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Regular readers will remember that I headed out to Gunwerks in June to learn from some of the best about the finer points of long range hunting. If you want a long read, check out the interview I did with Gunwerks founder Aaron Davidson. I came away from the experience awestruck with what can be done with the right equipment and the right training. So imagine my surprise when RF forwarded an article from George Block entitled “Long-range shooting disrupts definition of hunting“. George reckons that long range hunting isn’t really hunting at all . . .

Becoming a skilled hunter meant familiarity with the area and the animal. On the other side of the coin, the longrange shooter – note, I didn’t say hunter – uses modern technology instead of hunting skill to attain the downing of his deer.

Ego becomes an important factor in such shooting with that “I can shoot farther than you” mentality.

My question is, should this activity be called hunting or more accurately, shooting?

George and I probably agree on a fundamental level that being in the woods is best, but his ardent opposition to a perfectly legitimate form of hunting (yeah, I said it) comes off as ill informed at best, ignorant at worst.  So I forwarded it to Aaron at Gunwerks to get his opinion. Reprinted with his permission is his response.

Many people have a problem with taking longer shots in the field. We’ve coined the phrase “Long Range Hunting” to define using equipment in the field that compensates for a bullet’s flight, generally beyond the cartridge’s point blank range.  Usually most criticisms come from a lack of perspective. It’s always tempting to allow your own interests or moral standards to become an absolute standard that should be imposed on everyone.

Our founding fathers were acutely aware of the propensity of people towards zealous behavior, and this is prevalent in modern politics—usually its liberal ideas that bleeding hearts try to cram down our throats.  For example, “let the wolves kill the elk, not people”.  Or, “let’s spend our tax money to support solar power so it can replace fossil fuels”. 

To take a long shot in a hunting situation, the shooter is limited by the same factor as any other hunter. Don’t take the shot if you can’t make it.  More deer are gut shot and/or wounded every year by “hunters” using standard gear and taking shots under 200 yards, than by animals harvested over 500 yards by “long range shooters”.  Every outfitter that has converted to precision gear reports far less wounded game when customers adopt “long range shooting” gear and techniques.

Just like liberals and their crazy ideas, some people would like to arbitrarily draw a line and try to make everyone else conform to their sense of moral certitude about the injustice of shooting game at distance, or using sophisticated equipment.  How far and what gear?  Twenty yards and stone club?  Sounds like cave man thinking to me.

Aaron Davidson founded Gunwerks, LLC. in January 2006. His background in engineering and his passion for firearms and our American tradition of hunting gives him a unique insight into product design.

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  1. Man…. Long range shots aren’t hunting? He probably only wants wooden long bows, and Atlatls and Darts.

    • I’m a big fan of the composite atlatls and carbon-fiber darts. Almost takes the challenge out of the mastodon stalks, but hey, you gotta feed the tribe.

      Can we get a good review comparing the traditional wooden atlatls and the newer composite ones? Great, thnx.

  2. Gonna suggest that taking an animal at 600 yards is probably more demanding on the hunter than sitting in a tree stand and waiting for an animal to waltz on by.

  3. Tyler, you are making a straw man argument. George isn’t saying that long range hunting should be outlawed. That is the straw man that you and Aaron created and decided to argue instead of George’s actual message.

    It seems more to me that he has an opinion that you just don’t like so you call him ill-informed and Arron equates him to the liberal masses trying to promote solar energy. Huh? See, you are attacking George himself instead of his ideas. I didn’t see you or Arron even comment on a single point of George’s article.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight but you guys obviously do. Please debate ideas, not attack the credibility of the person to make your point. So far for me, George +1, Tyler and Aaron -2.

    • Yes, jbyrne27, I’m addressing if long-range shooting is hunting. George is impugning the ethics of long-range shooting in a hunting situation. That’s his argument, taking an animal from long-range is not hunting.

      • I don’t know that he’s impugning the ethics of it, just arguing it isn’t hunting in the traditional sense–there’s no stalk, no effort to get close. I don’t have a dog in this fight either since I just don’t care.

    • I gotta agree. The name calling does quite a bit to cast Aaron’s ‘rebuttal’ as just childish insults.
      I also don’t care about this argument one way or another. It is just disappointing to see this behavior between two guys who are ostensibly on the same side.

