Re: Next step beyond rifle, scope, load combination??
Here is how I set up with a new rig. First off, the rifle/load and shooter must be capable of a min of 1/2MOA under ideal conditions. 1/4 MOA is better. That means that you can hit a milk jug 100% of the time at ranges out to 800yds if wind is not an issue.
That 100% hit ratio will change depending on conditions so max range will also change. Practise will tell you how to adjust.
Without that level of mechanical accuracy, LR hunting is pretty risky.
Now that you have the mechanical accuracy, you need to learn how to shoot under field conditions to that level of accuracy. Practise, practise and more practise.
You will need a good range finder and should be purchased now. All of your drop tables are calibrated with that rangefinder and scope. You should also consider a scope with 1/4MOA adjustments for elevation. 1MOA is going to be very course as ranges extend. Can work but then you are doing some guessing.
I shoot my rifle at ranges I measure with my rangefinder. Repeat many times to ensure adjustments are consistent. This also tests the repeatability of the scope. That data is used to make up a drop table. Then do some more practising.
I will compare my distance readings with other rangefinders in my hunting group. That way, if someone is spotting for me, I can adjust for their different reading. yes, all rangefinders will be off by some amount. Better ones like Leica are usually very close. However, I have compared Bushnell and my Leica and gotten difference enough to cause a miss.
As long as the readings are consistent, you can adjust for it.
Go out and practise under field conditions/weather you intend to hunt in. Note any changes due to weather, rests, clothing, etc. Keep going until you can range, dial up, dope and drop a bullet into that milk jug in about 10secs.
Now that you have a high degree of confidence in your equipment and skill, practise a whole bunch more. At this point, hitting the game is not an issue. Locating it is.
LR hunting should not be about maybe making the shot. If you are unsure, then don't shoot.