Rifles photo

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The one-shot kill is supposed to be a mark of the hunter’s skill, and gives one a claim to extra manhood, or something, if he can bring it off.

Unfortunately for wildlife, the idea is based on the false premise that if a beast is hit fatally with a bullet or an arrow, it’s going to die instantly, or very quickly. As anyone who has done any hunting knows, this is a bunch of s**t; frequently, animals are shot fatally and still die lingering deaths, because they have enormous vitality and their instinct is to struggle for every second of life. Or, they’re shot marginally, and die lingering deaths.

I have yet to experience a lingering death, but I doubt if it’s much fun, so I make it a point if the animal is still dying when I walk up on it to shoot it in the heart and end its suffering. Put the bullet right behind the “elbow” and it will all be over in seconds. The slug will destroy the heart, so you can’t eat it, but on the other hand, you should never eat anything that thinks, pumps, or filters, anyway.

When you walk up on a downed animal, exercise some caution. Sometimes they’ll give a last convulsive kick as they exit this world for a better one, and if you get kicked by an elk or something of that size, your hunt will be a memorable one. Some animals, if a bullet strikes them near the spine, will go down like a safe fell on them, but then recover at least some of their mobility in a matter of seconds, and may look for payback.

You always approach from behind; never walk up from the front. Look at the eyes. If the pupils are dilated and glassy, the beast is probably dead. Eyes glaze over very quickly. Touch an eyeball with the muzzle of your rifle. If there’s any reaction at all, the animal is still alive.

Living as we do in the era of the selfie, I’m sure there is now a generation of hunters who rush right up to whatever they shot and start snapping away. That’s the second thing you do. The first thing is make sure that the suffering of whatever you put a bullet into is ended. If you don’t, you’re something less than a hunter.