Ranging the Range

By Hubert Townsend

Since hunting season is closed and the prairie rats are in semi-hibernation, this is an excellent time to improve one’s ability to determine the distance to a target.

The bullet has a trajectory that drops off rapidly after 200 yards. For the popular deer and antelope rifle in .243 and .270 calibers, if one sights them in to be dead on at 200 yards, the bullet will hit about 8 inches low at 300 yards and a whopping 19 inches lower at 400. And three feet at 500!

Clearly, if the hunter wishes to make a clean kill at long distance s/he needs to know the range and compensate accordingly by adjusting the sights/scope or holding high the necessary amount. But how to know the difference between long ranges?

Get some cardboard and draw a target with the exact dimensions of your intended game animal. Then take it out and set it up at known ranges you have walked off. Now look at it through your sights/scope and see how it looks at the various distances.

How much of the front sight does it cover? Or how much of the body is covered by the scope’s reticle? Write the info down, or maybe even draw a simple picture and tape it to your butt stock. And then shoot a few rounds at these distances to confirm where your rifle hits.

To practice for the All Army long distance matches I use a mil-dot scope. I know from putting targets of Fred the Rat out at known distances that if he takes up two mils in my scope that he is at 100 yards and if only a half mil, then the range is 300.

I highly recommend the mil-dot scopes for any hunter who has the marksmanship ability to shoot at long ranges accurately. Proper usage will effect a clean kill.

The shooter can find easy to understand instructions for determining ranging with mil-dot scopes by googling up “mil-dot scope gooch”. The “gooch” is for Warrant Officer Kent Gooch, a long time sniper instructor and competitive shooter.

Practicing ranging skill can pay off for the hunter who would otherwise miss a shot. Long ago, before I was knowledgeable in ranging, I took a shot at a coyote with my Remington 7mm magnum rifle. It was very cold and the meadow was blanketed with snow. I guessed the coyote was 300 yards away and held the crosshairs 4 inches above the back, knowing the bullet would shoot 8 inches lower. I was shocked to see snow kick up at the animal’s feet. Walking out the distance determined the actual range was 440yards. The bullet hit exactly where it should have for that distance and I was out $70 worth of prime pelt at that time.

Knowledge is truly power (and money) when it comes to hunting.

To find your bullet’s trajectory there are a number of resources online. Try Federal Ballistics and see how your favorite caliber shoots at various distances.

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