I was looking through an older issue of a popular outdoor magazine the other day and came across an article titled “ Going Long,” subtitled “What it takes for long range hunting.” Immediately my mind shifted into gear and visions of pack frames, hiking boots, down vests, a lightweight tarp, rainproof light jacket, low-temp-rated sleeping bags and other, backpacking appropriate, hunting paraphernalia scooted through my memory channels. The things that used to accompany me on my solo, long-range hunts back in the day.
Wrong time and wrong article – my bad. This one was about how to shoot long distances at big game. In other words, it was about shooting (always a favorite subject) and not about hunting, which can be very different.
To begin with, an argument can be made that ethics and morality are what are convenient for a person at the time. That’s not so. In a civilized society these predicated and regulated behavioral expectations are a major contributor to what behaviors are supposed make us civilized. It’s sort of why we have referees and umpires in sports games, to keep the playing field level, maintain order and penalize those whose egos enable them to think the rules don’t apply to them.
There are also guides and big game outfitters who encourage these long range executions and, while some readers think I don’t respect those folks who guide clients for big game, they are wrong. But I do have definite thoughts on the subject after over 60 years of bumping heads with some of them.
There are guides and outfitters whose sole purpose in life is to relieve paying sports of their bank roll with little concern for the outcome of the hunt. Let’s say maybe 50% of the field are so inclined by their extreme commercialistic nature. Call it greed or laziness.
The other 50%, the honest big game guides and the outfitters they work for, actually try to find good animals for their clients and will bust their butts to do that. Yet, given the nature of the blood sports, many times these good folks simply strike out through no fault of their own.
My personal feelings are that, with an occasional exception, when hunters fill a tag on a guided hunt, the credit for the trophy from that hunt in all honesty belongs to their guide. The exception would be when the paying sport is actually an experienced hunter in his or her own right and has only hired a guide or outfitter because of the constraints of law or because they are hunting a species new to them or are hunting in a country unfamiliar to them, but through personal effort have contributed significantly to the hunt, camp life and routine.
If all the hunter did was squeeze the trigger after the guide located the animal and lined up the shot for the sport, its acquisition was not due to the client’s hunting expertise. That they “harvested” an animal doesn’t make them a hunter in the true sense of the word and the credit for the kill simply isn’t theirs. The exception is hound hunting and big cats, or bears. In which case the credit for the trophy belongs to the hounds and the hunter can claim an endurance trophy.
Conversely, for a shooter to claim to be a hunter simply because he tagged an animal, even on a do-it-yourself style hunt, at the obscene ranges currently endorsed by the kill videos on TV these days is absurd. Especially when using tools capable of hitting 12-inch metal targets 2,000 yards away. For those tools and distances to be used in the killing of big game animals and be referred to as hunting is lame.
Don’t read me wrong here. As a former long-distance competitor, I have nothing but admiration for the shooters who can consistently and, on demand, shoot like that. Like practiced fly fishermen, it’s a skillset not easily achieved, even when you can afford the very best in equipment. But while fly flingers can occasionally catch notably oversized fish with their skillset, the challenge is still up close and personal. Perhaps even more so than for bobber bouncers. However, for shooters to use their technical firearm expertise at extreme long range for big-game hunting is just wrong.
Let’s agree that I’m a crotchety old curmudgeon and opinionated in the extreme. Hunting is like a religion to me and when opportunists bend the rules and the ethics of fair chase, I get a tad upset. In the last 60 years I have hunted big and small game, including dangerous game, with archery tackle, traditional muzzleloaders and handguns. Through the years I have also used a variety of rimfire and centerfire rifles from the modern to the obsolete and ranging from very affordable, albeit well-used, military surplus to modern commercial offerings.
I have killed in fair chase not just dozens of critters, not simply scores of critters, but hundreds of animals of all sizes, shapes and temperaments over my lifetime. I lost track of just the deer after that number passed into the hundreds. And yes, while they were all legal, admittedly on rare occasion that line was thin. Regardless, all of them wound up as groceries, excepting those considered vermin.
So try to understand when I say that this new trend toward outdoor writers endorsing 1,000-yard-plus killing of game animals, while currently legal, in my mind disrespects not only the animals, but the tradition and intent of traditional hunting. It also disrespects those hunters out there busting their butts trying to do it in a semi-traditional manner.
To be more precise in my evaluation of this “modern” hunting technique, I feel those who kill big game animals at extreme long ranges are little more than proficient firearms technicians assisted by a host of advanced technological equipment without the use of which they wouldn’t even be able to consistently hit a baseball balanced on a fence post at 300 yards. They’re really not true riflemen and I definitely don’t consider them hunters.
I was taught, mistakenly now perhaps, but appropriate for the times I grew up in, that hunting was a one-on-one challenge that pitted your skills as a hunter against certain select game animals and their survival senses and evasion skills. Thank you, Jack Lee.
However, if the kill is the sole intent and the total focus of your field experiences, and you disrespect both the commonly accepted ethics of the hunt and the tradition of it, why not simply go to a high-fence hunting operation and kill one of those semi-domesticated genetic mutants they call deer? You can shoot one at long range while they’re feeding at their regular feeding station and call yourself a hunter, just like on TV.
You can even have the head of that absolute hog of a deer or elk you executed at 1,200 yards mounted and hung on your wall. To me it wouldn’t be nearly as impressive as a steel target you put a ten shot, eight inch group on at 2,000 yards though. Just saying.