Shot Placement: Boone and Crockett Versus Long-Range Hunting

.300 Win Mag is a nice choice for a long-range hunt. Just remember, they can be heavy.

Last week I spent some time running the .224 Valkyrie out to 1250 yards on a known distance range. The targets were the usual steel Frankensteins – torsos – and between the constantly-shifting crosswinds and major heat mirage, it took some finesse.

Long-range shooting is something of an addiction of mine; any moment spent beyond 1000 yards makes me happy. I mention this because an old Boone and Crockett position statement was recently resurrected regarding long-range shooting versus long-range hunting. Do I love nailing steel at truly long distances? Absolutely. Would I shoot a deer at those same distances? Well, no. But here’s the catch: I love long-range hunting and take issue with the old Boone and Crockett statement from 2014, which is as follows:

The Boone and Crockett Club maintains that hunting, at its fundamental level, is defined by a tenuous and unpredictable relationship between predator and prey. This is an intrinsic, irrefutable and intimate connection that cannot be compromised if the hunter is to maintain the sanctity of this relationship and any credibly claim that hunting is challenging, respectful of wild creatures, and in service to wildlife conservation. This connection is built upon many complex components that differentiate hunting from simply shooting or killing.

My personal favorite setup for long-range, when possible: .338 Lapua Magnum.

The Club finds that long-range shooting takes unfair advantage of game animal, effectively eliminates the natural capacity of an animal to use its senses and instincts to detect danger and demeans the hunter/prey relationship in a way that diminishes the importance and relevance of the animal and the hunt. 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.”

Dragging fair-chase into this as though anything beyond “X” number of yards becomes a Dukes-of-Hazzard-style undertaking lacks logic. What is a long distance for you may not be long for me, and vice versa. The average Whitetail deer hunter shoots inside 100 yards – invest in rangefinders, people – meaning long-range has quite a broad definition. This brings us to point one: the distance believed to be “long” is quite subjective.

Fair chase is something else altogether. As has been demonstrated in the recent past, many hunters feel high fence properties are fair. It isn’t the commonly-held opinion, but it’s certainly out there. By Boone and Crockett’s own definition, fair chase is “the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.”

They have me agreeing – mostly.

When it comes to the need for the animals we hunt to be free-ranging, I’m right there with B and C. For my taste, an animal needs to have the ability to leave the area. If they’re confined it doesn’t seem fair. If you’re thinking this blurs the lines since a long-range shot means the animal doesn’t even see you coming, let me ask you this: do you find it more ethical to shoot a frightened animal or one that doesn’t see it coming? Would you prefer to shoot an animal that is wild and free or one so accustomed to people and food it’s practically a pet?

Longtime outdoor writer Brian McCombie with a Woodland Caribou he shot.

Brian McCombie, a longtime outdoor writer and seasoned hunter, had this to say regarding the long-range hunting debate:

If you were 20 feet up in a deer stand and a Whitetail deer steps out at 50 yards, the odds of that deer having any clue you are even in the area are very remote. So right there, at 50 yards, you’ve effectively eliminated the animal’s natural capacity to use its senses and instincts to detect Danger. (Unless you’re hunting with a knife.) I think Boone and Crockett needs to get into the 21st century, admit that the technology to make long-range hunting shots is here and is going to stay. They would do a greater service to game animals, in my opinion, by stressing the importance of marksmanship and practice to the ethical hunter.

Ethics. There’s that word again. They are – should be – a key point for any hunter. Getting a clean shot and kill is your ethical responsibility as a hunter. There are hunters among us who are capable of making an ethical, single-shot kill on a deer at 400 yards or a feral hog at 1000 yards (yes, really). This hinges on experience, skill, and working within your limitations.

Hunting is not the time to pop off a shot “just to see if you can.” Do that on paper or steel. When you hunt, know your distances – again, get a rangefinder – and stick to them. Long-range hunting is absolutely not ethical when it is undertaken without the ability to back it up with the utmost confidence.

As for respecting the animal, that’s tied up in ethics as well. Respect involves a clean kill which circles back to only shooting within your abilities.

