Most of my firearm use revolves around my hunting. When I head out to the range, I do so in order to benefit my hunting in one way or another. However, many shooters’ primary firearms use is target shooting and not hunting. Their target experience greatly expands their proficiency in the field pursuing game.
The precision rifle competitors will usually shoot many more rounds a year than any given hunter will by a very wide margin and with that experience he will be efficient in shooting.
It seems that when the stories start to flow, many hunters truly believe that they are capable of making consistent long-range shots on animals with the help of a rangefinder and/or custom ballistic dial.
While these tools are vital equipment for making shots, there is much more that goes into it.
For instance, a hunter who zeroes his rifle in at sea level during the warmer months may find himself on the side of a mountain 6,000 feet above sea level pursuing a mountain goat and his rangefinder indicates it’s 800 yards away. Having shot well beyond that distance at the range, he dials in his scope to 800, takes a rest and squeezes a shot off. The issue here is that the atmospheric conditions are different enough from what his dial was built for at sea level. Just the changes in the atmosphere and elevation can have over a 16-inch difference in the point of impact at that range. I must clarify, I don’t condone or encourage anyone to shoot that far while hunting – I use this as an example and obtained this data by just plugging numbers into a ballistics calculator. Unfortunately, I may have heard of a situation that resembles it.
Now, with the precision rifle shooters/competitors, they are used to shooting at extended ranges and in all conditions, forcing them to make the adjustments in holdovers on the fly. This is done with the modern technologies of electronic rangefinders, atmospheric devices and information they have obtained through previous experience. The technology in long-range shooting is amazing, and many of these devices pair to the shooter’s phone and assists the shooter to DOPE the wind/environment. The acronym DOPE actually stands for Data Obtained on Prior Engagement. But even with this and the technology, the shooter has to be able to read the conditions as well, but the wind speed and direction from his shooting location can be very different than what it is at his target’s location.
The distances to the targets at a precision shooting competition vary and there are events for both rimfire and centrefire. Rimfire shooters will engage targets out to 300 yards and the centrefire side of things usually start at 400 yards and go out to 1,100 yards and beyond. This really tests the shooters’ ability, and the technology can only carry them so far. This thought applies to hunters and competitive shooters, where buying the best gear is only part of it. Knowing how and using are required for all of us to be efficient.
As a hunter, I see the value in such experience and how it will help me in the field. The confidence you obtain through experience is great. I had my nine-year-old son shooting well beyond 400 yards before he was hunting. Knowing that he has been successful shooting at those extended ranges, the shots he has taken at game (within a couple hundred yards) have been easier for him when the time came.
I would highly encourage getting out and trying these different shooting competitions or set one up for you and your friends if you are fortunate to have access to property that can handle it. Getting involved with the rimfire side of this sport is an affordable way to get started – there is no need to buy a dedicated rifle to start, just grab the old .22 and a few boxes of ammunition and head out. It can be very humbling and exciting shooting the .22 at ranges out to 300 yards with a few friends. You can always purchase a dedicated competition rifle down the road if you want to pursue the competitive side of things. The centrefire side of things is the same, it really forces you to be aware of shooting styles and habits if you want to be consistent.
These experiences on the range, outside of the regular hunting season, whether it is in the spirit of fun with family and friends or serious competition, will only help you in the field pursuing the game of your choice.
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