It's the end of August, and for predator hunters this marks the time to start thinking about getting ready for the coming hunting season. This is especially true if you've picked up a new rifle and still need to develop a handload for it or find factory ammo it likes.
If you're trying to decide which bullets to launch at fur-bearers this year, you're not alone. One of the things that sets predator hunters apart is their desire to save the valuable fur of the animals they harvest, and that requires using the right bullet.
However, shooting a fur-bearer, by definition means, punching a hole in it—which always has the potential to downgrade the hide's value. Ideally, a good fur bullet will penetrate into the animal, then "blow up" inside, leaving no exit hole. But this is the real world, and considering the varying physical structure of predators, the disparity of distances at which they are shot and all the different bullet entry angles, ideal performance in every case is just a dream.
Small holes can be easily repaired by you or your taxidermist.
Based on a lifetime of shooting predators, here are a few guidelines that might save you some time and effort.
Don't use full-metal-jacket bullets.
Predators are tough to kill, and these bullets just don't do enough damage to anchor them reliably. Save these slugs for the target range—which is where target or match bullets belong, too. While target bullets are wonderfully accurate, I've never had acceptable performance from a hollow-point match bullet on a predator. I haven't tried them all, but I have no desire to because there are lots of good game bullets designed specifically for hunting.
Use polymer-tipped bullets.
These slugs offer better ballistic coefficients, expansion characteristics and feeding reliability than any other design suitable for hunting. About the only downside is that some versions, designed specifically for extremely rapid expansion, can expand too quickly and cause entry wounds so cavernous they make a hide worthless. This is especially true for close-range shots when velocities are high, or on shots that hit a big shoulder bone.
Shoot bullets in the heavier weight range for your rifle.
This keeps velocities a little lower on close shots, but because they typically have higher ballistic coefficients, nothing is lost at longer ranges. And as a bonus, you'll typically get less wind drift.
For example, 40- grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets are my current favorite in the .204 Ruger. In either a .223 Rem. or a .22-250 Rem., I like the Nosler 60-grain Ballistic Tip, but this bullet will usually only stabilize in a 1:10 barrel twist or faster. With both these bullets I will sometimes get fragments that exit, but the holes are small and easily sewn up.
No, they aren't perfect fur-saving bullets; but they are excellent compromises and that's the best we can hope for in the real world. Both are worth a try if you're developing a new hunting load this fall.
And don’t forget to check your pac boots for leaks—winter is closer than you think.