Long-range hunting is a skill.
A skill you need to master if you want to take down a deer, elk, or any other animal from 700+ yards every time you're on the hunting ground.
The thing is...
When shooting over an extended distance, there are several things to consider. There's the wind, temperature, the earth's curve, gear, elevation, and environmental factors like friction in the air. Add the physics of bullet drop, and everything gets confusing pretty quickly.
A slight miscalculation, and the animal could get away. You don't want that.
While extended long-range shooting is an art, it doesn't mean you can't perfect how you shoot and make clean kills at a 700, 80, or 1,000-yard range.
This post looks at the tactics you need to master to help you fire accurate long-range shots the next time you're out on a hunting expedition.
6 Tips to Improve Your Long Range Shooting
Think about it for a sec.
Why do you need to brush up on your long-range hunting skills? You can as well buy your way to an accurate 700-yard shot on a big game, right? Wrong.
Most hunters, especially new hunters, think all you need to take down a couple of Prairie dogs at a distance is an accurate rifle scope and caliber. Sure, you need high-quality equipment, but there's more to sport hunting than having the latest rifle.
Working on your long-range hunting techniques can help you achieve the following:
- You'll Become Consistent: All long-range hunters, new or seasoned, want successful hunting sessions. The more you hone your skills, the higher the likelihood of a successful hunt, one session after the other.
- You'll Become an Accurate Shooter: A good hunter is an accurate hunter. Perfecting how you shoot at a longer distance will improve your marksmanship. It'll make you an accomplished hunter.
- You Can Hunt Responsibly and Safely: Hunting is a safe activity. Still, careless rifle handling and failure to identify the target are some of the most common causes of hunting incidents.
Refining your long-range shooting skills can help you avoid hunter judgment mistakes and have greater control of your rifles, resulting in responsible and safe hunting.
The bottom line here is that; to be a successful long-range hunter, you must have good shooting skill fundamentals and, of course, a rifle with good precision and consistent ammo.
With that being said, here's a rundown of long-range hunting tips to help level up your target shooting competency.
Choose the Right Long Range Optic
Long-range shooting requires the right scope.
When looking for a scope to shoot animals at longer distances, you'll want to make sure that it offers the following:
A scope that allows you to adjust magnification is better since you can use it to shoot any range. On top of that, you want a scope with sufficient magnification. Choose a scope with a magnifying capacity of at least 18X for accurate shots 1,000 yards and beyond.
Milling Reticles on the Horizontal and Vertical Axis
Long-range hunting requires a scope with a Mildot or Nightforce MOAR-style reticle. Here's why.
The standard procedure requires you to dial for elevation and hold for wind when shooting over long distances. That way, you can adjust the turrets on top of your scope for the amount the ammo will drop over its traveling distance. As a result, this adjusts where the crosshairs are, allowing you to point them directly at your target.
You don't want to dial for wind when taking long-range shots since weather conditions can change in a minute. Instead, you want to aim crosshairs in the direction the wind is coming from, and the horizontal axis enables you to do this more precisely.
If you're new to long-range shooting, you wonder what separates high-cost scopes from their cheap counterparts.
Glass is one of the essential components that define decent scope. When glass quality is better, the optical clarity will be better, making it easier to see your target animal.
The optical clarity is crucial when judging mirage, which is an indication of the wind at your target. A high-quality glass will allow you to see how the wind is blowing at the animal's location, enabling you to adjust your scope accordingly.
Zero Your Rifle
Rifle bullets travel in an arc created by the pull of gravity.
Zeroing your rifle allows you to adjust the sights to hit a target at specific ranges. Deer hunters, for instance, often zero their rifles to hit the bull's eye at 100 yards.
If you're a long-range hunter, on the other hand, you'll want to zero your rifle to hit your target at 200 yards, enabling accuracy at 750 yards and beyond.
