I've thought long and hard over the whole using .223 for big game hunting and have come up with some ideas I'd like to share.
Mainstream American hunting has long had "One shot, One kill" as it's basic ethic and there's an onus on having to shoot more to put game down. It shows you're a poor marksman, you didn't shoot the animal in the right spot. Or you're a poor woodsman, you didn't get close enough.
A long time ago, I read an article in Alaska magazine about a Barrow girl who took her first polar bear. 7 rounds from her Mini-14. First I thought, "Wow! a .223? I'd never be brave enough to use a caliber that small." Then I thought, "Well, a young girl can't handle a BIG caliber."
Over the years I heard and read, even on this forum, how people in the Bush commonly use .223 to hunt big game, most often using Mini-14s. I started to ask myself why were their hunting ethics so different? Added to this I read any number of articles about hunting in Africa where the Professional Hunters(Guides) complain that Americans use "too much gun" and are never ready for follow up shots.
Well, American hunters want one shot, one kill of course. Why, did the African PHs expect something else? Seems they did. They want hunters to shoot until the animal falls down and doesn't get back up. This is ethical to them. Using a gun that a hunter can do this with is ethical to them. Yes, I know there are caliber minimums.
American hunting began as subsitance hunting with black powder, single shot weapons. Eating pretty much meant you better get a kill with one shot and if you were poor you couldn't afford to miss. Fast forward to to today, to subsistance hunting. You need hunt and you're money poor, so you need to do it cheaply. Cheapest big hunting in Alaska today is killing caribou with a .22lr from a boat on the Yukon. Second cheapest is using a .223. It is also light kicking so shooting 3-7 rounds are sure to hit the animal before it gets away.
It is the shooting of the animal multiple times that goes against mainstream American hunting ethics. Do you think an animal suffers more being hit 5-6 times quickly by a FMJ .223 or once by a Barnes TSX .338?
Shooting a caribou or moose once with a .223 and expecting it to die is asking for a slowly dying animal. Expecting to shoot an animal several times with a .223 and doing it correctly is quickly killing an animal.
With respect, I don't think hunting a big game animal with a .223 is wrong. Or rather, hunting a big game animal with a .223 expecting a one shot kill is wrong.
I listened to the Alaska News report on the radio about banning .223s for hunting big game. The guy who is pushing it said he became disgusted when it took 3 rounds from his .223 to put down a deer. He was disgusted because he expected one shot one kill. He shouldn't have.
What are your thoughts?