Capercaillie hunting with a B14 Wilderness HMR

April 17, 2023.

Capercaillie hunting with a B14 Wilderness HMR

Late in November the Capercaillie starts feeding on pine needles. During this time many hunters change from shotgun to rifle for hunting those shy birds that taste so good.

The small-game hunter’s big buck!

The Capercaillie bird lives almost everywhere in Norway with big populations in the middle-east’s big boreal forest. The capercaillie males average 4,5 kg with big ones topping 5 kg! Hunting season is 10 September to 23 December, starting with shotguns and pointing dogs as hunters try to flush them from cover. For small game hunters the capercaillie male is the big buck dream! The hunt is difficult as it’s a smart bird and they often flush behind a tree or out of range. You need luck to get one.

Know your hunting ground

When the capercaillie change their feeding habits, from eating on the ground to eating in the tree, they also move area. A good hunting ground during early fall does not make good ground late in the fall. The reason is that they feed on pine needles, and in the trees the odds are on their side. Capercaillie have many feeding trees and normally use the same tree year after year. To succeed you have to know where to look.  I register the pines that the bird has been eating on because maybe next day the bird will use that tree. You are looking for skinny treetops without needles and ‘cheese doodle’ droppings beneath.

Conditions for hunting need to be right.  Not too much wind and not colder than -15°c is good. Many ask me where to hunt. They see signs but no birds. The answer is to hunt more and go further. You will find a capercaillie.

Know your rifle, ballistics and your limits

For hunting these beautiful birds I use a Bergara B-14 Wilderness HMR 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle is not light weight but with a good backpack it’s worth carrying. At last light, with one chance only, it’s good to have a rifle you can rely on.

I use is a Norma Diamondline 130gr bullet, handloaded with Norma N-19 powder in Norma brass, giving me ½” precision and great terminal ballistics for birds.

Capercaillie hunting puts a hunter’s shooting to the test and I stay within 240 meters for a shot. I use a ballistic program which takes bullet speed, weight and ballistic coefficients, so when I use my rangefinder, I use my app so I know how many clicks I have to dial.

I remind myself to take enough time to build a good shooting position. After hours of searching I want the shot to be a good one, which includes ensuring a safe backstop.  I study maps of the area for just this purpose. If a safe shot is in doubt, I do not take it.

Move smart, scan and go with right clothes

When searching I stop and scan every single tree out in the terrain before breaking cover. I use elevated areas for more height to scout with my binoculars. Typically, the bird may sit in the top of the tree but sometimes it will be in the middle. You can never spend enough time scouting!

Hunting in freezing weather, between 3° and down to -30°c, pushes you to consider the clothes you wear carefully. Never walk overdressed so that you sweat as you’ll lose heat quicker. When you stop moving is the time to add layers. Start walking cold and you’ll soon warm up.

Great meat for my family and friends

The capercaillie gives my family and friends delicious meat. It is high quality and very exclusive. At Christmas time we eat capercaillie and at the time of writing I have just shared a capercaillie dinner. Everybody loved it.

Right gun for the hunt

Hunting in these conditions I have exactly what I need. The B14 Wilderness HMR has given me the precision and performance that this hunt commands. I chose this rifle for capercaillie hunting and for Precision Rifle Shooting (PRS) competition. It has served me reliably for both.

About the Author

Simon began hunting at the age of 7 with his father in Norway and hunts local game birds and big game in some of the most challenging environments to this day. Since leaving the army following 8 years of service, Simon has started to shoot competitively in Precision Rifle matches with his B14 Wilderness HMR.

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