Tag Archives: RICHARD MANN

Hunting Non-Native Species In America: Is it For You?

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Beyond deer, elk, moose, and bear, there are a few critters roaming the wilds in this country that are more than worthy of a planned hunt. Here are a few suggestions…

SOURCE: NRAFamily.org, by Richard Mann

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a definition for the word exotic is: “Something introduced from another country or something not native to the place where it is found.” Another definition describes exotic as something strikingly, excitingly or mysteriously different or unusual. Both are appropriate when it comes to describing exotic game animals in the United States.

The hunting of exotic animals is most often associated with ranches, and it’s most common in Texas, where ranch sizes can range from a few hundred acres up into the thousands. There are places in Texas where you can hunt almost any animal found in Africa, or Continental critters like the European red stag. Since these animals are not native to the United States and have not ever become part of the American free-ranging ecosystem, hunts of this type are generally considered “high-fence” hunts. Animals harvested on hunts like this are not eligible for Boone & Crockett or Pope & Young recognition.

Blackbuck
Blackbuck photo by Nita Turpin, Lifetime Member of the Exotic Wildlife Association

There are also exotic animals that are free-ranging in America. By “free-ranging,” I mean running wild just like native animals like elk and grizzly bears. (Animals harvested on hunts like this are considered “fair chase,” as long as all local and national laws are obeyed.) What might surprise you is that several animals you might think are native to North America are actually exotics.

The most widely hunted exotic animal in North America is, believe it or not, the feral hog. The domestic pig was introduced to the Americas by the Spanish explorer DeSoto in the 1500s. Those that escaped captivity became feral and were hunted for food. Later, when the wild boar was introduced throughout the United States, they crossed with the feral hogs. Hunting wild hogs has become very popular because in most states they are considered a nuisance animal and seasons are year-round. Few hunters consider the wild hog an exotic, but it fits the definition-the pig is not native to North America. Their range is expanding, too. Initially wild hogs could only be found in the Southern states. Now, they have spread to almost every state and they continue to expand their range. This is partly because they multiply at such an amazing rate and partly because they have few natural predators to contend with.

gemsbock

I’ve hunted wild hogs in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. They can be extremely challenging to stalk or stand hunt but are most often shot as they come into feeders. Wild hogs are certainly edible, but due to their diet and the amount of exercise they get, they’re not going to be as tender as domestic pigs. (It’s also very important to cook the meat of all pigs very thoroughly, as they can harbor parasites.)

Upland bird hunters across North America frequently pursue another exotic-you might know it as the ringneck pheasant. It was introduced to America in the 1850s. These exotic game birds are often called the Chinese pheasant because they originated in Asia. Because of their numbers and popularity people think of them as a native species so much that the common pheasant, as it is now called, is the state bird of South Dakota.

Axis deer were introduced in the United States in the 1930s. They have thrived and are the most common non-indigenous ungulate found in North America. Over the years axis deer escaped from game ranches…and there have also been free-range introductions, too. Today, huntable populations of axis deer are found over much of Texas. They are still considered an exotic as far as game laws are concerned, so the license is cheap and they can be hunted year-round.

Hunting exotic species in the U.S. can involve any number of hunting techniques. My first axis deer hunt was on a large ranch in Texas near the South Llano River. The only fence there was a low cattle fence. The axis deer that frequented the ranch could have walked to West Virginia had they been of a mind to do so. I hunted from a box blind set up near a feeder. This is a common practice for hunting whitetails in Texas, since the brush can be so thick as to be nearly impassable for people, but it’s not necessarily my favorite way to hunt. (I did take a nice stag and the antlers are impressive.) Conversely, several years later I hunted axis again in Texas, but this time behind a high fence that surrounded thousands of acres. That time, we hunted strictly by spot and stalk. Finding an axis buck and getting close enough for a shot proved difficult. It was a thoroughly enjoyable hunt and that axis tasted just as good as the first one. Most hunters that have eaten axis deer meat agree they taste better than whitetails.

One appealing facet of the axis deer is that they breed year-round. Axis bucks grow and shed one set of antlers per year, but they do so based on when they were born. This can be at any time, so bucks in the same group can be seen with no antlers, velvet antlers or hard antlers. Hunting a stag or buck axis is not restricted to just a few months each year.

Axis deer are not the only free-ranging exotic animal you can hunt in Texas. One of my favorite critters to hunt is free-ranging aoudad, also known as Barbary sheep. (On my last aoudad hunt, the guide called them “doodads.”) The aoudad is a sheep native to North Africa, but these days they roam wild in the mountains of West Texas. It’s technically not really a sheep; the aoudad is a “caprid” or goat-antelope. Sheep or goat, these “doodads” have exquisite eyesight and like to keep to the most rugged terrain you’ll find in west Texas-in fact, today there are more aoudad in Texas than their native land. On my first aoudad hunt I walked and climbed hills until my knees begged for relief. Finally, on the fifth day, I managed to connect with one of these elusive animals with the wide curling horns.

The blackbuck and gemsbok are two other free-ranging, exotic antelope that can be hunted in North America. As a matter of fact, there are more blackbuck in Texas than in India, where they are indigenous and now considered endangered. Gemsbok (pictured above) were introduced to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in 1969. They have established additional territory off the range and in Texas. Each year the New Mexico Fish & Game issues a limited number of hunting permits for these “oryx” (as they are also known). Gemsbok are one of Africa’s most magnificent trophies. A free-ranging, North American hunt for gemsbok can be very similar to, and in some cases more challenging than, what you might experience hunting in South Africa. Interestingly, what I’ll bet you don’t know is that most all of the gemsbok hunted in South Africa are hunted behind high fences. So it’s a little ironic that you’ve got a better chance to hunt free-ranging gemsbok in the United States than you would in its native country.

