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Assault-style rifles get mixed reviews for hunting

Sportsmen concerned about image, rapid-fire potential

Hunters and shooters filed more than two dozen responses indicating a spectrum of opinion to last Sunday’s Out & About request for comments on the promotion of assault-style rifles for hunting.

“It makes me sick to think about people out there spraying bullets with AR-15s rather than concentrating on making a good clean kill at an animal,” said one anonymous caller. “We have responsibilities to animals.”

William Slusher of Okanogan sees the issue from another angle.

“No true hunter will allow the rapid availability of a second round to have anything whatever to do with the ethic of killing quick with the first, and every, shot,” he said. “If, however, as that unbreakable law of averages dictates, he fails to Hawkeye every first shot, then let him have another in the tube soonest that he may drop and finish the animal before it escapes wounded.

“The real ‘unethical hunter’ is the egotistical, self-impressed guy who goes after an animal with a single-shot rifle,” Slusher added. “Whether he shoots like Carlos Hathcock or not, he is going to maim, drag out the painful death of, and allow the escape of, more wounded animals by far over his hunting life than the equally skilled guy who can bring another round to bear immediately.”

Henry Hanson, 70, who’s been hunting and filling his tags with a single-shot .30-30 or a muzzleloader since he was old enough to get a license, had this perspective:

“Assault-style rifles in the woods (or any where else) are for the macho feeling you get holding the weapon, not for serious hunting.

“Playing Army is OK,” he added, “but if you’re going to hunt, then HUNT, don’t spray the wood with lead. Real hunters: One shot, one kill.”

However, Roy Mountain has tried the military-style rifles and he likes them.

“The AR-15 is a great hunting rifle,” he said. “It is very accurate, you can build it to suit your needs, and modify it easily for different uses. It is great for predators, Richardson ground squirrels, target shooting, or competition.”

Several readers pointed out that the AR-15 featured in the photo that ran last Sunday is chambered for the .223 cartridge. This caliber is legal in Washington for hunting cougars as well as non-game animals such as coyotes, but it is not allowed for hunting bears, deer or elk. (See Equipment and Hunting Methods section in the 2007 Washington Big Game Hunting Rules pamphlet, page 65.)

However, similar military-type rifles are chambered in calibers legal for hunting big game, and one reader, who did not leave his name on the voice mail message, said he’s a convert.

“I’ve hunted coyotes for years with an AR-15, and very successfully, using a small-capacity magazine,” he said. “And I’ve taken several deer with an AR10 in .308 caliber, also with a small capacity magazine.

These guns, as far I know, are not out there blazing away. Everyone I know who uses them, it’s one shot, one kill.”

One anonymous hunters said, “If they allow ARs into the hunting arena they are just opening for trouble.

You allow ARs in the woods for hunting … you replace the word hunting with shooting! Now it’s just deer shooting! In my book that’s just not right.”

Brad Fuller of Nine Mile Falls posed this question: “Why should it matter what type of firearm a hunter chooses to use to enjoy his or her sport as long as it meets all federal and state regulations?”

“The assault-style rifles, whatever you call them, are butt ugly,” said Jim Nelson, a long-time Spokane hunter. “I wouldn’t even want one in my gun cabinet.

“I was a certified firearms instructor for years. We tried to convey that the best and most important part of hunting is not the thrill of the shot, it’s outwitting the deer and getting into position for the shot.

“We taught students to make the first shot count. I remember my dad telling a guy this story:

“One shot means ‘Got a deer.’ Two shots means ‘Got a deer, maybe.’ Three shots means, ‘Well, ah, maybe I got a deer.’ Four shots, ‘No deer.’ “

And while Lee Mowreader of Hayden said he is “strongly opposed to the use of these rifles in hunting, another reader made the case that the assault-style rifle tends to be maligned for much the same reason that people want to ban pit bulls.

“The appearance of hunting firearms varies widely, but their function is still controlled by the person operating it,” said Steve Christian of Spokane Valley. “One well-placed shot, one pull of the trigger: it’s up to the hunter, not the gun.”

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