The Long Range Hunting Epidemic
Dr. John Woods 03.30.17
Using the term epidemic might be too harsh in this case, but the building pressure to entice or encourage hunters to shoot big game animals at extreme ranges is a bit disturbing to many hunters. Certainly hunters have to define for themselves what constitutes a really long range shot on a deer or elk. But distances out to 400-500 plus yards on out to 800 more seems excessive for the average hunter-shooter and in some cases borders on the unethical.
There was a time in the sport of hunting when stalking close to the game was the real challenge. When I started deer hunting in Missouri in the 70’s a very long shot was considered to be 100 yards. Few deer rifles in those days had optical scopes mounted on them. Open sights were the fixture of the day. So, creeping to within a manageable range of 50 yards or so was considered the ultimate demonstration of hunting skill.
Now there is proliferate marketing promoting long range shooting that implies hunting as well. Now, if that 500-1000 yard range shooting was banging steel or other inanimate targets, then I say go for it. Such skills only serve to promote the shooting shorts and the equipment to go along with it. But, sighting and shooting a bull elk at 800 yards? Many hunters are turned off by the mere idea of that.
Hunting rifle and ammunition manufacturers are contributing to this encouragement of a new hunting mindset. They produce rifles and ammo fully capable of shooting out to these extreme ranges, but without relative regard to a hunter’s shooting capability or the ability to spot and range a game animal at such long distances. They even use cloaked terms like “extended” ranges or performance.
There is little doubt that the finest rifle makers in America can produce a hunting rifle capable of hitting a bull elk at really long ranges. Also the ammunition manufacturers have demonstrated their engineering prowess sufficient to drop bullets precisely on long range targets. But, does the average Joe deer hunter have these abilities? We wonder.
If you are an experienced hunter interesting in pursuing big game at extended ranges, the universal recommendation then is to attend a shooting school to learn and practice these skills. Obtain a rifle, scope, and ammo up to the task, then prove you are capable of such shots. If not, try closing the distance to a manageable range. That’s the real challenge.