When is a hunter’s shot too far?

There is a difference between what is possible and what should be allowed. When it comes to hunting, the issue may be how far is too far to shoot?

Fair chase is the fundamental ethic of hunting, with the mind and sense of judgment ruling over equipment’s reach. This is especially so in the modern world when technological advancements can provide such an advantage the pursuit of big game may devolve from wilderness experience into nuclear attack.

To a deer or an antelope, the human hunter’s arsenal may well be the equivalent of a nuclear missile. A rifle that can shoot accurately at 1,000 yards or more, aided by telescopic lens or a drone that can locate an animal in heavily wooded terrain, may fit this description.

Not so many years ago, a series of fictional military sniper books made reference to there being only a handful of shooters in the world able to make a kill at 1,000 yards. Things have changed. A few years ago, a hunter in Wyoming shot an antelope at a distance of nearly 2,000 yards. While the shot seemed nearly surreal to some, it also kindled debate on whether such a shot even should be taken. There are many skeptics.

Linnea Petercheff, license and permit supervisor for Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources, said she has not heard of any such long shots being taken in the Hoosier state.

“I think it would be hard in Indiana,” she said of finding the right open space. “Possibly, 1,000. That’s not a recommended shot for hunting.” Even 500 yards can be a stretch. “You have to be able to make sure you can identify the animal (in terms of sex and size) and knowing there’s nothing behind it if you were to miss.”

As in other hunters, cars or occupied dwellings where inadvertent damage could be inflicted.

Companies are always manufacturing new equipment, from rifles to scopes to bullets, trying to entice a buyer into believing he has a better chance for success in the field. Sometimes, though, high tech goes beyond the law’s limits.

The autumn hunting seasons approach for pheasant, coyote and particularly firearms deer season, Nov. 12-27, in Indiana, but not anything goes.

“We do get questions about new items,” Petercheff said, outdoorsmen asking if something is legal or illegal to use on a hunt.

Whether it is hunting or merely shooting, the temptation will always be present to test the limits of new gear. In late September, a team of shooters, again relying on Wyoming’s wide-open spaces, set a new world record for the longest rifle shot. A bullet fired from 4.4 miles away pierced a metal target, taking 24 seconds to arrive. 4.4 miles.

It took many attempts to complete the shot under the guidance of advance spotters. Imagine such technology translated to the world of the sniper. In the movies, snipers engaged for political assassinations are almost always shown close to the scene and are at risk of being caught. This would be more like air-mailing a shot.

In Indiana, drones (and airplanes) are illegal for hunters to use to target animals in the field. The Boone and Crockett Club ruled in 2014 it would not accept any record trophy kill if a drone was used. Never mind a shot whistling through the air for several miles.

From a hunting perspective, it seems inappropriate — and most agree — it is hardly sporting or ethical to shoot at a deer that is a mere speck on the horizon. The record 4.4-mile shot amazes those who hear about it, but who recognize it as a curiosity.

“That is wacko,” said long-time Seymour hunter Rick Zschiedrich.

Now 63, Zschiedrich began hunting in his mid-teens, about 15, and probably never shot a deer at a distance of more than 150 yards.

“You’re not going to be sure of the kill,” he said. “At 500 yards, it’s tough to see what you’re shooting at.”

Fair chase pursuit of free-ranging, wild animals prohibits improper hunter advantages, and perhaps in this era of potential long, long distance shooting can even be taken to mean the animal should be able to see who is shooting at him.