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Old September 21, 2023, 09:30 AM   #1
MarkCO
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Acceptable Precision

If we take the theory that accuracy is that of the rifle system you use and precision is the ability of the shooter to put those shots where they are supposed to go, what do you, as a hunter, consider acceptable precision? That is, at what distance (Energy to kill not being a factor) do you say..."I must be able to make a cold bore shot, from a field shooting position on a X inch target." ???

Some background. With my boys, I had them shoot Prone, Sitting, Kneeling and Offhand at killzone sized targets with their hunting rifles. They had to hit the target from each of those positions 5 times, no misses, to set their max range. So obviously, offhand was closer than prone, and in the field, they would have a pack, tree, rock for support, and they practiced those as well. It did not take long for them to reach the energy maximum of their hunting rifles. They knew their drops, holds, acceptable sight picture and had good fundamentals. They have since harvested Deer, Elk and Pronghorn and lots of small game.

So I start to work with a guy who thought he was a pretty good shot, but wanted to get better. He knew my reputation from other people and had gone and watched some of the TV shows I was on and decided to ask. First time out, he wanted to shoot on the 1000 yard range. I told him lets make sure the fundamentals are good at shorter distances first. He could not get consistent hits even at 500m. When a buddy came back from trying to get his AR sighted in, he told him "I am so pissed right now". Basically, in the conversation he said he had learned a lot in a few hours, be he was not as good as he thought he was. As he was struggling with holds, data management and wind, I was also tweaking his fundamentals, which were decent, but needed a few modifications. During the time, I had, at one point, pulled out my rifle, loaded a mag and got behind my rifle and got first round hits on the smallest target at 500m, then 700m in 6-10 mph winds. My reply to his surprise was, "That is what you need to be able to do, all the time, if you want to call yourself an accomplished rifleman. Hitting the target on the 2nd (or more) round is not that."

A few older guys (One was a Viet Nam Vet) were watching me work with him the 2nd time, waiting for a lull and then they were going to shoot their rifles. They chatted with us some and they had just watched me pull a rifle out of the Tahoe, walk up, load one round and get a 1st round 700m hit on a 10" target. They asked me if I could do that all the time. I answered that almost all the time, I could. If I missed, it was due to me missing the wind call. My protoge told them he had seen me do it several times. And then he says..."And not to brag, but I've shot 2 Elk at 750 yards. Well, I hit him on the third shot, the first went between his legs, then next just under and the third I got him." The old Vet just rolls his eyes and walks away. I said "That's why we are here." By my estimate, his 700 yard group size was in the range of about 2 feet at this point. But 300 WM with 200g ELDx has enough energy, if you can place it.

Next time, if he takes me up on it, I'm going to have him use a lighter recoiling trainer and really get the fundamentals locked down.

I do not think he is too far out of the norm. We have guns and ammo capable of cleanly taking game out pretty far, and even though I am a MUCH better rifleman than he, he shot Elk well past what I would even consider taking a shot at with his set up. When a guy can get 1 hit out of 3 or 4 at some distance on a target at the range, and then shoots at game at that distance, I call that unethical hunting.

So a few things, 1. What is your acceptable precision? 2. How do you verify that? 3. How much do you practice to keep those skills up? 4. How do we, as a community, reign back in the notion that long range hunting is easy so we don't have so much wounded and harassed big game?

Thoughts and experiences welcome to be discussed in all areas of this post.
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Old September 21, 2023, 10:19 AM   #2
tangolima
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I don't hunt. But I have past the stage of shooting groups on paper. Now I practice to hit specific targets at distance.

Accuracy or precision, whatever it is called, is the probability to hit an intended target. My standard is to hit with no more than 1 quick follow-up shot. If I fail, I move back 50yd. I need to be able to hit 2 attempts in a roll to get promoted to another 50yd or 100yd.

Nothing to brag about. I can hit a soda can at 150yd with .22lr. Center fired at half a printer paper at 300yd.

