So You Want To Own a Gun (Part Four)

We covered self-defense in and outside of the home in the previous article. Fortunately, firearms are for more than defending your life.

Hunting, plinking, and various shooting sports are time-honored forms of recreation, and the only ones explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, with the Second Amendment call for a "well-regulated" (well-trained) core of citizen shooters. All have different requirements, however, and different rules of acceptable behavior. Today we’ll focus on hunting.

Hunting was one of mankind's core functions for tens of thousands of years. Before the domestication of certain animal species, if you didn't hunt, you didn't eat meat. Today hunting is generally recreational, though the more successful hunters among us can often fill out all of their game tags and don't have to purchase store-bought, hormone-filled meat at all.

For those that choose to hunt with a firearm, the most important things you need to learn are target identification, target discrimination, establishing safe zones of fire, and your own limitations as a hunter. These are matters of safety, legality, and ethics.

Target Identification

A depressing number of people, pets, and domestic animals are killed every year because some yahoo shoots at movement, at a glimpse of part of an animal, or even at a sound.

Part of target identification is verifying that the animal you are about to harvest is the correct species. Horses, donkeys, cows, goats, or dogs may indeed be brown, four-legged mammals, but trying to use that in court to justify shooting someone’s livestock or family pet is a losing proposition, as is defending shooting an out-of-season animal.

Target Discrimination

A more refined but equally important part of hunting is target discrimination. This means determining whether the animal or animals you see within a harvestable species comprise what you really want to shoot from a game management perspective. Factors can include age, sex, size, or unique characteristics.

For example: if you are treestand hunting on the edge of a field and four animals walk out of woodline into view, target identification tells you that the animals are indeed deer. Target discrimination is the act of selecting the deer you want to harvest. Will you choose the young buck, the gangly young doe with a deformed jaw and albinism, a healthy doe, or the mature buck?