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The 700 yard shot and ethical hunting

I’ve been pondering this. (Note that I’m NOT currently a deer hunter. Happy to try my hand at it in the future…)

Allow me to summarize: Someone – a young woman, although really that part matters hardly at all – shot and killed a deer at around 700 yards. Some people I know say this is laudable and super-amazing, and yet others I know think it is somewhat irresponsible because the chances of merely wounding the deer, rather than killing it, were too high. (No links or quotes becuase the places I’ve seen these thoughts are private forums and I respect that.)

700 yards at a deer is a hard shot. It’s not technically super-hard under target-shooting conditions. I can, on a good day, hit “minute of deer” at 700 yards. I will be trying for that as a minimum, aiming for minute-of-boomer at 700, yards next w’end. The target is 7 x 7 inches, which is arond a 1 MOA target, and seems like it ought to be about minute of deer. My stretch goal for next w’end is minute-of-coin at 700 yards, which goes from just hard, to very very hard (and, some want to argue, really just merely lucky… but I don’t believe in luck).

But it is hard because it’s hunting, and if you miss a killing shot it’s bad. Missing a boomer or paper or coin at that range is just an oh-damn experience, miss the vitals on a deer at 700 yards and it all goes to hell for you and the deer.

This young woman did exhibit self-control and was responsible, in that she controlled the shot to the degree neccesary to cleanly kill an animal. Snipers do this to people for a living, and they aren’t irresponsible. People who hunt Dalls sheep often have to take longgggg shots too.

If she took other long-range shots at other times that wounded an animal, well that that would likely add up to irresponsibility, but we don’t know that.

Let’s assume for a second that she’s a total natural. She can always take deer at that range with the same kind of certaintly as an extremely good stalker, but barely mediocre shot, can at 20 yards. Just like the stalker, she won’t pull the trigger if she can’t take the shot. They both have 100 talent points to spend on hunting, she spends 80 on shooting, the stalker spends 80 on stalking… all good.

If that’s true, then why doesn’t she deserve the same “good job” as someone who runs a deer down on foot and slits its throat – which, near as I can tell, is probably the hardest method of hunting a non-predator for a human?

Aside: That, or hunting boar with a spear… I think it’s probably a toss up as it relates to the sum total of how choose to spend those 100 points of skill, technique, and training. I don’t know how they funnel the boar in those spear hunts. If they run them with dogs until they are too tired to move and then just stab them, well that doesn’t seem terribly hard. But me, a spear, one dog and boar – that is tough…

She took a technically difficult shot and dropped the animal. She didn’t do this to minimize the risk to the lowest possible degree, but she did succeed at the most central and consistent pieces of what I consider to be ethical hunting:

  • she killed an animal
  • it didn’t suffer
  • she touched the animal after it was dead
  • somebody ate the meat

There are all sorts of ways to hunt, and frankly many of them attempt to make the experience “more fair” to the animal, or just harder for the hunter. But we are humans and so we rarely make it “fair”. If it was truly fair then we’d call it attempted suicide.

Bow and black-powder hunting both increase the chances of a non-killing hit and so the responsible and ethical hunter who practices these forms of hunting does all sorts of things to minimize the risk of a wound and not a kill…

…but it’s still clearly going to be statistically riskier because it’s just downright harder to do for the human hunter. If it was just about killing, and not about hunting, we’d probably do it quite differently, but we don’t for a number of reasons, not the least of which because the un-regulated killing of animals by modern man has a habit of driving species to extinction.

So I say: Congratulations and good hunting! May every one of your future hunting trigger-pulls have such a clear outcome.

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2 thoughts on “The 700 yard shot and ethical hunting

  1. For me it is ethical hunting if the following standards are met:
    Legal
    Safe
    clean kill
    utilized
    elements of fair chase
    There is this interesting tension between erecting barriers to make the outcome of the hunt harder (and longer) and the ethic of clean, one shot kills. Finding balance between these two good things adds to the excitement of the hunt. It also defies easy answers or pat formulas. Every hunter’s skill is different, therefor the balance point will be different. Fortunately, because the enjoyment of the hunt is in the hunt not the kill, you can always pass on the iffy shot and still have a great day in the field!

  2. JoeSnow says:

    It’s not hunting at 700 yards, it’s sniping. Hunting involves an element of risk that the animal you are hunting will either escape or turn on you causing you a serious injury or death. From 700 yards, the animal is totally unaware that it is being hunted and has no chance of escaping from what it cannot see, hear or smell. It also has no chance to fight to back, if that is what it would normally do instead of fleeing. Sniping at animals from long distances is dishonorable. It brings shame on the “hunter”, not glory. The stalker takes on those risks, the sniper does not. Sniping is sometimes necessary in war, but it is a shameful act of cowardice when it is applied to animals.

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