You should zero your rifle before loading ammo. Also, rifles zeroed before your last hunting expedition could have been knocked out of alignment. That misalignment could mean a huge difference between a frustrating experience and a successful hunt.
Apart from helping deliver accurate shots, zeroing your rifle has other benefits, including:
- It helps build confidence in your long-range shooting ability
- It enables you to determine the farthest range at which you can hit your target
- It helps you identify problems with how you shoot
Practice Proper Posture and Breathing
When it comes to long-range hunting, the natural respiratory pause is the optimal moment to take a shot. In this state, your body is stable and calm.
Below are a few exercises to help you achieve the natural respiratory pause:
- Clear your mind and take a few deep breaths to help you relax. Focus on your target. Inhale and pause your breathing. Take the shot when your lung is full of oxygen.
- Take a couple of breaths to relax. Clear your thoughts, focus on your target and fully exhale. Break the breathing when your lungs are empty of most oxygen and take the long-range shot.
As for the long-range shooting position, you want a natural rest point with your body stacked behind your rifle. This will let you control your movement and spot the shot. It'll also help you place your follow-up shot quickly if need be.
Consistently Practice Your Shooting Routine
Malcolm Gladwell once wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become world-class. Most long-range hunters would be happy with very good.
Either way, you want to be an accomplished long-range hunter, which comes with regular practice.
Below are a few tips to help you improve your long-range shooting technique:
- Erect a barricade for practice in an open field and learn to establish a steady shooting position. Make sure you can keep your rifle's reticle on the appropriate-size target.
- Work on your transition. As a long-range hunter, you want to move from one position to the next quickly and smoother.
- Practice under pressure to help you better your last performance.
- Focus on the shooting skill that requires the most work.
- Take shots from various positions to determine which one works best for you. Keep Studying and Learning.
Long-range hunting is all about learning and sticking to the best practices.
So, do as much research about the topic as possible. Emulate expert hunters down to the smallest of details.
Dr. John McCall, founder of Stealth Vision scopes, teaches: at the moment of squeezing the trigger to have the thought process of “the crosshair must still be on the target after the shot takes place”. This keeps the shooter completely without motion which enables the bullet to exit the barrel cleanly without any movement.
There are many books, videos, and other materials to help you make the most of your precision rifles.
In addition, get a mentor, preferably a seasoned long-range hunter. You can also consider enrolling in one of the many long-range shooting schools to help perfect your skill set.
Many hunters aren't keen on learning after several successful hunts. However, hunting is fun when you know what you're doing; that should be your ultimate goal.
Keep Rifle Clean and Protected Between Shoots
A poorly maintained rifle will struggle to take a clean long-range shot.
You'll, therefore, want to make sure you dismantle your rifle and clean the internal elements. A well-functioning long-range hunting rifle is reliable and safe. It is also durable and easy to operate at extreme outer limits.
With proper maintenance, you can prevent:
- Failure to fire
- Residual fouling buildup
- Failure to feed
- Failure to eject
On top of that, make sure your rifle isn't loaded with ammo when not in use. So, be sure to unload the rifle between sessions and as soon as you finish.
Further, avoid touching your rifle's trigger until you're ready to shoot, even with the "safety" setting on.
In addition, make sure you're using the correct ammo. Incorrect or improper ammo can destroy your rifle and cause severe injury. And as a rule of thumb, wear ear and eye protection when shooting.
The point is that successful long-range hunting requires that you maintain your rifle and apply safety measures when using it.
The Bottom Line
Effective long-range hunting is all about hitting your target accurately and consistently. It is the foundation all ethical and responsible hunters rely upon.
When shooting animals over long ranges, you want to ensure a clean kill by taking a clean shot to the vital areas. The best part is that you can develop your long-range hunting skills.
Learn to operate your rifle before you go out to hunt. Have an experienced hunter take you through the basics. Work the action with dummy ammo and learn how to take the longest shot you can from the get-go.
Improve your shooting technique, and soon enough, you'll become the excellent long-range hunter you desire to be.