I had the privilege of participating in an adult-mentored hunt organized by the Texas Wildlife Association. The program itself is amazing. The goal is to get more adults interested in hunting which will likely lead to passing down the hunting heritage to the youth. It really is a genius idea and a wonderful program.
I learned a great deal – from properly identifying game to field dressing and quartering harvested game. We also learned about safety and the role ethical and legal hunting plays in wildlife conservation. I would highly recommend this program to any adult interested (even mildly curious) in hunting and unsure on how to get started.
Outside of the program, I was humbled after being the victim of my own success. I’m speaking in reference to successfully harvesting my first deer not long ago (three weeks between hunts to be precise). After that initial harvest, I was confident I could place a shot in the vitals given an opportunity – and a single opportunity to take a Sika doe presented itself. I took that opportunity and I missed. A clean miss. I could not believe it.
So what went wrong?
Well, first off I used a different weapon system. In this case, I used a Daniel Defense DD5V1 rifle with a Trijicon AccuPoint scope. The ammunition used was Federal’s .308 Winchester 150gr Fusion MSR. The scope zero was confirmed at 100 yards. However, the best groups I was able to get with this rifle and ammo combination measured just under 2″ at a hundred yards. While I was unhappy with that performance, I chalked it up to a bad day at the range and called it.
Zero was reconfirmed the day before the hunt. However, my group wasn’t much better. I should have probably known at that point that it was likely more the rifle and ammo combo performance than me. But I was too eager for the hunt and there was no time to make a change. So I carried on. I was also fairly confident there would be little to no chance of being presented with an opportunity where a longer than 100 yard shot would be required. These conclusions were the result of over confidence from my prior success.
I miss judged the distance on the opportunity that presented itself. I estimated the distance to be about 100 yards plus or minus 15 yards. Afterwards, a range finder revealed the shot was most likely 165 yards. This means my 2″ inch group would be closer to a 3″ inch group. Adding a 1″ drop on the bullet trajectory at that distance that I failed to compensate for results in about up to 4″ deviation from my point of aim. That’s enough to miss the vital zone. Add a little adrenaline to the situation and well the result was a clean miss.
After taking the shot, I was about 95% certain it was a hit. I was also sure I pulled the shot a bit. Either way, we hiked from the blind to the area where the Sika was and found no evidence of a hit. We tracked for a little over an hour in near freezing conditions and left confident the shot was a clean miss. There was no blood or other trail signs indicating to distress from an injury.
A very important lesson to be learned here. Over confidence is not your friend; especially in situations where you may only get one shot. Take the time to find ammunition that works well with the rifle you will be using. I would suggest taking a trip to your local sporting goods store and buying several different (as many as you can afford) types of hunting ammunition for your rifle to test at the range. Pick the best performing one, zero the rifle for that ammunition, and stop at the sporting goods store afterwards to pick up a few more boxes. Frankly, I know I’m capable of sub 1″ groups with a specific type of match grade ammunition with that rifle at 100 yards. I should have never been okay with nearly 2″ groups.
One last thing. I don’t know if this is a good idea or not (I’d love to hear your feedback on it), but the sight height on an AR platform rifle is about 2.6″ inches (in comparison to 1.5″ for traditional bolt action rifles). Knowing this it may not be a bad idea to aim just a hair high of the center of the vital zones when using a 100-yard zero. Since the shot will never be higher than the point of aim on a 100-yard zero, this could add a little fudge factor for a vital zone hit when the estimated target distance is about 100 yards.