Advanced Shooters – First and foremost, if you are going to hunt long range western game such as elk, deer, antelope beyond 300 yards then you must practice at long ranges beyond 300 yards. It can and is being done all the time by skilled folks with a math background. I have only shot game out to MPBR Max Point blank range of 300 yards and shot target to 600 yards. This exercise was good for me and good for the game I hunt.
Below is an exercise only for those that are advanced shooters and willing to practice at longer shots. Out west where you can sometimes see for a mile or more, necessitates having this skill to bring home the bacon. I need more training too if I consider this as an option.
Ethics are a constant in my mind and should be in yours as well. If you are prone to uncontrollable buck fever this article may not be for you. The exercise though has some value for those thinking they can just kill a deer at 500 yards without these skills are dreaming.
The recent long range competitive rifle match I participated in gave me confidence that all of the detail work in understanding my rifle, scope, and bullet speed can kill game at longer ranges than Max Point Blank Range which is usually 240 to 330 yards. The spoilers in this type of hunting is often wind, angle of shot, altitude, energy delivered e.g. (1000 ft-lb for deer) and bullet design speed (e.g. 2000 fps). If the wind theoretically blows your bullet off the 6 inch kill zone but you know the wind angle and speed then you can correct for it by creating a table for elevation, windage,and energy delivered and make that shot.
The tools you need are a chronograph, rangefinder, wind meter or wind knowledge and time at the range determining the best hunting bullet and powder to deliver the tightest variation in bullet velocities, Ballistic Software – I use JBM Ballistic software for free on-line trajectory calculation and to determine come-up clicks or minutes needed to hit the heart lung area of game (6 inches for deer, 8 inches for elk) and also for windage adjustments.
Laser rangefinders are a given in the above situation and must adjust for shot angle solutions as well in steep terrain. Leupold makes great rangefinders. I have tested the Leupold RX 1200i DNA and find it works well on distance and angle for bow or rifle with max range around 1000 or so yards. The steadier you hold to rangefinder, the more accurate it is.
On Bullets – I am a huge fan of Nosler AccuBond® and Nosler E-Tips® for hunting big game. I have killed moose and bison with the AccuBond and deer with the E-Tip. I am a fan of all gilding copper bullets but for long distance the AccuBond is one of my go-to bullets. Example: 6.5 Creedmoor 142 grain AccuBond Long Range is in the drop down menu for the bullet
Step 1 Velocity must be chronographed with the actual rifle and bullet. e.g. 2635 fps with RL-15 powder. I have the SHOOTING CHRONY F1 **MASTER** Chronograph – FPS – at $120 dollars.
Step 2 Zero Scope at 100 yards and set elevation dial to zero as in my Leupold VX-6 and side focus to 100 yards.
Step 3 Use JBM ballistics to calculate come up clicks for given ranges and create a table for distance, minute correction for drop, wind deflection and energy, velocity limits. Set zero range in the software at the distance you want to shoot and then read the bullet MOA adjustment at 100 yards
Distance to game is approximately 400 yards by your rangefinder. Place 400 yards in the “zero range” of the software and hit calculate. At 100 yards where you actually zeroed the rifle will indicate on the software printout that you will need to adjust 7.7 minutes of up elevation to make that shot at 400 yards. Adjust the elevation dial to about 7.7 minutes and side focus to 400 yards See below.
The more complete your table is for range say in 25 yard increments than you can see more accurately your come-up adjustments in minutes. Let’s say your deer was 425 yards give or take then the table you will have in the field will indicate 8.5 minutes for 425 yards, Get it? That is 3 3/4 inches to adjust for that 25 yard difference.
Wind Meter – Kestrel 1000 or similar for under 100 bucks can help with wind. See the article below for more on wind values
Cartridges and game kills at ranges beyond 300 yards include my favorites such as .270 Winchester, 7mm Rem. Mag, 300 Win Mag on up to .338. The .270 WSM seems popular for LR hunters and there is also a long range following for the 7mm STW (Shooting Times Western) that can reach out to nearly 700 yards with 1000 ft-lbs energy at a 2000 fps bullet speed. Recoil becomes an issue for these larger calibers. Lots to think about for sure, but if you want to go this route then, it can be done.
Otherwise your calculated Max Point Blank Range with JBM software is a great solution where you just range your distant game, aim and shoot out to your MPBR of say 270 or so yards based on your rifle and be done with all the fuss.