Q: I judge from your writings that you are not in favour of long range hunting, yet we have equipment that allows game-shooting accuracy out to 800 yards – maybe farther. The marksman who uses a modern super magnum rifle topped with a high magnification scope having a rangefinding reticle is able to make consistent hits on a gong at 1000 yards plus. So what are you so concerned about? Ralph Gibbons
A: I am not a fan of extremely long range hunting, but my concerns about the long range hunting of game animals has little to do with the capability of modern rifles and long range accuracy. Military snipers have killed terrorists at 1500 and and even over 2000 yards, but they are using highly specialist rifles and scoped outfits too heavy to carry in the field and utilise instruments that measure variables such as range, wind, angle to target and even humidity.
Long range target shooters too, use heavy rifles and rangefinding scopes that are not practical in the field. Sure, they ring gongs and shoot small groups at ungodly long distances, but I don’t shoot gongs. And I am a firm believer in sportsmanship, hence I place a limit on my game shooting of 400 yards. Only rarely would I risk a shot at 500, and am always looking for a way to stalk closer to ensure a quick, clean kill. That’s what real hunting is all about. Paper and steel targets don’t move; animals do.
The problem which is seldom mentioned is that of time of flight or the time it takes the bullet to to get from the muzzle to target. Even with the fastest, flattest-shooting magnum this can run into two to four seconds and in that time the animal can move. Take a step forward to the next succulent bush or lift its head to browse on a low hanging branch, and your well-aimed chest shot becomes a gut shot or breaks a leg. Your quarry takes flight and by the time you get to the spot where was standing, he’s long gone and somewhere lying down to die a slow lingering death. This kind of thing is what gives hunters a bad name.
That’s what I’m concerned about – idiots who try to shoot game at excessive ranges. With most popular cartridges it takes the bullet a mere half second to travel 400 yards. By my rule of thumb that’s a sensible maximum but only to be taken if the hunter is a skilled marksman and unable to stalk closer. That’s my last reply on this subject.