Truth be told, there aren’t many deer hunters who can make a 200-plus-yard shot. There are a number who claim to have done it. There are many who try and fail, and remain quiet. With the long-range calibers and loads available for today’s big game rifles, coupled with the shooting aids on the market, those braggin’ shots at 200 yards are very doable. It requires marksmanship, a little time studying a ballistics table, some time spent practicing on the range, staying cool when the big buck appears and having the right shooting aids with you when you hunt.
Use Enough Rifle
If your deer hunting includes long-range opportunities such as utility rights of way, large fields, new clear cuts, open woods with little under story, etc., you will need a rifle and load capable of delivering at least 1,200 footpounds of energy. That is the needed energy to cleanly take down a rutting buck, out to the distance you plan on shooting. This information is available in the ballistics charts found in ammunition catalogs, online or in reloading manuals. Many rifle calibers from the 6mm up to .300 Win Mag fit into this category. An example is one of the popular deer calibers, the 7mm-08 Rem., which at 200 yards has similar ballistics to the currently popular 6.5 Creedmoor. Shooting the Winchester Deer Season 140-grain Extreme Point bullet, the cartridge delivers well over 1,200 foot-pounds of energy far beyond 200 yards. Its deer killing energy is well 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 you can make the 200-yard shot without having to do a lot of calculating in the field. Using the same 7mm-08 Rem. load, the Winchester catalog ballistics table shows that when sighted in to hit 1.8 inches high at 100 yards, it has zero drop at 200 yards. You can harvest a buck at 200 yards, using good marksmanship, ethically at 200 yards without having to do any math on the stand. As a side note: Don’t let the 1.8-inch-high sight-in at 100 yards trick you into thinking you will shoot over a 10-pointer at 50 yards. Just hold dead on and take him. The higher sight-in doesn’t dramatically change your short-range shooting.
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. In the field or without a firm rest, take a compact set of shooting sticks, cross sticks or mount a bi-pod on your rifle. Practice shooting on the range with your hunting load using a shooting rest until you can make consistent hits out to 200 yards. Practice on a 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 an adjustable shooting rest, get to know it. Having a buck walk across a gas line is no time to learn how your rifle rest works.
Know the Range
My best advice is to get a laser rangefinder, learn how to use it and have it with you when hunting. Before a buck shows up, prerange any points you can see. The rangefinder takes the guesswork out of knowing whether you should take a shot or wait for another day.
Normally, encouraging hunters to take 200- yard shots is not advisable since an inaccurate shot could wound deer. It also scares the deer, possibly causing it to become nocturnal. However, if a hunter can incorporate the information provided into their hunting skills, there is no reason why he or she cannot make those a “braggin’ shot” when it presents itself. As a famous turkey hunter once said, “If’n you done it, it ain’t braggin’.”
The author, right, took this 155-inch 10-point buck at 190 yards in Missouri while hunting on a farm owned by Pat Jenkins, left.
Shots more than 200 yards are difficult at best without a steady support for the rifle.
Once you know the long-range ballistics for your chosen caliber, use that knowledge to sight in your rifle for 200 yards.
“Don’t pull the trigger without knowing the ballistics of your rifle cartridge and the distance to your target.”