Grit Blogs > Arrows and Minnows

Turning to Rifle Hunting

By Caleb Regan, Managing Editor

Tags: ,

I’m giving in.

Coming into work Monday, one of the first people I saw was Mother Earth News Art Director Matthew Stallbaumer, and he summoned me over to his desk, saying something along the lines of, “We had a good weekend.”

Doug and Chase Stallbaumer

I knew that this meant one thing for sure, good hunting results and pictures of big bucks.

Here we are, about halfway through early rifle season, and Matthew, his brothers and their buddies all have deer that would make any man proud.


In instances like these, it’s natural for any hunter – surely it’s not just myself – to be envious and causes a bit of self reflection into how I can achieve those same sort of results.

I don’t consider myself totally unsuccessful, as I did manage to take a doe two weekends ago, and does are good eating. In that regard, I’m very thankful. However, I’m not an accomplished enough hunter to be past the obsession with shooting old deer with the biggest racks out there. Those are the bucks that have eluded trouble for the longest amount of time and are the most seasoned, so it follows that taking old, big deer is that much harder and more rarely accomplished.

Jesse Knight

Bowhunting is something I’m very passionate about, and I’ll continue to do it throughout the remainder of the winter and, hopefully (assuming my land access around Lawrence holds), into the spring with turkeys.

But at the same time, I don’t feel any shame about using a rifle, nor do I respect those that hunt with them any less. I can’t imagine there’s quite as much intimacy with the animal, since you can shoot to about 300 yards with a good all-around rifle cartridge, while I’m only comfortable sending an arrow at a deer up to about 40 yards.

For an argument on the merits of rifle hunting though, you need only to talk to a hunter – one concerned with ethics, at least – who’s ever felt certain they hit a deer with an arrow, only to lose the blood trail and never recover the animal. I’ve done it myself. Completely demoralizing. Probably any bowhunter who’s hunted for any length of time has experienced it. I know it’s caused me to seriously rethink the range of my bow – the yardage you think you can shoot when deer are on you and you want a shot – and it’s made me kind of obsessive compulsive about having my bow zeroed in every time I step into the woods.

What are your thoughts on bowhunting vs. rifle hunting? I’d love to hear other hunters’ input and, as always, I’d love to see photos or read stories of your successful hunts. Send them to me at

Happy hunting.

Top photo of Doug and son Chase courtesy of Doug Stallbaumer. Bottom photo of Jesse Knight taken by Matthew T. Stallbaumer. Both bucks are 10-pointers taken in Kansas.

Caleb Regan and his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on .

caleb regan
12/16/2008 4:58:45 PM

Hank- I feel like being thankful and hunting go hand in hand. In my opinion, starting the day with some reflection in the woods is one of the best ways to begin the day. Ryan- I've never hunted with a handgun before, but it sure would be a lot easier to maneuver in the tree than a bow or regular rifle. Rebekah- Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It was extremely encouraging – and just awesome – to get to meet you and your family. It isn't often that we get to meet readers, and getting the chance to talk with people who like what GRIT stands for is always great.

becky and andy
12/15/2008 4:02:04 PM

Caleb, Believe it or not, I have shot a bow before, but not at a living thing. It's worlds apart when you look at some colorful concentric circles rather than a muscled deer. Having never actually hunted before, I can say that I respect both sides very much. I have several friends who hunt and each season, they come away empty-handed much more often than not. In Wisconsin, we have a DNR policy that you have to shoot a doe before you can "bag a buck." That makes for an even greater challenge! I'd like to add here that it was great to meet you two weeks ago and though we didn't actually get to chat much, my family certainly appreciated your generosity and kindness! Becky

ryan mogle
12/14/2008 5:15:08 PM

Caleb, I am primarily a rifle hunter. I do have a bow hanging on the wall just waiting for me to use it. I do have dreams of bagging "the big one" a bow. I also find using a handgun for big game a very tempting idea. Both firearm and archery have their pros and cons. I believe people become overly confident in their abilities. A 300 yard shot with a rifle is something that must be practiced throughout the year..not just a week before opening day. The same holds true for a 40 yard shot with a bow. I have seen a few deer walking through the woods with what appears to be a wound inflicted by a poorly placed arrow. Either method is fine by me as long as people are getting out there!

hank will_2
12/10/2008 5:06:48 PM

Caleb -- Having never hunted with a bow, I can only say that rifle hunting leaves me thoughtful and reflective. And when things go well, and the invitation is answered, I feel thankful.