Because of the prevalence of the platform, it didn’t take long for AR-style rifles to become popular among hunters. Some “purists” will say these modern sporting rifles have no place in the hunting blind, but they’d be wise to look around before saying such things too loudly.
In the standard .223/5.56 chambering, the AR has proven to be a great gun for varmints and other small game. But what if you wanted to hunt something bigger like, oh I don’t know, say an elk or a bear? Is there an AR out there suitable for such a hunt? You bet there is!
A large number of new(ish) calibers have come on the scene to complement some of the existing cartridges that make the AR platform a perfect choice for your big game hunt of a lifetime. Let’s take a look at 10 of them.
Big Horn Armory AR500 in .500 Auto Max
The Big Horn Armory AR500 is chambered for the company’s proprietary cartridge, the .500 Auto Max, a rimless version of the 500 S&W. • MSRP: $1,999
Big Horn Armory made a name for themselves with their SpikeDriver lever gun chambered in .500 S&W Magnum, but they didn’t stop there. Instead, they looked to the semi-auto market and created the AR500.
BHA’s AR500 shoots .500 Auto Max rounds. Built on the same .500 Magnum cartridge, it’s basically just a rimless version of the powerful handgun cartridge that has been popular with hunters for more than a decade.
The gun has a completely-railed upper for you to outfit with the optic of your choice. Load up the five-round magazine and you’re ready to take on anything “from prairie dogs to pachyderms to Peterbilts.”
If it can stop a semi-truck, it can stop any big game animal you’ve got in mind. The MSRP is $1,999.
Growing in popularity, modern sporting rifles have evolved to become a real option for hunters — even for old-school hunters like the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Doug Painter. Explore the evolution of the American hunting rifle.
Ever wonder why some hunters grow such an immense passion for hunting? Hunting takes time, work, skill, luck and so much more, but the benefits can far outweigh what is invested.
As you get into hunting, the challenge can seem overwhelming. It is sure to challenge your learning abilities, but persistence and perseverance truly set accomplished hunters apart from the rest.
No matter how much you hunt, here are a few ways that hunting might positively impact mental health:
Connection with nature: Hunting often involves spending time outdoors in natural environments, which can promote feelings of calmness, relaxation, and connectedness with nature. Research has shown that spending time in nature can reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
Physical activity: Hunting often involves physical activity, such as walking or hiking, which can promote physical health and also release endorphins that can improve mood and reduce stress.
Mindfulness: Hunting can require a great deal of patience and focus, which can promote mindfulness and help individuals stay present in the moment. Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
Sense of accomplishment: Successfully hunting an animal can provide a sense of accomplishment and boost self-esteem. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who may struggle with feelings of low self-worth or lack of purpose.
Hunting can also provide an ongoing lesson for the roles in life and death, which can also benefit one's perception of reality -- something very much needed in a time when social media, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are taking over our younger generations. It is critical that we adapt to the world we physically live in and not expect the world around us to adapt to us for everything. That is not a healthy reality and oftentimes creates unhappiness.
It is important to note that today not everybody is for hunting, but hunting will always be for everybody. Elements of today's culture and modern conveniences numb our primitive instincts to hunt -- developed through our ancestors -- and the necessity to learn, invest and become self-sustainable through the outdoors. Hunting used to be about the need to survive, but more than ever it is now considered recreation because only those who want to do it participate -- it has become a choice among many choices. There are still millions of people who participate, strive to maintain the basic life skills hunting provides, and continue to share the heritage of the hunting lifestyle with others.
Those who participate reap the benefits the most, but hunting also supports conservation efforts that benefit all people and species. For that, we should all be thankful for hunting.
This year retailers will see a renewed focus on innovation.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Change is the only constant in life.” That just might be a fitting theme for the knife companies that are launching new designs at this year’s SHOT Show. Many companies are releasing knife designs that have moved away from the standard three-inch EDCs that were so prominent a few years ago. Look for innovative designs, out-of-the-box thinking, and new ways of capturing a customer’s attention with many of this year’s new releases. Of course, there are still plenty of the tried-and-true designs that will never go out of style. Because not everything always has to change.
Bear & Son Cutlery
Bear & Son will be featuring a new Bowie knife that’s sure to turn few heads. The Cocobola Gold Rush Bowie features a hefty 7 3/8-inch Sandvick 12C27M stainless-steel blade. The knife has an overall length of 12 inches and weighs 16.4 ounces. The handle is made of Cocobola wood and features a curved brass hand guard. SRP: $154.99, which includes a leather sheath.
