Author: Renato BRODAR
Autumn, with its rich colour palette, fruit picking, grape harvest and gathering of other agricultural produce, also heralds the arrival of something else - the peak of the hunting season. Through the eyes of a hunter, this always brings about a certain type of thrill. It is a fact that delights on its own and for the vast majority of hunters, group hunting and associated driven hunts of big game are those that bring the greatest adventures and hunting pleasures of the year. Those are also the hunts that release the true adrenaline rush, it’s what hunters have been waiting on for the whole year.
The driven hunts are full of contradictions that place them among the most interesting methods of hunting. A hunt that is as full of contrasts, as it is the autumn season. In one moment, you quietly and patiently wait while sitting on a tripod stool, slowly looking around the surroundings and searching for something that would indicate a shift. In the very next second, a dog bark can be heard, which sends blood rushing through your veins and only a moment or two separates you from the game’s jump and the unravelling of events that you couldn’t imagine mere seconds ago. Leaves rustle, you can hear branches snap and you only get a few seconds to spot movement from the corner of your eye, lift the rifle and place it next to your cheek, unlock the safety and evaluate the game suddenly stepping out from a tree and isn’t about to pause on its path, get ready for the shot, exhale and … pull the trigger.
But there are a few rules and advice you’ll need to follow to ensure the ideal unfolding and resolve of events and experience satisfaction after a completed hunt.
Safety always comes first. This includes, in particular, adherence to the instructions that were passed down from the leader of the hunt - prior to the actual commencement of the hunt. The instructions usually entail specifying the safe direction of shooting, which game we are allowed to shoot, from which direction we can expect the drive, rules of conduct, and other stuff that needs to be followed to the T. Keep in mind that leaving the stands can be very dangerous and is not advisable since other hunters cannot predict our movement. Always check where you can shoot and always make sure that there is a shelter in the form of a land, a hill or something else in the direction of our shot before squeezing the trigger. You certainly must never fire towards the horizon as there is no guarantee as to where the bullet will land. We are not the only person present and an accelerated heartbeat coupled with a desire for prey can result in a tragic outcome in a fraction of a second!
Once safety is granted, we can move on to the next stage of taking care of ourselves.
For a successful hunt, we have to be calm and collected, eliminate sudden movement, noise and other activities that would result in failure. However, it is also important that we choose appropriate hunting equipment.
Let's ensure that we remain warm and dry until the end of the hunt. A hunt can last for several hours so don’t let body shivers and numbness in extremities spoil the experience. For driven hunts, it is necessary to choose warm clothes first and foremost as, during the hunt, we won’t be moving around much or at all. Other technical properties of clothing (ventilation, drying, swishing) can be somewhat secondary when it comes to this hunting method. Note that weather conditions may change suddenly in the middle of the hunt and we are met with heavy rain, snow or harsh wind. Make sure that the clothing you’ll pick is also waterproof and wind-resistant. If you decide otherwise, at least bring a waterproof cover in your backpack, so you’ll be able to put it on in need. If you get cold easily, also add heating pads for your feet, hands, shoes with heated insoles or the like. Heated clothes (such as AlpenHeat, for example) are steadily growing in popularity due to their heating compartments that can be recharged by refilling batteries via an electric plug. They can emit heat for several hours, depending on the settings. Similarly, the ever-more popular Alpina Hunter Heat hiking boots, which can make waiting on the stand during the cold much easier. The integrated “Intemp” system keeps the user’s feet warm for up to 5 hours (depending on the intensity setting) with a simple click of a button, and uses rechargeable batteries. A welcome addition during colder days is the use of thermal underwear as it is the first layer of clothing that significantly influences our comfort level. I always make sure to bring an additional shirt, a pair of gloves and a hat in my backpack.
Let's make sure that we are visible and can be easily spotted. Let's not forget that when it comes to group hunting, reflective, shiny clothing and accessories (stripes on caps, hats in vibrant colours, reflective waistcoats etc.) are advisable for safety. They will make sure that we are clearly visible and will stand out from our surroundings even at a distance. Due to the weapons present, desire for prey and other participants’ adrenaline rush, make sure that you are visible in all weather conditions and circumstances! Orange clothing is becoming increasingly common in hunting (as well as weapons in vibrant colours and in orange) so a hunter, decked out completely in orange and wearing light-reflecting colours is no longer anything out of the ordinary.
Physiological needs are the most basic needs and mustn’t be neglected. Do not forget to bring a water bottle, warm tea and maybe some snacks, especially if the hunt will go on for an extended period of time and there are breaks planned in-between individual drives. Thirst or hunger can ruin our day too.
