Accuracy – The Target for the Small Game Hunter

For the hunting fraternity of North America, their prey ranges in size from the huge bears and moose located up in the mountains or in deeply wooded areas, to the small game such as squirrels and rabbits that inhabit forests and ranges. The latter two are probably the most common of the smaller targets and knowing which weapon to use on these lively little creatures is a topic that consistently generates much debate.
Understanding their domain is naturally a key element in any quest for success, but that knowledge becomes irrelevant if the choice of rifle is either too powerful, or lacks the necessary accuracy to take a clean hit. The Eastern and Western Gray Squirrels that dominate those regions of the States, dart around the forests amongst the trees at high speed and therefore need to be targeted from a reasonable distance, so there is little or no margin for error in the shot. Similarly the rabbits, such as the cottontails or conversely the swamp and marsh varieties, need equally accurate weapons with cartridge power also of lower velocity.
Standing out above all other options when it comes to hunting these small game animals is the.22 Long Rifle. They are a perfect fit for the size of prey, in that their ammunition is powerful enough to kill the creature in an instant, but not too powerful, whereby the target would be completely blown apart. With these calibers a hunter could stand up to 85 yards away and still maintain good accuracy.
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Although providing less energy in its velocity, the.17 is also a hugely popular hunting gun, but it does use bullets that can cost several times that of the.22 rifle. Additional cartridges that can be used on those fleet footed squirrels and rabbits are the.30 Carbines, the.22 Homet and the.218 Bee, however all of these are more powerful, right on the limit of acceptability in actual fact, and consequently only head shots will suffice, particularly if the target is destined for the dinner table.

With accuracy not amongst their stronger points, there is a necessity to get much closer to the prey with any of those mentioned above, but this in turn increases the effect of the power, so is actually counter-productive. It is best to stick to the rim-fire cartridges, rather than the center-fire cartridges for the hunting of any small game. Smooth action and good barrel balance is also very important, with clean trigger pull an essential ingredient for a successful result.
The weight should be light, but not too light so as to be unable to keep it steady. Leading manufacturers such as Remington, Browning, Winchester, Savage, Ruger or Sako all have their own versions, each of which will perform admirably, so it comes down to individual preferences and basically that will be governed by comfort, which may well be determined by height and weight factors of the user, rather than the weapon itself.

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