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Old September 21, 2023, 10:34 AM   #3
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My focus is mainly on Handguns because of my profession. My goal to to shoot 50-100rnds a month and out to 50yds with iron sighs on a G17. I need to be able to put shots on a torso target, absolutely no misses first try.

For rifles, I do not hunt with them currently, unpleasant state laws. In any case its rare here to have a shot at or beyond 100yds anyway. I do hope to hunt out west some day. But I agree 100% with your evaluation. You should be able to hit vitals, first shot, every time, from several different positions. The range at which you can do that is you max range.
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Old September 21, 2023, 10:50 AM   #4
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i was helping a fella like that one time..

we were at 500yrds and he wasnt haveing a very good day..

after a few shots and not connecting he rolled over to me and said.." what am i doing wrong"

i said well you need to keep your head on the stock to start with..thats called follow through.. and stop flinching....lol....i ask if the gun was hurting him..he said no...well why are you trying to get away from it then..no responce..lol

and he said .." i aint doing none of that"

so i took his rifle and his ammo and procceded to hit all the targets

then he said..."how did you do that".....i laffed and said..."use the force tom"....lmao

so i got out the trusty camcorder and videoed him shooting...made a copy and sent it home with him....i told him to watch it and dont come back until he could tell me what he was doing wrong and then we can continue

took about a week and when he came back he said i didnt know i was doing all that stuff....uhhh...its not like someone wasnt trying to tell you

some people just need to see what they are doing wrong i guess

just thought i would add my .02 on precision

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Old September 21, 2023, 12:39 PM   #5
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My acceptable precision is the calibrated pie plate. I do shoot a good bit, but ranges beyond 150 yards are few here in OH-IO. So, I guess the "pie" needs to be 3". That gets me to my self imposed 400. I'm still trying to get myself to a nearby (2 hr) 1,000 yard range just for fun. But shooting at that range involves more than marksmanship fundamentals.

Unfortunately, the shooting press would have us believe that elk are regularly killed from a kilometer. And the mantra in my native Pennsylvania seems to be "as long as there's lead in the air there's hope". Other than losing a shirttail, there's no downside. In Africa, if you draw blood, you owe the trophy fee. But there is no way to enforce that here.
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Old September 21, 2023, 12:55 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by ligonierbill View Post
Unfortunately, the shooting press would have us believe that elk are regularly killed from a kilometer.
Yes, I can't tell you how many times I've seen the lady in Wyoming shooting an Elk at about 1K with a .243Win and the "guides" taking the credit for being superawesome trainers. Animal behavior and wind make almost all shots past about 400 yards something that, to be done with precision, take several skill sets to match up together.

All good posts above, thanks for the input so far.
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Old September 21, 2023, 01:13 PM   #7
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If I can keep 3 shots in 1" at 100 yards that is my goal. If the rifle and load do a little better that is fine, and most of my rifles usually do a little better, but in the real world 1" is good enough.


One of the long range shooting websites did a study several years ago and posted their data online. Sorry, I no longer have access to it, or I'd post a link.

They determined the hit probability of a bullet striking a 10" target at 700 yards with a 1MOA rifle/load, a 1/2MOA rifle and a .3MOA rifle.

I cannot recall the exact numbers, but there was very little difference. A 1 MOA rifle had the lowest probability of making a hit, but it was in the upper 80% range. The .3 MOA rifle was only 4% or 5% better.

FWIW, I don't have enough trigger time in at those ranges to feel comfortable with a 700 yard shot at game. I've shot past 500 only a few times. The times I've shot at 600-700 yards most every shot would have been in the kill zone of an elk, maybe 1/2 of them on a smallish deer.

My comfort zone ends at 300 yards, maybe 400 under ideal conditions. But I've seen enough people shoot to know many can do it and I'll be the last to tell someone else they have no business shooting game at long range.
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Old September 21, 2023, 01:35 PM   #8
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I don't hunt and don't really understand hunting. But I'm not against hunting when it serves a purpose. I have no hesitation to hunt for food if I have to.

Taking an animal at such long distance is not hunting. It is more for making the shooter feel good. I can't tell others what not to do. But I won't do such things myself. I feel mighty good already being able to hit a dead target. No need to try it on a live animal for amusement.