Hunter's basic equipment includes hunting weapons. Find out beforehand which game the hunt will entail. Bring appropriate weapons and ammunition that is compliant with the prescribed minimum calibre requirements for the specific game you’ll be hunting. Bullet structure and its mass have to fit prescribed regulations and recommendations. When it comes to group hunts, the shots are fast, the distances short and the circumstances unpredictable which is why calibres of larger diameters and bullets of bigger masses are the preferred options. The reason lies in the fact that driven hunts tend to be less accurate than using the classic method of hunting where the hunter waits on a hunting stand. That’s why it’s better to have a little bit of added reserve in the sense of sufficient energy transmission from the bullet to the game. In addition to that, numerous obstacles like branches, leaves, tall grass stand in our way. Faster and smaller bullets could easily shatter mid-path against the aforementioned obstacles, so they are not best option if their intended path of travel can suddenly deviate thanks to the tiniest blade of grass.
Even more important than choosing the right type of rifle is that we know how to correctly and safely handle it. We have to be used to working with it, know all of its features, safety, potential preset triggers so it falls onto our shoulder almost by intuition. During this hunting method, we might get the chance of shooting at multiple animals so there might be little time between the individual shots. Or we may shoot an inaccurate shot and find ourselves in need of a quick correction shot. For this reason, the most popular weapon choices for group hunts are semi-automatic rifles, straight-pull rifles, bolt-action rifles and slightly more exotic “express” rifles, where a quick succession of shots is also made possible. All of the listed weapon choices allow for a quick shot correction. The choice between them is primarily dependent on the user’s personal preference. Practice, practice and once again practice is far more important than any weapon choice. Whether it is firing at moving targets, quick repeating or rifle loading, we will only be able to achieve good hunting results in key moments with sufficient amount of training completed beforehand. Don’t be reluctant to splurge on a few additional bullets and entry fees before the start of the hunting season. Enjoy a training session or two in one of those “shooting galleries” that have lately been gaining popularity. More and more hunters are installing muzzle brakes on their rifles. These are especially useful on driven hunts since they make firing the next shot easier, without the long and unnecessary pause in-between.
Optical accessories. Except for the few skilled individuals who still rely on iron sights in present time, the majority of hunters opts for the installation of optical devices that enable easier assessment of game and better shot accuracy. The most common and useful optical devices for driven hunts are: red dot sights and wide-angle riflescopes. When shooting at moving targets, it’s important that our eyes can make use of as wide a field of vision as possible since that gives us added control over the action and makes spotting the target through the device lens that much easier. Keeping both eyes open during the measurement is ideal, as we can oversee a larger area in measuring and shooting time. The advantage of utilizing a red dot sight is in its light weight and exceptional robustness. Open reflex red dot sights are especially light but are slightly more susceptible to falling snow and dew. Even though they have been gaining in popularity lately, some still prefer the use of a wide-angle riflescope on a driven hunt. These offer the widest field of vision, plus an adjustable magnification range (which is useful when it comes to a longer shot or the assessment of game), neither of which red dot sights offer. The downside is that riflescopes are slightly larger, heavier and usually more expensive.
Protection of vision and hearing. It is true that we rarely see hunters using shooting glasses since there are very few accidents associated with this kind of equipment. It would be a little more pertinent to consider using hearing protection. The plentitude of shots cast year after year during the hunter’s lifespan most definitely affects the quality of hearing. The right thing to do is using hearing protection during hunts - and not just at the shooting ranges. These trends are arriving from the northern Europe, whose hunters were among the first to recognize the importance of caring for their own health, which obviously entails protecting the hearing of each individual. Wearing ear muffs does not mean that we won’t be able to hear game moving. On the contrary! Popular hearing protection aids will help us to hear game movements and other voices much faster. These so-called active ear muffs (or caps) amplify human hearing while blocking or decreasing the volume of rifle bangs while the shots are cast.
Accessories. For a completed set, it is only reasonable to add a portable chair on which you can peacefully sit for extended periods of time, since it’s impossible to know precisely for how long the hunt will take place. If we don’t want to alert the game, constant shifting from one foot is not the best solution. Also, unless we’ll be positioned near a tree or a hunting stand that our rifle could lean on, it is best to bring along a shooting stick that will help us to point the rifle with added accuracy (especially at lengthier shooting distances). If the shooting stick is not a crucial addition thanks to the agreeable surroundings, it can still prove handy for support on our walk towards the hunting stand - in short, it can only be useful! All that equipment can be quite demanding and way too heavy to carry in our hands so let’s not forget the multi-practicality of a sturdy backpack. That’s how we can safely store the bulk of our gear and stay comfortable.