Claiming the “sanctity” of the hunter-game relationship is somehow sullied by a long-range shot is insulting to the intelligence and morals of the hunter in question. The majority of long-range hunters have worked hard to master their skillset and don’t take it lightly. They honor the animals and respect the process. Being a long-range hunter does not automatically turn you into an unethical hack.

Bottom line? If you can make that long shot on the animal knowing it will be a one-shot kill in good conscience, go for it. Keep in mind issues like the power factor of your gun; remember how a bullet drifts, drops, and loses energy with distance. Successful, ethical long-range hunting is all about knowing your gear’s capabilities and being honest with yourself about your own.

If your current skillset means you shoot all your animals under 100 yards, that’s fine. If your hard work and training means you can and do hunt at longer ranges, that’s fine, too. Make your hunting actions fit your abilities with respect to ethics. Done right, long-range hunting is fun. Maybe Boone and Crockett should try it.

comments

  1. avatar New Continental Army says:

    I think caliber should come into play. Shooting an animal at 1000 yards with a .224 isn’t a good idea. Something that delivers more energy out to those distances though, like .338 or larger, should be used.

    1. avatar Bloving says:

      Well, she wasn’t hunting anything more than steel with that .224…
      Give Kat some credit – I’m sure she wouldn’t take that chance on an animal she respects with that cartridge, thus her statement about shooting hogs at 1k (because pigs are scum).

      It all reminds me of a philosophy I learned long ago as a boy and have carried all my life: the true measure of a hunter isn’t the number of animals he has shot – but it might be the number of shots he passed up for a good reason.
      🤠

      1. avatar Kat Ainsworth says:

        Thanks, Bloving. You are correct. Made me smile to see your reply.

        Like I said, that was steel and paper for the Valkyrie. I would never use a round not capable of a clean kill at long ranges at a long distance. Absolutely never.

      2. avatar sparkyinWI says:

        This is right on spot!

    2. avatar Hunter427 says:

      Know distance’s are great for shooting long range but cross winds are whole different animal. They just can’t be factor in the wild. So I don’t want to see 900 yd elk shots in the field. Beside it just makes you a lazy ass hunter shooting off you truck or wheeler

  2. avatar FedUp says:

    They actually said that it’s unfair to shoot game from afar instead of stalking in close, and that it’s possible to take game with a bow from such an unfair distance?

  3. avatar RCC says:

    Please practice with what your going to hunt with!
    New hunting club member, but experienced target shooter brought his 17 pound plus scope .308 “sniper” rifle on a goat hunt. He missed at 50 metres as he couldn’t hold it on his shoulder. Nature does not normally provide bench rests.

    1. avatar Corey says:

      I carry my 14# “sniper” rifle chambered in 308 as well. However, I can shoot mine off hand in a pinch, but Im smart enough to carry shooting stick that can be used as a mono or bipod. Shooting stick also doubles as a walking stick.

  4. avatar Michael Bane says:

    Kat…you and I are MOSTLY in agreement. As you know I have absolutely nothing against high fence hunting…in fact, I am an adamant supporter of any legal taking of game. You and I and all of us make our decisions and live with our choices. I found myself at a dinner party a few weeks ago explaining why I have hunted Africa a bunch, but I will not hunt elephants…my conscience; my choice. Plus, they were religious, and I beat them to death with Bible verses. They love burgers; I have never met a cow who seemed to enjoy dying.

    In Tennessee, where I grew up and where hunting whitetails remains a sort of religion, SOP in rural areas (including on both my Father’s and my Grandfather’s land), was planting field or or maintain small sour apple orchards to draw in the deer for the fall hunt. The corn was plowed under after the hunt (I used to go out and pick a bushel basket-full because I prefer field corn over super sweet GMO’ed corn) and the apples were too sour for human consumption. There were longtime permanent deer stands built in the trees overlooking the edges of the fields. Longest shot was about 90 yards. This is considered “fair chase.” It possibly is fair chase if you’re blind or have never seen a gun or bow before. To me, it was more akin to picking the field corn than a mystical hunting experience. But it was and is legal, and I supported it then; I support it now.

