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Old February 16, 2019, 09:08 PM   #1
GarandTd
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Ethical hunting kills with iron sights

What is the farthest shot you've taken with iron sights that resulted in an ethical kill on a game animal? Be honest. Tell me about the good and the bad. I'm not here to judge

I've only ever shot one deer and I had, and used, a scope. I shot a turkey in flight with a semi-auto Mossberg 12gauge. It might have been 50 yards max with a bead. I've shot squirrels with a couple different 20 gauge shotguns up to probably 40 yards with a bead. At 12 years old, I missed a doe with a 20 gauge slug at 50 yards. It was my 1st shot at a deer ever. That was also a bead sight.

The longest range I have for target shooting is 100 yards. I think I would be comfortable with a shot out to that range on large game, but I'm not so sure beyond.
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Last edited by GarandTd; February 17, 2019 at 08:44 AM. Reason: Punctuation, elaboration
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Old February 16, 2019, 09:20 PM   #2
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A rabbit at 20 yards.
To the title, the best iron sights are going to be on the order of 1 MoA. Most can’t shoot that at any distance.
The max range by animal is easy to calc.
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Old February 16, 2019, 09:36 PM   #3
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First deer I ever killed. It was with a M1917 that I borrowed from my landlord. Standard fold-down peep sight. Deer was about 70 yds away. I aimed at his shoulder and the shot went through the base of the neck.
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Old February 16, 2019, 09:56 PM   #4
Art Eatman
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My opinion is that with handgun or rifle, irons or scope, limit yourself to whatever distance at which you can hit the end of a beer/soda can from any field position. Offhand, hasty rest, whatever.
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Old February 16, 2019, 10:55 PM   #5
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I want to hear what people have actually done. Not what could or should be.
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Old February 16, 2019, 11:01 PM   #6
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I welcome any fail stories too. Some of us could learn from it.
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Old February 17, 2019, 12:09 AM   #7
big al hunter
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With irons.... let's see...1 deer with a handgun. I was standing, holding the gun with both hands, Weaver stance. Distance was 25 yards. Then I have also taken 2 elk with muzzleloader. One at about 10 feet, the other at pretty close to 100 yards. The longest clean kill on a duck with my shotgun was around 45 yards. Widgeon drake. My buddy hit him twice over the decoys, just knocked some feathers loose. As the bird got to 20 yards out my buddy lowered his gun, so I looked at him and said "you gonna shoot him again?". He shook his head and I turned and shot as the bird was starting to climb and head for the next county He folded up and didn't wiggle as he fell.
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Old February 17, 2019, 02:44 AM   #8
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Not my farthest, but my best: I shot a doe at a lasered 167 yards with a custom built 357mag revolver built by Bill Davis. The shot was standing off hand with a two hand hold. Iron sights. I used to be an International Class standing shooter and I shot a lot of woodchucks over a hundred yards back then with several different handguns. I've shot some other game farther with rifles and some sort of rest.
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Old February 17, 2019, 07:29 AM   #9
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My first deer was felled with a borrowed Winchester 30-30 and open sights. Distance was about 75 yards.

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Old February 17, 2019, 08:37 AM   #10
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Quote:
Not my farthest, but my best
NoSecondBest, what was your farthest? What about the less than best?

I started this thread out of curiousity. I was challenged in another thread after questioning making ethical kills at 200+ yards with iron sights. I'm not confident in my ability to do that. I wanted to know how many people are actually taking long iron sights shots successfully, but I also want to hear about the unsuccessful shots. Was it a good hit? Was it a miss? Was the animal recovered or not? Was a closer finishing shot necessary?

I learn through experience, but I also learn through other people's experiences. I'm not looking to chastise anyone or be critical.
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Old February 17, 2019, 09:19 AM   #11
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Not exactly what you are looking for. I no longer HUNT with iron sights, and never have very often. A squirrel at about 25-30 yards is the longest shot I've actually made on a game animal with irons. I've taken them at 15 yards with a 22 revolver. And that was years ago. I've deer hunted with iron sighted rifles in the past, but never had a shot opportunity. But I do shoot my lever guns at the range as well as one of my AR's with iron sights enough to know what I'm capable of.

One misconception about scopes is that the magnification makes it easier to hit targets. The biggest advantage optics provide is the ability to SEE the target. Under ideal conditions I can shoot very similar size groups at 200 yards with irons, a scope set on 1X or on 10X. The difference just isn't that great. If I can clearly see the target I can hit it. Optics make it easier to see the target, especially as we get older and our eyes are less than perfect. Or in poor light.

