Does Reloading for Hunting Predators Save Money or Help Accuracy?

Reloading is not only an economical way to shoot more accurate ammunition, it’s also a way to shoot more ammunition.

Does Reloading for Hunting Predators Save Money or Help Accuracy?

Accuracy is one of the biggest reasons why many hunters reload ammunition. (Photo: Heath Wood)

For several years, my good friend Eddie Owens and I have been predator hunting across southern Missouri. We’ve tried to perfect our skills by fine tuning every aspect of what it takes to be more successful. One is trying to be the best shot we can possibly be. 

One summer evening a few years ago, Owens and I aided a local farmer by trying to take out a few coyotes near his cattle herd. As we walked in, we spotted a coyote already in the field mousing around the edge of a pond. We quickly sat down in the taller grass, folded out our bipods and settled in to begin a quick calling sequence. 

With the coyote a couple hundred yards away, I decided to make a rabbit-in-distress sound on a diaphragm call. After only a few seconds of calling, the coyote peeked over the small hill in a dead run to our setup. He was moving in quickly to the sound of my calling. Suddenly, he stopped at 150 yards. Since he was facing directly at us, I put my crosshairs on his chest and pulled the trigger. 

“You missed him,” Owens said. At that time, I didn’t have a clue as to how I could have missed. It all had worked perfectly until the time came to pull the trigger and I had somehow managed to mess it up. 

About the same time frame as my missed shot, Owens had begun introducing me to reloading in order to fine tune my shooting skills. While on our way back home, he tried to ease my frustration by explaining that with the coyote staring head on at us, my bullseye was only about a 4-inch circle. “You really need to start reloading, and fine tune your rifle,” he said. 

For a long time, I didn’t understand the need, mainly because I had always been under the impression that reloading was to help save the hunter money when buying ammunition. I soon came to the realization that reloading is used more to improve shot accuracy.

“A predator hunter is a special breed of hunter,” Owens said. “They strive for accuracy when hunting. They’re not happy with the old saying, ‘it’s good enough to hit a pie plate.”

When predator hunting, the need to for pinpoint accuracy is crucial. I began to venture into reloading and soon discovered there are many questions from aspiring predator hunters when learning about the importance of reloading. Questions such as, “Does reloading make one a better shot? How does one reload for his or her own rifle? How does one get started?” and one of my favorites, “Can reloading make one a better predator hunter?”

I recently sat down with Owens to discuss these questions in hopes that someone who is debating on whether to begin reloading can be led in the right direction.

The first question I asked Owens was what makes a predator hunter want to reload. “Accuracy is all in one’s ability. The more you practice, the better you will be,” he said. He added that most hunters begin looking at reloading because of accuracy and dependability. When hunters begin shooting factory ammunition, even though there is some great factory produced ammunition available, the No. 1 complaint is not being dependable. 

“I have spoken to numerous hunters in the past who have had factory ammunition fail to fire during the moment of truth,” he said. Having ammunition fail to fire during that split second when the opportunity to make the harvest presents itself can be as devastating, as can missing at long range due to the lack of accuracy. 

Now that there is a legitimate reason to reload, one may be curious as to what it takes to get started. The basic components to reload consist of a press and powder measure device such as digital or balance beam style scale. Hornady’s Lock ’N’ Load Iron Press Kit is a great way to acquire everything needed to begin reloading. 

Also needed is a device to trickle powder into a case. This device is important in order to be accurate when fine tuning a load. “When measuring powder, one will be using grains,” Owens said. He said some people think grains of powder refers to the powder granules, not a unit of measure. Depending on what type of powder, it may take five to six granules of powder to weigh a grain Therefore, trickling is important instead of using a spoon to measure. 

“For example, when loading .223, which is a popular load for coyotes, this load takes 22 1/2 grains of my favorite powder,” Owens said. “The trickle method is needed. I don’t reload without a trickler.” 

Some important tools with the Iron Press Kit includes an all-around case prep with a primer pocket cleaner, deburr tool, primer pocket reamer, case trimming set and some type of priming tool. A type of brass cleaner such as the Hornady M-1 Case Tumbler is also needed when de-capping or resizing used brass. A tumbler cleans the inside and outside of the brass to keep things clean and make it easier when chambering a load. 

Once everything has been purchased, it is time to start fine tuning one’s firearm to shoot to the best of its ability. Every rifle shoots differently, which is why fine tuning a load to match the hunter’s specific firearm is important to achieve the best accuracy. 

“First, once you have re-sized an empty case, chamber the case to make sure it cycles in the chamber of the firearm,” Owens said. This is to assure that everything cycles smoothly once it is loaded. Next, Owens makes a so-called “dummy round,” a cartridge without the powder or primer; it's used to check the overall length of the load once the bullet is in. This is done by checking the dimensions in a loader’s manual. Manuals have all the specs for each load. 

Once adjustments are made to assure that the load fits, Owens suggest setting the dummy load to the side to use as a gauge once loading begins. Next he suggests using the manual to begin loading. “Start with whatever the book says for the bullet weight and powder and start at the suggested starting point.” Some people suggest starting at the max point, but it’s strongly recommended to ignore that and start at the suggested starting point. 

Owens will then load five cartridges at the minimum suggested starting point, then go up a half a grain, load five more cartridges, go up another half grain and load five more. Next, he suggests shooting those three loads and choosing  which one performs the best. If one needs to fine tuned, repeat the same process until the desired point is reached.

The last question many hunters ask is if reloading makes one a better predator hunter. The answer is absolutely. By fine tuning a load to match a specific firearm, it allows the hunter to know exactly how his or her rifle performs at each distance. “To successfully shoot coyotes, a hunter needs to shoot 100 percent,” Owens says. 

How can that help you become a better predator hunter? The answer is simple. Not only will you kill more coyotes through better accuracy from reloading, but it also will improve predator hunting for the future.

“Hunters can successfully call coyotes in the same place year after year,” says Owens, “but if you begin missing coyotes, they will not continue responding to the call in that area anymore.” By missing the shot opportunity, all the hunter is doing is educating coyotes for next time. “Because of reloading I am always out shooting and practicing with a firearm to become a better shot. That in itself has made me better when I am in the field,” he said.

Owens agrees that he has saved "close to $1,000 in ammunition" costs throughout the years by reloading. Even with a chunk of savings, Owens believes that reloading to get an accurate and dependable load tailored to his particular rifle outweighs the cost savings any day. 


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