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GUNS Magazine July 2011 Digital Edition - Page 16
• d A v E A N d E r S O N • LONG-rANGE hUNtING I n a recent column I suggested a rifleman should have the skill to make running shots on game. I also said once you have such skill it shouldn’t be used except to stop wounded game from escaping. I feel much the same about longrange shooting at game. We can debate what “long range” means. Certainly your definition is as good as mine. For long-range enthusiasts and target shooters, long range starts at around 500 yards. The best modern equipment has the accuracy and power to kill big game at 2,000 yards and further. I enjoy the challenge of long-range shooting. I think every rifle shooter should be capable of making longrange hits, as well as running shots. But just as I don’t encourage taking shots at unwounded running game, I’m not very enthused about longrange shots at unwounded game. Discussing ethical issues is a risky business in this era of moral relativism, where expressing values is decried as being “judgmental.” I’m aware of the argument “as long as it is legal” we mustn’t criticize what others do. I’m not so sure. In some states there are no caliber restrictions on big-game rifles, other than “no rimfire cartridges.” In such states, I could hunt elk with a .17 Rem or .22 Hornet, shoot them (or at least at them) at 1,200 yards, and be completely legal. And no, I don’t want more restrictions, my point is we need to set higher standards for ourselves than just “is it legal?” It may not be written in hunting regulations, but I believe we hunters have a moral obligation to kill the animals we hunt as quickly and painlessly as possible. I realize not everyone agrees. It astonishes me how callous and indifferent some are. Thirty-plus years ago at an office party, a group of us were talking hunting. I told how a hunting partner and I had about killed ourselves getting a moose out, kind of a “moose’s revenge” story. Another fellow recounting his own story: He had wounded a moose, he said, and it had struggled across a creek to escape. He followed it across, had a clear shot, but realized it would be a job getting a pickup to where it was. Instead he got ahead of it, frightened Where do you say no? This impala was shot from a bit over 300 yards using a .257 Weatherby. Even from this hot cartridge the bullet took around 1/3 of a second to reach the target. With modern equipment, such as this Tactical Rifle with Leupold scope and match ammunition, we can get groups at 500 yards that would have been considered acceptable at 100 yards a generation ago. it into crossing back, and herded it another couple of hundred yards, dragging itself along, to an old logging trail. Only then did he fire a finishing shot. He seemed genuinely surprised we didn’t applaud his ingenuity. My concern with long-range hunting has nothing to do with the issue of long-range accuracy. With current equipment, game-shooting accuracy at 500 to 700 yards isn’t very difficult. I have video of my wife making consistent hits on an 8" target at 600 yards. If someone who shoots rifles maybe five times a year can do it, how hard can it be? Back in the ’70s it was news when Mary Louise DeVito fired a 10-shot, 1,000-yard group measuring a bit over 7". With modern equipment such groups have become routine. Similar size groups are being achieved at 1,500 and even 2,000 yards. I am not questioning the accuracy or power of the equipment, or anyone’s shooting ability. Even if we can solve all the variables (range, wind, angle to target and so on) there remains an insurmountable problem: the bullet’s time of flight. It takes time for the bullet to reach the target and, unlike paper and steel, animals move. I read somewhere a claim about a “record” kill on an elk at around 2,000 yards. Even with a cartridge like the .338 Lapua, time of flight to 2,000 yards is nearly four seconds. In the interval between firing the shot and bullet strike the animal 16 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JULY 2011