The techniques of rifle hunting haven't changed substantially since World War II, which saw the debut of the German Sturmgewehr-44 (or StG-44), the first assault rifle. Shortly thereafter, assault rifles became available to civilians in some countries. In the United States, hunters began using semiautomatics, especially the caliber .22 rimfire. (Note that in many areas, hunting with semiautomatic rifles is illegal or considered highly unsportsmanlike.) However, for all intents and purposes, most modern-day rifle hunters still use the same bolt-action technology that was popular in the last days of the American frontier.
What has changed, though, is the land itself. The human population is in an increasingly tenuous relationship with animal populations. Some areas, unfortunately, are now dealing with the consequences of overhunting, and some places still struggle to prevent overhunting and poaching.
There's no question that modern rifle hunting is more complicated than it was in the days of Davy Crockett. The modern rifle hunter must deal with licenses, permits, seasons and other regulations before ever sighting a deer in his scope. Many species are now protected by law. Others will never be hunted again -- because they have vanished from the planet.
It may come as a surprise that the rifle hunter may one day be added to the Endangered Species list. In fact, the number of hunters in the U.S. has been declining for almost four decades [Source: Marshall]. Hunting used to be one of the defining American activities. Today, only about 3 percent of Americans hunt, and demographic trends indicate the number will continue to drop.
Ironically enough, urbanization is one of the major culprits here -- as it is with the extinction of other species. Fewer people have contact with nature, and a smaller percentage of people live close to hunting grounds. Contentious issues of urban gun violence have attached a social stigma to firearms that can be challenging even for the seasoned hunter.
The American culture of hunting may have hope, however, in the environmental movement. Hunters have a vested interest in preserving our wildlife and wildlife habitats, and they may be able to find new common ground with current efforts to create a greener country.
Enough about the hunting culture; what actually happens when you put your hands on the rifle? Read on.