You do reach the point down range where you simply can't see the game animal or target, clearly enough without optics to make a shot. And that depends on the eyes of the individual shooter and the quality of the irons. Most iron sights stuck on most hunting rifles are next to useless. Good quality irons make a huge difference and I'd have no doubts that some one skilled enough could do it at ranges well over 200 yards. But that is entirely dependent on the individual shooter.

I feel confident that I could hit a deer size animal at 200 with my AR because of the better sights, but I'm not confident in the round killing one at that range.. I don't have the same confidence in my 30-30's because of the poor sights. If I were to install better sights on them yes.

Where I hunt the vast majority of shots are under 50 yards under a heavy canopy. But I've given up on irons for that. Virtually all shots at game are prior to sunrise, or after sunset. Legal shooting time is 30 minutes prior to, and 30 minutes after sunrise and sunset. It is pretty dark and in the thick brush an optic makes it possible to see and identify the animal. As well as any brush or limbs between me and the animal that I need to avoid hitting with the bullet. With irons that would be impossible.

It would be a lot easier shot to hit a deer with irons at 200 yards out in the open and with good light than at 20 yards under typical conditions where I hunt.
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Old February 17, 2019, 10:05 AM   #12
GarandTd
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Jmr40, those are great points and I agree. I also enjoy testing my skills with irons at the range. Optics allow a clearer view of the target unobstructed by some clumsy iron sights and the optics also show the movement that one must overcome, like movement from breathing or ones heartbeat.
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Old February 17, 2019, 10:06 AM   #13
NoSecondBest
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Quote:
NoSecondBest, what was your farthest? What about the less than best?

I started this thread out of curiousity. I was challenged in another thread after questioning making ethical kills at 200+ yards with iron sights. I'm not confident in my ability to do that. I wanted to know how many people are actually taking long iron sights shots successfully, but I also want to hear about the unsuccessful shots. Was it a good hit? Was it a miss? Was the animal recovered or not? Was a closer finishing shot necessary?

I learn through experience, but I also learn through other people's experiences. I'm not looking to chastise anyone or be critical.
I'm not advocating anyone taking that shot, it's something I did quite a few years ago. That being said, the deer was hit below center behind the shoulder. Because of the downhill angle, the bullet hit the side of the deer, went through the heart, and lodged in the off side leg. It jumped at the shot and ran about twenty yards before piling up. FWIW, I've shot over fifty deer with the .357mag in handguns alone and to date haven't lost one. The only handgun deer I shot and lost was with a 44mag and the reason I lost it was I simply made a bad shot at around forty yards. A bad hit with a 44mag does't beat a good hit with the .357mag. It's not energy, it's accuracy with a handgun.
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Old February 17, 2019, 10:14 AM   #14
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NSB, thanks for elaborating.
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Old February 17, 2019, 11:19 AM   #15
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I’ve hit a few ducks out at 50 yards. Lol

When I was a young boy, my uncle would take me out groundhog shooting. He had a .222 bolt with iron sights that I had the honor of being able to use. He’d laugh enormously as I hit hogs he had to use his scope to see. Young eyes.

Now I said ground hog shooting, and not hunting because we didn’t stalk or what I would call hunt, we took the high ground and simply waited. This was before the farmers used toxins to discourage varmits from taking up residents. They were everywhere! The farmers actually paid us a nominal fee for each dead hog. And that’s why he took me! To go pick them up after the kills. He let me shoot that old .222 now and again as incentive. It made me an incredible shot.

I don’t know how ethical our shooting was. We viewed the groundhogs as “enimies of the state” doing irrefutable damage to the planet earth. They are pretty though, and if one wasn’t hit correctly, we didn’t fret too much if it slinked into some random hole and died.

I’m not going to quote distances because my nostalgia will put those hits out at a half mile lol. But I’m pretty confident back then, I could hit a hog at distances that I now need a scope to see - just like my uncle did then. Incredible really.
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Old February 17, 2019, 11:22 AM   #16
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I have killed about 50% of all the big game in my life using iron sights. I can't remember a single shot that was not good, but I shoot irons the same way I do scopes.

My rule is to answer YES to the following question:

If I shoot, do I KNOW I will kill?

"Yes" is good.
"Maybe" ----means don't shoot.
"No" ----means don't shoot.
"I don't know" --means don't shoot.

I just don't shoot unless I know I will kill.

