Long Range Hunting in the West
By Joe Byers
The wide-open spaces of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain West harbor some of Americas greatest game animals and create incredible hunting challenges and memories among those who pursue them. Long range hunting in the West isn’t a matter of choice, it’s often the only option. Along with savvy strategies, hunters need specific gear to meet the challenge of extended range, including flat shooting rifle, crystal clear scopes, and a host of shooting accessories to enhance accuracy and ethical harvests.
Cartridges that Count
(Image 7) The 30-30 and other straight wall cartridges may have won the West, but they are not preferred hunting rounds in most hunting circles. Magnum calibers such as the 7mm Remington or .300 Win Mag, .30-06 Springfield, .270 Winchester, and the new 6.5 Creedmoor have proven to be standouts at longer range for accuracy and a quick demise.
Most hunting outfitters and cartridge manufacturers recommend a 200-yard zero for Western hunts. For example, here’s data on the 30-06 Springfield from the Hornady ballistic chart: 178-grain ELD-X Bullet
Range Drop (in) Velocity (fps) Energy(ft-lbs.)
200 0 2,496 2,462
300 -7.23 2,372 2,224
400 -20.64 2,252 2,004
This quick ballistic snippet shows that a hunter chasing elk, bear, or mule deer can still aim nearly center of the chest at 300 yards resulting in a heart shot and top-of-the-shoulder aim at 400 yards to strike the vitals with a ton of knock-down power.
Long-range hunting equates bullet strike with caliber performance. Getting the bullet into the vitals is just as important as the cartridge that got it there. Scopes for long-range hunting fall into two basic categories: traditional duplex reticles with Mil or MOA dots and ballistic compensating scopes that allow the shooter to adjust the reticle to account for distance and wind and place the reticle exactly on target.
(Image 6) Both scopes have their place in long range shooting. For the person who will most likely have a brief encounter at 500 yards or less, the traditional duplex such as the TruBrite 30 Tactical 3-9X42 Tactical works well. If a bull elk or big muley buck suddenly steps into an opening, you must determine range, aim the reticle or mil Dot to adjust for drop and windage, and fire- a process that can be done in a second. If the animal runs toward you or away, you increase or decrease hold-over.
Using a ballistic compensating scope, the shooter must determine range, dial that range by turning the rifle turret and aim dead-on. Although this sounds like a precise method, remember that it will occur at a time of great excitement. If the animal moves and you must stalk closer to take a different shot, will you remember the previous adjustments?
Know the Range
(Image 4) Distance to a target is critical to all long-range hunting and shooting without this knowledge is just guessing and unethical. Fortunately, hand-held laser rangefinders such as those from Vortex, Sig Sauer, and Nikon greatly simplify this task as well as adjusting for angle. Mountain hunters must often make steep shots up or down a mountain and these laser rangefinders compensate for that angle and provide exact shooting distances. Team them with a compact pair of binoculars like the TruBrite model and you have a dynamic duo.
Range-finding binoculars are an equally good choice and actually reduce the number of devices needed on a hunt. Generally, these models will be larger in size and significantly more expensive than a two-optic program, yet having the ability to search and range-find in a single operation has great appeal.
Steady that Aim
(Image 5) A solid rest is essential for long-range hunting. Normally, bi-pods come immediately to mind, yet only use them if you are thoroughly familiar with the product. Jim Schell, career Wyoming guide and outfitter views a bi-pod with very mixed emotions. “I have seen guy have easy shots at moderate range, only to watch the animal disappear from sight while the shooter fiddles with the bi-pod,” he says. “Don’t use them unless you practice with them.”
Since most back-country hunters usually carry a daypack, use it to steady your rifle and make that precise shot. Teamed with the prone position, this tactic can be rock solid. Shooting sticks can also be an asset and allow a hunter to fire from a sitting or standing position. In a pinch, use a tree, rock, or other immovable object to prefect the shot.
Control Excitement and Maintain Form
The principles of long-range shooting can quickly be dashed with a heart rate that doubles and the heavy breathing that comes with exertion and big game excitement. Realistic practice is paramount before and during a hunt. Locate your longest shooting range back home and practice there. In the field, pick out rocks, stumps or trees at unknown distances, range, and sight for success. When opportunity knocks for real, you will be ready to take that trophy-of-a-lifetime with the shot-of-a -lifetime.