    Marksmanship is always more important than distance, and we have held to this policy on all my programming, broadcast and Internet. I love long-range shooting, but I prefer to hunt with a lever action or a handgun. Starting to really get into crossbows, too.

    That said, I believe B&C has become an antihunting organization. Their primary goal seems to be to divide hunters into increasingly narrow categories and demonize the categories of which they do not approve. When they ran their FB ad campaign last year, I found the ads to be stunningly divisive and quite literally 180-degrees from not just my own philosophies but from mainstream hunting organizations like SCI and Dallas Safari. The comments on those ads were appalling and fueled the fueled the flames turning hunter against hunter. That organization has outlived its usefulness and would be an embarrassment to Teddy Roosevelt, whom they constantly reference.

    My friend Craig Boddington wrote a great piece for the current SCI magazine, and I’m am reaching out to Craig to urge him to post it openly.

    As always, best,

    Michael B

    1. avatar Kenneth says:

      I am in complete agreement. When hunting, I prefer to stalk in as close as possible, but that’s just me. I like the challenge of getting in as close as I can, and the pleasure of observing wild game that doesn’t even know I’m there. I esp. enjoy when they know something is around, but can’t figure out exactly what, or where, I am. But, as I say below, I have no interest in forcing others into the mold that I happen to prefer. One size seldom, if ever, fits all. If I don’t get to fill a tag it doesn’t bother me. I have a herd of cows to eat anyway. But others have different beliefs/situations.
      BTW, kudos for the refusal to hunt elephants. They are too humanlike and intelligent to be hunted. At least by me. Unless, OFC, they turn rogue. There are always exceptions. I wouldn’t even have a problem with shooting a human, once s/he has proven to be a danger to other innocents. The same would apply to a rogue elephant.

    2. avatar bobinmi says:

      I disagree sir, I think a lot of people forget that hunting is not a right that is protected under the constitution, and is a lifestyle that is participated in by less than 10% of the population. It is important for us to appeal to the non hunting public. The non hunting public is not a fan of long range hunting or “trophy” hunting. I believe that Boone and Crockett has done a fantastic job of defining fair chase in a way that is palatable to the greater than 90% of the united states that does not hunt, but will determine whether it is something that remains part of the American lexicon. But what do I know, I’m a proud member of Comptons traditional archers which doesn’t even like lighted nocks.

  5. avatar Kenneth says:

    “ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals”
    ??????
    Seldom have a seen a single sentence with so many undefined and subjective(and therefore undefinable) ‘weasel words’.
    B&C, define “ethical”. Define “sportsmanlike”. Define “free ranging”. Do fences 50 miles on a side really keep a game animal confined? If they aren’t confined, are they not “free ranging”? Define “improper advantage”. Is a thousand yard rifle really an improper advantage over a pronghorn antelope that clearly sees you coming over that ridge from 20 miles away? And runs as soon as you start towards them? Not flat out they won’t, but they clearly know you saw them and expressed an interest. The only thing in this sentence that can even be defined is “Lawful”, and I am unaware of any State that includes range as a Lawful parameter. Unless you count the States that mandate certain types of shorter range firearms as a way to keep errant shots to a minimum, but those are caliber and firearm type restrictions, not range.
    B&C… BUTT OUT! Keep your opinions to yourself. It IS your book, so make up whatever rules for it that you like. And we, the hunting public, will decide whether you are making sense to us, or ignore you otherwise.
    And these days I hunt pretty much only for the challenge of it, and so mostly use only bows and/or handguns because it makes it more difficult, so don’t be accusing me of bias. But that’s just me, and I have no desire to force everyone into my mold. If you like to shoot game at a thousand yards, try it on a whitetail. Good Luck, you’ll need it. Likely all you’ll ever see is a tail vanishing into the brush.
    One other thing, for those who like long range shooting, try gophers and/or prairie dog towns. They provide excellent long range opportunities, and no one gets too upset over a wounded pest. With a centerfire rifle caliber, a wounded rodent is a dead one anyway.

