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The continual long range hunting debate

 

Vortex spotting scope glassing for deer
All photo credits: Josh Kirchner

When someone says "long range hunting," what's the first thing that pops into your head? For me, it's two things: one, an image of high quality optics mounted on a tripod; the other, sadly, is people debating. I hate thinking that, but it is what it is. Every season I read at least one comment thread of someone being torn down for killing an animal at a range that someone else feels is out of reach. Instead of congratulating the person on an awesome shot, the hunter, instead, is called unethical and even told things like, "Learn how to hunt and get closer." These are hunter-on-hunter debates and, in some ways, attacks. That is not what we need at a time when so many other forces are trying to attack us and our way of life. However, we aren't here to talk about those types of comments. Instead, let's dive into this long range business.

Progression

The continual long range hunting debate

With time comes progression and with progression comes different viewpoints as well as boundaries being broken. Things that were once thought impossible are now possible. It's just the way of the world. When I was a kid, I played a ton of basketball. I started out shooting baskets from pretty close. From there I moved back a bit. Pretty soon I was at the free throw line. After that, I was shooting three-pointers, which became my favorite thing to do on the court. It made me feel awesome every time I would swish that ball through the net at those distances. It was my evolution as a basketball player. Did I lose you? Don't worry, we’re still talking about hunting. The same progression happened when I started shooting a bow. I went from 10 yards to 20 yards, etc., all the way out to 100 yards now. That same sensation I got from shooting three-pointers flows through me when I watch my arrow sail into the bullseye at great distance. I am not someone who shoots an arrow at 50 yards and doesn't wonder how I will shoot at 60. In fact, I think it's only natural for us to continue to step back and push our limits. It's how we grow.

The same can be said about technology. Twenty years ago, did you ever think you would be watching movies on your phone? I know I didn't. Do you remember flip phones? Yikes! I remember staring at those little screens like they were gold. Nowadays, I can't imagine using that type of phone ever again. We have full on HD phones now that can do more things than we’ll ever need out of a phone. The evolution of hunting gear is no different. Advancements in technology are making it easier and easier to shoot effectively at crazy distances. When I tell my dad how I shot a grouping in a pie plate at 100 yards with my bow, he just looks at me in awe about it. Without my fancy slider sight, I wouldn't be able to do that or, at least, not as well. I feel the same way about folks hitting steel plates with their rifles at 1,000 yards. It makes my head spin! Yet, more people are able to do it more and more.

Skill or Rubbish?

Josh Kirchner doing some long range archery practice

If someone is shooting proficiently at long-range, I personally chalk that up to skill. It's not all about how fancy your scope is; it’s also skill. You aren't going to find me shooting my rifle at 1,000 yards—I have a hard enough time making good shots at 200 yards! I do enjoy shooting my bow long-range, though, and am proud that I can do so. It took a lot of work for me to get to that point and the same goes with everyone else. Yes, we have gear that aids us in our long-range endeavors, but we still have to execute a great shot. The mechanics of our gear is absolute; we are not. At long-range, every imperfection we have as shooters is magnified. This might seem harsh, but not all shooters are created equal. It's the same reason that we aren't all professional athletes. Some people just get it and can perform the necessary actions in order to shoot out to distance. When it comes to actually hunting, that is another discussion.

Hunting at long-range gets a bad rap more often than not. I remember seeing a photo years back of a gentleman that killed an elk at 1,100 yards with his rifle. The first thing I thought was, "Why did he do that? He had to have been able to get closer." Then, I considered myself. I love to archery hunt and try to get close. Basically, the opposite of what this gentleman did. The fact of the matter is, if he put in the work, felt proficient at that distance, and read the animal/situation properly, who am I to judge him? Some people like to rely on their stalking ability and hunt with traditional bows to get as close as possible to animals. What's wrong with someone else relying on their shooting ability to hunt from further away? From those distances, the animal really doesn't know you are there! Each route has its own set of skills. While I’m not suggesting that everyone should go out and hunt long-range, I am suggesting that we shouldn't begrudge the folks that are doing it right.

Is it ethical?

Glassing for animals with Vortex binoculars

This is the sticky part of the conversation. Is hunting at long range ethical? I think that depends on who you are asking as well as who is behind the weapon. For instance, it wouldn't be ethical of me to try and shoot an animal at 600 yards with my rifle. However, it would be ethical for some of my friends to do so. Of course, that statement is based upon their shooting skills. I feel like the real sticky part of this is when we bring up the animals because they are just that: living, breathing beings making a living in various types of habitat and conditions. As hunters, we have a responsibility to make quick and clean kills out of respect for the game we chase. I hate seeing animals suffer and try to do everything I can to make that not become a reality. Being able to read an animal's body language and assess a situation is vital if you are to shoot long-range. In my opinion, an animal on edge and ready to bolt at any moment, (maybe to the sound of a shot going off, whether it is a bow or a rifle) is not what I would consider the right recipe for long-range success. Yet, an animal in its bed, broadside, with no wind, is a great situation if you have to stretch the distance. The truth is that what may be ethical practice for one hunter or situation may not necessarily be true for another. You have to be honest with yourself and your capabilities.