Check these out on: bearandsoncutlery.com
Browning is giving hunters a sharper edge this year with the release of their new Primal Scalpel Kill Kit. The Kill Kit comes complete with everything hunters need to make easier work of field dressing big game, including a pair of disposable gloves, zip ties, 10 feet of blaze paracord, and a blaze storage bag to keep the kit together. The Kill Kit even includes four washable and reusable game bags that feature a reflective logo to make it easier to spot in the dark. The highlight of the kit is the Primal Scalpel knife. The knife features stainless-steel replaceable scalpel blades locked securely in a foldable frame complete with a thumb stud and pocket clip. The black-and-orange handle is made of sturdy polymer with a rubber overmold and non-skid grooves on the spine. The knife comes with 10 replacement blades housed in a storage container that doubles as the blade installation/removal tool. SRP: $99.
Check these out on: browning.com
The Buck Alpha Hunter is built to withstand the rigors of big-game hunting. The S35VN steel blade will hold an edge through the entire field-dressing process without the need for resharpening, and a high-panel flat grind adds strength to the blade that allows you to cut with confidence. Jimping on the top of the blade delivers ultimate control when using different grips on the knife for detailed work. The purpose-designed textured handle gives you a trusted grip, even in wet conditions. Includes a reinforced leather sheath.
Check these out on: buckknives.com
Camillus is presenting its new line of knives from a different location this year in Booth #13660. One of the standouts of the 2023 line is a knife that will no doubt be unlike anything else featured at the SHOT Show this year. The Swedge is part fixed-blade knife, part chisel, and part file. Created to handle a wide range of campsite chores, Camillus describes the Swedge as a cross between a “bushcraft knife and a small hatchet.” The 8.75-inch knife features a thick 4.3-inch titanium-bonded 420 stainless-steel blade with a textured ABS plastic handle. SRP: $24.99, which includes a molded sheath with a belt clip.
Check these out on: camillusknives.com
Columbia River Knife & Tool
Columbia River Knife & Tool is continuing its tradition of developing designs that seamlessly blend aesthetics and functionality to create knives that look every bit as amazing as their performance. Case in point: the new Pilar IV. The 7.34-inch knife is designed with a natural contour that effortlessly fits into the user’s hand and features two deep finger choils to ensure a secure grip whether it’s being used to field dress large game or slice open the tape on the latest package left on your porch. The 3-inch clip-point blade is made from D2 steel and is deployed from the G10 handle on CRKT’s IKBS ball-bearing pivot system. SRP: $90. CRKT is also adding to its Forged by War line with the new Taco Viper tactical folder. Created and named by Antonio Rodriguez in homage to the nickname for his former unit, the Taco Viper features a 4.22-inch high-carbon stainless-steel blade with Veff serrations and a stonewash finish. The blade is housed in a glass-reinforced nylon handle and features assisted-opening deployment. SRP: $135.
Check these out on: crkt.com
Hogue will be launching its Collector Series of knives at its new booth #14838. As the name implies, the line consists of high-end collector-edition knives made from premium materials. The signature knife in the line is the new Counterstrike. The out-the-front automatic features a 3.35-inch double-edge blade made from cryogenically heat-treated CPM MagnaCut stainless steel. The hard-anodized aluminum frame is housed in a black carbon-fiber handle complete with a carbide glass breaker and lanyard hole. The Counterstrike features an ambidextrous trigger deployment and retraction to make it effective regardless of which hand it’s held in. SRP: $399.95.
Check these out on: hogueknives.com
Ontario Knife Company
Ontario Knife Company’s new Epoch folder is a prime example of the innovative new designs prevalent at this year’s SHOT Show. The 2-inch blade, which is made from D2 steel, is designed with sharp diagonal edges at the spine and tip to create a modern-looking EDC that has the kind of substantial heft to handle even the heaviest of cutting tasks. Adding to the style of the Epoch folder is the golden finish on the blade, which contrasts sharply with the handle that features olive-green G10 scales on one side and brushed stainless steel on the other. SRP: $135.95. Booth #20305 ()
Check these out on: ontarioknife.com
Outdoor Edge is releasing a more-compact version of its popular Razor-Lite EDC replaceable-blade knife from its new booth location at #70935. The new Razor-Lite 2.5-inch features a black-oxide coated blade holder that houses 2.5-inch replaceable razor blades made from Japanese 420J2 stainless steel. The knife comes with four blades, which are replaceable with the push of a button, and features a double-molded Grivory handle with rubberized TPR inserts. Available in black, olive green, or blaze orange, the Razor-Lite EDC 2.5-inch comes complete with thumb studs on both sides and a replaceable pocket clip. SRP: $39.50. Booth #70935 ()
Check these out on: outdooredge.com
Spyderco is continuing its long-standing tradition of releasing top-quality knives for nearly every purpose and multiple price points. Standing front and center in their new booth #10555 at this year’s SHOT Show will be the Stretch 2XL folder that provides a powerful option for people who want something more substantial than a three-inch blade in their EDC. The Stretch XL is nearly 9 inches overall and features a 4-inch blade made from CPM CRU-WEAR tool steel with a full-flat grind. The handle features gray G-10 scales with a back lock on the spine. SRP: $406.50. Spyderco is also releasing two versions of its Ambitious lightweight knife for those who are looking for something a little lighter and more compact. Both versions have a 2.31-inch blade and tip the scales at a mere 2.8 ounces. One version features a CPM S35VN stainless-steel blade with a blue fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle. Available in either a plain edge or fully serrated option. SRP: $130. The other version of the Ambitious EDC has a blade made from 8Cr13MoV stainless steel with a black-oxide finish that coordinates with the black fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle. SRP: $60.
