Tactical Hunting

Why don’t more “tactical” trainers advocate hunting? I remember growing up and reading Jeff Cooper’s column in the back of Guns and Ammo; Jeff Cooper was a huge advocate of hunting. He espoused the idea that for the average law abiding citizen, hunting an animal was the only place outside of a real shooting where you could fire your guns with the intent to kill. He believed that was a good piece of mental training for anyone who carried a gun seriously.


Now, I’ll admit that I haven’t done a lot of hunting. I recently went on my first pheasant hunt, and I’ve shot a lot of coyotes, but I wouldn’t call what I did to coyotes “hunting” in any sense of the word. But I have seen things in the field that would directly apply to self defense. For example, on my recent pheasant hunt, I had expended a volume of shells at some fast moving birds. During what I thought was a lull in the action, I attempted to top off my shotgun, only to miss a golden opportunity when a rooster flushed right at my feet. If I’d had my gun loaded, I would have hit that thing.

Tactical lesson: you can only identify a lull in the fight when you’re examining the fight in hindsight three or four hours later. Second tactical lesson: a faster reload is better.

An observation from shooting coyotes also comes to mind: once I hit a coyote with a kind of marginal shot with a 7.62×39. The dog ran 200 yards, laid down and just sort of went to sleep and died. Once, I shot a dog in the perfect “kill” spot behind the foreleg and through the lungs with a 125 grain JHP .357 Magnum. It ran 200 yards, laid down and died.

Tactical lesson: don’t bet your life on one shot stops. If someone’s trying to kill you, shoot them a bunch.

Interestingly, I’ve had a lot of experienced old-school guys (who still shoot weaver) espouse this same theory that hunting is good for people interested in self-defense. So the question then becomes, why doesn’t the modern tactical training community tell people to get their ARs and go hog hunting with them?


  1. Maybe it’s the Shooter 1.0 v. 2.0 thing. Hunting to many 2.0 types has a definitely Fudd vibe to it.

  2. Hunting is also one of the more accessible ways to match wits with something else that has a brain and can think and react to what you do. I do realize that FOF training also does this, but it’s an awful lot harder to come by than a hunting trip for folks in rural areas.

    Really, I think most tactical trainers these days want you to come to class, rather than attempt to learn on your own.

  3. Jim Cirillo was a big advocate of hunting, and handgun hunting specifically. They actually screened new memebers for the Stake-out Squad with questions as to if they were a hunter, etc. Jim found that handgun hunetrs tended to make quality gunfighters.

  4. Honestly I’d never thought about hunting in those terms, but it does make sense that if you train for the possibility of shooting something that moves, thinks, and reacts, you probably should incorporate shooting at something that really does move, think and react. Otherwise you might be surprised when the bad guy refuses to stand still in the open waiting to get shot like all those paper targets are prone to doing.

    1. Agreed! You see a lot of guys at matches that appear to be thinking about the process to get the next shell in the chamber.

  5. Wanna watch someone smoke a shell selection drill, or clear a stoppage in a shotgun. Find a waterfowler.

  6. I think the 2.0 vs 1.0 is correct, demographic issues are the reason..

    Hunting for folks in urban areas is an effort, particularly if they lack a mentor. Cirillo’s NYC might as well be on a different planet compared to today’s. Where do they go, who do they go with, what do they hunt, what do they do with their game? The logistics for urban/suburban folks, the growth demographic in self-defense, often with no personal resonance to hunting due to age, race, gender, is totally different than for many of us who grew up with guns.

    Handgun hunting isn’t done with compact nines, it’d require more cash outlay. Similarly a tactical shotgun is not ideal for serious wingshooting. The .223 isn’t a bad round, but not all places have varmints to hunt and the caliber isn’t legal for the most common game animal, whitetail deer, in many states.

    1. That’s always been my issue. I’m trying to get into hunting, but I really have no idea how to learn. I mean, there’s the internet and talking to people at the range… but there’s a big difference between “hey can you come look at my stance for five minutes” and “I don’t know you, but want to go hang out in the cold and mud in the middle of nowhere for a weekend with me?”

