Thoughts on Long Range Hunting
As I become more involved in long range hunting I realize that a person might have to make some significant attitude (mental) changes. Perhaps one of the most important attitude adjustments involves confidence - you must be personally confident and sure of your shooting and hitting ability. There is only one way to obtain such confidence - get good LR equipment and use it as much as possible.
For much of my hunting life - before obtaining the LR equipment and training in particular - any shot beyond 300 yards was pretty much a matter of luck. Although I made a few, I did not understand how predictable (and repeatable) bullet drop is, nor anything about doping for wind drift.
After taking some training and shooting a lot of ammo in the last three years, I find that I have become comfortable and confident with shots on game out to 500 to 600 yards, perhaps to 700 under optimum circumstances.
The snipers have a saying that goes something like: "Dope-it, Dial-it, Dump it." I use a laser and Kestral wind meter that give me accurate info for most of my "doping". I have also learned how to use Mil-dots for distance assessment and for hold-off points and have good bullet drop info for my hunting loads. "Dialing" is just a matter of cranking on a turret, probably the easiest part of the equation. "Dumping" implies making a successful shot. This requires marksmanship fundamentals, self-control, and a variety of hunting skills to ensure that the critter is within your personal range.
I seem to have a bit of a problem with the proposal to specifically "try for long shots" during a hunt. I feel that I am painting myself into a corner by wanting to shoot long - perhaps because in most cases no-one else that I hunt with has similar aspirations.
Making the statement that you are looking for opportuntities for long shots makes one liable to additional pressure - perhaps because wounding becomes a significant factor and possibility. Missing or wounding at long range will inevitably bring up a question "Should the shot have been fired? Why not get closer?"
A recent hunt in the arctic was a good example of the above. The evening before we started everyone involved had an informal meeting. Guides and hunters got to meet and get assigned to each other. Basic info was provided. Everyone seemed to know that my objective was to make some long shots if possible - I had a unique rifle and scope and apparently was a capable shot. As the talk got around to my LR aspirations - I felt a little uneasy suggesting that I wanted long shots. Truth was that I did sort of need a long shot for some writing stuff. I had prepared for and wanted to accomplish what, for most guys, would be a very long shot.
Compared to the field shooting that some of the hunters on this forum do - my long range aspirations were not that long. When asked I said that long range to me was over 400 yards I did not receive any comments about that notion. I felt that "Talk is cheap." so I really wanted to make a good shot to challenge my skills and equipment and to show the guides and hunters that I knew what I was talking about.
My first shooting opportunity fit into the LR category that I had created for myself. A beautiful pale-white old bull that was bedded at 450 yards in some rocks. I had the drops on a chart taped to the side of the rifle so I put on 10 minutes of elevation (500 yd setting is 11 3/4 MOA for that rifle and load) and guessed at 4 minutes of right-left wind. I knew the wind was 12 mph at an oblique angle.
I knew that I should be holding at the rock line (that would have been about center of his chest). For some reason I held above it, did not want to take a chance of hitting low into the rocks. My shot went JUST over his shoulders and he moved up the hill to 504 yards (lasers are so great) and stood broadside.
Instead of cranking on the required additional 1 3/4 minutes I simply held a bit high and the bullet struck the centre of his chest. He moved a few yards away and stood with his head down. I held a bit higher and broke his spine for a clean kill. He was a fine bull and I have many great memories and photos.
We could not get closer without fully exposing ourselves to the bull - so this was a legitimate long range shot as far as I am concerned. The guide wanted to try to get closer but I was sure that I could make the kill.
The next day another dandy bull walked in to stone-throwing distance. I hemmed and hawwed - this was not a long shot but he was a taker. Guide said he was the best bull he had seen all season. Considered letting him spook so that the shot would be "long" and realized how stupid that idea was. I put the crosshairs on his chest and made a clean kill - and am glad that I did even tho the range was only 40 or 50 yards.
Which was more saticefying. Definitely the long shot. More exciting - the close encounter.
Confidence in one's personal ability and in your equipment is a key to making long shots.