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Do Snipers Violate the Spirit of ‘Fair Chase’?

Do Snipers Violate the Spirit of ‘Fair Chase’?

We stumbled across a story in the Wall Street Journal from a while back that asks an interesting question: Do long-range shooting systems violate the spirit of fair chase? 


The answer to that question – and the debate surrounding it -- is the crux of what the Journal dubbed “Hunting’s Newest Controversy: Snipers.”


The piece takes a look at long-range sighting systems such as Gunwerks and TrackingPoint and the growing market share they represent. Gunwerks founder Aaron Davidson told reporter Kevin Helliker that 5 percent of America’s 14 million rifle users is using long-range systems that enable shooters to take down a target up to a mile away.


From the story:


In this ancient American sport, the newest thing is a long-range-shooting system that measures distance, determines wind effect and fires high-powered ammunition. These systems turn hunters into snipers by taking the guesswork out of calculating the effects of gravity and wind on a bullet traveling as far as a mile…

But as if big-game hunting weren’t controversial enough, many of the sport’s own practitioners disapprove of long-range hunting, calling it a violation of a tradition known as fair chase. Getting close to a deer or elk requires stealth and patience. Within 300 yards, the snap of a twig or sudden shift in wind can alert a wild animal that danger is near, sending it under cover. For the hunter, evading a wild animal’s exquisite senses can be one of the greatest thrills of the sport.

Field & Stream’s David Petzal believes long-range shooting deprives animals of a fighting chance.  “If you shoot at an animal from 500 yards or farther, you’re depriving him of his tools. You negate his eyesight and his hearing and his sense of smell,” he told Helliker.

“If you practice it ethically, most of the time you won’t succeed. I’m talking about two to three weeks up and down mountains year after year with nothing to show for it.”

Boone & Crockett, the organization that formally introduced the fair chase concept to the North American hunting scene, issued a 2014 statement on long-range shooting. It said the practice “takes unfair advantage of the game animal, effectively eliminates the natural capacity of an animal to use its senses and instincts to detect danger, and demeans the hunter/prey relationship in a way that diminishes the importance and relevance of the animal and the hunt.”


In closing, the article notes one simple factor that could limit the growth of long-range shooting: cost. “While a conventional deer rifle can be bought for a few hundred dollars, these ultra-sophisticated rifles and shooting systems can cost a few thousand dollars up to nearly $25,000.”


Jul 9, 2018 -

Interesting stuff. Read the full story at WSJ.com.

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