Home on the Range: 5 Tips for Western Big Game Hunting

September 25th, 2019 by team

Photo: Jonathan Kilburn (Reclaimed Outdoors)

Photo: Jonathan Kilburn (Reclaimed Outdoors)

You have just signed up for a guided hunt in the Western states. Or, you have a DIY hunt in the works. Congratulations!  A big game hunt in one of our Western states can be the hunt of a lifetime, and not only because of the abundant game animals. The Western vistas, the mountains and the High Plains, and the wide-open spaces-all those sights stay with a hunter long after they have returned home.

But what to take?  

Truthfully, there are book-length answers to that simple question. To get you started in your planning, always begin with the following 5 essentials:

Most Western hunters use a bolt action, mainly for the extended range it provides compared to a semi-automatic or a lever-action rifle. As most professional Western hunting guides will tell you: you need to be able to make a 400-yard shot. Minimum.

But what caliber to choose?

Right now, the big trend for Western hunters is the 6.5 Creedmoor.  It is a fine round, capable of great accuracy at long-distances and bucks the wind very nicely. Plus, the number of new and hunting specific rounds being made in 6.5 Creedmoor seems to grow daily, giving hunters more quality choices than ever before.

Don’t forget that the “tried-and-true” Western hunting cartridges. They are tried and true for a reason–they work.! The 300 Win Mag and the 300 Weatherby Mag were taking game at 500 yards and beyond long before long-range hunting became a trend!

There are other, new cartridges available, too, that offer outstanding long-range hunting ability. The 28 Nosler 28 and 30 Nosler, for example, already have strong followings among longer-range hunters, as do the even newer 6.5 PRC and 300 PRC from Hornady. Plus, custom gun makers are turning out a host of new long-range “niche” calibers. 

Whatever you do, do not hunt the West with less-than-quality optics. The distances can be vast, and good optics are 100-percent needed.

Start with a pair of high-quality binoculars, with a 10x or better magnification. A good spotting scope is a real help, too.  Remember, you may be spotting animals at a mile away or more.

Don’t stint on your rifle scope. Assume you will have to take that 400-yard shot and pick an optic accordingly.  Now, you don’t need a rifle scope with 40-power magnification, either. Most long-range hunters find that a scope which magnifies to 16x or 20x is more than adequate. Make sure your scope provides clear, edge-to-edge images and is useable in low-light conditions. 

You hunt east of the Mississippi? You already have a closet full of camouflage clothing. Unfortunately, it won’t work for your Western hunt.

Eastern-based camo is a matrix of deep greens and dark browns. Western landscapes tend to be dry, and therefore the vegetation is much lighter colored. Wear your Eastern camo out West, and you will be spotted a mile away, literally, by every antelope, deer and elk.

Take a look at what more Western-focused hunt clothing makers are producing. Sitka, for example, or Kings Camo are good places to start for lighter camo to blend with Western mountains and open prairies. 

You will be doing a good deal of walking, over rough and uneven terrain.  At the very least, invest in a good pair of hiking boots, and break them in well before your hunt.  

Will you be tackling very mountainous terrain? Consider a pair of mountain boots. They have more ankle and lateral support than hikers and will protect you better, especially on rocky slopes. 

Also, consider the hunting weather you can expect. Most quality hiking and mountain boots sold today will be waterproof. A good start.  But will they need to be insulated? 

There’s no rule of thumb when it comes to boot insulation. Some hunters can go all day in 0-Degree temperatures with a boot carrying just 400 grams of Thinsulate or similar insulation material.  Other hunters need 1,000-gram-insulated boots anytime the temps dip below freezing!  

Know yourself, check the weather extremes for areas you will be hunting, and come prepared.

Photo: Jonathan Kilburn (Reclaimed Outdoors)

When it comes time to make that long-distance shot, to bag that trophy of a lifetime, there’s no tool better than the #1 shooting app in the world, Ballistic! And, it costs less than a box of hunting ammunition.  

Distances, winds, shooting upslope or down, and fluctuating environmental conditions-all can and will affect your projectile’s point of impact.  Don’t guess. Not when you’ve invested the time and expense in your Western hunt. Make every shot count thanks to a shooting app that can calculate every factor needed for your Western hunt. Get Ballistic!

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