There’s a bit of a trend going around nowadays. The newfangled (and well-promoted) arsenal of long-range gear and optics out on sporting store shelves right now has average hunters looking to take shots at above-average distances. While there are some folks who walk among us that are fully capable of consistently dropping animals at distances beyond four-hundred yards, the reality is that this is not a good idea for most hunters. While it may take a moment and some legitimate self-assessment to come to this conclusion yourself, there’s nothing like keeping it real. And 400 yards, is real… as in, real far. Sure, it’s not an 800-yard shot, nor does it reach the hallowed ground of 1,000-yard marksmen, but it is still a long shot.
Okay, for the purposes of this article, we’ll define a “long shot” as any shot that is too far for you to make consistently. Long-range marksmen are skilled at taking long-range shots. They consistently practice hitting targets ranging from 500 to 1,000 yards and beyond. Hunters, must be skilled in shooting, however there is another skill they must absolutely possess… the ability to stalk. Which brings us to a simple saying that will keep meat in your freezer: stalk long, shoot short.
When it comes to taking game with a single shot, while distance is a denominator, what really must be taken into account is how much lethal energy is being delivered to the target. While fast bullets and high-magnification scopes tempt hunters to take long shots, delivering lethal energy to a target with today’s ammunition is not difficult at all. Modern hunting rifles with box magazines allow a hunter to utilize pointed bullets that retain energy more efficiently that the older, blunter bullets of the past. Big game rounds are constructed to mushroom within a variety of impact speeds. Hunters need ammunition that can remain intact under the impact of close-range shots, yet still mushroom when they strike at a distance. But here’s the thing, contrary to popular belief, high-speed bullets don’t “icepick” through game so quickly that the bullet doesn’t have time to expand. Most expansion occurs within the first inch of penetration.
By taking the time to stock longer and shoot shorter, you are maximizing your chances of downing an animal as ethically as possible. You are also, likely, utilizing your firearm (and your skills) at the optimum range for assured success.
So, the next time you’re thinking about buying a different scope, gun, or a bunch of high-priced ammo to extend your reach in the field, think again. Spend that money on gas, scout your area of operation and perfect your stalking techniques. Plenty of long-range marksmen practiced to make their shots consistently accurate, but solid stalking takes the need for long shots out of the equation, entirely.