Lanny Oakley shares her thoughts on Hunting with an AR
Hunting with an AR?
by Lanny Barnes
Hunting with an AR, this a can raise eyebrows and start debates, but why? I am hoping that by the end of this blog, you will understand why this usually more traditional hunter took an AR into the woods this year. Many traditional hunters oppose idea and many people get caught up in the stigma that surrounds the black rifle. I’ve hunted all my life and I’ve never hunted, until now, with an AR. I’ve hunted down many, many targets over the years with one, including bringing home a bronze individual and team gold at the IPSC Rifle World Championships this year in Sweden. This was one of the biggest reasons why I decided to take an AR into the woods this year on my Mule Deer hunt. I knew that by doing it I would get some good and bad reviews, but my thinking was, if I can shoot with the best in the world with an AR, why not use those same means to be as accurate and confident as I possibly can when out in the woods hunting.
My confidence level with a rifle is extremely high. I grew up hunting with a bolt action rifle, competed in 3 Olympics in biathlon with a specialized bolt action rifle, but the last five years have been almost exclusively shooting an A.R. more specifically a JP Enterprise AR.
An AR platform in my opinion, can be just as effective as your traditional bolt action rifle because of the endless possibilities for customizing the firearm to fit you perfectly. Isn’t that the goal at the end of the day to make your rifle more or less an extension of you? It should be so comfortable that you have a confidence to get the job done when you need to.
I’ve spent more time in the woods than most, especially during hunting season and I’ve seen countless hunters miss animals and wound animals simply for the fact that that they don’t spend enough time practicing before season, they don’t have a firearm that fits them, or a firearm they are confident with. Now I think regardless of what rifle you use, it should be your personal preference and what fits you the best. It should be whatever is going to allow you to take the most accurate shot to bring down that game animal. For me right now, my confidence in my ability to do just that is best with it with an AR. That is my reasoning behind using that platform. An AR may not be the best for everyone, but it is extremely easy platform to use and these days, with the advances in technology they are just as accurate is any type of Bolt action rifle.
I used a JP Enterprise LRP-07 and 6.5 Creedmoor. This is a gun that has been excelling in long-range rifle Precision matches. It is definitely a little on the heavy side for hauling around for any long periods of time in the woods, but for this deer hunt I had planned I knew it would be perfect as I wasn’t wandering too far into the woods. I paired it with a Trijicon AccuPoint® 4-16x50 Riflescope and the new extremely accurate Fioccchi 129GR Interlock FB. With a set up similar to what I used at the Rifle World Championships and a platform I was able to customize perfectly to my 5’3” small frame, I had the confidence to take just about any shot.
Now I know that this gun is capable of shooting out to 1000 yards, but as someone who has spent the last 15 years archery hunting, I still appreciate getting in as close as I can to an animal. I settled for somewhere in between the two just for the opportunity to test the rifle. I had a Southwest Colorado buck tag for 3rd rifle season and although I knew the rut wouldn’t start for at least a few more weeks my goal was to get some meat for the freezer. I headed out opening morning into the pinion and juniper with a thin layer of frost touching just about everything and set up where I’d be glassing and waited for it to get light. Southwest Colorado is notorious for a lot of mule deer. Over the next hour and a half, I had about 18 does come out and feed amongst the fields of native grasses and sage and wander through the Pinion and Juniper all around me. Finally, about 8:30am, a buck walked out about 375 yards away. Definitely not an incredibly challenging shot for this rifle, but enough distance to test out my accuracy as a shooter.
Having my hands wrapped around familiar platform and tucked tight into my shoulder, I didn’t even question whether or not I could make the shot. I knew I could. I was set up in reverse kneeling with a solid rest on a log and aimed for the base of the skull, as to not ruin any meat, and pressed the trigger. The buck went down immediately and that was that. I had some great meat for freezer, and I was successful in trying something new. That rifle gave me confidence well beyond my bolt action rifle and it worked out just the way it should.
My recommendation to hunters is to use what you’re most comfortable with and what you practice with the most. If you don’t have the confidence you need, try out an AR, they can be incredibly customizable which can help build your confidence and get the one shot, one kill you need when out hunting. Will I take an AR out again for another hunt? Absolutely! I will still play with my bow, but I definitely will plan some hunts with my AR as well, especially if I know if it requires some challenging shooting. Bringing home a bronze and a gold medal for the Rifle World Championships and a deer for the freezer was a win/win for me.