The editor shares his results from a winter’s-worth of hunting data
As regular readers might remember, at the beginning of last winter I had the idea to log important data about every hunting shot I took for the following months. It’s during this period of the year that I’m most active with my duties as grey-squirrel controller on a busy pheasant shoot. Of course, I’m always happy to bag a pigeon for the pot and to reduce the corvid population as the chance presents, but the squirrels are the gamekeeper’s enemy number one.
My plan was to use my laser rangefinder to measure the distance and angle of every shot taken, hit or miss, so that I could learn two vital pieces of information. The first was the average distance, which would then allow me to set my parallax adjuster to that range as my default. This was a question that I’d long pondered, so I hoped this exercise would give me a good, solid answer. Clearly, I would adjust the parallax setting for specific situations like ratting inside a barn, but for general ‘walking around’ type shooting, I choose a setting as I leave the car and hope it works; 27 yards was my default until now, but was that optimum?
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
The next piece of data I wanted was the upward angles, so that I could learn more about the hold-under needed. Perhaps now would be a good time to explain what happens to a pellet that’s fired upwards. It will hit high. Sorry, was that too simple an explanation? Okay – it will hit higher than if it was shot horizontally because as it flies upwards, some of its kinetic energy is consumed in countering gravity. The pellet’s power overcomes the earth’s downward pull, in other words.
You might have gathered by now that I like to understand what makes shots work or fail, and that I’ll use any information I can to become more successful and humane, but because I like to know the true facts, I resist standardised theories. If somebody says, “My mate down the pub told me,” I’m afraid I’m going to assume it’s wrong until I can prove it for myself. The reality is that few airgunners outside the competition world know much, if anything, about airgun ballistics and relying on ‘old Burt’ for your scientific
data doesn’t work for me. Now, Terry Doe, Editor in Chief of our magazines, isn’t ‘old Burt’, but when he told me that he gives a ½” of hold under for ANY serious upwards shot, I struggled to accept it. Surely the variables would dictate a greater range of corrections than that?
This is where I think we collide with the human experience. When we see a squirrel high in a tree, we think, ‘ Wow, that’s high’, but actually most trees don’t usually grow very tall. When a squirrel is the treetops, it often feels safe and allows us to get close. What I’m trying to relate is, as they get higher, we get closer, and so the calculation of our pellet’s trajectory is a case of swings and roundabouts. Could it be possible that the old rule of thumb of ½” under for everything works? As much as I resisted the possibility, the numbers I’d collected over the months were there in black and white to tell the truth - that Terry’s system works.
From 128 shots I learned that my average distance was 22 yards and that the average hold under needed was - 0.38”. If you shoot well enough in real-world conditions to worry about 0.12”, then you’re a better shot than me, and you need to apply for a position on our Olympic team tomorrow. My data says very clearly that the ½” hold under rule will work almost all the time, apart from in extreme conditions. I also learned that I’d over- estimated just how far away my average shot was, which is very important. Parallax error is at its worst at closer ranges, so by resetting my adjuster to 22 yards I’d be reducing this infuriating and invisible problem.
Perhaps you feel that I’m splitting hairs or being overly analytical, but I disagree. Knowledge is power and ignorance is not bliss. Any time I miss, I feel huge frustration. All the work put into spotting quarry, stalking in and planning a shot could be completely wasted if the mental calculation of your ‘shot solution’ was misinformed. If you were aiming in the wrong place for a lack of correct information, well, then you deserved to miss. Ours is a technical sport and to succeed we need good data to work from. Looking back on my many failings as a young hunter, I cringe at just how little I knew and I’m not surprised at my lack of success. Luckily, today we have excellent data at our fingertips and precise shot placement is there for the taking.
“My plan was to use my laser rangefinder to measure the distance and angle of every shot taken”
Bracing against a sturdy tree makes for a very stable shooting position
Positional training has shown that the aim point that works on flat ground won’t work shooting steeply upwards
My rangefinder displays the angle of the shot and distance
I noted the range and angle of every shot I fired for months
I’ll use any position that helps me aim precisely