As with all aspects of shooting, particularly at long range, learning to properly read the wind requires practice and familiarity with the basics.
How can you use natural environmental elements to help read the wind and make adjustments?
- Mirage, which refers to the way light rays are bent due to the heat difference of the ground and the air, can be used, if they’re moving, to help illustrate wind direction and intensity. Read the full article to get a better understanding of how to use Mirage to assess the wind.
- Grass, leaves, tree branches and other flora are good indicators of wind speed and direction. Read the full article to learn how to use these natural clues.
- If you’re hunting in a foreign environment, use a windmeter to measure values and their effects on flora; then, you can estimate wind values at range based on the amount of movement of that particular plant. Read the full article for the benefits of a windmeter.
- Canyons can prove particularly challenging, especially if compound winds are present. Make sure you understand how canyon walls affect wind currents.
Wind is a predictable effect, assuming the values are known and things are constant. Making correct adjustments to overcome those effects — that’s the key to successful shooting.
Read the full article at GunDigest.com for a more detailed explanation of how to use these environmental elements
Special thanks to GunDigest.com for providing this insightful content.
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In this video, former Army Ranger sniper team leader Ryan Cleckner explains how to estimate wind speed, shares a formula for calculating wind drift, and explains how ballistic charts and empirical data gathered at the range can help hunters and target shooters properly compensate for the effects of wind.
Choose the Right BulletOne big, often ignored factor in making long-range shots on big game is terminal ballistics. Far too many hunters pick a cartridge and bullet that are designed for long-range target shooting. The problem in that is that the goal in target shooting is simply to hit the target. When hunting, you must also be able to also dispatch the animal humanely. Long-range target bullets are designed for accuracy and a high ballistic coefficient, which is a measure of atmospheric drag on the bullet in flight. They are not designed for predictable expansion on animals the size of deer and elk. For that you need a hunting bullet, and most hunting bullets will have a minimum impact velocity required to guarantee expansion. Usually, it’s somewhere around 2,000 fps (feet per second), although that can vary from bullet to bullet. Some of my favorite bullet choices for long-range hunting include the Barnes LRX, Nosler Accubond Long Range and the Hornady ELD-X. They are accurate, provide a high ballistic coefficient to retain energy, and will expand and penetrate at long range.
Best Caliber ChoicesThe cartridge must also have sufficient power. The long-accepted rule for hunting cartridges is that the bullet should deliver a minimum of 1,000 foot-pounds (ft-lbs) of energy to the target for deer-size game. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but none apply to long-range hunting. Many of the popular long-range target cartridges drop below both of these thresholds at far shorter distances than you might expect — often at 500 yards or less. The solution is to either pick a more powerful cartridge that can deliver a well-designed bullet with sufficient energy to the target or limit the distance of your shots.
At what distance does long-range shooting begin? In this video, Bryan Litz, Founder and President of Applied Ballistics, LLC, Chief Ballistician at Berger Bullets and champion rifle shooter, defines long-range and extended long-range shooting.
The Shooter's ResponsibilityAnother huge factor in successful long-range hunting is the hunter’s ability to hit the animal’s kill zone every single time. The dirty little secret that many who are promoting long-range hunting keep hidden is how difficult that can be under hunting conditions. Rifles, optics and ammo have improved vastly over the years, and that has extended the ethical distance for shooting at game. What has not changed, however, is the cold, hard truth that you can’t buy skill; you must earn it. Before considering long-range hunting, you should burn a lot of powder to build the skills needed and to determine your MED (maximum ethical distance) to attempt a shot. [caption id="attachment_2594" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Learning to shoot accurately at long range takes practice. Spend time at the range learning to shoot off your pack or shooting sticks to simulate hunting conditions.