Truth be told, there aren’t a lot of deer hunters out there that can make a 200-yard or longer, one-shot kill, with one shot. There are a lot of those who claim to do it. There are a lot who try and fail, and remain quiet. With the long range calibers available for today’s deer rifle coupled with the shooting aids on the market, those braggin’ shots at 200 yards are very doable. It requires shooting skills, a little time studying a ballistics table, some time spent practicing on the range, and having the right shooting aids with you when you hunt.
Use Enough Rifle
If your hunting territory includes long range opportunities such as utility right-of-ways, large fields, new clear cuts, open woods with little under story, etc. then you will want to consider hunting with a rifle and load that is capable of delivering at least 1,200 foot-pounds of energy out to the maximum effective range of the rifle caliber. This information is available in the ballistics charts found in ammunition catalogs or reloading manuals. Most rifle calibers in the .270 Winchester to .300 Rem Ultra Mag fit into this category. An example is one of my favorite calibers, the .280 Remington. On many deer hunts, I shoot the Remington 140 grain Accutip cartridge. If you look in the Remington catalog ballistics chart, the cartridge delivers well over 1,200 foot-pounds of energy, out to 500 yards. The deer killing energy is far beyond the distance a hunter would normally want to shoot.
Sight-in For “No Thinking in the Field Required”
You will want to know where to sight-in your rifle so that you can make the 200 yard plus shot without having to do a lot of calculating in the field. Using the same .280 Remington cartridge, the catalog notes that when sighted in to hit 2.5 inches high at 100 yards, it is 2.1 inches high at 200 yards and just 3.4 inches low at 300 yards. If the rifle is held still enough and there isn’t a strong crosswind, with a good trigger squeeze a buck can be taken at 300 yards without having to do any math on the stand
Use a Rest Every Time
When shooting at long ranges, and close ranges if possible, use a solid rest to support your rifle when you shoot. If you will be sitting in the field or don’t know if you will have a firm rest, take a compact set of shooting sticks or mount a bi-pod on your rifle. Practice shooting on the range with your hunting load, shooting from your shooting sticks or bi-pod until you can make consistent hits out to 200 or 300 yards. Practice on an NRA life-size deer target to put reality into your practice. Remember to exercise good shooting skills such as breath control and trigger squeeze. A good crisp trigger that breaks clean is one of the best assets to have for long range shooting. If you are using adjustable cross sticks get to know them well before you go hunting. Practice getting them set up on the range.
Know the Range
When a huge 8-point buck steps out into a soy bean field just before dark, at an unknown distance, you have little or no landmarks to reference for distance. It is simply a guess as to whether he is 235 yards or 490 yards. To remedy this, my best advice is to get a laser rangefinder, learn how to use it, and have it with you when hunting. It takes the guesswork out of knowing whether you should take a shot or wait for another day.
Normally encouraging hunters to take 200 yard plus shots is not advisable since an inaccurate shot could wound deer making then hard to find or never found. It also scares the deer, possibly causing it to become nocturnal. However, if a hunter can incorporate the information given above into his hunting skills, then there is no reason why he cannot make those braggin’ shots when they present themselves. Finally, as a famous turkey hunter once stated, “If’n you done it, it ain’t braggin”.