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A Shot Too Far

November 14, 2014 | by Bruce Auchly
photo

Pronghorn present a small target

at long distances.

How is the hunting season going for you?

I thought so.

First, too warm, too windy. Now cold or at least colder.

Cold is good for a variety of reasons: It moves animals, it moves hunters who move animals, and the danger of meat spoiling is less than in warmer weather.

One factor, I’ve seen recently that has the potential to spark heated discussion is unnecessary long-range shooting. What is long-range shooting? The only easy answer is with another question. How far is too far?

Too far could be 50 yards or 700 yards, depending on conditions and a hunter’s skill.

As one prominent writer put it: “When someone boasts of killing from afar, I’m tempted to console him: ‘Cheer up; you’ll get closer next time.’ “

No less an authority than the Boone and Crockett Club has recently taken a position discouraging long-range shooting.

The club is North America’s oldest hunter conservationist organization, founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt. Its national headquarters is in Missoula. It owns the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front west of Dupuyer.

In its recent magazine “Fair Chase”, the club says long-range shooting takes unfair advantage of the game animal and its natural capacity to use its senses and instincts to detect danger.

Think of the advantages we have as hunters. Bullets that can hit accurately targets at 500, 600, even 1,000 yards. Compact rangefinders that use lasers to tell us a target’s distance out to 1,000 yards or more. Telescopic sights that sit atop our rifles and magnify a target to 8, 10, even 12 times.

Technology is not bad. Heck, I own a lot myself.

Last month during the antelope season, I spied a herd at 500 yards, as determined by my rangefinder. Then, as I watched them with my 10-power binoculars, they looked back at me with their 8-power vision.

I attempted to get closer, crawling over inch-high grass and prickly pear cactus. Meanwhile, they had me pegged, using their bulging eyes set high atop their head for taking in close to 300 degrees of their surroundings. I’d swear I heard one laugh at me.

Eventually, they ran off. I passed up that 500-yard shot not because I’m morally superior. I just have no confidence at hitting and cleanly killing a pronghorn at 500 yards.

I’m not even sure I could hit a barn door at 500 yards, at least a small barn door.

One of the satisfactions of hunting is the skills a hunter uses to stalk game, skill that really says a lot about the hunter.

Certainly the closer you get, the more often you’ll fail: The reward of taking game home comes with risk.

So again, what’s too long? Here’s a thought, then, if you can hit the center of a target nine out of ten times, the distance doesn’t matter.

If you took a shot that even you describe as lucky, it was too far.