An Ethical Balance


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.

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5 thoughts on “An Ethical Balance”

  1. I agree, well written comments.
    We owe it to the game we hunt to do what is right and ethical.
    Long long range is reserved for when it is necessary. And under most instances while on a stalk it is not required.

  2. There is this quote made from Jeff Goldblum in Jurrasic park:
    “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should”.
    This article kind of reminds me of that quote. Gun, bullet and scope designers making for longer and longer shooting possibilities. Should they? Also, now that us hunters can shoot farther, should we? I agree, it’s pretty cool when you shoot a tight grouping of from 1000 yards. It does feel awesome. What doesn’t feel awesome is when you wound an animal (and you can’t find it afterwards). If you are out on the range, most of us pick a day where it’s nice, sunny, no breeze to mild breeze. We are calm and collected. All the time in the world to make that shot. We calculate those factors into shooting. When we go hunting, we go in all types of weather. Adrenaline is going, time may not be on our side… So yeah, if you are going to make that long range shot on an animal, you better know your equipment, what it does in certain conditions and yourself. If there is any doubt, don’t even try. You know what else is a feat besides shooting an animal long range? It is sneaking up on an animal, closing that gap without the animal knowing, to make that ‘better more ethical’ shot. Something to consider.

  3. The author addresses important issues. Fair Chase hunting concepts–giving the animal a fair chance to know it is being hunted–and the ethics of taking a long shot. Ethical hunters must deal with the paradoxical relationship between better equipment and that equipment’s ability to enhance unethical hunting. Only a hunter’s honor and virtuous character can lead to an ethical shot. Paper targets and steel plates to not bleed and do not suffer from imprecise shot placement. The author is to be congratulated for raising these issues.

  4. I hear you! Shooting skill has no bearing on hunting skill, no more than being a good shot makes you a good sniper. Long range shots, especially those that have a Time of Flight greater than 0.5 seconds, are always iffy. You can’t control the animal, and a lot can happen in a half second, (just ask any bow hunter). At any rate, long-range “misses” need to be followed up with the long walk to where the animal was at the shot. From ranges less than 400 yards I have seen an apparent clean-miss turn into a blood trail with a dead critter at the end of it.

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