Now I saw a large deer chasing a smaller one. The smaller deer left my view. Upon further study, I could see that that the larger remaining deer was my quarry. A range of nearly 500 yards --- and in early morning light --- is a little tough for a first-time, accurate trophy analysis. But I was familiar with this deer and most of the other bucks in the area and was confident in my identification of it. So far, my hours spent in the field this year totaled nearly one hundred --- hunting deer during the bow and rifle seasons.
My Lytespeed rangefinder told me the distance was 459 yards. The buck was now relaxed and standing still as the crosshairs in my 16 power scope settled in just above his back. At the first shot he stood fairly still, moving his head around a little. A deer shot at this range does not always react with immediate flight like one shot at 50 or 100 yards.
I was fairly confident that I had hit him well. I thought I had actually heard the bullet impact but I am not sure it is possible at that distance. In the video of my 65 inch Alaskan moose hunt (available in the Cabela’s catalog), shot earlier this fall, the sound of the bullet impact is readily heard, but that was at only 150 yards.
I fired again and after recovery from the recoil of my follow-up shot, my scope could not pick up the buck again in the tall grass. I then glassed the area with my binoculars for 15 minutes and mentally marked the site. Then I got down and took the 1/2 mile roundabout trail across the marsh, trying to relax and enjoy the morning as I walked.
Though confident, I knew I could also be wrong. Could have missed him. Could be the wrong deer. Could have just wounded him. I approached the site from uphill and upwind so he would run into the open marsh if he could run at all. But there he was--- not one step from where he had stood when I fired! Both had been killing shots.
This was a very satisfying conclusion to a wonderful hunting year! I share it with you fellow hunters for the purpose of hearing from other responsible long-range hunters who practice at long range and use the equipment and disciplined methods required for humanely taking game at long distances.
I am looking for a friendly, productive discussion from newsgroup members (or personal e-mail). So --- for you naysayers who probably haven't even noticed the degree of my preparation and care --- please hold your comments to yourself.
(Originally published in 1997)
Len Backus is the owner of www.LongRangeHunting.com. He has been a long range hunter since the late 90's and is as likely to bag his game with a camera as with a rifle or a specialty handgun. His outdoor photography can be seen at www.LenBackus.com
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