It is no more or no less ethical to hunt and kill and animal with a bow and arrow at 30 yards or killing an animal with a precision rifle at 1000 yards.
Hunting is about skill levels, experience, and respect for the animal.
Hunting is not about ego. There is nothing more dangerous than a hunter that cannot truly reflect on their skill level, the conditions, and the animal they are attempting to shoot.
Whatever distance you are away, and whatever equipment you are using if you are not confident in hitting the kill zone of the animal THEN it is unethical to take the shot in my opinion.
There is nothing worse than injuring the animal, where it can walk away in pain, and take days to die.
There is no way around it, to be involved in long range hunting, you will need to have spent many hours practicing at the shooting range.
Generally speaking, the following yardage applies:
There is no one way to learn long range hunting but I think most people should get started by using one or all of the 3 methods below:
Do as much research as you can. Read books, read articles like this, watch YouTube videos, basically absorb as much information as you can.
Then consider if it is something you truly want to do, do you have time to learn the required skills, and do you honestly think you will have the natural talent for it.
I love reading in general, and I love reading about hunting. However, in my opinion having a trusted mentor is invaluable.
All the basics I know today were passed on by my father, I then developed my skills through my own experiences, then I hope to pass this knowledge onto my children.
I think having a mentor with you on the range and in a hunt is an excellent way to learn long range shooting, having that guide is reassuring and practical.
There are a lot of training schools and classes you can take. Where you are taught by a professional instructor on the skills needed to shoot long range.
This is an excellent option, especially if you cannot find a mentor. You will be taught what to do and given time to practice the skills.
The great part is that they will often supply the equipment, so you can see if long range shooting is something that you will enjoy before you invest in all the equipment you will need.
I’ll be honest you might never be 100% sure if long range hunting is for you, but you should be 99.99% sure and you should have covered the 3 areas below:
You should have already taken part in short-term successful hunts. You should know how to track and lure the animals you are hunting. Then you should have taken the shot and successfully killed multiple animals.
Killing shouldn’t be an easy thing to do, you are taking a life after all, but it is something you should get comfortable with and be comfortable with the reasons as to why you are doing it.
Some people will never be able to be comfortable taking that kill shot, so it is best to know that early on before you spend hundreds of hours on the range perfecting your long-range shooting skills.
That is not to say you should never shoot at long range if you cannot take an animal’s life, you could become a competitive range shooter instead.
Practice makes perfect right? Yes, it does. Be prepared to ring a lot of steel on the shooting range.
I have been long-range shooting for decades, and to this day before I go out on a long-range hunt, I will still spend a few hours on my private shooting range.
My rule of thumb is that you should be able to hit a target on the range 100% of the time, at least 200 yards further than the distance you are hunting at.
So, if you are expecting to hunt in the 500-to-1000-yard range, then you should be ringing steel every time at a distance of 1200 yards.
You owe it to the animal to do that.
It is one thing carrying a turkey back to your truck which is a quarter of a mile away, it is another thing entirely if you have made a long-range kill.
If you are taking a shot at 1000 yards, then it is very likely you are in a much greater open expanse than that. You will also be shooting at much larger animals.
This means you will have to get used to field dressing the animal, before potentially moving it great distances to your truck or shelter.
You might even have to butcher it and make multiple trips if it is a large elk or moose for example.
There are a few things you will need to incorporate and consider, long range shooting isn’t just about picking a gun out of a box and shooting:
I believe you should be looking to shoot at sub-MOA at any distance on the range, and that distance should be at least 200 yards further than you expect to be hunting at.
The minute of angle quantifies the accuracy of the rifle and/or the shooter. One minute of angle at 100 yards means you must shoot within an inch diameter at the range.
Everything is exaggerated when shooting at distance. The bullet drop, the wind, the rain, the airflow, your platform, your aim, your sight alignment, your sight picture, your trigger control… they all need to be accounted and calculated for.