Check these out on: spyderco.com
At this year’s SHOT Show, Case is breaking away from what people traditionally expect to see from the iconic knifemaker by releasing an assisted-opening EDC from its new booth location #10538. Not only is the new Westline knife a break from tradition for Case, it’s also a break from the traditional design of the EDC. The 3-inch S35VN stainless-steel blade has a stylized drop-point design, which gives it a modern flair. That contemporary feel is further enhanced by the blade’s stonewash finish and the hard-anodized handle, which is available in blue, red, silver, and black.
Check these out on: caseknives.comYou may also be interested in:Find more articles like this in the 2023 SHOT Show Day 3 SHOT Daily:
10 Tracking Tips to Help Find Your Deer After the Shot
You shot your deer, but it took off. Now what? Follow these 10 tracking tips to recover your deer and make your hunt a success.
By Bryce M. Towsley
[caption id="attachment_51384" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Very rarely do deer "drop in their tracks" at the shot. Once you make your shot, stay focused on the deer noting where it was when you fired and the direction it took off in.[/caption]
Despite what we may see on television, deer usually do not drop in their tracks at the shot. Sometimes, too, “stuff” happens and the shot is less than perfect. That’s when you have to unleash your tracking skills and go find them. Here are 10 tried-and-true tracking tips that have served me well over the years in finding deer after the shot.
1. Stay Focused
After the shot, stay as calm as you can and stay focused on the deer. Watch it as long as you can then listen even longer. Often you will hear the deer long after you can’t see it anymore.
Before you leave your stand, pick a clear landmark where you last saw the deer and another where you last heard the deer. Also, pick a landmark noting where the deer was when you shot. Have these landmarks firmly in your mind before you exit yours stand. If you have a compass, take a bearing to each of these locations. Snap a few photos with your cell phone or use a small notepad to note the locations or draw yourself a little schematic that shows these three key landmarks.
[caption id="attachment_51385" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Before you leave your stand, use your phone to take a photo of where the deer was standing when you shot and the landmark where you last saw the deer before it disappeared.[/caption]
Go to where you last saw the deer and look for blood and tracks. Remember to look on the bushes as well as on the ground for blood. If you fail to find any, go to spot where you shot the deer and search for blood and/or hair. If you still don’t find a blood trail of any kind, go back to your stand and double check to make sure you were looking in the right places.
Next, start where you last saw the deer and walk to the location where you last heard the deer. Watch for blood and other sign along the way. Sometimes it takes a while for the blood trail to start.
2. First Blood
When you find blood, note its location. Is it high up on the bushes and far out from the trail? That might indicate arterial spurting. Does it seem to be in the center of the tracks, even though you took a broadside shot? That might be lung blood leaking out of the nose and mouth. Is the blood in the track? Maybe it’s running down the leg.
Is there green gunk on the ground with a little blood? That’s a gut shot. Resist the tendency to keep tracking that deer. Leave quietly and come back in the morning, or at least six hours later. A gut shot deer will lie down very quickly and if you leave it alone, it will die in that bed. Usually it will be relatively close to where you shot it. But if you keep pushing and jump the deer, they can turn into the Terminator, unable or unwilling to die and they can run for miles.
[caption id="attachment_51386" align="aligncenter" width="650"] When looking for a blood trail, heavy signs higher up on bushes or spurts off the trail may indicate arterial bleeding, which means you should find your deer shortly.[/caption]
Did you find pieces of bone? Trust me, it’s not ribs as so many people think; 95% of the time it is pieces of leg bone. You may get that deer, but it’s not going to be easy.
