By Glen Wunderlich
When it comes to long-range shooting relative to hunting, I suspect most Michiganders would consider 200 yards a reasonable limit. If one hunts in the southern portion of the lower peninsula – known as the shotgun zone or limited firearm deer zone – 150 yards would fit the description for most sportsmen. In Western states the maximum ethical range is much farther. So, the issue becomes how far is too far?
Just as modern motor vehicles are capable of speeds well beyond any legal limit, most firearms will outshoot the operators’ potential, as well. As ammunition, optics, firearms and related gear continue to be improved, it’s only natural to push the limits. While doing so can be challenging at the practice range, it’s entirely another matter afield.
“It’s not about distance; it’s about intent,” said Bill Demmer, Boone and Crocket Club president.
He explained, “Hunters have varying degrees of marksmanship skills and capabilities. Some are steady only out to 100 yards. Others are very efficient at much longer distances. All kinds of field conditions also factor into what is or isn’t an ethical shot. So, within reasonable sideboards, it’s impossible to use distance as a measurement of fair chase.”
The Club urges all hunters to think carefully of the consequences of long-range shooting, whether hunting with a rifle, bow, muzzleloader, crossbow, or handgun, and not confuse the purposes and intent of long-range shooting with fair chase hunting.
Although getting too close to game can be problematic, any sportsman should define his own personal limits and doing so comes from practice.
There’s no excuse for not understanding terminal ballistics or the energy needed to humanely kill big game animals. It’s all out there with every major ammunition manufacturer providing free ballistic programs online. Obviously, a bullet that becomes anemic downrange must be ruled out in fairness to the quarry. But, how else can a sportsman determine limitations?
First off, nobody’s perfect, but with myriad variables there’s a simple barometer for any hunter to follow: the 9 out of 10 rule. Whatever the chosen firearm or bow, a shooter must be able to hit the target 9 out of 10 times. And, “the target” should be somewhat smaller than the kill zone of the game being pursued, thus allowing a larger margin for error.
While it makes for challenging competition at the practice range, a sportsman translates the limiting results afield, and therefore, defines his personal ethical standards.