When it comes to hunting ethics for exotics, we must all make our own decisions as to what is and is not acceptable. For example, in some counties in eastern Virginia it is perfectly legal to hunt whitetail deer with dogs. In South Africa, where hundreds of Americans go on safari every year, they will be hunting a high-fenced concession. What hunters should not do is discount the hunting of exotics as unethical or easy just because they are animals that are not from around here.

What’s important, regardless of whether the game animal is an exotic or not, is the method in which the hunt is conducted and the interaction between the hunter and the hunted. With a bit of research you can find a suitable location where you can have an ethical hunt for animals that in many cases were not even on this continent just 100 years ago.

I’m eagerly awaiting my next aoudad hunt that I hope happens this fall. Thousands of upland bird hunters are anticipating the opening of pheasant season across the midwest. Year round, fathers, sons and daughters will be out looking for wild hogs to hunt and a few hunters are eagerly waiting to see if they will finally draw a New Mexico gemsbok tag. Exotics are fine game animals and if you have the chance you should try for one or more of these mysterious animals.

REVIEW: A Long-Range Story: Hornady 4DOF Ballistics Calculator

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Here’s a new ballistics calculator that takes four important ballistic factors into account, not just BC, to provide radically more precise calculated bullet flight figures. Here’s how it works…

4DOF

by Richard Mann

The new Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator is so precise because it combines what Hornady calls the Four Degrees of Freedom. In other words, it takes into account windage, elevation, range, and angle of attack to generate a drag coefficient.

4 DOF

Recently, a few magazine editors visited for a week. Egos were on display and opinions were as thick as brass on the range at Gunsite Academy. The purpose of this get-together was to test about two dozen rifles, some purpose-built for connecting at extended distances. I have access to a 1,700-yard range and we spent the day there. My 17-year-old son, Bat, served as the official “range rat.”

After our 500-yard testing was complete, I told my associates I needed to get the DOPE (data of previous engagement) on my son’s African rifle. This would save a trip back to the range and give him some time behind the gun as payment for the support role he’d been filling.

The previous evening we had chronographed the Hornady Precision Hunter ELD-X load for the 6.5 Creedmoor my son would be using. That velocity, along with the bullet and related specifics were entered into Hornady’s 4DOF ballistic calculator, which is available online. I’d printed the results and our goal was to confirm elevation come-ups out to 500 yards. Amazingly, this was done with 5 shots; my son connected center target at 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 yards. The data generated by the Hornady 4DOF calculator was spot-on.

Bat was having fun and shooting well, and since he now had the attention of the visiting editors, I figured, what the heck, he might as well try 700 yards. His first shot at 700 was about 2 inches high so he made a .25-MOA correction and fired again. Center hit! Now he really had their attention.

The next farthest target was at what I was told was 1,100 yards, and Bat asked if he could take a poke. I was skeptical and worried he’d blow the impression he’d already made on these experts, but figured the boy deserved a chance. The Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator data called for a 38.25-MOA adjustment at 1,100 yards. I got on the spotting scope and told him, “Send it.” He did, and he missed high, by what appeared to be several feet.

I Instructed Bat to walk the reticle in the Bushnell 2.5-10X Engage riflescope — yes, this was a 10X riflescope — down 1 MOA at a time. At 3 MOA below center, I called the shot just left. (Wind is a terrible thing at 1,100 yards.) My instructions were to keep the same elevation hold but to also hold 2 MOA off the right edge. He pulled the trigger six times and achieved six hits. The onlookers were stunned, I however, was confused.

With the 4 DOF calculator from Hornady you can input your data and go to the range with total confidence it will be precise. Of course, remember, garbage in, garbage out. You have to input the right information.

4DOF printout

How could the Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator data be so correct out to 700 yards and be off so much at 1,100? A range finder and a return to the Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator answered the question. Instead of 1,100 yards, the target was at 1,048 yards. Resetting the Hornady 4DOF calculator to display come-ups in increments of 10 yards, it showed the proper correction for that distance to be 35.25 MOA. With our original 38.25-MOA correction we were 3 MOA or about 33 inches high. Had we known the correct range to the target, the 4DOF-generated data would have allowed for an easy first or, since we had a bit of wind, second-round hit.

What makes all this possible is the math and mechanics behind the Hornady 4DOF ballistics calculator system. Its four degrees of freedom, taking into account windage, elevation, range, and angle of attack, allow trajectory solutions to be calculated with a drag coefficient instead of a ballistic coefficient (BC). It’s also the first publicly available ballistics calculator capable of determining the accurate vertical shift a bullet experiences as it encounters a crosswind, which is known as aerodynamic jump.

By using Doppler radar and actually shooting bullets, Hornady calculates the exact drag curve for every projectile in the 4DOF Bullet Library. (Currently there are more than 100 projectiles from Hornady, Lapua, Berger and Sierra.) BC can change as velocity changes, a drag curve doesn’t. Explained simply, instead of using BC, which gives you a snapshot of a bullet at various distances; Hornady has created a video of the bullet’s flight. This allows the 4DOF calculator to predict drop with perfection at any distance, every time.

The takeaway from all this — the one that’ll matter to you and your ammo — is that the Hornady 4DOF ballistic calculator is extraordinarily precise. Taking data this exact to the field on a first try is as rare as 17-year-old boys who can hit at 1,100 yards, six times in a row.

Check it out HERE

Download the app HERE for iOS

Download the app HERE for Android