At long distance, rifle's accuracy is a small factor to determine the hit probability. The shooter's abilities to correct errors caused by environment dominates.

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Old September 21, 2023, 02:00 PM   #9
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Frankly, I don't like long shots. I never did. However, I've taken three shots over the years which I consider to be long range.One, a deer was taken at 426 paces with a .308 and 150 gr. bullet. Sorry, no rangefinders back in 1973. The latest was a cow elk at 350 yards as lasered by my guide. Rifle was a .35 Whelen. My very longest shot was also at a cow elk at a lasered 530 yards. As I knew the area where I drew a tag required longer than average shot I put in a good three month practice going to the range two and three times a week. Rifle was a .300 Win. Mag running 200 gr. Speer Hot Core at very close to 2900 FPS. One shot and down. As I said, I do not like to take shots that far out but sometimes, one just does not have the choice.
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Old September 21, 2023, 02:55 PM   #10
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The CPW manager in Southern Colorado tasked with qualifying folks to be able to take an Elk in the management zone where they are trying to thin the herd, reports a dismal pass rate. 6 hits in 3 minutes at 200 to 300 yards on a 10" target, no sight adjustments allowed. I think through this year, he had 1700 applicants, 70% decline or no show and 2/3rds fail at the range. In that locale, 200+ yard shots are the norm. One of the places I hunt Elk, you have a choice...running Elk inside 350 or broadside at over 350. Some locales, Pronghorn are 400+ and similar with some Goat and Sheep hunting areas.

Tangolima, to say shooting an animal at long distance is not hunting is ignorance of the various types of hunting common out West. So you were correct in stating you did not understand.

Yes, there is a proliferation of folks shooting long instead of putting in the work to get close, but there are a lot of conditions and locations on some types of game where 300 is the closest you will ever get.
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Old September 22, 2023, 11:08 AM   #11
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So a few things, 1. What is your acceptable precision? 2. How do you verify that? 3. How much do you practice to keep those skills up? 4. How do we, as a community, reign back in the notion that long range hunting is easy so we don't have so much wounded and harassed big game?
1. Acceptable precision for me is a full magazine consistently on an 8" target from supported field positions at 400 yards. I don't shoot unsupported in the field anymore, and when I hunt there is always something I can set up for support like daypack, shooting sticks, trekking poles, or tripod. The rifle I expect to be consistently 1-1.5 MOA with me behind the trigger.

2. I try and shoot at those distances regular. My home range is only 150 yards, but there is public lands within 30 mins and a steel post and plate hanger doesn't take long to set. I also use the same supports I'll be hunting with.

3. Since I have a range out my back door, I shoot several times a month. Mostly rimfire mixed with .223 and .300 BLK. I don't shoot my hunting rifles until season gets closer and I try and practice at least 4-6 times to 400 yards and beyond before season. I also live in CO, and have regularly shot pronghorn at 400 and a little beyond.

4. You can't really, you can only influence the people you can connect with. I don't like to stretch things beyond 400 either, but I have and I've been successful. I've also had chip shots that I've blown, and had a rodeo on my hands.
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Old September 22, 2023, 02:22 PM   #12
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As I said, I do not like to take shots that far out but sometimes, one just does not have the choice.
From what you wrote, you seem to take the matter seriously, ethically and do seriously practice in order to be capable of making those long shots.

That being said, I have to disagree on one point, and that is, you always have a choice.

In my youth I read something from one of the noted gun writers/hunters of the day, though I can no longer recall which one it was, but I remember what was said, and that he felt that if you took at shot at a game animal over 300yards away, you should be forced to write yourself a letter, longhand, in triplicate (no carbons) explaining exactly why you HAD to take the shot.

The point being its is SPORT hunting. If you can't get close enough to be within your reliable range, salute the animal and try again another day.

Sure, there are times when you can't get close in the time you have, and I know there are times when people just won't try to make the effort, but shoot anyway. That's where personal ethics comes in.

