Long-Range Hunting

Where do you say no?

In a recent column I suggested a rifleman should have the skill to make running shots on game. I also said once you have such skill it shouldn’t be used except to stop wounded game from escaping.

I feel much the same about long-range shooting at game. We can debate what “long range” means. Certainly your definition is as good as mine. For long-range enthusiasts and target shooters, long range starts at around 500 yards. The best modern equipment has the accuracy and power to kill big game at 2,000 yards and further.

I enjoy the challenge of long-range shooting. I think every rifle shooter should be capable of making long-range hits, as well as running shots. But just as I don’t encourage taking shots at unwounded running game, I’m not very enthused about long-range shots at unwounded game.
Discussing ethical issues is a risky business in this era of moral relativism, where expressing values is decried as being “judgmental.” I’m aware of the argument “as long as it is legal” we mustn’t criticize what others do.

I’m not so sure. In some states there are no caliber restrictions on big-game rifles, other than “no rimfire cartridges.” In such states, I could hunt elk with a .17 Rem or .22 Hornet, shoot them (or at least at them) at 1,200 yards, and be completely legal. And no, I don’t want more restrictions, my point is we need to set higher standards for ourselves than just “is it legal?”

It may not be written in hunting regulations, but I believe we hunters have a moral obligation to kill the animals we hunt as quickly and painlessly as possible. I realize not everyone agrees. It astonishes me how callous and indifferent some are.

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5 thoughts on “Long-Range Hunting

  1. Nelson Doan

    Just happened to read about your aversion to running game shooting and long range hunting as primary hunting styles.
    A hunting style used by many here is to push bush (drive), so a standing shot is possible but not as likely.
    In Europe, this is also a very common style.
    When the primary style is backed up by the skill to match, I believe ethical requirements are met.

    1. Dave Anderson

      “When the primary style is backed up by the skill to match, I believe ethical requirements are met.”

      I wouldn’t disagree with that statement. In my column on running shots (March 2011) I mentioned I hunted for years with small groups, pushing bush, with shots almost always taken on running game. Going back to those early days, I’ve shot dozens of big game animals on the run, never wounded and lost one.

      However there were occasions of animals being wounded and lost by fellow hunters whose skill was not up to the shots, though they may have believed it was. Today I can still make the shots if I have to, I’d just rather not.

      My concern with long-range hunting, as stated in the article, is about time of flight of the bullet. With good equipment hits at intermediate-long ranges, say 500-800 yards, are not that hard. But if the animal decides to move while the bullet is enroute there is not a thing the shooter can do about it. No amount of skill makes the bullet get there quicker.

      By any chance are you the Nelson Doan I used to shoot IPSC matches with back in the 1980s and ’90s?

      1. Matt

        Long range hunting is the emergence of a group of enthusiasts that intend and regularly plan situations where they take game animals at extreme distances for the sake of the shot, not the pursuit. There are two forces at work that would affect this simple truth and diminish the very essence of the hunt — ego and technology. These two forces in concert with the philosophy, “the ends justify the means,” and the new mantra, “I simply do not have enough time,” (im too lazy) are the justification for people to reinvent what we know to be the truth. The truth is hunting is a sport where you pit your abilities against those of your quarry, the intent is to avoid your quarry’s senses, not remove them from the equation by being so far away the animal cannot defend itself. If you are out to claim a trophy animal, earn it, does sniper shoot it.

  2. Tom

    Comment on Mr. Dave Anderson’s article on long range shots and travel time are spot on as far as I’m concerned. I spent most of the summer getting my .300 Win Mag. ready for my big fall Prong horn hunt. experimenting with different loads and velocities, trying to get the tightest group. Having achieved that on my hundred range my friend got me in as a guest at his gun club that has a three hundred yard range so I could validate my numbers. I might add here that Hornady’s web site ballistic calculator is dead on. Now the real test the shot I made on my pronghorn buck was at 325 yards, I was sitting using cross sticks provided by my guide, he also called out the range. This buck was broad side to me just as I shot he quartered toward me, the shot hit at the front shoulder and after penetration deflected along the spine and exited along the left hip area, long story short I ended up with some nice front quarters and a good mount, because all the meat south was contaminated with what was in the intestines, it looked like someone put the whole thing in a blender and with the shock wave it actually impregnated it into the meat, so with all this e coli business now in the news, no I don’t need to risk this the guide readily agreed with me. So in a blink that’s how long it took for a perfect shot to turn into something less than perfect. Oh the animal was dead right there,the Nosler 180 grain AccuBond did it’s job. The meat was great (what was left of it), the mount looks good over my desk, but none the less a once in the life time event wasn’t perfect and when you try to do things right and things don’t go as planned it still sucks.

  3. Daniel

    It seems to me that too many people try to subsitute equipment for hunting skills. I have been hunting since I was knee high to a grasshopper and that was a long time ago and in my experience it is more satisfying to hunt than to kill. I have spent four years hunting one buck and passing up on a couple of long shots and runnings shots. The real fun is that I got to know that buck. I did not get him, he died of old age. I can’t win them all, but the fun is in the trying. In short there is a world of difference in hunting skills and just shooting skills. I am an old fuddy duddy I guess, but the guided “hunts” should be called guided kills as the guide did all of the hunting.


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