  4. He is speaking out his arse, what is long-range? Many think shooting over 500yds is unethical, many of us out west see it as the norm.

    • i am out west and 500 yards is too far for me. shooting at 500 yards is definitely not “the norm” for hunters even here in the northwest. technology has replaced hunting. the thrill and the accomplishment is the stalk – to see how close you can get. that also shows respect to the animal you are hunting. you want to shoot long distance then use targets or terrorists.

  5. It’s a question of ethics. Every hunter needs to have an honest assesment of his abilities and apply them in the field. If hunter A routinely makes shots at 500 yards that are clean and accurate then he has the right to take that 500 yard shot.

    Hunter B has struggled to make 200 yard shots and is lining up for a 500 yard shot is wrong and unethical. He’s what we used to refer to as a slob hunter. You don’t want to be that guy.

  6. So Block is what you would call a Fudd, To him there is some sort of platonic ideal of hunting, and he tries to define away something he is not comfortable with as “not hunting”.

  7. This. Each shot is an individual choice based on the shooters skill, gear, targeted animal, and environmental conditions, with the point being to kill said animal cleanly, causing no unnecessary suffering. If one is confident enough in a shot, after considering all of the above, that they will lose no sleep that night, then by all means, let her fly.

  8. I would define “ethical” hunting as two creatures fighting up close and personal with only the weapons God gave them.

    Or if humans are involved, give the animals opposing thumbs, firearms and training and let the best one win.

    • It must be difficult walking around with all the guilt, since your very existence is owed to tool use by your ancestors.
      Are you at least a vegetarian, I hope?

    • The most equal of hunts comes during September down in Louisiana. Human against gator, and the other way around. Six foot of Coon Ass slogging trough the swamp looking for those beady eyes on six (or twelve) feet of American Alligator. When you see them you know two things: they already see you, and they are thinking…. “this is going to taste good”. If you don’t think it is an equal hunt consider the gator has a brain that is about the size of a small persimmon and the American has a 50.1% chance of having voted for Obama or not having voted at all. The only thing more equal is bull fighting which we all get to do for four more years. Enjoy, my fellow self respecting, God fearing, gun owning gentlemen, and don’t forget to wear black today.

      Posted 6:45 AM on Nov. 7, 2012

  9. “let the wolves kill the elk, not people”. Or, “let’s spend our tax money to support solar power so it can replace fossil fuels”

    The first statement reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of effective and humane game management practice.

    The second strikes me as the sort of thing people probably said about Teddy Roosevelt’s push to create national parks and game conservation practice. Using our national resources to support the inevitable transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a better long term investment than waging wars in shithole Muslim countries. IMHO.

    • The second part is what really gets me, to the point of being so insane as to negate the rest of his point. We are going to have to get off the oil teat sometime really soon, and delaying the inevitable is just foolish.

      Even more interesting would be what we (know right now) could have been done with the $1T+ direct plus the $1T indirect expenses of misadventure in bronze-age parts of the world and giving money to primitives.

    • Agreed.

      There’s nothing anti-gun about wanting alpha predators reintroduced/re-established in large tracts of their former range. We can live with some (even significant) elk depredation; the outdoors isn’t managed solely for hunters.

  10. I think that all George is suggesting is that taking an animal at over 500 yards is a demonstration of shooting skill (and a demanding one at that), but does not require the field craft normally associated with hunting at closer ranges, like scouting, tracking and stalking, skills he does not feel are associated with long range shooting. And he has a point in some respects. It takes a lot of skill to call in something like a turkey to get the shot under 50 yards, or to bugle in an elk or moose, skills that were once necessary when hunting implements had an effective range of a hundred yards or less. It is not so much an ethical question, as much as an artistic one. It’s like the difference between a sailboat and a motorboat–they accomplish the same purpose, but the former requires a greater awareness of nature than the latter. Or the motorcycle afficianados who think that automatic transmissions and ABS are anathema. He just comes down on the artistic side of the equation, finding that long range hunting is too mechanical and thus looses the essence of the hunt.

    • Is the wind not nature? Is gravity not nature? The coriolis effect? These are different considerations than were involved in the traditional stalk, but you still have to be aware of nature and your surroundings.

      • CarlosT- you build a bright fire.