I have the skill and the equipment to hit targets at long ranges, 200yds+ with handguns, 600+ with my rifles, but I will NOT shoot at game at those ranges. IF I can't get closer, then the deer/elk, whatever "wins" THAT DAY.

There is no shame in that. There is no failure in that. I consider NOT taking a questionable shot to be an ethical win.

Grew up deer hunting in the Adirondacks, mostly thick woods, 100yds was a long shot and much beyond that quite uncommon. I live in the west now, lots more open country, longer shots are more frequent, but I pass on things much beyond 300, its a personal choice.

My father used the "paper plate rule". If you could hit close to the center of a paper plate, at any range, that was good enough for big game at that range. If you could hit the plate somewhere, you needed more practice.

and if you couldn't hit the plate at all, you shouldn't be shooting at that range, period.

So far, that rule has worked for every situation I've seen.
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Old September 22, 2023, 03:17 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by 44 AMP View Post
There is no shame in that. There is no failure in that. I consider NOT taking a questionable shot to be an ethical win.
It takes more courage to abort a shot. I heard this from an instructor. It has become my own motto since.

Sounds like the understatement here is that a lot of "qualified" long range shooters don't know what they are doing. But yet it is ok to "hunt" an animal 1k yd away. I should remain ignorant.

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Old September 22, 2023, 03:38 PM   #14
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A lot of people think they can do something, until they actually try, and fail. And, sadly, even then, some still think they can do it, and only failed because of something they weren't responsible for, even if they actually were.

"denial ain't just a river in Egypt"
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Old September 22, 2023, 05:37 PM   #15
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I grew up shooting woodchucks with a 22LR and eventually graduated to a .204 Ruger when it came out. It felt like hunting with a laser beam.
I find that many folks over estimate the difficulty of shots under 400 yards and under estimate the difficulty beyond 400.

An elk sized vital zone at 300 should be a gimme for a semi-competent shooter with a decent rest. Even a mild shooting cartridge like 7mm-08, zeroed at 200, is only 6 or so inches low at 300 and in a 10mph cross wind only has about that same 6 or so inches drift.
If you can't mentally estimate holdover/drift on a shot like that and make it in short order, you probably shouldn't be hunting.

To me, acceptable precision isn't a number, it's an understanding. If you don't have enough experience or time behind the gun that you instinctively know you can make that shot, you shouldn't be trying to make that shot.
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Old September 22, 2023, 05:45 PM   #16
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excellent response
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Old September 23, 2023, 06:11 AM   #17
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One skill of marksmanship is to be able to "call" a shot with reasonable accuracy.
Every day is different.

I can generally tell looking through the sights out to a point.

Heart pounding? Wind gusting 50 MPH? Etc. I'm holding steady enough on my target zone to press with confidence or pass on the shot.

Generally a 250 to 300 yd prairie dog shot is expected to be good. Yes,I miss some. And I have hit at twice that range.

For myself, the "complicating factors" beyond hold and ballistic charts get louder past 400. . There is "long range" target shooting. Go for it and enjoy!

But I'm responsible to deliver a merciful kill. I need to be able to "call the shot" and know its a good hit. That distance is variable

The "iffy" factor goes up real fast beyond about 400 yds. One critter step during flight time can make a gut shot. The excuse does not help.

Hitting a steel dinger at 1000 yds feels good and I enjoy it. I know for sure that steel dinger wont flop off on three legs.

I practice regret avoidance.
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Old September 23, 2023, 11:26 AM   #18
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When you miss a target, nothing but your score (and maybe your ego) suffers. And, it is easier to hit targets at long ranges than animals. Generally speaking targets don't move much, and are usually some kind of contrasting colors.

Ok, say you and your rig can shoot groups that are all good "boiler room" hits at long range. You may get everything right, compensating for drop and wind correctly, and STILL wind up with a bad shot.

A single step by an elk or deer during the (relatively long) time of flight of your bullet can turn a good boiler room hit into a gutshot, and now, through no fault of your aim or technique, you have a wounded animal several hundred yards away that you are ethically required to humanely finish.

