Jack O’Connor: Tips on Big Game Shooting

Jack O'Connor with a trophy, a stone sheep.

Jack O’Connor with a trophy, a stone sheep. Photo courtesy of Jack O’Connor Hunting Heritage and Education Center

Editor’s Note: Jack O’Connor was one of the most prolific figures in American gun writing. The longtime firearms editor for Outdoor Life magazine introduced a great swath of America to hunting and firearms through countless books and articles.

O’Connor’s unique life was the driving force in the development of his technical background and always enlightening perspective on firearms and hunting. Born January 22, 1902 in the Arizona Territory, he was witness to the closing of the old West. As an adult, he hunted all over the world, collecting trophies from nearly every continent. And throughout his life he was a refined man of letters, serving as an English professor at the University of Arizona and becoming the school’s first journalism professor.

O’Connor is perhaps best known for his passion, sheep hunting. As pointed out at the Jack O’Connor Hunting Heritage and Education Center’s website, “by 1946 he collected three or more of each of the four wild sheep species in North America, becoming the fourth and fifth man to complete such a collection.”

O’Connor also graced the pages of the Gun Digest Annual for many years. What follows is an excerpt from one of his earliest contributions, an article titled Tips on Big Game Shooting from the 1952 edition of the annual. As always, O’Connor’s writing leaves his readers entertained, but more importantly educated.

Hold ‘em, squeeze ‘em, and call ‘em!

This is the formula for becoming a good big game shot, just as it is for becoming a good shot of any kind.

The man interested primarily in being a game shot should practice largely in the position he will use in the field, and as much as possible under the conditions he will encounter in the field. Of the standard positions, the two most useful are sitting and offhand. Since I have done most of my big game hunting in the mountains and canyons of western North America, I have shot probably 70 percent of the big game I have killed from the sitting position – and that includes running game. I have shot some big game from the kneeling position, but I’d make a guess that of the other 30 percent, about half was shot from offhand and the other half from prone.

Sitting is the queen of hunting positions, particularly in the mountains. It brings the muzzle of the rifle high enough to clear grass and low shrubs. It can be used from a hillside. It is much steadier than offhand or kneeling. It is somewhat less steady than prone, but it is far more flexible and adaptable. Practice in the sitting position pays big dividends. It is a far better position for general use than kneeling.