Thursday, 5 March 2009

Hunting Fieldcraft: Mapping your shoot

I find estimating distances in the field to be really tricky. I've missed a few shots recently where - when I've thought them over to see what went wrong and paced out the distance of the shot afterwards - it's become clear that, on most occasions, what's happened is that I've just been plain bad at figuring out the distance. The worst one recently was where I was suddenly confronted with a rabbit at close range through the scope and I decided to aim the shot via the '20 yard' spot in the reticule. The shot did not do the job and, when I put the rifle down it was obvious why: the rabbit was closer to ten yards than it was to twenty. Which has shamed me, really, into making more of an effort about this.

In order to try and get better, I've done some walking around where I'll pick an object which I guess is 30 yards away and then I'll pace up to it to see how close my guess was. Doing this over and over again does seem to build up the ability to assess distance more accurately - but I really do need to do this a lot more, since my skills at this are so poor.

In an attempt to sidestep this difficulty for the meantime I've taken to learning some fixed distances around my shoot. I've found a few spots to lie low in the fields where I've previously measured the distance from my hidey-hole to the nearby rabbit holes. I've illustrated one in the photo above (please click on it to see an enlarged image) : I know that this distance - from the hole in the fence (where I lie) across the next field to the burrows at the base of the fence there - is thirty yards. So if a rabbit - after it has sat on the lip of its burrow, as they often seem to, and sniffed for a few minutes to see that there's no obvious danger a-foot - hops a few yards away to start feeding then I can at least reckon on being able to work out their actual distance from a point which I know to be true. If the rabbit hops five yards towards me, say, then I know - at least in principle - that to aim at the mid-point between the 20 and the 30 yard points in the scope reticule will not be wildly inaccurate.


  1. Interesting blog :)

    I wonder if you could put some small white stakes in the ground at 5 yard intervals. The rabbits won't mind and it'd save on guesswork...

  2. The rabbits, I think you're right, wouldn't mind too much; the farmer - whose beef cattle roam up and down this field - well, he might just think differently. I certainly don't want to lose this shoot, so I'm keen to keep a low profile, otherwise I'd paint a five meter grid over the whole farm. That being said, I've certainly propped the odd bit of a branch by a fence at one 30-yard point from another hidey-hole.
    Whatever works, really...