[/caption] My method is biased to the animal being hunted and sets a tough standard for the shooter. The first step is to determine the distance at which you can hit an eight-inch target every single time you pull the trigger. That means under any weather conditions and from any field position, and not just on a good day or most of the time, but every time. It also means that you can do it when you are cold, wet, miserable, tired, out of breath and stressed. You find your MED number by shooting a lot and by pushing yourself. Go to the shooting range on those nasty days when you would rather stay home. Shoot from the positions you don’t like rather than just practicing what you do well. Try running 50 yards to your rifle, then make the shot when you are breathing hard. It takes a lot of shooting to develop the required skills. The upside is that long-range shooting is a lot of fun. There is a huge difference between a shooter’s ability to hit a target at the range and their ability to humanely dispatch a big-game animal at far distances. Most experienced hunters have learned to control their emotions enough to make the shot, but it’s never 100 percent. Nobody is that stone cold. Once you find the distance at which you can make the shot every single time, subtract 20 percent to allow for the adrenalin and other stress factors when hunting. Long-range shooting is both a physical and a mental game and requires a mastery of rifle shooting skills. Every error you make will be magnified as the distance increases. A wobble of one inch at 100 yards becomes 10 inches at 1,000 yards. [caption id="attachment_2595" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Practice at the range until you find the distance at which you can put all of your shots into an 8-inch group, then subtract 20% of that distance to allow for factors that can affect your shot in the field such as adrenalin or being out of breath.[/caption] It’s important that you be honest with yourself in the evaluation. Your MED will likely be much shorter than you probably expected and no doubt closer than the shots you see other hunters bragging about on the web and TV. Remember, your obligation is to be ethical with the game you are hunting. You are taking a life, and that means something. At least do it right. If you want to test your skill at longer ranges, do it on targets. There is far less heartbreak with a miss on a steel target than if you wound an animal.
Choose the Right RifleThe equipment you choose is important as well. Your rifle must be accurate. The rule of thumb is that a hunting rifle is considered to be very accurate if it can put all the bullets fired into one minute of angle (MOA) which, for practical purposes, equals one inch at 100 yards. For the record, I have tested a lot of factory rifles over 36 years as a professional gun writer. Few can achieve this accuracy mark. For serious long-range hunting, you most likely will need to hire a gunsmith to tune your rifle for accuracy. [caption id="attachment_2596" align="aligncenter" width="650"] An accurate rifle, chambered for a long-range cartridge like the .300 Win. Mag., is critical for long-range hunting. In the author’s opinion, such rifles should be capable of placing all five shots into 1 MOA or one inch at 100 yards every time.[/caption] MOA expands its width with distance. It roughly corresponds to adding an inch for every 100 yards of additional distance. So, at 1,000 yards, one MOA equals 10 inches. That means if your rifle is well tuned and you break the shot with perfect precision, you are only guaranteed to hit a five-inch target at 500 yards. That does not yet include any of the multitude of variables, which can open the group up even more when shooting in hunting conditions. That does not yet include any of the multitude of variables that can open the group up even more when shooting in hunting conditions. For example, if you factor in that one-inch wobble we mentioned, you are now only going to hit a 10-inch target at 500 yards. That’s larger than our eight-inch kill-zone standard for deer (and we have not yet talked about wind or other environmental factors that can affect the shot). In this circumstance, with a one-MOA rifle and allowing for one inch of shooter error, the distance to keep all the shots on an eight-inch target is 400 yards. Already much closer than you expected, right? Better skills and a more accurate rifle can extend that. But, it’s not easy. The alternative is to try the following.
In this video, Former Army Ranger sniper team leader Ryan Cleckner explains the measurement term "minute of angle" (MOA) and how to use MOA adjustments on your scope for sighting in and to compensate for bullet drop at varying distances.
The Long-Range ShortcutIf you shoot a rifle with a modern, high-velocity cartridge and pointed hunting bullets, set your zero for 200 yards and don’t worry about the math. Depending on the cartridge, the bullet will impact one to two inches high at 100 yards and five to eight inches low at 300 yards. For any shot from 100 to 300 yards, simply hold on the critter, perhaps a bit higher for the longer distance, but always on hair (not air), and you will hit the deer. Past 300 yards, it becomes necessary to either hold over or dial up the elevation on your scope. Better yet, simply limit your shots at big game to 300 yards and you’ll be doing the right thing. About the Author Bryce M. Towsley has been writing about guns for 36 years and has published thousands of articles in most of the major firearms magazines. He has hunted all over the world and is a competition shooter in several disciplines. Towsley has several books available on guns, shooting and hunting as well as an adventure novel, "The 14th Reinstated." Signed books are available on his website. Special thanks to StepOutside.org for providing this insightful content.
An article written by Steve Sorensen published in September 2018 on DeerandDeerHunting.com