Back to zero

Long range archery practice

To bring this whole thing back to zero, I hope that as we progress as hunters, we try to get over some of these issues that we often bicker about. If someone is doing something different than you, that's OK. Long-range hunting isn't going anywhere. As long as people are making good choices and being honest with themselves and their abilities, there really isn’t anything wrong with it. That gentleman that is laying the hammer down at over 1,000 yards is just as skilled as the person stalking into spitting distance for a shot. It is just a different type of skill with a different type of formula, kind of like how some western hunters say that hunting whitetails in a treestand is easy. Sitting in a stand for 13 hours is anything but easy; it is simply a different approach. There is more than one way to skin a cat and certainly more than one way to hunt.

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22 Comments

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Josh K. - posted 7 months ago on 04-14-2018 07:10:49 pm
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Kevin,

Thank you so much for the kind words man. Really appreciate that. I knew this article would create some chatter and I'm glad that it resonated with you. So awesome to hear about those 3 bulls you mentioned! Good on ya and thanks again.

Kevin R. - posted 7 months ago on 04-14-2018 07:51:41 am
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Great article! You really hit the nail on the head: "long range" is a matter of perspective and is different for every individual. I really enjoy pushing the distance with my bow. I stuck my bull at 83 yards right in the heart 2 years ago. The year before that I shot my elk at 50 yards in the timber. My hunting buddy killed his 320'' bull at 67 yards with his bow this past season, double lung clean pass through. All 3 of these animals died in minutes, quick recovery, no meat lost...Infact, we've never lost an elk. How is that for "unethical". Would we take these shots every time? NO!!! That's where ethics comes into play. You have to be honest with yourself and the situation...and that is exactly what the author was getting at.

I have to say, shame on all of you for posting negative and judgmental comments here. SHAME! You completely missed the point of the article, and quite honestly I believe you are jealous that you lack these abilities. That's what people do: rip other people down if you are jealous and feel inadequate. It's just a sign of insecurity and ignorance and unfortunately is human nature.

Chandler C. - posted 10 months ago on 01-15-2018 05:09:48 pm
Beaverton, OR
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I enjoyed the article! I really anticipated the comment section on this one and it did not disappoint. As a crowd that is constantly trying to convince non hunters of our ethics as humans, when are we going to learn that the ethical decisions we make within the hunting community are up to each hunters ability and skill? I think the article was approached with that in mind.

Ben_4
Bendrix B. - posted 10 months ago on 01-15-2018 02:37:29 pm
Rochester, MA
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Hey Richard, you can defend your choice to shoot animals out to 100 yards, but lay off the traditional archers, like me, with your claims that we “often wound animals at 20 yards”. I don’t often wound animals at any yards. In 25 years of hunting with a longbow I’ve only had one fatal hit that went unrecovered.

The fact is, animals spook when they year the snap of a bowstring. When its more of a whacking clank as the cams unwind, they spook too. You don’t have to have much experience or watch too many hunting videos to see a deer drop right down and leave that perfect kill shot punching holes in empty space. Fortunately, if you are vertically accurate, that kind of movement does not result in fatal wounding loss. The arrow either kills, or if over the spine, is a non fatal wound, or if over the deer is a miss.

Its that lateral inaccuracy that results in fatal wounds. Pick your weapon. Be accurate. Take only responsible shots, but don’t lay trash on other’s choices.

Allen W. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 02:20:15 pm

Ryan C- What's long range? Is it using a riflescope over certain power or a powerful rifle. No one ever lays out what it is. And may I ask who are you to tell me that I haven't grown as a hunter? What is growing as a hunter? Maybe I have a physical limitation that taking long range shots the only way at that particular moment to harvest an animal for the year. I've seen piss poor shots at animals from bow hunters from 10 yards. Is that long range?

I am not as good of a hunter as some I know. We are all at different levels and the time we have put into it and other factors make us different. I've seen where a guy shoots a cape buffalo with a long bow and one who uses a large rifle. Is the guy who used the rifle not as progressed as a hunter? Maybe, maybe not. You don't know him and you don't know me. You have set your personal limitations as have I. Since you haven't laid those out neither will I. It's dependant on a lot of factors at that time. I just guess I'm not an "enlightened" hunter either because I have no idea who James Posweitz is or what he does with his head. But I will look him up.

Ryan C. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 01:12:38 pm

I consider taking long range shots the exact opposite of progressing as a hunter. Progressing as a shooter? Sure, but not as a hunter.

Somewhere Jim Posewitz is probably shaking his head.

Josh K. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 10:46:14 am
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Allen,
Thanks for chiming in! Congratulations to your son! That is so awesome to hear! Good luck to you in the coming year!