        Just getting close enough to ID the quality of the animal can be difficult in some country. I find some like George so il informed about hunting in big country. I have spent days trying to get within 600 yds of a real trophy. I have friends that have dedicated a month of vacation working towards one animal in big open country. George has one perspective, but world class animals require great stalking and great shooting. Every ounce of it is HUNTING.

  11. In my neck of the woods, a shot at 150 yards is a long shot, the terrain just doesn’t allow longer shots than that. Now I’ve “hunted” ground hogs in a method that really isn’t hunting in the sense that no tracking is involved, no real skill, just sit and wait until they pop their little heads up and shoot ’em off.

    • I am in a similar predicament- where I hunt I usually don’t see the game beyond 150yds.
      Having said that, for me, even if I did see a legal animal way out there- I would close the distance. I am confortable shooting at paper out to 800-1000 yds, but I am just not confident enough to take an ethical shot.
      Having said that, my personal opnion is that anyone who can, and wants to, should. If a hunter can take a clean shot at 950yds, And wants to, go for it.
      I’ll just have to stalk closer.

  12. I must agree with most have posted. The attack on George is not on spec. Also, the political comments made by Aaron do nothing to support his postion.

    Definition of hunting: The act of conducting a search for something.

    Since a long range shot of 1000 yards does not fit the “searching” portion of the definition. I agree with calling that activity “shooting”.

    Since I am thinking about it, this whole conversation is a waste of time. Does anyone really care
    what we call it??????

  13. I think George is ilimiting hunitng to areas with thick scrub brush and quiet streams. His idealic hunting grounds limit the range of a shot on a deer to a few hundred yards. If you are Taking Deer, Elk, Ram or anything else at the 1,000 yard range then there is a good chance that where you are hunting, there are no trees to put a stand in, or a babbling brook to track deer sign near.

    I have had the oppurtunity to hunt whitetail in thick shrub with a shotgun and slugs, knowing my longest shot would be 50 yards. I normally hunt in thickets with my 30/30 out to 100 yards, but I have aslo had the chance to hunt near the edge of the Davis Mountian Range on the border of Texas and Mexico. When your shooting across miles of open range land, sniffing the wind and walking the game trails don’t offer the hunter much chance for success. You are better off searching the horizion with a pair of binoculars and a map than you looking at the dirt. Flat land distance hunting affords the shooter the oppurnity to see the game hundreds of yards away before the game can smell you, or recognise you as a threat. Trying to stalk within a 500 yards of the game is lost cause, if the hear you they can run away leaving you no time to range the shot, but more likley the deer aren’t apt to stand in one place long enough for you to get close.

    I enhoy sniffing the air, and walking the game trails looks for hog and deer on my lease. It is primal and requires a fair amount of skill that you can’t learn in a book or even in a class. But I didn’t loose that connection to nature, or primal sense when I ranged off a group of deer 1,000 yards away and took aim. Looking through the scope steading my breath, and holding my sights on a jittery group of deer was every bit as thrilling. It would have been more thrilling if I hit the doe I was aiming at,but hey that’s also part of the thrill.

    • Having grown up in a place where taking deer as a 12-year-old was expected, and any distance beyond 50 yards with an iron-scoped .303 marked you as incompetent for not being able to get close enough, I get the viewpoint.

      I also understand taking p-dogs at 700+ yards with a scoped XP-100.

      It all is relative and part of the hunt.

  14. No guilt here…just a simple observation. I doubt my ancestors debated “ethical” hunting online. Hunting is hunting. Period. No judgements here. Don’t infer one.

  15. If you are hunting in New England I can see how someone would think that 500 yards is a bit extreme of a shot to take. However, if someone is out in the Midwest where there are plains and rolling hills as far as they eye can see, then I can certainly see how taking a 500+ yard shot falls within the realm of “familiarity with the area and the animal.”

  16. Long range shooting is not hunting. There is nothing wrong with it IMO but its not fun for me and neither is sitting in a blind or stand unless certain places where it’s nothing but open space. It’s all about the spot and stalk, the feel of getting close to your kill. Being able to smell the animal before you take the shot and hearing its foot steps while you stalk in. I’m not much for rifle but nothing can beat the feeling of adrenalin and the musky sent of elk right before you draw back your bow and take the shot. With long range hunting you just dont get the same feeling. and i have shot a cow elk at 750 yards but it was prob the least fun hunt ever. Just my 2 cents.

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