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Hunting Shooting Tips

Long Range Shooting

by Craig Boddington   |  July 21st, 2011 29
craig boddington shooting

When it comes to hunting, long-range shooting doesn't equate to artillery nor sniping.

We all have our definitions of what constitutes “long range shooting,” and we all have our personal range limits as well. For me, I think long range starts when you have to abandon a dead-on hold with your center crosshair and start to figure either the holdover or the alternative aiming point. At this point there’s really no mystery and no magic; you have to figure out the shooting solution, and now it’s just a matter of magnitude. In that regard it’s a bit like artillery fire. The longer the range, the more complex the solution. Fortunately, even the most rabid long-range riflemen aren’t quite yet to the point where the rotation of the Earth has to be factored into the shot.

A big difference between long-range field shooting and artillery is that “almost” doesn’t quite cut it. A near-miss doesn’t do you any good at all. There is, however, another similarity in that, at extreme range, the target may not know exactly what’s going on, so it’s occasionally possible to “adjust fire” and walk a bullet into the target. This is exactly the way artillery is brought on target, as in “right 50, add 100, fire for effect.”

This is just one of the problems I have with the concept of extreme-range shots at game animals. Although we are definitely trying to kill a specific animal, we aren’t at war with the critters. Near misses do us no good. So when a range is reached when there is no longer a very high probability of a first-round vital hit, we are actually out of range. Obviously this varies tremendously with the conditions. With my .300 Weatherby set up as it was, a 300-yard shot, just three inches of holdover, shouldn’t be an issue. But add a 30-mph crosswind, and maybe even 300 yards is a bit too far.

In my day military snipers were almost a dirty secret. The terrible way we treated Carlos Hathcock is a prime example. Therefore I think the way we admire, almost revere, our modern-day snipers is wonderful. They deserve the respect they currently receive. On the other hand, I think it’s extremely inappropriate to transfer what they do in combat to what we as hunters do in the field. Oh, sure, the “hold ‘em and squeeze ‘em” part is great. But in most cases the sniper doesn’t have to achieve a clean kill in order to accomplish his mission. In fact, it could be argued that a wounding shot is even better than a killing shot; the guy that’s hit is out of action, as are the guys who have to take care of him.

It could be argued further that the sniper doesn’t necessarily have to hit his target to accomplish his mission. Doctrinally, an important part of the sniper’s role is to demoralize the enemy and break up troop formations. This can be done by taking out leaders and crew-served weapons…but it can also be accomplished by near misses. In hunting this doesn’t work.

This article is an expanded excerpt from Boddington’s “The Shooting Solution” article, which will appear in the September/October issue of RifleShooter magazine.

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  • Blue Mountain Armory

    This article make a great point. The focus on long range shooting in the field is changing the sport to one of shooting and not hunting! If a sniper has the opportunity he will close the gap. We has hunters need to do the same.

  • OLd School

    Hunting was and should be, the closer the better. Also a lot more interesting if you can stalk the animal.

  • G. Gonzales

    …..and then, there's the morality factor. Considering the highly potential risk of wounding an animal does not justify this style of "hunting."

    • EmG

      if the hunter is proficient at shooting longer ranges , there is no more potential for wounding an animal than at close range by a hunter who isn't proficient at shooting, also the gun used for long range should be one thats more accurate!

  • James Konen

    At extreme range,in the time it takes for the bullet to leave the barrel and arrive at the target (an animal) it may have taken a step…or two, turning a lung shot into a gut shot and a lost animal. It's just disrespectfull of the game we hunt. They deserve better.

    • EmG

      I dont know what kind of animals you hunt but they must be fast if they can take 2 steps in the time it takes for a bullet traveling at over 3000 fps to go 300 yards! there is no more potential for for an animal to move and cause a bad shot at 300 yards than there is for one to move and cause a bad shot at 100 yards when when the hunter is shooting a slower cartridge! or by a hunter that has poor shooting skills. not everyone has the skills or takes the time to practice longer shots as the article says hunters should limit there shots to there skill levil and the limitations of there equipment!

      • EmG

        you also nead to read animals body language at any range, if you do this you can tell if there getting ready to move, if they are you shouldn't shoot no matter what the range is!

  • Bruce Redding

    I have always believed that any shot on a game animal, no matter how close or how far, should only be taken if you know you can make it. This distance can be drastically different for different shooters. The key to any hunting is knowing your capabilities. Taking a shot in which there is any doubt is irresponsible.

    • EmG

      Very well put!

  • Seth

    It's hard to complain about bowhunters who wound game foolishly shooting at long ranges, when the newest craze in rifle hunting is 1000 yard shots.

  • Jeff

    I couldn't agree more. In the vast majority of cases, you can get closer…a lot closer. I have come across a few real "spooky" buck antelope that won't allow you to close the range under 350 yards or so, but that is rare. Technology has come a long way, but there is no need to make a 600 yd+ shot. Get closer and make a more ethical shot.

    • ED

      If you know how to shoot long ranges it is ethical! no different than anything else the more you practice the better you get.600 yds is a kill shot for people that know what they are doing.You just need to know your limits and don't exceed them.