Because you chose to take a shot were that possibility existed.

That part is entirely on the shooter, in my view.
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Old September 23, 2023, 11:37 AM   #19
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Agree with posts 15, 17 and 18.

Just because you can does not mean you should. Animal behavior is a big factor, as are the environmental and terrain conditions.
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Old September 23, 2023, 12:09 PM   #20
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i agree with a lot of what has been said and i think Brian and HiBC pretty much has it nailed down

back in the old days when i could really see...yep age has a way of doing that to a fella....i have been to 800 many times and 1000 some too, but like HiBC says...not on game animals but steel

a lot can happen from the time of release and strike..1 step...gust of wind..tree limb you didnt see..what ever it may be...i respect the animal more than i want to do something stupid

not saying it cant be done...heck i watch those guys on TV do those 4-5-600 yrd shots all the time...

i am a hunter first...the game "hunting" for me is to see how close i can get to the animal....i have been so close a couple times i could "count coop" with the end of my gun barrel.....i love the stalk...out smart the quarry

but on the other hand i like to play the steel game too...steel at 800-1000 is way different...like HiBC said..if you make a hit that just wasnt up to snuff, the steel isnt going to slip off in the forest and die a lingering death..it will hang there and let you try again..and again if you want

for me, even though i feel purdy confident i could make a longer shot on an animal...say maybe 4-500 yrds.....i hold the line at 200...but i like less..way less...if i do my part maybe under 50..and on a good day...could be 10 or less

i have 500yrds out my back door....across the hay field..i get to play any time i want....and 200 is real comfy for me..even as i get older.....put 1 in a coyote the other day at a lasered 345...so there ya go..i dont like them guys..they kill the turkeys and quail and baby deer...them and coons...they get into and tear up everything..lol..but i digress

i will say as i do progress in the age department...i think my rifles are gaining wieght...lol...so i use a helper to help hold and steady them more and more...

Clint said it best...."mans got to know his limitations"

so practice practice and practice somemore..get behind the rifle and shoot it until you are comfortable with it and the range you want to call your limit..test you ranging skills ...say i think that is 250..check it with a range finder...check the wind too...do it until you do it instinctively...you can do a lot of this stuff sitting on the patio...the animals deserve that from you

shoot small ..hit small...my old hunting pardner used to say .."pick a spot"

my .02

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Old September 23, 2023, 01:46 PM   #21
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I have not read the above replies.
I wanted to get my own thoughts down without any influence.

My personal standards are probably a bit more lax than some others here will claim.
But, it pretty much boils down to:
Big game: I want a first-round, cold-bore impact on a deer-sized heart, at any range I am willing to take the shot. For short range, I, of course, have higher standards. A 4-5" group at 100-150 yards is not acceptable. But for 300+ yds, I just need confidence in that roughly heart-sized target.

Small game: I want a first-round impact on a squirrel head, with no horizontal dispersion. With rimfire, a little vertical stringing is expected with most ammo, but that allows for a bullet to drop into the neck or chest, depending on range. I still want repeatability on that head-sized target, but vertical fudge factor helps. A squirrel head impact also works for rabbits and grouse. (Grouse are legal to take in Idaho with more than just a shotgun.)


That being said, just because I have confidence in long range shots doesn't mean I want to take them. I prefer closing the distance, regardless of what the rifle can do. I have made head shots on antelope beyond 400 and 600 yards, as well as 'boiler room'. But that doesn't mean I would do it again. I was younger, stupider, and still learning.
My average range for Antelope is well under 200 yards, and the long shots skew the average. Without the long shots, I believe my average is closer to 125 yards. Lazy hunters and people that haven't hunted them are always claiming that 400-700 yards is the norm, but I hunt speedgoats in some of the flattest, most open ground in Wyoming and still hold an average well under 200 yards. It doesn't take much effort to get close, if you read the terrain and animals, and just try.