As I have said everything is magnified at distance, if you have a little shake it is no big deal if you are shooting at 50 yards, the same shake at 1000 yards could be the difference of hitting an animal’s head and hitting its leg.
So, you need a bullet that is designed and shaped for the purpose of long-range hunting.
It needs to be aerodynamic, so that it can maintain its velocity over a long distance, but it also needs to be robust enough that it doesn’t become overly sensitive to wind.
This is known as low drag.
The box you buy the ammo in will state the BC, so you can use this figure when making your calculations on the bullet drop.
Sorry flat earthers but when you are shooting at distance you have to factor in things like gravity, curvature of the earth, wind direction, and elevation.
By calculating the bullet drop, you can adjust your scope up to compensate. Meaning you can aim the scope dead centre of the kill spot, and the bullet will hit where you aimed.
I have a load of respect for the old-fashioned hunters who would eyeball this, but there are a lot of ways you can accurately calculate this nowadays.
Like I have stated you need a good consistent BC.
You can experiment to see what you prefer, and you can even use different ones for practising, hunting, and competition.
I am a bit old school when it comes to my caliber. I do not compete, so I only shoot on the range and on a hunt. I always use the same caliber for the range as I will on the hunt, I do not want any surprises or doubts in my mind.
I have used the .300 Winchester Magnum since I was in diapers, well that’s an exaggeration but you catch my drift. There might be calibers that as marginally more accurate, and it is something shooters will endlessly debate.
What I do know is I can trust each and every .300 Wing Mag to preform exactly like the one before, they are very consistent, and I have had untold success with them.
They are also within my budget for the amount of shooting I do, and they are basically available anywhere.
You need to consider quality, cost, and availability to decide on which caliber is best for you.
You can shoot long range with a “normal” rifle, but you are stretching its capabilities. At the beginning of the article, I mentioned how important it is to respect the animal.
So, in my opinion you owe it to yourself and the animal you have lined up to use a precision rifle that is designed to be used for long distance shooting.
It is all about marginal gains, everything you do and own should increase your chances of hitting the animal where you intend to hit it.
Precision rifles tend to be heavier, built with better materials, have more advanced parts, available with longer calibers, and have better recoil.
They are usually highly customisable as they are generally used by more experienced shooters who know what they want and also have their own optics etc that they want to attach.
If you have a limited budget as a lot of us do, you are better spending the biggest chunk of it on your scopes rather than you rifle.
Yes, customised rifles are the gold standard, but you can get very good out of the box factory rifles that will get you within a minute of angle.
However, good optics are essential, and it is usually the case of the more expensive they are the better they are.
You need the best possible glass, and the best magnification you can afford. You need to be able to dial in, track, and compensate your scope for bullet drop and conditions to hit the animal where you intend.
It is a case of marginal gains again, and generally speaking the further away the target is, the better the optics you will need.
The only limit I place on myself regarding help from equipment is the amount I can carry. If something increases the chances of me hitting an animal by even 0.01% and I can carry it, then I will likely buy it.
There are obviously things that are more important than others, like hunting binoculars are a must, but there are a whole range of tools out there that you can use like spotting scopes, windmeters, elevation devices, and range finders etc.
Some are more important than others, but don’t limit yourself out of ego or that you are worried what your hunting friends might think.
There are so many products on the market nowadays that you can pretty much get a decent set up for any budget.
The biggest investment you should make is TIME in my opinion. No matter how much you spend, you will not get the results you want unless you have spent time on the range.
Apart from that I think you could get a very efficient long-range hunting set up for under $3000 all in, for targets upwards of 1000 yards.
Then it is the case of the more you spend the better, up until a point. Just be careful not to spend on brand names that are no better than budget brands.
Consider the specifications and materials they are made from, rather than the logo. However, it is also true to say that brands have built brand loyalty because they make good products.
As a human being you should never be afraid to test yourself or place unnecessary limits on yourself, don’t just stick to short range shooting because you “don’t think” you would be able to do long-range shooting.
If you have an interest in long-range hunting, then work towards that goal but just do it sensibly and ethically.