A lot of blood at the start that turns into a few drips and then stops in a ¼ mile or so, is usually a low hit in the brisket. You are in for a long day with that deer.
With a leg or brisket hit, the deer is very mobile and will keep moving if pushed. If you can get some help, it’s best to place hunters along the escape routes and hope the deer comes by as you track the blood.
3. Mark the Way
If the blood trail is tough to follow, mark the blood you found with toilet paper or torn paper towels, so you can easily find it again. Although many people recommend using flagging material, I don’t use it. I know you plan to come back and take it all down, but plans rarely work out. Flagging tape lasts a long time in the woods. Paper towels or toilet paper are biodegradable and will disappear rather quickly.
Often, if you line up several pieces of paper you left hanging on branches you can see a clear direction of travel, which is a good place to continue the search if you have lost the blood and tracks.
4. Watch Your Step
Take care to walk to the side of the deer trail. You never want to step on the tracks or the blood. You may think you won’t need to come back and find them again, but you will probably be wrong. Leave all the sign untrampled.
5. When the Blood Stops
If you lose the blood trail, make wide sweeping circles that start and end at the last place you found blood. Keep your eyes on the ground and miss nothing. If you fail to find the trail, make a bigger circle. Repeat as necessary.
6. Get Low
The recent passing of a deer will scuff up the leaves. Older tracks will settle from time and gravity, but a fresh track will show a bit higher. It’s usually not noticeable when standing up, but when you get your eyes to ground level you can often see the trail very clearly.
7. When All Else Fails
A grid search is just what it sounds like. Divide the land into a giant grid, just like on graph paper. The lines should be close together so that no part of the land is unseen. Walk along these imaginary lines one by one until you find the deer, or some sign of the deer, or have walked the entire grid.
[caption id="attachment_51387" align="aligncenter" width="650"] If you simply cannot find a blood trail of any kind, divide the land where you last saw the deer into a grid and walk each grid point until you find the deer or a sign of its trail.[/caption]
In that case, expand the grid and repeat. Look under every bush and in every brush pile. A mortally wounded deer will often crawl under cover and will die there.
8. Light the Way
You have no doubt read that when tracking at night, a Coleman lantern, “makes blood glow like neon.” The lantern does show blood a bit better than a conventional flashlight, but it’s always been a disappointment to me when I have used one. Besides, who has a Coleman lantern in their backpack?
A quality flashlight will show blood like its electrified. It’s a good idea to have one in your pocket or backpack when hunting.
9. Become the Deer
Walk along while thinking, “If I were a wounded deer, which way would I go?” Just follow your instincts. You may have to return to the last sign and strike out in another direction a few times, but sooner or later the odds are you will find a new spot of blood or identifiable track and you’ll be back in the game.
10. Turn Off Your Brain
Another approach is to turn off your brain and just walk. Let the terrain and vegetation guide your feet. Deer and other animals will take the path of least resistance and if you walk in a “Zen” state, going with the flow, you will find you do the same thing.
Once you get in tune with the woods, things like that just happen in the back of your mind. If you try to think about it too much, you screw it up, but if you just let the reptilian part of your brain operate then eons of evolution are suppressed and the caveman in you will come out of hiding and turn you into a creature of the woods, just like the deer. I know this may sound a bit too “new age,” but I have found several animals we thought were hopeless using this technique.
Tracking with Technology
I used a thermal imaging unit in Zimbabwe a few years ago to watch for lions while the PH and trackers cut up a buffalo I had shot just before dark. Back then they were very expensive. Today, there are several affordable units designed for tracking.
[caption id="attachment_51388" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Photograph Courtesy of Leupold® & Stevens, Inc.[/caption]
I have been using a Leupold LTO Quest. This is their entry-level unit and it has a camera and flashlight built in with the thermal sensor. Leupold claims the LTO Quest can detect heat signatures out to 300 yards. Deer season is closed as I am writing this, so I am finding alternatives to test it with. It easily can find my dogs even when they are out some distance.
I couldn’t find a blood donor to help with the test, so I spit on my walkway on a cool night. The unit could easily see it, even after several minutes. This unit is sensitive enough that when I stood on my deck in my socks, the unit could detect my foot prints for several minutes after.
This technology may well be a game changer for tracking and finding wounded deer in the years ahead.
About The Author
Bryce M. Towsley has been writing about guns for 36 years and has published thousands of articles in most of the major firearms magazines. He has hunted all over the world and is a competition shooter in several disciplines. Towsley has several books available on guns, shooting and hunting as well as an adventure novel, The 14th Reinstated. Signed books are available on his website.
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