I can't say I have never made a bad hit or a miss, but what I can say is on big game ,every shot I have ever made that resulted in a long tracking job was made with scoped rifles.
This one in the photo below was one of the most challenging iron sight shots I have made, not because it was farther, or a smaller target, but because I now have 20-24 vision. When I was young I had 20/10 and I had 20/12 up until I was 50 years old. But I fired one shot that broke his neck. 177 yards.

2018 #1 Ant. Buck by Steve Zihn, on Flickr

So I am still doing very well with my iron sighted guns.

I killed my White Tail Buck with an iron sighted 303 Lee last season too. That shot was about 45 yards and broadside, so there was not a lot of marksmanship skills needed for him. Didn't have a camera with me for that one. (as usual. The antelope was odd in that I did have a camera)
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Old February 17, 2019, 12:12 PM   #17
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30-30 at just under 300 yds. Deer dead right there.

Whatever range you can hit a paper plate at is good to go.
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Old February 17, 2019, 12:31 PM   #18
Dufus
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With a handgun, rabbit at 76 yds, deer 120 yds.

Rifle was deer at 170 approximate yds.

Rifle at a beer can 187 yds with my 38-55. Marlin M1893. Second shot.
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Old February 17, 2019, 01:00 PM   #19
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Shot a deer at 100 yards or so with a Mosin 91-30. Also shot a woodchuck at about the same distance. Although it was more of a guess. The front sight was the size of the Chuck's. Body. I wouldn't try a shot at more than 100 yards with open sights on medium game.

Maybe 30-40 yards on small game without optics
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Old February 17, 2019, 01:03 PM   #20
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SKS, bobcat, at 70 yards. To be fair, I glassed him out of the grass with binos.
He thought he was a lot more concealed than he really was, I guess. He lurched,
then went down like a bag of rocks.
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Old February 17, 2019, 02:17 PM   #21
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I've taken at least half a dozen rabbits/hares at 200+ yards with my .22 WMR and factory irons. (More than when it was scoped, actually.)
With a Rossi 62SAC, I knocked a couple over at 350-400 yards, as a kid.
Who knows how many squirrels and prairie dogs were decapitated over the years with everything from .22 LR to 8x57mm and iron sights at 200+ yards. When you have the time to sit around, walk it in, and wait for those little heads to pop up, it makes it a lot easier.

Every one of them was a minimum of a decade ago, though. And to get totals like that, there are a lot more gut shots, spine shots, and limb amputations that would not be considered clean or ethical - even though very fatal on the little animals.

Last year, I dropped a little Mule Deer at about 90 yards with an iron sighted muzzle loader.
I think that's not just the longest, but my only successful iron sight shot on big game. I can't think of another attempt, other than a 550+ yard shot on antelope (with an 1895 Krag), when I missed by 20+ feet. (Didn't know the load as well as I thought... )
I just don't head out after big game very often with iron sights. And when I do, I don't see much within range.

My limits now are more like 75-150 yards, depending upon the type of iron sights and cartridge being used.
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Old February 18, 2019, 06:39 AM   #22
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A rabbit at 350-400 yards is impressive. That's creeping up on a 1/4 mile. I live in PA and unless I'm in a cut farmers field, there's not much chance of spotting anything at those distances.
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Old February 18, 2019, 01:50 PM   #23
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I live in the desert.
Life stands out where there isn't much of it.
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Old February 18, 2019, 04:49 PM   #24
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My longest shot with irons was with my Browning BLR in .308 Win, 170+ yds on a whitetail 3x4 buck. One shot, through the lower part of the shoulder, piled up almost in place.

Of course, that was nearly 30 years ago, and my eyes were much sharper then, plus I was foolishly confident in both my abilities and the gun at the time. I probably wouldn't take that shot now. But at the time, I had no doubt that I could make that shot, and just a few seconds after shouldering my rifle, I lined up high on his shoulder, and pressed the trigger, and got a little lucky.

Now, my mind would be trying to estimate drop, questioning my estimate of distance, my abilities, etc. and I'd probably decide against taking the shot. Of course, I haven't practiced a lot of iron sight shooting beyond 100 yards in some time. If I was practicing a lot, I might change my mind.
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Old February 20, 2019, 12:34 AM   #25
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I haven't gone hunting in a long time, but I spent years shooting recreationally, ringing the 200yd gong with handguns and their rather crude iron sights, and I still remember shooting the M14 to 600yds with its iron sights, so, I have no doubts about my ability to humanely take a game animal at longer ranges with iron sights, should I choose to do so.
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