  6. avatar Isaac says:

    Am I the only one who thinks B&C is becoming a bunch of Fudds? This kind of reminds me of the bullseye guys (not all bullseye guys but typically they are older guys running an anschutz for 15 meters who insist that is the only way to use the range) that get pissed when I pull out the PCC with a red dot on it.

  7. avatar tdiinva says:

    There is a more important reason to avoid long range shots that has nothing to do with fair chase– know your target and what’s beyond it. Where is the round going if you miss high? If you cannot see beyond your target then you should not take the shot.

  8. avatar Rich Gun Guy says:

    Long range shooting is not hunting. It’s target shooting with a meat reward. I shoot guns, but the only way to “hunt” is with a bow or more primitive tool.

    Let the flames begin.

    1. avatar Aaron says:

      there are some advantages to having thumbs and big brains…you can build tools which easily kill the largest of dangerous critters.

  9. avatar Jay says:

    Long distance hunting is target shooting. I don’t need to hunt to feed my family I hunt because I like to and most people who hunt do the same. For me it’s the recreation of how my forefathers did it so I typically hunt with more traditional firearms. However if someone is hunting to feed their family then use whatever the most accurate powerful firearm you can afford. Ethics in hunting is up to us. Gene Wensel said there are no spectators in this sport. By the way deer CAN smell you at fifty yards…no problem.

    1. avatar Kenneth says:

      Elephants have been known to smell water from 12 miles away, and humans from more than a mile. They can even smell shotgun shells, sealed in a plastic bottle, buried underground, from a hundred yards or more away. Their noses are mind blowing. At least they are to us humans with virtually no sense of smell.

  10. avatar bobinmi says:

    “If you were 20 feet up in a deer stand and a Whitetail deer steps out at 50 yards, the odds of that deer having any clue you are even in the area are very remote. So right there, at 50 yards, you’ve effectively eliminated the animal’s natural capacity to use its senses and instincts to detect Danger. (Unless you’re hunting with a knife.) I think Boone and Crockett needs to get into the 21st century, admit that the technology to make long-range hunting shots is here and is going to stay. They would do a greater service to game animals, in my opinion, by stressing the importance of marksmanship and practice to the ethical hunter.”

    This statement is such a fallacy as to almost not warrant a response. The study and knowledge of animal behavior necessary to place a treestand in the proper location for an animal to walk by within 50 yds is not comparable to the marksmanship necessary for a long range shot. I don’t care what people do and I don’t think that anything should be done legally but with modern rangefinders and ballistic apps I can turn a relative novice into a killer at 1000yds with a few weeks of training. It takes a lifetime to master animal behavior.

    1. avatar Stereodude says:

      Cry us a river… You can only hunt the number of animals you have tags for. If you kill it at 25 yards or 900 yards doesn’t really make any difference to the purpose of controlling the population. The rest of what you posted is just feel good claptrap emotional nonsense.

      1. avatar bobinmi says:

        I think that I was very clear in the fact that I believe that you should do you. I don’t care what you do, I just don’t see the need to make false statements in order to make what you are doing sound more “ethical” I am firmly in the “if its legal, its ethical camp”. The North American big game model has proven that to be the correct choice for over 100 yrs. Nothing that I said was emotional at all. Simply facts. I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings in some way. I’m simply making the point that marksmanship and fieldcraft are not one and the same.

  11. avatar Aaron says:

    “…is defined by a tenuous and unpredictable relationship between predator and prey. This is an intrinsic, irrefutable and intimate connection that cannot be compromised if the hunter is to maintain the sanctity of this relationship and any credibly claim that hunting is challenging, respectful of wild creatures, and in service to wildlife conservation. ”

    what a load of bovine scatology. instead of all this foo-foo nonsense, just say long range hunting is unethical because…whatever reason you think.

  12. avatar David Keith says:

    I’m not a fan of long range hunting. Some people think they’re good at it if they occasionally hit steel at 1000 yards and that doesn’t prove anything. Keep it at 400 or less and learn stalking skills if you want to prove what a good hunter you are. There are a lot of wounded animals from “long range” experts.

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