View Full Version : Getting the Range......

Dave McC
March 6, 2011, 03:50 PM
When the world and I were young, I believed that one of the worst things someone could be called was "Sky Buster".

Pop and I had to endure some of these people in nearby blinds on occasion. They'd open up on any visible geese, even those that Anti-Aircraft fire wouldn't faze. Some of them would brag about how far they could hit them using 4 buck or even 00. Besides being illegal, it was a bad practice and egregious lack of sportsmanship. For every goose they killed cleanly, Heaven knows how many were wounded and died lingering, agonizing deaths.

On the other hand, Pop and his hunting partners took them close. One old ex market hunter had little Jolly Roger Pirate flags in his decoy spread and we were ordered to take them after they passed the flags. I believe they were no more than 40 yards from the blind and possibly just 35.

With some calling and decoy setup skills, it's not that hard to get shots of less than 40 yards. Heck, my last couple geese were taken at around 25 yards.

Some of those sky busters just didn't know any better. Back when I shot 3-D archery, most of us has trouble telling whether a target was at 33 yards or 40.

And some were just jerks, but we're not jerks here, I hope.

With shotguns, whether or not a clay target is 33 or 40 yards off means Light Mod or Mod choke, 7 1/2s or 8s, more lead or oft a 0 instead of an X.

On a living creature, things get hinky fast when we take high risk,long range shots. Even when we hit, penetration suffers,density suffers and often our targets do also.

A couple tips on how to determine is something's within sensible range.....

On Canadas coming into decoys, if you can see the eye, it's likely in range.

Same for a flushed ringneck, but if you can see the namesake feature clearly it's OK to take the shot if all else is OK.

Mourning dove eyes are a little hard to spot, but if you can see the feet, also OK.

Of course,all that is predicated on using an effective load that your shotgun and choke are putting out there in a dense, 26-28" pattern.

Using a range marker like those flags makes sense. I've paced off 30 yards on a dove shoot and used crow decoys as markers with a couple dove decoys near me. My results are good, great bird harvested to shells expended ratio.

And for years I've used the far edge of a goose decoy spread as a marker. If the geese are past the outliers, they're in range of Hevi2s.

Lots of us would profit from pacing off distances in our hunting environments and learning what say, 35 yards really looks like. That means knowing what out pace is in that kind of ground. Mine, 27 steps equals 20 yards.

Of course, if all you hunt is woodcock and ruffed grouse in thickets where any bird you see is well within range, well, more power to you.

And when in doubt, do not shoot. However, if you look at the target and know it's dead if you wish it to be,proceed as you wish.


March 7, 2011, 12:42 PM
Taking the time - and doing the prep work - as you suggest to get a good feel for what the solid killing range for your loads is / and what 30 or 35 yards really looks like - makes perfectly good sense to me. If I know my loads will kill at a max of 40 yards .....then I really want to let the birds get inside of that range ( say 75% of the max or about 30 yrds ) at max kill range or around 30 yds ( or I let them go )... I guess I've killed enough birds / and letting one or two go ...isn't that big a deal to me anymore.

When I'm trying to "establish ranges" - I always start with something easy to relate to ( a tree maybe at around 10 yards ) ....something I can easily pace off / or visually see from the blind and I know its 10 yrds ....and then I double it for my 20 yd mark / triple it for my 30 yard mark. I think this is especially important - if I've never hunted in that pond / or from that blind before ... Of course if the guide is setting the decoys - talking to him a little on what range he's setting things at - gives me a quick double check too.

Personally, I agree on your comments on "sky busters" ...but it seems like every high end guided bird hunt I've ever been on ....there are too many "wannabes" around vs "experienced shooters" ...in almost any group. Everybody has to start from zero experience at some point ...but it just seems that fewer and fewer guys are doing the prep work on ranges or even knowing how to operate their guns before they get to the blinds / or out in the field ...

This would be a good conversation to have at the lodge / the night before everyone heads out to the blinds at 4AM the next morning....but on the hunts I've been on lately ....there are fewer and fewer "shooters" vs guys in town to blow off some steam / customers invitged to come along / etc ... and I don't like the trend. Maybe converstations like you suggest will help change it.

Dave McC
March 7, 2011, 11:15 PM
Few folks today have the opportunity like I did, Jim, where they could learn from gunners with thousands of cleanly killed birds behind them.

Pop could go a couple hunts between unharvested birds he shot at. Mr Bob and another former market gunner, Bill Offutt, had decades of experience they not so much passed as let me absorb by osmosis.

I've guided newer hunters myself. Convincing them that it's OK to pass up low percentage shots takes work.

And, that a shot I can handle may not work for them yet.

However, we have to make the effort. And since I do not hunt much anymore, my efforts are more often seen at the range.

If all of us took one new shooter out a year, we'd have a lot less to worry about.

Range is part of it. Ethics is also. In fact, they overlap.

March 8, 2011, 11:41 AM
I agree - and a lot of it is why I don't hunt much anymore either. I didn't realize when I was a kid / how lucky I was growing up in Northwestern Montana - and all the time I spent hunting, fishing, camping, etc ...and all the sportsmen I had as role models...on how to hunt, kill and take care of game - and show respect for the wildlife in the process.

I agree about introducing new shooters to our games ...and I try to get 3 or 4 new shooters out to the clays courses / and 7 or 8 out to a handgun range every year - but its getting harder. I enjoy introducing my sons or grandsons frieds or a business associate to firearms ... especially if I can do it on my own time table - and I can pick who I'm helping - especially if they have a good openminded attitude. I help an instructor a little - at the handgun range - but at least 1/3 of the students scare the daylights out of me ....with their cowboy attitudes, sweeping their bodies as they draw, spray and pray attitudes with high cap mags, etc ... But there are still enough folks out there / that seem to really want some help - that it keeps me trying.

But all we can do / is do the best we can ... keep the faith man ...

Dave McC
March 8, 2011, 11:43 AM
Amen, though I still cuss the darkness even as I light a candle....