One time I shared a camp out West with a gun writer of some repute. He was retired military and rough around the edges, but a nice enough fellow and well-schooled in literature, politics and firearms/ballistics in particular. Having fired hundreds of rifles and a zillion test rounds over the years, the guy couldn’t hear squat, but he could shoot.
I watched and spotted for him as he sighted his 7mm Mag. at 100 yards. I was impressed with his 1/2-inch groups, and I told him so.
A couple days later he dragged in a nice mule deer buck. “How far?” somebody asked randomly.
“542 yards,” the scribe bellowed proudly. He had missed with his first 2 “test” shots, but with his guide spotting the bullets as they kicked up prairie dust, the dude finally nailed the elevation and windage. He held a foot in front of the deer and over its spine, and plunked that third bullet smack into the lungs.
I was not impressed, and I told him so. I don’t care who you are, how experienced a rifleman you are, or how many thousands you spent on a rifle, scope and ammo. Nobody needs to be shooting at a warm-blooded critter more than 5 football fields away. I know long-range shooting is all the rage today, and that’s fine on the range, and fun. But not on deer!
My max is 300 yards…and then that is even far for me, especially when I’m striving to make a clean and ethical kill on TV. In HD, you can see the bullet part the hair on a buck. I want that bullet to be perfect on the shoulder, or almost so, every time—pressure man.
I ask you, how far is too far to shoot at a deer with a rifle? What is your max range?
I don’t use a rifle for deer but I can’t see the difference of when it is ok to shoot whatever weapon you choose. For me, there is usually a tree or weed or something that in my mind when the animal crosses it. I am confident I can make the shot. Not saying I have got them all, but my thought process goes from ” I hope I can get him” to ” now he is mine”. That is my range and it is probably pretty close for most others. By the way, that range is directly affected by 1 thing…….PRACTICE!
You really have to be ethical about how far is to far.
For me it’s 300yrds. I used to lease 700ac in NY state and did a lot of shooting in the off season. Zero off the bench at 100 then set targets in cut corn lot and shoot sitting/kneeling etc. That’s were most people go a stray, they don’t simulate real hunting situations in the field. It’s easy to hit a target at say 300 with a rock solid rest off the bench it’s another in the field with varying conditions. I had to use a slug gun (Ithica deer slayer 12g, 20″rifled brl topped w/Nikon 3×9) by law. That gun was dead balls accurate to 200 but only took a couple deer that far. Let walk some whoppers due to weather conditions when I knew the gun was capable.
That’s got to be the hardest thing to do as hunters, pass up a shot when you know it might be questionable.
A man’s got to know his limitations….You owe it to the animal….
Interesting question. Most of our shooting in South Texas is for management purposes, so it is very important to use good optics in good shooting light to look the animal over closely (1) to make sure the “doe” you are looking at is not in fact a nubbin buck (2) do your best to determine the age class of the animal in question (3) decide the buck is management or trophy quality. Then you get around to taking the shot. Always be aware of the impact of weather conditions and low light before taking that shot.
Most of the folks who show up are not proficient beyond 150 yards, no matter the quality of the rifle and optics they have at their disposal. Whether it is lack of respect for the game, too busy a schedule to spend time at the range to fully develop their shooting skills, depending on technology instead of paying your dues and doing it the right way, or just plain laziness I do not know.
Every now and again one of us takes a poke out to 300 yards, but we try to keep all our shooting inside of 200 yards and would really prefer to keep it 150 yards or less.
Agree with you, Mike, and keep reminding all of us how important it is to make sure we respect the game and attempt to take only ethical shots to make as clean and quick a kill as possible.
Mike being a southern boy who moved out here to the wild west is tough. I am a member of couple hunting groups on fb and there are discussions all the time about long range shooting. I hear guys talk about how they’re accurate out to 1100 yards!WHAT?! This isn’t the exception either, these western hunters truly believe that it’s ethical to consistently shoot at animals that are over 500+ yards, I just don’t get it. SADLY what often happens is that these long range addicts walk upon their animal after shooting it from a thousand yards and realize that the deer isn’t nearly as big as they thought. They then leave the animal because they don’t want to waste their tag. The local game warden said due to the fact that Arizona allows one deer tag per person per year that he finds an extremely high number of animals that have been left by hunters who shot it from long range without knowing the quality of it’s rack and then were let down. I had no idea this happened out here, but it does and it’s really sickening. You won’t catch me shooting over 300 yards no matter how accurate I am at 500, when you’re pulling the trigger on one of God’s most beautiful creations you better be sure you can kill it as ethically as possible.
quote from the article…..”He had missed with his first 2 “test” shots”
Enough said, IMHO.
What’s wrong with test shots? It’s the new coolest thing..you shoot around the deer and let him know you’re there. Then you have to shoot an animal that’s been alerted and now this is a 542 yard running shot..Much easier. haha that is crazy!
I think it ultimately comes down to each person knowing their limits. You need to make an ethical choice based on knowing your abilities to make a clean kill.
I think some of the problem out west is caused by outfitters who tell their clients to be prepared to shoot 400 yards. The hunter practices a few times and thinks he is capable of shooting that distance. Then a lot of times they end up missing or wounding a deer which they had no business shooting at.
I used to do a lot of shooting and could shoot a 3″ group at 500 yards. The longest shot I ever put on a deer was 333 yards on a big muley in Colorado. But, I had practiced a lot at that distance and was fully confident in my ability to put a clean shot on that animal. I hardly ever get the chance to shoot at distance any more. I will shoot my rifle a few times before the season out to 200 yards and if the deer are beyond that, I either try to get closer, or don’t shoot.
As I said before, I think it depends on each individual knowing what their own limits are. If a person has practiced for long distances, and they are confident in their ability to make a clean kill, then I don’t have a problem with it.