NBS Outdoor Fall Issue 2020

Long Range Buck Even the ones that get away make for lasting memories

By Mike Marsh

that got away” don’t happen again. I’ll never forget that morning, Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, 1980. Since then, I’ve made a career of hunting and shooting. But, while deer hunters today have ample opportunities, I came from a place and time with no deer. I grew up in Greensboro, N.C., in the middle of the state; the state’s middle 60 counties had no deer I started handloading for a Savage Model 340 bolt-action in .222 Rem. when I was 14. I targeted crows and squirrels and shot many crows at 300-plus yards. I had also handloaded ammo for the Winchester 670. At age 27, I should have been able to pull off that long shot at a target as big as a whitetail. In retrospect, I now know that three things matter most when it comes to long range shooting — equipment, conditions, and skills. season. Instead, I hunted varmints and small game.

Equipment. Any modern centerfire rifle chambered for an appropriate caliber is suitable for taking a deer at ranges of 400 feet or more. While discussions can grow heated over which caliber and rifle are best, any hunter who possesses a rifle that fires a bullet of 100 grains or more at a velocity approaching or exceeding 3,000 feet per second has enough gun to do the job. Examples of excellent long-range deer cartridges include .260 Rem., .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., and .30-06 Springfield, but there are many others. Generally, bolt-action rifles are the most accurate, but I’ve seen experts take deer running ahead of dogs at ranges of several of yards, shooting offhand across agricultural fields and clear-cuts with semi-automatic rifles. Therefore, action type is not so important. What is important is accuracy.

The elliptical depression in the grainy soil of a coastal North Carolina sandhill told the story. My heart was still thumping from both the adrenaline rush of taking the shot and climbing down from a tree stand to walk 325 yards to the location of the bullet strike. Digging until the sand compacted so hard beneath my fingernails it hurt, I uncovered the 165-grain Hornady Interlock bullet fired from my Winchester Model 670 bolt-action .30-06. I found running tracks in the sand, but no blood or hair. The shot had missed the biggest buck I’d ever seen while I was hunting. It was emotionally devastating. I’ve since come to believe that misses, rather than hits, make us improve at our sport. Missed opportunities translate into upping your game to make sure bitter memories of “the one

• NBS OUTDOOR • 29

Fall 2020

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