Mil-dots in the hunting field

Len Backus

Staff member
May 2, 2001
There is virtually no info available on using Mil-dots on four-legged critters - seems the common instructions are intended more for up-right two-legged targets. I have been working on this, have found that there are several doable "mil-ing" locations and would like to share them with the forum. I am also asking for some assistance in obtaining measurements for field use. Here are my measureing locations.
a. nose to back of tail
b. back line to chest line just back of foreleg
c. brisket to back of tail
d. ground to back line
e. gound to belly line
f. end of nose to back of head behind ears
g. ear width - head-on perspective
h. chest width - head-on perspective
Question, is the chest width comparable to the hip width, ie head-on vs tail-on perspective? Obviously the barrel or guts would probably be wider, not sure about this as I have not worked on it with critters.

I have compared a wide variety of readings taken on live deer and on my decoys against laser readings. The poorest readings usually are obtained from the ground to backline. I have excellent reading working with ear width, chest depth and nose to tail. I like to imagine that I am working with a series of boxes or rectangles when I am Mil-ing. The body position is critical, you should wait until the critter is at directly head-on or at right angles.

The challenge is to have some good body measurements, although there is some latitude as the Mil-dots are usually much more accurate than my field estimate. Lets say we get a reading of 1.0 mil using an 18 inch chest depth so the distance is about 495 yards, lets call it 500. If the critter's chest is closer to 17 inches the mils will read 465 and if it is 19 inches the mils will give 520. We found that taking two or three different measurements will enable determining an average that is very close.

Obviously 400 pound Canadian whitetails will have larger dimensions than 110 pound Alabama critters, so one needs decent numbers to work with.

Does anyone have any actual measurement that they would share? I think that as a group we should work at coming up with a directory of big game measurements - don't bother looking for one as it does not exist. You will be amazed at how little good info there is re the above measurements. Biologists obviously don't need most of the above measurements, at least I could not get much from any of my bio contacts.

If you have any please post them and we can create a workable list. I suggest that Mil-dot reticle users start measureing critters on the ground when they have a chance. I will post some of my numbers separately.

By the way, Mil-dots will never replace laser rangefinders, BUT there are all too many days afield when lasers don't to the job - particularly when we are talking long range. I have used most commercial laser rangefinders and they are just plain great - when they give readings.

posted April 14, 2001 11:14 AM


From: Canada
Registered: April 13, 2001
Posts: 7
Mil-dots in the hunting field
Here are some measurements that I am using. There ares some sources such as the Kahles TDS instruction sheet that provide chest depths of a wide range of critters. Seems that the industry standard for chest depth is 18", at least that is the space useable with most duplex reticles. I have some more critters measured, will send them when I find my field notes.
Ground to Bottom of Chest 24 20
Ground to Top of Shoulders 42 40
Backline to Belly line 20 18
Tail to Nose(Over-all) 95" 80"
Tail to Brisket _____ _____
Outside Shoulder/Shoulder 12 10
Ear Width 18 17

Ground to Top of Shoulders 36" 34"
Tail to Nose (Over-all) 65" 60"

Ground to Bottom of Chest 36" _____
Ground to Top of Shoulders 60" _____
Tail to Nose (Over-all) 65" 60"

posted April 14, 2001 06:18 PM
I have used Mil-dots on my coyote buddies but have to estimate the coyotes size each time. (is that a big dog or not?) since they vary so much. I find that my own estimate or guess is often closer than the mil math route. Recently I have tested the Sheperd scopes and find they are much faster on this game since Wiley don't stick around for you to take his picture. Interpolating with the Sheperd is just as easy for me as the dots but the dots have their place.
Can't comment on average sizes of the game, but it appears that your range calcs are a little off.
The correct formula is:

(Target Size (in yds) X 1000)/Target size (in mils)

An 18 inch target measuring 1 mil is exactly 500 yds. Similary a 17" target would be 472.2 yds, and a 19" target would be 527.7 yds.

If you would like I can email you an Excel worksheet for mil dot ranges in both yards & meters. Its in even numbers, fractions rounded up or down. If you want it send me an email at:
[email protected].
If you use Mil dots, you NEED a mil dot master!

Mils on game is tough! Everything looks bigger until you shoot it (man! That’s the biggest Buck I have ever seen), when you get to the “Site of the shooting” it looks like Bambi (year 1).

Nightforce makes a reticule that is called the R2, it is in MOA this is very handy.

I am not suggesting that Mils not be used, but you need more practice than you can imagine.
Ditto on the Mil-Dot Master slide rule...once you put a thousand or so rounds downrange on paper using various bulls, the Mil_dot system become second nature and is fast and very, very accurate. As long as you do your part in the reloading room and chrony the performance, there is no better system than the MilitaryMil-Dot, IMHO...good luck

When MILing an animal it is important to use the largest dimension available in order to achieve the most accurate range estimate.

Another useful measurement is the height of fenceposts. Most farmers put a 6 foot post 2 feet into the ground leaving a more or less standard 4 feet (48 inches) above ground. This can be very useful when hunting in an area with a lot of fences. The fences can be used as reference points to give the hunter an idea of various ranges.

I made up a MIL range grid and printed it out small enough to laminate (business card sized). I then punched a hole in the corner and use an elastic to hang it from the scope. Thus the MIL range chart is always handy and quick to use. It is more versatile than the MIL Dot Master and can be tailored to the user's needs.

Peter Cronhelm
Great ideas. I'm going into the woods this year equipped with a tape measure. However, just kindly tell me how ya get them critters to hold still while you measure their standing distance from the ground to the tope of their backs? Seriously, sounds like a great place to start a data bank. When I take antelope into the processors in Wyoming, there is usually a bunch of other antelope there (all with racks bigger then mine) and I'll be measuring them too.

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