Hunting Hogs with a Red Dot Sight
by Brad Fitzpatrick
Texas has a pig problem. The state has been plagued for decades with an ever-increasing feral hog population (now estimated at over two million animals) and biologists claim that to stabilize the population sixty-six percent of the feral hog population in Texas would have to be harvested. Each year the damage to crops and property inflicted by pigs in the Lone Star state runs in the millions of dollars.
Think if you don’t live in Texas you’re safe from this creeping tide of invasive hogs? Think again. There are feral hog populations in 39 states and the national population estimate is around six million animals. If there aren’t pigs in your back yard today then you might want to check again tomorrow.
There aren’t a lot of silver linings in the pig population explosion, but if you are a hunter then there are great opportunities to hunt pigs in places like Texas or elsewhere where wild hog populations are growing and causing conflicts with humans and native wildlife. Pig hunts are usually very inexpensive and bag limits and season date restrictions are quite liberal. Plus, they provide great lean meat and you can fill your freezer quickly on a single successful hunt.
More and more hunting products are being designed with hog hunters in mind, and optics are a key consideration when designing your perfect pig hunting rig. Sure, you can hunt pigs with your favorite scoped deer rifle, but high magnification is not always the best option when hunting feral hogs. Oftentimes you’ll find yourself in the midst of a sounder (group) or pigs at relatively close range, and with multiple shot opportunities you’ll need an optic that offers a wide field of view, a clear aiming point and is designed to allow you to take running shots if needed. I’ve hunted pigs in rice fields, in dense semi-arid thorn country, and in driven situations in forests—all very different habitats. But one type of optic works perfectly in all these situations—a robust red dot sight.
One of the best options in this category is TRUGLO’s TRU-TEC 20mm Red Dot sight. For starters, it offers a 20mm objective lens and a 2mm dot, a great setup for hunting with ARs, bolt guns, shotguns, and a variety of other weapons. With unlimited eye relief and a wide field of view you get a clear sight picture for rapid both-eyes-open shooting. In situations where you are taking multiple shots in a hurry this is a great benefit because you can transition from target to target more quickly, maximizing every opportunity that arises to take multiple hogs from a single sounder. Pigs are frequently taken at close range; I’d guess that of all the hogs I’ve taken while still hunting or in stands roughly three-quarters of the shots I’ve taken were at close range in dense cover with multiple shot opportunities. In those situations, the TRU-TEC’s bright red dot allows for maximum awareness and rapid target transition.
The TRUGLO optic’s design is very versatile, and while it lends itself perfectly to those close-quarters shots that are so common you can also stretch your range out effectively to a hundred yards or more. Having a 2 MOA dot gives the TRU-TEC a major advantage because the dot is large enough for rapid shots at running hogs up close but it is also small enough for more precise long-range shooting as well. With the TRU-TEC’s red dot design you also have a huge advantage when hunting at last light since you won’t lose a blackened reticle. Smart old boars have learned that it’s much safer to forage at dawn, dusk, or during the night, and since you can hunt pigs legally around the clock in many areas there are fewer restrictions on shooting hours (although, of course, you must always make absolutely certain of your target). On hunts in both Texas and Oklahoma I had really large boars appear just on the edge of darkness, and a dark reticle can become lost on a dark pig in low light, especially if the shot is rather long. Not so with a red dot. The type of versatility that the TRU-TEC 20mm offers hunters is a big reason that this is an ideal hog hunting optics. If the pigs are close and there are several animals you have a non-magnified optic with a clear aiming point for making multiple shots and there are few better options when you are shooting at a running target. But if that big boar hog slips out at longer range on the edge of darkness you’ve still got an optic that’s up to the task. Having that level of flexibility is vital in a hog hunting optic.
The TRU-TEC’s robust and user-friendly design is also of great benefit when pursuing feral pigs.
There’s an integrated Weaver/Picatinny-style mounting rail included that allows you to quickly and securely affix the optic to your rifle (or switch between rifles, if you choose) and since TRUGLO offers both a low and high mount option with each TRU-TEC sight purchased you can be guaranteed proper eye alignment. A host of other user-friendly features also make this an appealing hog hunting optic. Digital push-button controls with multiple brightness settings allow you to quickly configure the optic as needed for the ambient light conditions, and the auto-on/auto-off feature helps preserve battery life. Speaking of batteries, the TRU-TEC runs on one included 3V-CR2032 battery that has a long life. And if you eventually run that battery down over time it’s easy and affordable to replace. Simple-to-use click windage and elevation adjustments are precise and they allow you to zero your rifle quickly and maintain a constant zero. In addition, the parallax-free design means your eye doesn’t have to be perfectly aligned with the optic for maximum accuracy.