    2. Quite a bit of my handgun hunting was done with a Glock 19.

      In Arizona, Coyote and Rabbit season was year round, and strolling around the deserts and woods was much more interesing when I had a purpose, i.e., hunting. 9mm works just fine on squirrels, groundhogs, grouse (where legal), and so forth as well. It’s also lots easier to go hunting when you don’t need special gear. I’d grab a Big Gulp and a sandwich and head out of town, and be hunting in 20 minutes. I already had the Glock and a spare magazine, and I kept a spare box of defensive ammo and a predator call in the glove box. Didn’t need anything else.

      1. The exception that proves the rule.

        AZ is not where most of the 2.0 crowd live, nor does most of the country have a lot of public lands in easy reach with essentially uncontrolled shooting.

        We in the West, I’m in Alaska, who live in what are, in the grand scheme, small, isolated locales have a unique situation; unique even in our own states in many cases. Someone who lives in metro Phoenix has to do a lot more to get to casual hunting opportunities than drive 10 minutes to the outskirts of town.

        Even here in Anchorage 10 years ago I could be shooting in 20 minutes highway drive as well, 30 years ago as a kid I shot .22s within the city limits. Now the situation is much more controlled.

  7. When I was younger we shot pistols…a LOT, squirrels, toads, grouse, deer, steel targets… The handgun of choice at the time was a 6″ Smith 629 240 SWC and ten grains of Unique. After a couple of years we became incredible shots just by doing. 40 years later the reflexes aren’t as smooth, and running aint happening, but hitting a smalish target…..doable.

  8. Here in rural Alaska, we hunt with ARs, have for the last twenty years or so. Great having those 15 rounds in the mag when you’re out and about on the snowmachine or 4 wheeler. Short barrels are awful nice on narrow trails also. We started with .556s, but now they never make it out of the safe; we use 6.8s, 338 feds, and 308s. Picked up a 308 Scar last year, killed a few caribou and blk bear with her, then my nephew killed a sow grizz with the Scar in Sept, 165 TTSXs & A-Frames were in the mag. I like my 6.8 Stag also and it has taken all kinds of caribou and a bunch of blk bear. It’s all about fresh meat to us out here on the Yukon.

  9. I enjoyed reading the article, even more so, the responses. I have been wanting to get in on some hunting here in N. Texas, but haven’t found anyone who knows where to go. If you don’t have an “in”, then it is difficult to go. When I was based in Arizona, it was easy, just go a few minutes outside of town and it was generally safe/legal to do so. Out here in N. Texas (near OK border), most of the land is private and must have approval from the land owner – if you can find who owns that land.

    Once I do get a chance to go, I was thinking…do I bring my SKS (7.63×39) or my AR-15? I know the SKS has more knockdown power but lacks the range compared than the .223/5.56 round. I hear that it best to have at least a .243 when hunting hog. I’m hoping Santa delivers a Ruger American .308 to me this Christmas, but for now, I will probably stick with one of my AR’s when I start some hogging. Hopefully it will work well against the hogs!

  10. Ron,

    Most folks who get a defensive AR are running 5.56, thus not really hunting suitable without more money expenditure In most of the country, and still with the problem of not knowing where to go. Rural experience isn’t really relevant to the whole Gun Culture 2.0 crowd.

    You’re with the rest of us in the crowd of outliers. 😉

    What load are you running in the 6.8? Just got a 6.5 for ‘bou myself.

  11. I am lucky enough to live in a state that allows hunting with a .223 caliber rifle and I have been using my AR for whitetail for that last few years. I will admit I do it partly for the training(I am a big believer in practice how you play way of thinking) and partly because I got sick of people telling me it was too weak, too small, too whatever to get the job done(not to mention anti’s saying you don’t use an AR to hunt). So far all of my deer have been one shot stops and I credit that to a lot of practice, good friends who are excellent guides that are able to get me in close, the superb Speer Gold Dot .223 round(.223 fusion with slightly thicker jacket), and my iron clad rule of only taking shots inside 300yrds where I have a clear shot at a clean kill. Can’t wait to go out again this weekend and bag another one. Hunting with an AR in .223 is definitely possible and very enjoyable you just have to realize you have a range restriction compared to more powerful calibers. By the way I use a scoped flat-top 16inch mid-length.

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