When in a hunting situation, have you ever missed a perfect shot because you took the time to use your rangefinder to get an exact reading of distance?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe every hunter should take as much time as needed to insure a perfect shot at long range that results in a humane kill on any animal, but there are times the situation where the use of your range finder might not be practical for several reasons.
In rifle competitions, time is always a factor in who wins and who doesn’t. Taking too much time to prepare for the shots is the enemy to being successful and winning or placing higher in these matches.
When hunting or competing with a rim fire rifle it is definitely possible to estimate distance to the target using your eyes and your brain when you can’t access your range finder and the distance is unknown. Especially within 200 – 300 yards which is our effective range.
Now using your estimation skills may not work if you are shooting golf balls at beyond 100 yards but this skill is definitely worth developing for any long range rifleman. It will make you accurate enough to place a shot in a normal sized kill zone or target, and do it very quickly in comparison.
One single method of range estimation below will never be perfect and produce some shots that are close and others that are way off. When several methods are combined and agree, you will be surprised at how close you can place that shot to the center of the target.
We will discuss the methods below used by both professional shooters and experienced hunters alike.
The known distance method
One practice successful hunters use whether hunting with a bow, rim fire rifle, or big bore rifle, is to range an obvious target before beginning the hunt or the match. Having a known distance within the firing range makes it easy to compare differences in distance to other targets.
Knowing ahead of time that a specific tree is 120 yards or the distance between two objects in the field of view is 50 yards gives you and advantage.
The bracketing method
This method requires the shooter to guess a distance that the target can’t be more than, then guess the distance the target can’t be less than. The middle point between these two number will usually be surprisingly close and usually works well with a normal sized kill zone.
The short distance method
Most hunters / shooters are practiced and pretty adept at estimating a distance up close. Any bowhunter an estimate a target a 20 yards within a yard or so. Most rifle shooters can accurately estimate 50 or 100 yards. They are accustomed to seeing targets at these distances when they are zeroing or practicing.
Find a target that is at your most familiar distance and then estimate how many of those targets will fit within the distance to the actual target.
None of these methods will put you on target when shooting golf balls at 200 yards but they will get you surprisingly close. When used in conjuction with each other, you will be shocked at how good you can become at estimating distances.
How to improve your distance estimating ability
Estimating distance accurately is not something most people ever practice. In some areas of the country, especially in the east, most areas, because of topography and forests, don’t have a view of more than 200 yards but there are some things you can do almost anywhere to help you improve your ability to judge distance.
If you play golf, you will have the opportunity on every hole to actually see what 200 – 500 yards looks like. Most courses have yardage markers in the fairways giving the distance to the pin. This is an excellent opportunity to begin to train your mind’s eye.
Once you begin to focus on distance you’ll quickly be surprised at fast you improve. If golf is not your style, there are competitions you can become involved with like the NRL 22 matches or just matches at your local gun club.
Even 3d archery competitions will help you develop distance estimation skills within 75 yards or so. If you have a scope that allows you to use the MOA markings or Mildots to estimate range you are in business, just know that this requires a certain amount of skill and practice in order to become efficient.
Just like anything else you want to be good at doing. Really, opportunities to practice are every where. Having a good range finder, and they don’t have to be expensive, will help you verify your estimation skills anywhere anytime.