Lessons learned this year.
It was an interesting season. Although I've shot animals at 'long range' before, it was always out of necessity and not due to prior planning. This year, I 'planned' on shooting long range and only managed 520yds (350yds short of my personal best).
Besides 'trying' to hunt long range, there were some other firsts.
This year, I used electronic muffs for the first time. I'd get on a ridge or point and put on the Walkers Game ear power muff quads, adjust them so I could hear a little more than normal and proceed to glass the hillsides and basins. I heard elk walking in the aspens that I couldn't see (they sound a lot like a horse walking). I heard bugles and cow calls that absolutely drove me crazy because without snow, I couldn't find the animals. One afternoon, after glassing a basin for an hour or so, the sun came out and I got a little sleepy. So I just reclined back and took a bit of a nap. Every time I'd start to fall asleep, I'd take a deep breath and those dang electronic earmuffs would amplify the sound and wake me up! Another time, I could have sworn I heard a growl, maybe a bear or a cougar. Then the second time I heard it, I also felt it (it was past lunch); amplification can do silly things. I finally got used to those problems and then a Golden Eagle zipped over the ridge at an amazing speed and just about scared me to death (the sound of air over its wings at about 4' and then amplified by the muffs definitely got my heart going).
I used a spotting scope more this year than I ever did before. I'd never used a scope with the 45 degree angle, and it took some getting used to (at first I could hardly find the hillside, much less a particular spot on the hillside). All in all, I think I like the angled scope better than a straight scope.
I never used a computer (palm pilot/exbal) while hunting before. Coupled with the Swaro LRF and a Kestrel weather instrument, it worked like a charm. I'd get to a spot and enter the prevailing field conditions, then open up the drop table and adjust it to the most likely range. That way everything I needed for the shot was at my fingertips.
Although I've shot a few times at 'super long distance' (mile+) just fooling around, I never actually expected to hit anything when shooting more than 1000yds. This year, with the 338AM and all my support gear, I fully expected to hit everything I shot at. We hit well up to 1500yds, which is the farthest we shot this year.
I might not have killed the largest elk this year, but I definitely had the coolest looking rifle. I was scoping a point near an ATV trail and another hunter came by and started visiting (when you're way out in the back country, sometimes it's nice to see another human). We visited for about 5 minutes and he kept glancing over at the 338AM. Finally, he just blurted out "What exactly IS THAT rifle?" I had to laugh out loud, because I was wondering to myself how long it was going to take for him to ask.
Then later in the hunt, we talked to some guys that were camped down the road from us. One of them asked what I was shooting and I tried to explain it to him ("408 cheytac necked down, improved ...). Anyway, he reaches into his pocket and proudly shows me a shell from HIS new long range rifle (a 7mm WSM). I couldn't hold back the smile as I sat one of the 338AM shells next to his. His buddies sure gave him the business for such a 'girly' rifle.
We all laughed about that.
If some is good and more is better, then too much is just right.
My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives