There is no question that recent advancements in bullet design, rifle accuracy, cartridge performance, riflescopes, and affordable laser rangefinders have all combined to significantly extend the range at which we can be reasonably confident of making a humane one-shot kill. The distance can vary greatly depending on one’s equipment, shooting skills and circumstance, but it’s something each of us must decide for himself or herself. Is it ethical to shoot at an elk standing 800 or 1,000 yards away just because you can and have the equipment to do it?
I’m a bit concerned as to where this long-range-everything is taking us as it relates to hunting. No responsible rifle or scope manufacturer explicitly promotes long-range hunting in its ads or catalog copy; nevertheless, the implication is there between the lines. I’m all for long range competitive and recreational shooting like F-Class and Precision Rifle Competition where you’re shooting at paper or steel targets out to 1,200 yards; it’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s rewarding. But when there’s one of God’s creatures involved, at what point…if any, does it become a total negation of hunting skill and simply an exercise in technical shooting? Shooting a five-inch group at 1,000 yards is one great accomplishment, as I’m sure would be the taking of that elk at that same distance, providing it was a clean kill with the first shot. But then seeing that same elk and stalking to within 100 yards and from there placing an unerring surgically-placed shot is to me even more of an accomplishment.
Like I said, it’s an ethical thing that each of us must answer for ourselves. As for the “long range” trend, I don’t look for it to subside anytime soon, if ever.