I can already hear the moans of controversy on the breeze…
“Holy cow. Ace has finally lost his marbles!”
“A .22? For Big Game?
“Maybe Coyotes or foxes, but not BIG stuff!”
You’ll notice that I said essential for every big game hunter. I did not say to hunt cape buffalo, deer or elk with it!
I’m quite fond of this little caliber for many reasons. First off, ammo is relatively inexpensive- usually around $10.00 for 50. Second, it has no perceptible recoil, so you can shoot it quite a bit. Finally, because it has significantly more “oomph” than a standard .22, it can be used to practice at more realistic hunting distances in excess of 100 yards.
There was a somewhat famous gentleman in these parts named Vince Lombardi. You may have heard of him. He was fond of saying, “Practice doesn’t make perfect- perfect practice makes perfect!” One of the best ways to get there is through repetition- and that’s where this venerable caliber really shines. The advantages of no recoil and cheap ammo make it easy to fire hundreds of rounds per practice session.
Try that with your .300 Winchester Magnum- or even a .30-06! If you can afford it, you may find yourself developing a perfect flinch rather than perfect form, and that can be a very difficult habit to break. I’ve always been of the mind that good habits are as easy to form as bad ones, and also as hard to break, so if you start off right and achieve good form, breath control, and follow through with a .22 magnum, those habits will carry through to all of your other shooting.
The .22 mag is also a great caliber for teaching kids that have already been introduced to the air rifle or standard .22 caliber. As I stated before, the .22 mag is accurate out to and even past 100 yards (especially with good form), something a standard .22 has a hard time doing due to a trajectory that resembles a rainbow. I like to start kids shooting early in their years (and I feel it is the parent’s decision, rather than the government’s as to how early) before distractions like sports, school, and the opposite sex can derail their desire and mess with their concentration. My six year old can go 7-for-7 at 100 yards on clay targets. Her form is great for a 6 year old, and she has a ton of fun with her dad in the process.
There are some great little .22s out there. Ideally you want one that closely resembles your favorite big game rifle in dimensions and weight, but the most important thing you need is a scope mounted and sighted in to 100+ yards. Set up your targets and practice from various positions. Bench rest. Off a pack or hat. Holding onto a tree or post. Prone, standing, and kneeling. Start with a large target first so that you experience some quick success, as this is harder than it seems at first.
My favorites are the ones that let you see where you hit by changing from black to a bright color upon puncture, as the .22 caliber makes a small hole to see at 100 yards. My next favorite things to use as targets (especially for the kids) are clay pigeons. Make sure that this is okay to do at your range or shooting area as they are as messy as they are fun. These targets are reactive and there is no doubt as to whether or not you have scored a hit.
After just a few of these practice sessions, you’ll see marked improvement in your accuracy and the speed at which you can get into position, two things that are absolutely essential when in the field chasing game. Take your practice a step further by setting up targets at different ranges that require different positions in order to hit. Have someone time you as to how long it takes to get into position.
Remember, in the field you may only have a few seconds before that buck or elk of a lifetime fades into the woods and out of your life forever. By taking these tips and putting them to work, you will be in a better position to take advantage of that window of opportunity and have a lot of fun in the process.