I was talking with an old timer at the range last Monday, after he noticed that I was shooting at 330 and 375 yards with a scoped .22, as well as 50-200 yd with an iron-sighted .22; between shots with my 6.5x284 Norma.
He worked through three rifles from 300-375 yd, before turning to another that required backing up to 100 to troubleshoot a scope. (It turned out to just be different loads shooting to radically different POIs horizontally.)

Our discussion of testing and 'playing' at long range turned into a very long and heated discussion about the current craze of "long range hunting."
Both of us had rifles and ammunition capable of 700+ yard shots on antelope, up to moose, and neither of us wanted to even attempt such.
"If you can't get closer than 200 yards, then you're doing something wrong. It isn't the animal or the terrain, it is you."

*I'll allow some stretching of shots for game like bighorn sheep and mtn goat. Sometimes, you just can't get closer. But I don't hunt them, so I still hold those shots at some level of contempt.


As for reigning back in the "long range hunting" fantasy, I do not know.
As long as shows and social media posts make it seem like the norm, people easily influenced by those outlets will continue to believe.

Last year, there was a video going around of a "perfect" shot on a bull elk at something like 890 yards (with some form of 6mm if iirc). But you can see the trace and the impact, as the elk took a step while the bullet was in flight. Absolutely perfect gut shot.
Luckily for the shooter, the bull stumbled and paused just long enough for an actual kill shot.
But crap like that propagates the myth and continues to influence people that don't recognize how terrible that first shot actually was. The shooter did everything right (except getting closer), and the situation still went sideways.
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Old September 23, 2023, 02:50 PM   #22
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Quote:
As I said, I do not like to take shots that far out but sometimes, one just does not have the choice.
"From what you wrote, you seem to take the matter seriously, ethically and do seriously practice in order to be capable of making those long shots.

That being said, I have to disagree on one point, and that is, you always have a choice."

That's true. First off, I was familiar with the area. Mountainous foothills and many very wide open flat, some literally miles in any direction. By opening day the influx of hunters will get the elk moving right into those wide open spaces where they can see a hunter coming from a long way off. Usually by the following morning you won't see an elk to save you life. They all head for the White Mountain Apache Reservation which is located in the area. What few elk still around hare nocturnal and in the foothills.
When I shot my elk, Id crawled for over an hour and what behind the last bush between me and the elk. It was about 8 in the morning, the air perfectly still. I had a good sitting position and the hold looked good. It was a shot I'd made numerous times at the range so decided to take the shot. So yes, I had a choice. If I'd had any doubts, I would not have squeezed the trigger.
I can honestly say that I've only lost two animals since I started hunting in 1949. One deer due to what I believe was bullet failure and the other due to possible bullet failure and human failure. The first a guess as to what happened due to the bullet being too tough and acting like a solid and possible the factory load not delivering advertised velocity as determine later by chronograph. Deer number two was properly hit but I think the bullet blew up on impact It was one of the very first run of 7MM Ballistic Tips that came with a too thin jacket. Human failure is when going up the hill to look for the deer, my foot rolled on some loose rock and I blew my right knee out. My hunting parters had to help me off the hill and refused to look for the deer. Funny thing is both deer were shot with a 7MM Mauser. Add the fact that I was planning to use a 7MM Mauser on another hunt and was in a bad car accident on the way to the range to check the scope prior to leaving for a planned guided hunt leads me to believe the cartridge is a jinx, at least for me. That was on January 2, 2020 BTW and I have been unable to do a hunt ever since. I still have the urge.
Paul B.
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Old September 23, 2023, 09:38 PM   #23
FITASC
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Originally Posted by 44 AMP View Post
There is no shame in that. There is no failure in that. I consider NOT taking a questionable shot to be an ethical win.
It takes more courage to abort a shot. I heard this from an instructor. It has become my own motto since.

Sounds like the understatement here is that a lot of "qualified" long range shooters don't know what they are doing. But yet it is ok to "hunt" an animal 1k yd away. I should remain ignorant.

-TL
I agree. Sorry, if you cannot get to within 300 yards or so, then instead of doping the wind for a shot, you should be doping the wind to get closer; this is hunting, not shooting when it involves live game.
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