Target practice is essential for any shooter or hunter. If long-range hunting is your area of expertise, target practice is especially important to perfect your skills.
Many hunters will simply set off on the hunt without performing any target practice beforehand, but this is a mistake. If you want your hunt to be successful, you need to have plenty of target practice under your belt so you know how to handle and shoot your firearm accurately.
Target practice is especially important for long-range hunting since shooting at a distance is even more challenging.
Handloading During Target Practice
For years I have tested my load developments at 100 yards. After much frustration, wasted time, and money I won’t be doing that again. Whether you hand load or are using factory ammo, shooting at a farther range will be helpful in deciding which ammo you want to use.
If your target is only 100 yards max then testing there is fine, but if you plan to shoot farther it is worth testing at a farther distance.
Load development is handloading or reloading, to get the most accuracy out of your gun that fits your specific need. Handloading is assembling your own components together rather than buying factory ammo at the store.
Handloading has many advantages over buying factory loads. You can fit the overall length of your ammo to your specific rifle and use specific bullet and powder combinations that give you better accuracy. You have control of every component.
Have you ever made several trips to the range or out in the hills and narrowed down a good grouping under 1 inch at 100 yards? A group is 3 or more of the exact same ammo shot from the same distance at the same target. 1-inch groups at 100 yards is also called MOA or Minute of Angle.
You then decide to take some shots at a farther distance. After shooting farther distance your excitement of thinking you finally narrowed down your load turns into major frustration as your group opens up. Of course, it is natural for the group to open up but I am talking from .63 inches at 100 yards to 5 inches at 200 yards.
Everything you have worked up to this point has been a waste, except in crossing off the load you know won’t work.
Now, every rifle and load is different. Some loads that shoot great at 100 will still shoot great at 200, but not all. You don’t know until you try.
Some bullets take a longer distance to stabilize. Rifles have different twist rates, bullets have different bullet coefficients, and different powders produce varied results. There are many factors that contribute but these are a few.
Target Practice Tips for Long-Range Hunting
If you are going to be hunting in a terrain where the animal you are hunting could be farther then 100 yards, why not practice the distance you could possibly be shooting? By shooting at a farther yardage it will also help you to become more comfortable taking longer shots if needed.
In the end, it all depends on where you hunt. Having a range finder is helpful and I range the hills I am hunting most to determine where I want my rifle zeroed in. 250 yards is a pretty average shot but I have shot deer at 400 yards. Zeroing in your rifle means adjusting your crosshairs on your scope, or adjusting your sights, so that your bullet hits exactly where you are aiming.
Many hunters where I live shoot at 100 yards and zero their scope 2-3 inches high at 100 yards but never see what the results are at a farther range. In the end if it works then great, but I am not willing to take that chance.
Shooting at a farther distance also allows you to see more error than you would at 100 yards. If you have two very close groupings at 100 yards take it to 200+ yards it will be easier to tell which group is tighter. I don’t really care what my group size is at 100 yards if it is a good group at 300 yards.
In the end you have to decide for yourself based on your particular needs and the distance to your target.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 4, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.