There is a movement in shooting and hunting in recent years to shoot further. The rise of cheap scopes and sub $500 rifles that can shoot 1 MOA groups has allowed more people to get into long-range shooting. This has certainly translated into the hunting world as well. Shooting an elk from 700 yards has become a badge of honor in some circles. Who wouldn’t like to be able to shoot farther? After all, if you could hit anything you see it would make you a better hunter, right? Modern laser rangefinders with angle compensation and ballistic calculators make it easy to dial in bullet drop. Tactical hunter scopes allow you to just adjust your turrets, steady the gun and pull the trigger. With the ability to reach out to 1000 yards the question, “What is my ethical shooting range?” becomes more relevant.
There’s No Hard And Fast Rules
You are not going to find any legal regulations or absolute ethical guidelines about maximum range while hunting. Ethical range is something you will have to determine for yourself. One thing to consider is how comfortable you are out to a certain range and how much you practice those shots. If you regularly shoot out to 600 yards at that range and feel very confident at that distance, then it may be an ethical range for you. Personal confidence aside, there are still added considerations when shooting past 3-400 yards. Factors such as temperature, wind, barometric pressure, and height above sea level will all have an effect as well. There are many more variables that come into play when shooting out to longer ranges.
It Depends On What You’re Hunting
The specific animal you’re hunting may also play a part in determining what range you feel comfortable shooting at. Shooting an antelope or coues deer at 600 yards may be a safer bet than shooting a moose, elk, or bear at that range. Larger and tougher animals are generally harder to kill and can require more accurate shot placement. Also, many of these animals require follow-up shots from time to time. Putting a second bullet on target is much easier at 300 yards, than 1000. Certain animals such as bears can also make worse candidates for long-range hunting. Bears notoriously leave less blood than other animals because of their thick fur and high-fat content. They also have a tendency to retreat into very thick brush when injured. Going in after a wounded bear to perform the coup de grace can be dangerous as well.
No one can determine for you what your ethical shooting distance is when hunting. It is a decision every hunter must make for themselves. It may vary from hunt to hunt, based on local factors, the animal hunted, and rifle caliber used. The one piece of advice I’ll give you about hunting range is to think long and hard about your limitations with a certain weapon. Set your maximum hunting range shorter than the maximum range you practice out to. This gives you a little margin of error. Before you head into the field, have a maximum range in mind and stick to that number. Hunters who start making compromises with themselves tend to end up wounding animals or worse shooting an animal that’s not legal. Going home empty-handed from a hunt is always better than going home knowing you wounded an animal that couldn’t be recovered.