Hogs prefer the safety of very rough cover (especially during daylight hours) so you must choose an optic that is robust and built to stand up to some very harsh elements. The TRU-TEC’s design is waterproof and shockproof and is shock resistant to 1000g. Odds are you won’t need that type of protection against the elements, but it’s certainly nice to know that the optic you are running on your hog gun is durable enough to stand up to the worst conditions. Dense brush can also take a toll on larger optics, and they add unnecessary weight to your rifle. The lightweight, compact TRU-TEC slips through dense cover and doesn’t add a lot of bulk. And with an MSRP of $221 the TRU-TEC 20mm is also one of the most affordable optics that offers this level of performance.
Hog numbers are rising and it’s time for hunters to step in and help control populations. To do so, you’ll need the right weapon with the right optic, and the TRU-TEC from TRUGLO is a versatile, functional, affordable choice. Setting up a hog gun with this sight allows you to extend your hunting season and increase your odds of success. Just make sure that you have plenty of room in the freezer. www.truglo.com
Pheasant Hunting with the Fat•Bead
by Brad Fenson
One of the best things I ever did to improve my wing shooting ability was to take a lesson from OSP Shooting School gurus, Gil and Vicki Ash. The experience turned me from an average shooter into one that pheasants fear.
Keep your head up, both eyes open, watch the target, and know where the end of your shotgun is as you swing it, and keep swinging it. One of the biggest mistakes we make as shotgun enthusiasts is trying to aim a shotgun when it needs to be pointed. The end of your shotgun and bead are a guide but aren’t meant to be your focus point. There are lots of things you can do to help keep the bead in your peripheral vision, as we all know we need to be watching the target.
A larger bead is easy to keep track of and the brighter it is, the more likely you’ll see it under varying light conditions. A TRUGLO Fat Bead could be the difference in you bringing home a limit of birds, or carting a shooting vest full of empty hulls.
A Fat Bead or Fat Bead Universal come in different models to attach to your shotgun. There are distinct size mounting screws to accommodate most shotguns. The large diameter bead has a fiber optic that is .100 inches and stands out like a colorful rooster. The fiber used in the bead is 0.5 inches long, meaning it can gather and emit lots of light and brightness. The fat, bright sight makes your shotgun easier to track while you’re watching birds fly.
Pheasants can be tricky fowl to hit on the wing. They usually rocket straight up out of cover, level off for a brief second, then jet away at breakneck speed. If you can catch them on the momentary pause between leveling off and heading for safer ground, you can usually collect more birds.
Pheasants are masters at using the wind and they often flush into the breeze, turn quickly, and use the Jetstream to carry them away as quick as possible. A crossing shot, on a fast target in the wind, is hard to hit. You need to concentrate on the speed of the bird and keep your gun barrel swinging at the same speed. The old saying, “back, belly, beak—bang!” often describes the swift swing of a trusty smoothbore to anchor your target.
If you have any vision issues or suffer from eyes that are aging, the Fat Bead just might be the quick fix to make you look like an all-star again. It is ideal for a replacement, or a repair, to existing shotgun bead. Whether you enjoy shooting clay targets, upland game birds, or waterfowl, a more visible shotgun bead could help you out. The fiber optics come in green or red and are available in several sizes and diameters. The Fat Bead can only be installed on a shotgun barrel with a ventilated, or solid rib design.
Deer Hunting with Shotgun Slugs
By Brad Fenson
The brisk, frigid wind bit at the exposed skin on my face, but I dare not move. I was waiting on a big whitetail buck to travel along the edge of a wetland and knew movement would mean he’d never expose himself. I’d been hunting the same buck for weeks and thought I finally had him patterned. The minutes turned to hours and just when I thought I wouldn’t be able to stand the cold another second a flash of brown fur caught my eye. It was a deer!
I had to keep my wits about me and not give away my location until it was time to shoot. I could see antlers dancing through tree limbs and knew it was the buck I wanted. Just as he had done several late mornings, the buck trotted out of the tree cover to take a shortcut along the wetland. I stood frozen behind a large aspen tree just 40 yards from where the deer would pass. I slowly started wiggling my mitt off my trigger hand, letting it fall to the ground as I shouldered my shotgun and sent a 12-gauge slug into the vitals of the old buck. I quickly pumped the gun and put a second shot into the deer for assurance.
