It's not 1978 any longer. Long-range hunting is a viable and ethical tactic if you're schooled in the fundamentals of precision shooting.
I lament that in each class I teach, I point out that from the turn of the last century to just before 9-11, precision rifle technology and techniques moved at a snail’s pace. What our grandfathers passed on to our fathers was passed on to us; and, from there, we passed the same thoughts down to our children.
After 9-11, everything changed; it became the new “space race.” Each week, we read about a new way of addressing old problems. As a result, it can be hard to keep up.
I’ve found that there are three types of students that attend long-range shooting school:
- Those looking to compete in NRL- and/or PRS-type competitions
- Those looking to be well-rounded marksmen for personal reasons
- Those who want to be a better, more effective hunter
Addressing the hunters out there: It’s still 1978 for most people. The .30-06 hunting rifle with a low-power scope still works well enough to put meat on the table—so, why change? It’s great to stalk game at close range and feel the rush when you’re surprised by the appearance of a worthy target. The cycle repeats over and over every hunting season.
But, as with the changes to the military sniping program, hunters can learn a thing or two from the current competition and military shooters. We’ve improved our equipment and combined this with a better understanding of what it takes to hit a target from alternative positions. We’ve become increasingly effective engaging targets at extended hunting ranges. No more do you have to rush taking that 70-yard shot; you can sit back and relax while ethically engaging in a 300-, 400- and even a 700-yard shot on living targets. Long-range hunting is a reality.
The new PRC calibers are well-suited for the level of precision and accuracy for long-range hunting. The 6.5 PRC is great for North American game; and, if you want to venture farther north to places such as Alaska, with bigger animals, the 300 PRC can also provide the energy on target to get the job done.
When you combine these calibers with carbon-fiber barrel technology, you keep the weight low. It allows you to shoot more when practicing, as opposed to traditional, pencil-thin barrels.
Alternative positions are the keys to success. No more do we want to take an offhand shot at something. Instead, we can build better positions that take advantage of the terrain in a given area.
Using bags such as the Game Changer on 4-wheelers, logs, branches and rocks can be a lesson in rock-steady shooting. These bags come in a variety of fill weights—starting at 7 pounds (if you’re traveling by horse or 4-wheeler), or, if you’re walking it in, in ounces, because they contain ultralight fills.
We practice these techniques with our students, and the results speak for themselves.
Doping and Prep
Many a hunter returns the following year with tales from afar. Instead of missing that elk at 175 yards, they’re taking them with one shot at 525 yards. I receive e-mail after e-mail relating these success stories.
The fact that a student can, and will, actually dope the rifle to distance (versus using a random hold-off over the target) is one area of focus. Regardless of the setup, you can establish a good, solid, 100-yard zero. Then, after actually doping the rifle, you apply the proper elevation to the shot, thereby guaranteeing a successful long-range hunting engagement.
It sounds simple. Even so, a lot of traditional hunters skip these steps. They’d rather wing it by guessing the inches of drop over the back of the animal.
Don’t let physical limitations get in your way either. I don’t force older students or students with physical disabilities in the prone. Rather, I instruct them on better bench shooting and how to properly replicate the other positions using a bench.
It’s really easy to square up behind the bench if you treat it as a better-supported position. I don’t follow the “bladed” approach to bench shooting. It keeps your body squared to the support, your head and eyes in line with the target, and works within the fundamentals of marksmanship by using your natural point of aim to your advantage.
Lastly, never overlook the versatility of the tripod. If I only had one choice—bipod or tripod—I’d always choose a tripod. Correctly employed, along with a system designed to shoot a rifle, a tripod is your single greatest tool when it comes to long-range hunting and field shooting. You can shoot in a standing position with little to no effort.
Get On Target With Frank Galli:
- Mils vs. MOA: Which Is The Best Long-Range Language?
- Buying the Perfect Precision Scope
- Shooting Positions: Variety Is The Spice Of Life
- Riflescope Tracking: Why It’s Crucial To Test It
- Long-Range Shooting: Becoming Your Own Spotter
You can set up a tripod over and around obstacles in your path without having to hold the rifle up yourself. A tripod can serve as an observation platform, hosting your binoculars or spotting scope, and then quickly transition to a firing platform. The more we race down the “rabbit hole” of tripods, the more impressive they become.
Bottom line? To be effective, it takes practice—not only shooting—but actual practice. Doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a better outcome, only happens when you try new things and work to improve yourself. For instance, I can swing a golf club the wrong way a whole lot and, through repetition, I get closer to the hole each time. However, taking a class from a professional instructor would increase my skill level much faster.
Once we educate ourselves on the possibilities, our skill sets will grow through practice and proper execution of the techniques. In other words, we can work smarter, not harder.
Back in the day, the answer was always, “Take a case of ammo and go shoot.” Today, we understand that this is always sound advice—if you have the foundation to work from right from the start. Build a solid foundation with the fundamentals. You can build up your skills from there.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the 2020 Long-Range Shooting issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.