Allen W. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 10:32:59 am

I'm new here but felt the need to comment. After a great article on the judgmental comments by people on our own side and not a thoughtful discussion we have name calling and judgment. Because of the opinionated jackasses that thrive in the hunting and shooting industry is why I have completely unplugged from competition shooting, gun shows and most gunshops unless I want to buy something. For what ever reason there are those in our sport whether hunting or shooting that think they are the only ethical hunter and if your don't do it their way you are an idiot. Actual words from my neighbor. Because I shoot an animal over a certain self imposed yardage I'm greedy. Or I'm not a hunter but and ambusher because I didn't crawl up to it and slit its throat. Funny thing is no one can cite an actual range that is too far. We all have benefited from technology whether it's a flintlock, a compound bow or a 300 with a low bc bullet and scope that I dial. Shooting at 100 yards with the muzzloader is cheating in comparison to someone who only hunts with a long bow and homemade arrows. Both are called "plrimitive". For a treestand hunter the hunting part is the work that goes into figuring out where to put the stand because of deer movement and wind direction. Native a
Americans ambushed animals. Despite what's on TV they were no more stealthy than we are. I get tired from being judged for things such as shot distance, plastic pistols, wrong stance, wrong camo, wrong bullet, etc, etc. It goes on and on. Even the truck I drive or how I pronounce SAKO. Which js an acronym, not a Finnish word. True story. No wonder our sport is dwindling. Who wants to belong to that. By the way just to piss off a few of you. My 13 year old son shot his first deer at 588 yrs and at 15 his second at 725. Why? Because he can. And it's none of your damn business.

Jon T. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 10:13:50 am
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More importantly, I would love to see a video of you punching 5 in a plate at 100 yrds. That's awesome!!!

Josh K. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 09:08:51 am
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Thanks Mark!

Josh K. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 09:13:32 am
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Thanks Richard!

Josh K. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 09:13:04 am
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Adam,
Thanks for chiming in! Sadly, there is going to be a bad apple in every bunch with this. We can't trust everyone to make good decisions out there, but we can definitely trust ourselves and that is what I am driving at. You are in the driver seat and you know your own capabilities as well as have your own stance on certain matters. That is 100% OK.
I am trying to get people to make better decisions on top of not ridiculing others that are prepared and are doing it the right way. We are all hunters and shouldn't be smashing each other online. There are people that I know that I would trust to shoot an animal at 80 yards with a bow over some that I know that I wouldn't trust to kill them at 30. Another hope with an article like this is that those people that do only practice a week beforehand, will take the time to invest more effort to make sure they are as prepared as possible, as well as to be honest with themselves and their ability while in the field. Maybe, with more time invested in practice, they will realize they aren't ready for that long shot and won't take it. Good luck to you in the coming year!

Richard H. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 08:52:24 am

I believe Josh is spot on. Our archery equipment is so advanced, with practice and equipment tuning we can all hit that paper plate At 100 yds.
Do we bad mouth the self bow Hunter who often wound an animal at 20 yds. We shouldn't! We've been killing animals at 100 yds and under for some years now. We put many hours into tuning our arrows, our bows, and shooting at long range. It takes time, but it's something any one of you can do. Why limit your possibilities because we didn't do it that way in the 50's.

Mark C. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 08:51:42 am

Excellent article. I have been thinking about long range shots while hunting. The negative responses have no idea the preparation this requires . Next hunting season I will be ready. Thank you so much for a good article.

gsurb6
Adam U. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 08:31:32 am
Boise, Idaho
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This kinda Erks me.... I get what you're driving at that we all have different skill levels, but I don't care who you are if you're taking shots at animals all the time at 60+ yardages, you have a much greater chance of wounding it. It's that simple, even John Dudley talks about rarely taking those shots. I personally know people who go out and fling arrows at animals 80+ yards and the only time they shoot is a week before season. To me I feel an article like this encourages people like that to continue because they go buy a fancy Sight.

robert b. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 07:49:23 am
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Good article, one thing to think about is if we are making shots twice as far, we will be killing twice the animals. Which is good for a while, until they have to start cutting tags and seasons because of it. Tags are hard enough to get they are just going to keep getting harder!

David D. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 05:53:44 am

The Oxford Dictionary defines “Hunting” as “the activity of searching for something.”
The Cambridge Dictionary defines “Hunting” as “the activity or sport of chasing or searching for wild animals or birds with the intention of killing or catching them.”
Merriam-Webster defines “Ambush” as “to attack by surprise from a hidden place”
Lying in wait from a tree stand, a blind, or from a long distance is not hunting; it is an ambush.

David D. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 04:53:46 am

About the statement that the animal could bolt at the sound of the shot; FYI - the target animal will be struck by the bullet (assuming you can hit what you are aiming at) before it would hear the sound of the shot. Most all ammunition is supersonic.

Gary H. - posted 11 months ago on 01-12-2018 04:25:04 am
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Is it ethical?

Go on Youtube and look at the videos of guys winging arrows and bullets at great distances.

Then answer the question.

My takeaway is that not only is taking long distance shot unethical, it is pure greed.

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Pedro S. - posted 11 months ago on 01-11-2018 06:07:33 pm
Sunnyside wa
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Great write up!

Josh K. - posted 11 months ago on 01-11-2018 05:29:16 pm
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Thank you Derek!

Derek P. - posted 11 months ago on 01-11-2018 05:11:09 pm
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Very well written sir.