My all time favorite story about shooting at running game took place before I was born. My dad had a pronghorn tag and was itching to go.
In those days his only hunting rifle was a Savage 99 in .300 Savage. On the wide open ground he was attempting a stalk on a small bunch of ten with two billies and eight nannies.
Being as the eyesight of your average pronghorn is some six times better than the average human, the engaging hunter was busted and in a single file at forty something miles an hour the bunch took off.
Dad, ever confident in his old Savage took aim at the bigger buck running out in front and quickly calculating a lead, squeezed off a shot.
As the lumbering 150 grain bullet made its way across the distance, nine of the 10 antelope ran past, unscathed. The 10th, luckily also a billy, was not so lucky and took the bullet squarely in the heart. Though he was aiming at the first, his bullet hit the last.
For years I struggled to hit running game. But after reading some classic literature and receiving some sage advice I began connecting. There are really three schools of thought regarding shooting at moving game. The first school is to just never do it.
Some I know consider it unsportsmanlike to do so as the chances of merely wounding rather than a quick clean kill go up considerably. There are shots we just shouldn’t attempt, especially on moving game. That being said, it’s up to each of us to decide it’s morality. This should be based solely upon the individual opportunities that present themselves and our own abilities as shooters.
The second school of thought is called the follow through. These folks are primarily shooting birds with shotguns.
Aerial targets are a much different three dimensional dynamic versus a four-legged animal running on the ground. The follow through is very self explanatory, while drawing a bead you follow the expected trajectory of your target with your swinging barrel, but aim where you want to hit and keep following through even after the trigger is pulled and the shot has left the barrel.
The third school of thought is the lead (lead not lead). Leading your moving game animal by a prescribed distance and firing your bullet in front of them so that they both intersect at the exact right moment can be trickier than it sounds. But with practice, you’ll pick it up.
In general the smaller it is and faster the animal moves, the more difficult it will be to hit. And how the animal moves also comes into play. Rabbits hop, deer bound, elk prance, and bears amble.
Some animals are shifty while others run in straight lines. The angle of their escape and whether the shot presented is at the vitals or not must also be evaluated. Don’t mistake me for espousing some Elmer Fudd-esque notion of flinging lead at every come what may shot opportunity. That is foolhardy at best.
The bottom line is, through a lot of practice you’ll develop aspects of all three of the preceding schools of thought. You’ll learn to follow through, to lead and very importantly when to not shoot.
Any tips to share for shooting at running game? Write us at email@example.com!
Dale Valade is a local country gent with a deep love for handloading, hunting and shooting.