Beginners’ Mistakes by Francois van Emmenes

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Beginners’ Mistakes by Francois van Emmenes: Hunting tips to avoid disappointment

Newcomers to the sport of hunting often suffer disappointments due to inexperience, misjudgement or not knowing what to expect. In this article we’ll look at some of the more obvious oopsies.

First on the list is one I have witnessed at least five times – new boots.  Old-timers know not to go hunting in new boots. This doesn’t always occur to novices, who often underestimate the ruggedness of the terrain or the distance they will walk, or both, resulting in blistered feet that ruin the rest of their hunt. One novice hunter who joined us for a four-day hunt blistered his ankles so badly on his first day that he could not wear any type of shoe for days and spent the rest of the hunt as camp chef. Wear good quality hiking socks and thoroughly break in new boots for a couple of weeks in all types of terrain before you go hunting in them. They should be soft and pliable and not cause any type of irritation. If hunting in wet conditions, carry spare socks – even with well-worn boots, wet socks will blister your feet. 

Next up is inappropriate scope magnification. Variable scopes being all the rage nowadays, I get the impression that most novices believe the higher the magnification, the better they will shoot. This, of course, is not necessarily true. Higher magnification reduces the field of view and exaggerates any movement of the rifle (hence the scope reticle) relative to the target – powerful scopes will even show the movements caused by your heartbeat. This wavering around of the reticle can prompt you to ‘snatch’ the trigger. High magnification can also cause you to misjudge distance.

Many hunters take to the bush with the scope set on the same magnification they used for checking the zero of their rifle from a shooting bench – usually the highest it goes. When an animal presents itself at close range, they are unable to find it quickly enough in the scope because the field of view is too small – often all they see are patches of leaves and twigs. When they do find the animal, the reticle appears to waver over the vital area, and so they hesitate, and all too often the animal moves off before they feel they have the crosshairs steady enough. In bushveld, always hunt with your scope on its lowest magnification; if the animal appears far enough away to warrant higher magnification, chances are it will be unaware of your presence or unalarmed, allowing you time to dial the magnification higher if you feel you need it.

While on scopes – ‘eye relief’ is the distance at which the image is in sharpest focus behind the ocular lens of your scope (i.e. where the pupil of your eye should be). If your eye is in the correct position, the sight picture should be perfectly clear and sharp, and should fill the scope lens all the way to its edges – often referred to as a “full moon” sight picture, i.e. no peripheral black shadow. There is usually some margin within which you will still see a “full moon” sight picture despite your eye being a few millimetres too far forward of, or behind the optimum eye relief position.

Read the full article in the April 2018 issue of Magnum.

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