      • EmG

        Very well put ED

      • EmG

        there are many hunters who shoot poorly and struggle to make a good shot at 100m yards or less, due to there skill levil, or equipment limitations. it amazes me to know people who bore sight a scope and think there gun is sighted in, and refuse to shoot there gun to see where its really shooting!!!

  • Brett

    On youtube I saw a guy taks a small bore with a 22 cal air rifle. He shot it behind the ear and it just fell over, quivered a little and died.

    It was perfect shot and he knew exactly where was going to hit it. Knowing what you can do is the key.

  • Paul Smith

    Here in the UK some times you have no choice but to take a longer shot, however you should always endeavor to stalk your prey till you are close enough to ensure a clean kill there is no room in the world for ultra long shots at your prey, and you would be in deep trouble shooting a bore with an air rifle that is just plain stupid and iresponsable airrifles are for rabbits rats and crows and target shooting.

  • ntrudr_800

    This is an interesting article. I like what Paul Smith had to say about HAVING to take a long shot based on his landscape.

    On another note, I think air rifles are laughable & for varmints & birds. But if one has figured out a way to kill a certain size boar with his air rifle effectively, more power to him!

    Maybe one day he will discover the .22LR & .22WMR Marlin bolt action rifle… :P What's nice is that .22's are very quiet with sound suppressors from what I've read.

  • Coyotegj

    I wholeheartedly agree that long range shots taken under hunting conditions are "shooting" and have very little to do with "hunting". A responsible, humane hunter is as concerned with making a well placed killing first shot as they are with taking the animal at all. This, of course, excludes instances where you might be needing to destroy an animal due to whatever reason and a non-lethal hit would allow you to approach the animal for the finishing shot. Anyone can approach to within 500 plus yards of almost any game animal. To shoot a game animal at such a range, in my humble oinion, is more of a stunt than anything and, as I previously stated, has nothing to do with "Hunting".

  • ntrudr_800

    Long range shots are what makes a rifleman. If I were huting a Coyote and I knew I had the skill to take him at 700 yards then there is nothing wrong with taking him at 700 yards. Stop crying

  • Mack M.

    The only thing worse than waking up in the morning & realizing that someone ate my Bacon, is hearing someone complain that I shot my Bacon from too far away XD

  • Tom Windwillow

    I am getting too old to hike all over hell's half acre to retrieve a downed animal just because I can make the shot, doesn't mean I should. When I was a young 4 pointer I would hike halfway across the state( I live in Texas) to retrieve a squirrel! Let your own conscience and abilities be your guide.

  • Roger

    Excellently put Tom, just because someone can bench shoot targets at extreme ranges that doesn't mean they are going to be able to do the same in a real life hunting scenario and even if they do manage to pull it off once or even twice, they will eventually miss the vitals and unethically wound and animal that will never be found and that will slowly die over what could be a couple of days…So you Daniel Boone trick shot wannabe's should put some real skill into it and stalk the animal to within an ethical and reasonably humane shot, any hunter worth the right to be in the woods should respect his game enough to do the right thing. Also if your weapon is sited to enable you to hit at 600 yards then what will you do when that buck steps out at 100 yards ? please don't say you are gonna hold it on him because if so you will surely miss but hey that's better than a wounded animal. Respect the animal Respect our sport and respect yourself because it will be you who is looked down upon by your peers if you go to camp saying oh man he was 600 yards and I hit him but he ran off and I lost him……

    • flash

      Roger, people that can and do kill at 600 yds have their weapons set up to shoot 0 to whatever. so if 100 yds or 600 yds they know where there at.

  • Jeff Myers

    We must be responsible with every shot we make. I have shot ground hogs at over 400 yards. but I hesitate to take deer at ranges above three hundred. If you are able to make such shots as I have read about and do it in a responsible manner I applaud you. If not be considerate of the game we hunt. I have learned that with every area I go to hunting the local people have their ways and traditions and we should also respect them.

  • ron

    as i am still in th learning stages, i appreciate all the comments and i am learning the right way to hunt
    and be ethnical and respect our game. thanks much and looking forward to more comments.

  • Kase

    This is just what the anti-hunters want, some guy that can kill an Elk at 1000yards. knowing damn well it could just as well have been wounded. I can kill a target at 500 yards with know problem, but where I hunt, if I am lucky, I can get a kill shot on a Deer at 30 yards.

  • bigpapa

    Most hunters,shooters,know their limits.Unfortuntly that some still think that its cool to try and make the 700 to 1000 yd shot, and think that it want hit him anyway, when it does and you look for an animal thats in the next state dying its not a good feeling.We shoot 1000 yds most weekends,it fun and its at paper only, Bullet impact changes at that distance quickly, there are three of us, we fire two shots each, From the time you ride down and look at the impact point and return for the next shot something has already changed the placement of impact.. The weather as the sun moves a breeze changes, its just way to much to do this and hope for a clean Kill ,, Know your limits if doesnt feel good dont do it….

  • doctor

    yall are all fucking stupid crybabys…lol

  • doctor

    waaaa waaaaa why dont yall cry a little bit. I'll shoot at a deer wherever I damn well like and there aint a damn thing you can do about it , stop crying on the internet like a fuking candy ass child.

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