Interview with John McAdams of The Big Game Hunting Blog
I was born and raised near Houston, Texas. I attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned as an Armor officer upon graduation. I served in the Army for 10 years with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
My dad and grandfather were both serious shooters and deer hunters. I began accompanying them on camping and hunting trips at a young age until I was old enough to start hunting for myself.
I started The Big Game Hunting Blog in 2012 on something of a lark. Since then, I’ve worked very hard to build a useful resource for other hunters, especially those who are just getting started.
I’m continually appalled by the rude and disrespectful behavior on display in many hunting forums and on social media. It is especially apparent when somebody asks a question about the utility of hunting with a particular rifle, cartridge, or bullet out of genuine curiosity. Invariably, a few other hunters will pile upon the person asking the question, quite often spewing misleading, biased, or just plain wrong information. So, my goal is to help other hunters by providing answers to commonly asked questions that are reliable and with as little bias as possible.
I grew up hunting in pretty thickly wooded areas in east Texas, so I’ve spent a lot of time hunting from a tree stand. However, I’ve primarily switched over to spot and stalk hunting now that I spend most of my time afield out west.
In particular, I enjoy glassing. It’s a wonderful feeling to climb up to a high vantage point before the sun comes up and watch the world come to life through my binoculars. I still get incredibly excited spotting game hundreds of yards away, and I like watching animals from a distance without them knowing I’m there. It’s also an incredible rush to spot game at a distance and then execute a stalk so that I can approach within a couple of hundred yards for a shot without being spotted.
The piney woods of East Texas will always hold a special place in my heart because I have so many good memories of hunting there as a kid. Also, I enjoy hunting in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. It’s a special place that still has that “wild Africa” feel, and, in addition to the common species of plains game like kudu and impala, it’s not out of the question to run across animals like crocodiles and elephants there from time to time.
My dad and I went on a cape buffalo hunt together in Zimbabwe many years ago. I could only get off work for enough time to go during February, which is right in the middle of the summer and the rainy season there. Conditions were harsh with scorching temperatures, high humidity, and lots of rain. So, we struggled at first.
However, we got onto some buffalos around the 4th day of the hunt and started tracking them. After a couple of hours, we found where the buffalo had bedded for the day. To our surprise, we stumbled upon these buffalos as they were sleeping. The bush was incredibly thick there at that time of year, so we were so close that we could hear one buffalo breathing but could not see it!
Looking back on it, I probably was only 5-10 feet away from that cape buffalo. As you can imagine, we backtracked as fast as we could and were fortunate to slip away before those buffalos realized we were there. We found a termite mount that was about 6 feet tall a few hundred yards away and provided a good vantage point for us to see over much of the thick bush in the area. We set up there in the afternoon, and I was able to shoot a nice buffalo bull once they got up and started feeding in our direction that evening.
I carry an Exo Mountain Gear backpack that’s full of what I need for a day of hunting: water, some food, an extra layer of clothing, some rain gear, my tripod, spotting scope, game bags, and my knife. I usually carry a Ruger Hawkeye FTW Hunter rifle in .300 Winchester Magnum topped with a Leupold VX-5 scope.
Don’t worry about getting the coolest looking or the most expensive stuff at first. Buy or borrow some pretty basic stuff and then upgrade to the advanced one as you get more experienced and as you start to develop your individual “style” of hunting.
Watch the head of an animal you’re stalking. If you can see the eyes of the animal, it can see you. So, use terrain or vegetation to screen your movements from view as you approach. Once you’re close, time your movements for when the animal’s head is behind a tree or bush, or you’ll get busted.
I spent a lot of time outdoors, often in very hot, cold, or wet conditions during my Army career. I’ve woken up more than once buried in snow inside my sleeping bag on top of a tank after a storm came through at night. So, I’m comfortable being uncomfortable, and I’ve picked up several tricks over the years to help mitigate the effects of weather.
Don’t feel self-conscious about shooting a smaller animal and don’t let anybody give you a hard time for shooting a legal animal that you’re happy with. The only person you should compare yourself to is YOU. Set a goal and work to achieve it. It doesn’t matter what the goal is, but just strive to have fun and continually improve your skills as a hunter.
I think we’ll continue to see a surge in hunting, especially from non-traditional hunting demographics. The pandemic has curtailed a lot of other leisure activities (most notable sports like basketball, football, and baseball) and shocked the food supply system. So, more people seem to be interested in having the ability to provide for their food if necessary, and there are also merely fewer activities to compete for the limited leisure time available for most people.
I am probably working on my next project for The Big Game Hunting Blog or The Big Game Hunting Podcast. If I’m lucky, that involves some time at the shooting range or outdoors running or hiking. Most often, I’m researching, writing, or editing something in my office at home.
Mark Norquist and Fred Bohm. Both are great, down to earth guys who care deeply about conservation and helping other hunters. Neither is very flashy or colorful, but both guys are the real deal.