By A Long Shot

by Phillip Gentry

Upstate Outdoors
October 30, 2019 - 8:44 pm
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Jerry Land grew up hunting in rural Pennsylvania and like many deer hunters in South Carolina had little opportunity to shoot whitetail deer at distances greater than 100 yards. After a career in the United States Air Force and a second career with the Department of Interior, Land discovered hunting prairie dogs in South Dakota. Thus began a passion for long range precision shooting. This passion collected him 5 National Titles for bench rest varmint shooting.

In applying long range shooting skills to whitetail deer, the debate arises over how far is too far to take an ethical shot on a big game animal. It’s like asking how fast is too fast for driving a racecar on an open road with no speed limit. The answer boils down to what kind of car are you driving and how good are you at driving it.

Equipment – Achieving 200 miles per hour simply isn’t going to happen in a Ford Pinto. It’s also as unlikely to make routine 400 yard shoots on deer with an entry level production gun, economy scope and clearance sale ammunition.

“The scope is more important than the gun,” said Land. “Accuracy is achieved by doing the same exact thing over and over and if a scope will not hold true, it’s impossible to be accurate.”

It’s not uncommon for a long range shooter to spend twice as much on optics as is spent on the gun itself.

Ammo – Entire volumes of books can and have been written about ballistic accuracy using a variety of calibers, grain weights, and powder loads. Land became a hand loader by necessity while shooting competition. He said finding the right bullets for hunting deer at longer range is a key component to accuracy.

“Short of hand loading, which allows you to more precisely align the bullet in the casing, which in turn keeps the bullets from bouncing off the sides of the barrel as it exits, my advice is to spend time searching for the factory load that best fits your gun,” he said. “Premium ammo costs more for a reason.”

Skill Level – The only way to be a better long distance shot is to practice, practice, practice.  Land suggests having a goal in mind, wanting to accomplish something every time you pull the trigger.

“I suggest having an objective in mind when you practice,” he said. “You want to touch the gun the same way every time you shoot. That builds consistency and accuracy. Also practice at the distance you want to be able to shoot at. If it’s 400 yards, there are a lot of variables that affect accuracy. The slightest vibration or movement that causes you to miss ½ inch at 50 yards will move the bullet dramatically out at 400 yards.”

Lands suggests additional skill level practices such as dry firing center fire guns at the target while watching through the scope. Work to decrease movement of the crosshairs when the trigger is depressed. Having another shooter video tape your performance will let you see what parts of your technique you need to improve.

Stable Shooting Platform – While all of the various aspects work together, possibly the most basic is shooting off of a stable rest. In his bench rest shooting competitions, having a stable rest was not even an afterthought, but taking a long distance shot at an animal from a hunting stand is much different.

“In a deer hunting situation, that’s a variable only the hunter can account for,” said Land. “It’s impractical to think making long distance shots is possible offhand. The gun needs to be stationary and that means holding it steady, on some type of support to immobilize the gun.”

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM or online at 1063word.radio.com.

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