An ethical hunter’s primary responsibility: ensure that he or she takes game in the most humane way possible. All other responsibilities fall by the wayside if we don’t act as reliable servants to Mother Nature. Hippie Talk aside, let’s talk accuracy . . .
Contrary to what you see in Hollywood, 80-200 lbs. mammals aren’t that hard to kill (all apologies to Bruce Willis and the Die Hard series). One well placed shot is all we need. However, as hunters we can sometimes focus too hard on creating the most accurate rifle out there without paying attention to the biggest variable: us!
I have seen far too many hunters seduced by the latest, greatest round or gun that offers great knock down power, flat trajectories, and mild recoil. They’ll buy a gun with a thumbhole stock, drop hundreds of dollars on trigger work, thousands on a piece of glass, and spend $1.50 per round to shoot it. All this money and time, and they’ll shoot 20 rounds through their gun each year. Worst of all, every shot will be at less than 100 yards.
In Leghorn’s article about the $500 long range shooter, he talks about the gun shooting 2” groups at 100 yards and therefore having a cone of uncertainty with a diameter of 20” at 1000 yards. Sure sounds like a lot until you start thinking about it, and realize that a 20” diameter circle really isn’t that big. At 100 yards, that 2” circle may as well be a pinpoint. Look at how much more you have to spend to make that circle 1” smaller.
So why all the talk and dollars to make a sub 1 MOA gun? Leghorn saved enough money on his gun to buy five years worth of good ammo compared to the guy in the stall next to me who has dropped at least $2500 on his gun and optics. My money is on Leghorn to be the better shooter when hunting season comes around.
And with that said, it comes time for you to have an honest conversation with yourself about how you hunt. What ranges do you normally shoot at? What ranges are you competent at? At what range is your bullet most effective? Do you get buck fever when the big one comes out of the brush? Are you going to be running and gunning? Will you be in a warm blind with a solid rest? Your hunting rig depends on all of these factors.
Let’s take my gun as an example. I shoot a Ruger M77 Mark II with a Leupold VX-II 3-9 X 40 mm scope and a Timney trigger. I can rest it on sandbags at my local indoor range and put 5 holes on paper at 100 yards that can be covered with a quarter. I recently took it to a range north of me on a particularly windy day and put three rounds in a row on a man-sized target at 500 yards.
The gun is plenty capable of extreme accuracy even with factory loads. However, I don’t feel comfortable shooting past 150 yards. While the gun’s cone of uncertainty at that range may only be 2 inches in diameter, I know that mine is probably 7-10”. I hunt out of my truck, and I’m usually pretty excited about taking a tasty animal. My lack of solid rest and excitement related shaking mean that I don’t feel that I can make an ethical kill past 150 yards. I am not 100% confident that I put a round where it needs to go to reliably end the life of my prey. If I can’t feel fully confident of that, I shouldn’t even have my finger on the trigger.
This site spends a good amount of time talking about training for the self-defense situation that we all hope will never happen. Hunting shouldn’t be any different. If anything, as hunters we should adopt that mindset more readily. The likelihood of Brad encountering a situation where he has to squeeze the trigger on his Kimber is low. The odds that I’ll put another living being in my sights in the next year are 100%. What good does taking my gun to the range and killing paper at $1.25/shot accomplish if I’m not training for how I hunt.
At the end of the day, you need to evaluate how you hunt and develop an honest assessment of the gun you need to use for the mission. I’m willing to bet that a little soul searching will reveal that you don’t practice like you hunt. Find out how you hunt, pick the gun that is right for the job, and shoot the hell out of it in various mock hunting situations.
Now go forth and collect tasty morsels!