It seems in the past ten to twenty years the majority of gun writers have stepped away from talking about this area of hunting, even when talking about dangerous game. It seems that all they want to talk about are high-powered bolt guns topped with glass as big as your arm in calibers that reach out to 1,000 yards. Maybe it is just me, or maybe things are different in the areas most of the gun writers hunt. Then again maybe it is the fact that I am a hunter who writes and not a writer that hunts. Hell I may be missing a scientific formula that will magically slaughter the animals without me having to do a thing. All I can say for sure is that in the hills I hunt which are steep, and full of brush a big bolt gun with a high powered variable scope is not only impractical, but a complete waste of time.
In the area I hunt most shots come quick and at a distance of no more than 150 yards in fact usually less. Now some hunt large abandoned strip jobs where you could use a nice bolt-gun with good glass, but many of those sites are getting fenced off. So many are left to hunt the brush areas. The brush is as tall as you, and in some cases the hills will be as steep as 90 degrees. At least that is the way they feel when you’re climbing them. You have to work hard to get the big bucks, and to get the really big mature bucks you have to go where humans rarely go. Many times it seems the harder you work to get a deer the bigger the animal.
In this article I am going to talk about what it takes for a gun to be a good brush gun, and of course I am going to talk about my favorite brush guns. Now I may not cover your first choice, but that is not to say your gun isn’t a good choice it may be one I am not familiar with so don’t go off in a huff a bitchin.
All of the following factors must be present for a gun to be good for the brush. A good brush gun needs to be light usually 6.5lbs to 7.5lbs. range is ideal for weight. They must be easy to maneuver; they need to be compact this usually means a short barrel. Anything from 16” to 20” is best in barrel length. The sights must be easy to see, accurate, and dependable. prefer a sight that will lock the adjustment screws like a peep sight, or a compact fixed power scope if it doesn’t affect weight too much. This insures that the sights will stay in adjustment unlike the old style open sights that the ramp can move around. The gun needs to pack enough wallop to kill the animal quick. In the situation of close quarters stopping the animals movement can save your life. This means the hunter must pick a caliber that has the level of performance to take on the species of animal they are hunting. An example of this would be using a .45-70, or say a .454 Casull for Bear, and not a .30-30. In some cases one caliber can handle many species of animal, like the .45-70 can do, but this isn’t always the best caliber for a job this is why I choose to own more than one brush gun. I personally have several caliber brush guns from .30-30 to .45-70. This allows me to hunt deer without destroying too much meat, and if I want to hunt Black Bear I have another gun with enough power. I generally frown on one-brush gun arsenals. To me one gun cannot do everything.
The first guns I am going to talk about I think everyone would have to agree meet the criteria of a good brush gun better than any other action. It is also my favorite type of gun to take hunting. I am of course talking about the Lever action rifle. Since the time they became part of American hunting culture they have accounted for more game than any other type action second only to maybe the bolt gun. They are the guns most people identify with when thinking of deer hunting in the woods of the eastern United States. Winchester and Marlin are the first names that come to mind when most people think of a Lever action rifle, but there are others such as Henry Repeating Arms, Browning, Wild West Guns, and Savage. Each company makes guns that have become or are becoming legendary for their quality and effectiveness in the field. Rifle calibers for a good Lever action brush gun vary from the venerable .30-30 to the .50 Alaskan cartridges, and such hard-hitting pistol cartridges as the .44 Magnum, and .454 Casull. The number of calibers Lever guns come chambered alone is a reason to place them in first place, but the fact that many are small, light, short barreled carbines makes them the very definition of what a brush gun should be.
My second choice would be a small compact semi-auto rifle, and carbines. There are many great choices in this type of action. The small deer carbine by Ruger in .44 Magnum, or the best thing to happen to brush guns since the lever action the new AR variants that are hitting the market like the .450 Bushmaster. This is a great brush gun in my opinion, and if I weren’t such a lever nut I would probably own one of these fast action guns. The SKS is a very popular gun in the area I live, and they make a great little brush gun if they have the shorter barrel. Generally I would have to say that these have only one draw back the system that operates them. They can be more prone to jam than other actions so I would generally hold back on picking one of these guns for dangerous game hunts. That is just my opinion.
Next would have to be a small bolt action designed for brush use like Rugers Frontier model. A short-barreled bolt gun is only as fast as the person shooting it so this is the reason I personally put them in third place as far as actions go. These are usually referred to as scout rifles generally they are short barreled with a scope mounted further forward than usual, and chambered in high powered rifle cartridges such as the .30-06, and several other bottle necked cased cartridges. I personally don’t like this type of rifle for my uses in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. In the Rockies or areas like that I might think about one of these little bolt guns.