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The Ultimate Shooting Challenges - Long Shots and Movers, Part One - Long Range Hunting
The Ultimate Shooting Challenges - Long Shots and Movers
Part One - Long Range Hunting

By Ian McMurchy

Far off across the open prairie a whitetail doe sneaks out of the end of a coulee. She tip-toes towards a small dugout for a drink before heading to nearby fields to forage. Moments after she appears a huge buck swaggers on her trail - nose to the ground, tail up he strides deliberately across the pasture.

The rut is starting to kick-in and this doe is a magnet for the huge six by six. The doe stops by some shrubs and nibbles for a few moments. She looks back at the buck and then continues walking towards another patch of rosebush.

You are sitting with your back against an abandoned oil storage tank, hidden by shadows and assorted rusted pipes and flanges. The tank is located on the only hill in the pasture. This is an ideal spot to watch for deer and you know that there are some fine bucks in the area. You have waited patiently for this scenario to unfold, and suddenly the plan gets interesting. Putting your binocs down, you reach for your laser rangefinder and find the magnificent buck in the aiming circle. You press the button three times, and each time the same numbers snap into your viewfinder - 657 yards.

The buck walks over to some brush and attacks a sapling, rasping his rack up and down and twisting his head to shred the bark and branches. He seems pre-occupied with this display as you remove a small laminated card from your shirt pocket and check the "come-up" for 600 yards. Fifteen and three-quarters minutes. You quickly spin the elevation dial one complete revolution which gives ten minutes up, then move the dial to line up the number five and go three clicks past. You have been watching the wind closely and have decided that it is averaging about ten to twelve miles per hour from left to right. The wind appears to be moving at right angles to your line of sight to the big buck. You decide to adjust for a ten mile per hour full value wind so you crank the windage dial clockwise to the number five. Five minutes of left wind will be about right.

You have already found a small piece of board to place the rubber feet of the extended Harris bipod on. You further steady the rifle by resting the rear the butt on your fanny pack. You can take your hands off the rifle and it sits there, aimed perfectly at the big buck. As you pick up the laser rangefinder the buck walks toward the patch of brush that is now concealing the doe. He stops and urinates, then attacks another small clump of saplings. The numbers read 606 yards this time so you quickly put the laser down and get behind the rifle scope.

He is quartered towards you, moving his head violently up and down and taking short steps forward to push at the saplings. You wait patiently until he stops for a breather, standing almost broadside. Concentrating on your breathing, cupping your palm slightly, finger-tip on the trigger you suddenly lose him in the scope as the rifle rocks against your shoulder. The 165 grain bullet arcs upward almost eight feet and swings two and one half feet left as it speeds toward the buck's chest. As gravity and the winds take their toll the bullet drops in a downward arc curving slightly to the right. The bullet hits the buck just back of his shoulders. Bullet and rib fragments shred his lungs and sever an artery on the top of his heart. He lurches forward, running blindly - not knowing that he is dead on his feet. In moments he is down.

This scenario is NOT impossible, given the superb rifles, scopes and ammo available today. Rifles such as the Winchester Model 70 Stealth or Coyote, Remington M-700 VS, Savage Tactical or Weatherby Accumark are capable of lethal sized groups at five to six hundred yards - out of the box! There is only one major limiting factor - the ability of the hunter.

Basic Requirements
How does a hunter learn to hit deer at long ranges? There are three basic requirements:
Knowledge - you must acquire a thorough knowledge of marksmanship basics, external ballistics, and factors that effect the flight of your bullet.
Skill - you must develop the necessary skills such as marksmanship, wind and mirage reading and even proper rifle maintenance. Equipment - you must obtain good equipment and burn a lot of ammunition, this
requires a significant investment in dollars and time.

Confidence is the Key
These basics result in the final requirement - confidence. Confidence is the difference between planning and knowing where your shot will go versus simply holding over and hoping it will be true. Confidence is the key to long range shooting. Confidence can only be gained by shooting - and hitting.

Long-Range Shooting Tips I have been involved in long range shooting and hunting for many years and can offer the following suggestions. Let's keep things simple by outlining in point form.
250 to 300 yards is the maximum that most hunters can hit with confidence - this can be doubled.
Without very specialized equipment and vast experience, shots beyond 500 to 600 yards are not recommended.
The best way to learn to shoot at long range is enrolling in a shooting class or school.
If you cannot go to school, learn as much about long range shooting from knowledgeable target shooters, books and videos - including the great web-site www.longrangehunting.com.
Obtain the best quality riflescope that you can afford. The best long-range scopes use 30 mm tubes, have large, easy to operate turrets and they are incredibly reliable. They offer the ability to repeat scope settings with ease. Such scopes must be attached to the rifle with the strongest, most rugged mounts available.
Ensure that your rifle and ammo are basically accurate. Accuracy should be at least one inch at one hundred yards, preferably better. Ensure that your trigger pull is crisp and light, the barreled action is properly bedded into the stock and that all screws and bolts are tight or torqued to recommended values. Ammunition must be uniform and provide consistent groups - stay with one load and learn to shoot it well.
Accept that math and data gathering are going to become a significant component of your shooting.
Start close and work your way out to long range in one hundred yard increments. Practice in varying weather (wind) conditions and keep notes on your elevation and wind settings.
Large steel gongs are the optimum target for long range practice. Hanging steel plates painted white show bullet splats at very long range and they make a resounding sound when hit. Shoot at the gong until your group is nicely centered and you have your zero. Simply spray-paint the plate to remove the splats and start over.
Obtain the training CD from www.shooterready.com for a comprehensive wind,
Mil-dot and long range shooting tutorial.
Create a "Come-Up Chart" so that you can dial in the exact elevation setting, no guess-work. This chart can also include windage corrections and moving target holds.

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