Hunting across hundreds of yards of open land, spotting your chosen game and placing that one well-placed round into your target.
The deer, elk, bears, or whatever else you’re hunting collapses and you fill with pride. Long range hunting is one of the greatest, most challenging sports in the world. Long range hunting is much different than long range shooting, the goal is different, the equipment is different, the rounds are different, and even the range is different. Defining range is an important part of this article. Standard long range shooting is typically out to a 1,000 yards and even beyond. Long range hunting is typically around 300 yards and out to maybe 600 yards. Understanding that difference can make your equipment set up a lot easier.
Caliber Selection for Long Range Hunting
The 300 Winchester Magnum may not be a perfect round, but it is an excellent starting point for long range hunting.
This is not a section to start a caliber war, however, the right caliber for the job must meet a few different demands. We are gauging our long range shooting from three hundred yards and beyond, so we need to put that beyond measurement into focus. For example rounds like the 308 Winchester are nice and powerful 30 caliber rounds that you a good shooter can easily hit a target out to a thousand yards. However, past 500 yards the 308 dips below an effective velocity for the round to expand sufficiently. A non expanding round can lead to an inhumane shot on an animal.
The 300 Winchester Magnum, however, is much more effective at 500 yards and a little beyond. The round is an excellent compromise between power, recoil management, range, and it doesn’t overly damage medium game like whitetail deer. The round is also common, and more affordable compared to its bigger, hotter brothers. The 300 Win Mag is a proven round, and because it’s been around for a bit there are plenty of high-quality rifles chambered in it. It was also our hero Chris Kyle favorite. There are better rounds, but they are often more expensive, harder to find, and too powerful for certain sizes of game.
There are plenty of talented shooters out there who can easily make a shot over several hundred yards with nothing but iron sights. For the other 99% of us an optic is a required piece of kit. When choosing an optic it’s important to consider several different factors. To effectively and humanely take an animal down you need to be able to accurately place your shot. Shot placement is a major factor in taking down an animal, and a one shot kill should always be the goal of a hunter.
There are dozens, if not hundreds of rifle scopes out there dedicated to long range shooting. Long range shooting and long range hunting are two different beasts entirely. Long range shooting is easily out to a thousand yards, long range hunting is well below that range. Magnification isn’t king, you really don’t need a fifty power scope to take a three to six hundred yard shot. You also don’t need to start spending into the thousands for a good scope. I recommend reading the Rifle Optics World guide to the best hunting scope to get grasp of hunting scopes in general.
Example of a good scope is Leupold Mark AR model which is variable optic with a variety of magnifications.
The 6 to 18 power is completely sufficient for long range hunting. Leupold optics have a long history of being high quality, crystal clear optics, and the Mark AR is no different. The optic provides a nice clear sight picture, and its 44mm objective lens is capable of both absorbing sufficient light, and you can use medium to low scope rings. The turrets are target style, so it can be used to make quick field adjustments. The scope is probably the most affordable, high-quality model of optic you’ll find in the first focal plane. The first focal plane is more precise for long range shooting, especially when you are using the optics mil dot reticle for elevation and windage.
One last note, when it comes to optic don’t spend 500 on a scope, 800 on a rifle, and then pay 20 bucks for a pair of cheap scope rings. Get a nice, solid, high-quality pair of rings. A good set of rings will keep the optic stable over a long period of time, through rough environments. A nice set of Badger scope rings will do the job for less than 200, and if you’re a big spender and want a nice one piece to mount you can’t beat Spuhr mounts.
A range finder is another tool that helps guarantee a kill. It’s in the name, a rangefinder gives you the range. With this range, and the proper knowledge of your rifle, and your load, you can easily compensate for bullet drop. In most hunting situations, you only get one shot, and you have to make it count. Not all range finders are equal, and you should know how the effective ranges of a rangefinder work. You need to be careful when you are researching range finders, a rangefinder that advertises an effective range of 400 yards, but only has an effective range for deer at 200 meters. Always look into the effective deer range, and make sure it suits your style.
Sig Sauer’s new Kilo 2000 is one of the most impressive rangefinders I’ve ever seen. It’s capable of ranging a deer out to 1,200 yards, and you really can’t beat its optical clarity. The Kilo 2000 is making a big splash, and it’s priced well when you consider it’s performance. Priced at 500 bucks, it’s not exactly cheap. A more budget friendly consideration priced at right around 200 dollars is the Halo X-ray 900 Z9X. The Halo is capable of ranging deer out to 500 yards, and for 200 bucks it’s a pretty good bargain.
Know How to Shoot
The best rifle, topped with the best scope, shooting the best round at the range given by the best rangefinder can be quite useless if you don’t know how to use it. Before you go hunting you need to learn how your gear works, how your ammo drops, and what those turret clicks mean. You need to go beyond simply zeroing your rifle and calling it good. Sight in your optic with the load you intend to hunt with. Take it to an actual long range static range and learn which mil dots on your optic coordinate with where your round falls. Don’t just know your equipment, learn it.
TIP: A good spotting scope can make sighting in your rifle much easier. Read our guide on How to Choose a Spotting Scope.