Historically hunting has been referred to as a sport and hunters dubbed sportsmen. As with all sports, there is a certain expectation of behavior to include things such as fairness, ethics, and morals. Since the act of hunting involves taking the life of an animal, it is only natural to expect those engaged in a hunt to operate in a manner that encompasses all of these behaviors. However, that is not always the case when it comes to long range shooting.
We currently live in a day and age where long range shooting is being thrust upon us. Manufacturers are steadily releasing the next hot item thing that promises all things bigger and better. Whether it is a rifle or cartridge, items are being developed with increased long range capability to encourage hunters to take a risky shot they might not have ordinarily pursued. Whether that shot will be a success is somewhat dependent on this type of new, fancy equipment, but in the end there are still traditional variables in place that could make or break it. You still have to have good aim, good conditions, and the like in order to make a shot and even then your shot may not connect as you intended. It is because of possibilities such as this that long range shooting is frequently being debated from an ethical standpoint.
Photo: Indefinitely Wild
To determine what qualifies as an ethical long range shot cannot be done by simply naming a distance. Variables exist which firmly place the decision to shoot or not shoot on the shoulders of the hunter and again, since hunters are sportsmen, it is all about the level playing field. Is the shot going to be well-placed with the certainty of achieving a kill or is it instead likely to only wound? Shots that wound are potentially inhumane, making for difficult tracking and animals that may never be found, suffering for days or weeks and ultimately amounting to waste.
Instead of giving in to the temptation of a questionable shot regardless of the gear you've purchased to enable doing so, ethics suggest that we engage in the sport of hunting by stalking game until you are certain of your ability to achieve a kill that is clean and humane. After all, no one ever said that you are entitled to bring a deer home each time you set out on a hunt. There are no guarantees of a kill on any given day, but an ethical hunter is one who pursues their whitetail trophy by overcoming the animal's senses and not being detected. This means that there are days in which your hunting efforts will fail, but failure is a learning tool that should be used to better yourself and your skills rather than encouraging you to perch in a treestand, aiming at a trophy buck you can barely see from several hundred yards away in dense foliage.
The point to consider when taking a long range shot is the likelihood that it will be effective in getting the job done. We've all heard stories of hunter taking down whitetails at respectable distances and hoped to have impressive stories of our own to someday share. However, the bottom line is that the story you want to share is one of an effective, clean, humane kill rather than one of how you spent hours pursuing a deer only to never find it but then stumbled across a dead and bloated deer carcass two weeks later. Just because the behavior of whitetail deer is sometimes unpredictable and erratic does not mean the behavior of the hunter should be the same; striving for the best shot possible is what makes us all better hunters at the end of the day.
How do you feel about all the long range technology on the market these days? Do you have a yardage limit what you consider a reasonable, worthwhile shot? Tell us about it in the comments.