel fast, they just have to hit the vitals. Anything around 850 fps with a 240-250 grain bullet at 25 yards will completely penetrate the vitals on a 200 pound deer. In large frame 44 Specials, I have used the Cast Performance 255gr WFN at 1000 fps and have no complaints. It will penetrate both shoulders of a deer, should the need arise.
The main thing is to have fun. If you are trying to get them in close, experience is still the best teacher. The more you try it, the more you learn.
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