There was no ground shrinkage on the deer. It was the biggest white-tailed buck I had ever taken and still stands as my largest buck to date. I was hunting an area where slug guns were the firearm of choice. I didn’t feel as though I was at a disadvantage. In fact, having a slug gun likely helped me connect at close range, while the deer was moving. All I remember is the deer turning his head to look in my direction when I dropped my mitt, and boom, it was over.
With the extra seasons and opportunities afforded to slug hunters, I’m not sure why more people haven’t embraced them? It is easy to set up an existing shotgun that is normally used for bird hunting, and prepare it to become your favorite deer slayer. TRUGLO Pro Series Slug Gun sights mount to the rib of any shotgun. There aren’t any magnets or tape, and the sights are properly secured with screws to withstand recoil and heavy hunting rigors.
All-steel construction makes the sights as durable as any shotgun, and once they are mounted, you can adjust the windage and elevation to have your shotgun punching clover leaves on paper. In TRUGLO fashion, the sights have fiber optics to make them bright and easy to see. The dovetail sight makes it easy to settle the front sight for repeatable accuracy. The front sight diameter is .029 inches, and the rear diameter is .035inches.
There are four different models to cover a wide range of shotguns. The only requirement is that your gun has a ventilated, or fixed rib to attach the sights. An Allen key tightens the screws and sights in place for sturdy reliability.
If you’re considering deer hunting with slugs, you should try a Pro Series Slug Gun sight. Chances are you might leave your favorite smoothbore set up for deer season and find a different one to cover your bird interests.
Spot and Stalk Success
By Brad Fenson
We headed to a local reservoir where plenty of mule deer had been spotted in the past. We glassed the shorelines and edges of willow patches and once satisfied we’d seen everything, moved farther down and spotted the next stretch of cover. We no sooner stopped, when I caught sight of antlers sticking out of the grass on the far bank. I was just starting to complain I couldn’t see the antlers properly when two bucks stood and started to feed. It only took a matter of seconds to know I’d be more than happy to put my tag on the bigger one, if I could make it happen.
We sat back and watched the duo feed through our binoculars, as they made their way up the edge of the reservoir, moved into a caragana hedge on an old farmstead, and bedded.
Our stalk began with us traveling about six miles to get around the water and start downwind of the deer. Working back up the edge of the reservoir, keeping out of sight along the shoreline, we covered ground fast. After 900 yards, we slowed down and began to watch every step we took, slipped to within 50 yards of where the buck bedded and started to search for antlers. It didn’t take long, and we located what looked like white sticks moving back and forth at the base of a caragana. Knowing exactly where the deer bedded allowed me to detour around the edge of the shrubs and cut the distance to just 35 yards. I set up in a comfortable position, nocked an arrow and attached my Speed Shot XS BOA release to my D-loop. It was time to sit quietly and wait for the buck to stand.
I held up my bow to look through my APEX sight and knew I’d hold my 30-yard pin a couple of inches high for perfect arrow placement. The fibers were so clear I could see the window my arrow would fly through to avoid branches. We had been sitting and watching for just over 30 minutes when the buck lifted his head and stood up. I drew my bow, placed my sight pin on the vitals and let my arrow go. I watched my arrow fly straight into the deer, making a distinct “whack” sound as it passed through him.
I got on the trail and soon saw antlers sticking up ahead. The buck was the biggest I’d ever taken with archery gear, and it made for an exciting spot-and-stalk experience.
I’ll be back on the trail for a big mule deer buck this fall and already have a new bow set up for the challenge. It’s important to keep all the components light weight on my new Hoyt Carbon Defiant, and the TRUGLO Carbon Hybrid Micro Sight was the perfect candidate.
With Tru-Fusion Hybrid Technology, the Carbon Hybrid offers the best of carbon and aluminum in a single package. It is the first of its kind on the market, and a natural for anyone looking for minimized weight and superior durability. The hybrid technology will help reduce vibration from the bow and ensure durability and dependability, even under the roughest hunting conditions. I like the five-pin sight for western-style hunting, and with a metal pin design with extra long fiber optics, I’ll enjoy the benefit of increased durability and brightness. The extra-long bracket increases sight radius, and the micro-adjustments make it easy to dial in to hit the “X” with every shot.
The mule deer won’t stand a chance this year!