Boost Your Big Game Range

By Jace Bauserman

Terminal Ascent packging with shoot target

The spotter didn’t know what to say as he watched bullets kick up dust around the pronghorn buck 836 yards away. “High. Left. High. I’m not sure.” I didn’t know what to think, either. I’d never seen someone attempt a shot at the distance. However, for three solid days prior to this moment, I’d heard the shooter rave about his 1,000-yard rifle setup. The weird thing: Upon arriving at camp, he didn’t want to send a single round downrange.

Since that rodeo, I’ve accompanied lots of shooters looking to harvest a big-game animal at ranges beyond 500 yards. I’ve seen some miraculous one-shot kills. I’ve also seen plenty of the above-mentioned shooting. What separates the two? Lots. Mostly, though, true long-range lung-busters know their system like the back of their hand, practice often and work tirelessly to hone their shooting abilities to complement what their rifle, scope and ammo combo is capable of.

Time On The Bench

“Nothing trumps practice,” says my buddy and long-range rifle guru Jason Weaver, who I watched make a 763-yard shot on a public-land bull elk during the fall of 2020. Actually, he hit the bull, which seemed to be unfazed by the first two shots, a total of three times. You could have covered the right-in-the-lungs group with a coffee cup.

Hunter sitting in front of dead bull elk

“Long-range shooting is a blast,” Weaver says. “I love it. However, you can’t put together a serious long-range system and not practice. All shooters, whether you’re planning to shoot an animal at 100 yards or 1,000 yards, need to put in time on the bench. Sending lead downrange is the best way to get familiar with your system. It’s the best way to develop a consistent trigger pull. The best way to build shooting confidence. The best way to see what your system is actually capable of.”

Weaver notes that the spring and summer months are great times to get out and shoot. He believes shooters should actually shoot at ranges of 500, 600, 700, 800, 900 and 1,000 yards—not just rely on predicted ballistics.

“Putting together a 1,000-yard rifle isn’t hard,” he says. “The difficult part is learning to shoot that rifle at extended distances. Learning to set and trust your D.O.P.E. card or your smartphone app and then execute. Nothing trumps time on the range.”

Prove It

I first met Graften Singer by happenstance on a pronghorn hunt. Since then, I’ve watched him make six one-shot kills beyond 600 yards—the longest being an 896-yard pronghorn. Like Weaver, Singer recommends lots and lots of time on the range, but his big tip is to “prove it.”

Jace Bauserman sitting beside dead mountain goat

“You have to prove everything,” he says. “You have to prove your load, your scope clicks, your windage—everything. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can be left to chance. Before a hunt you need to be able to step on the range, regardless of the environmental conditions and hit a milk jug every single time at extreme distance. By that, I mean every distance beyond 500 yards all the way out to what you consider to be your maximum range. Wind is a major factor. Yes, get a handheld Kestrel, but that’s far from enough. You need to go out often and shoot in different winds. Keep a shooting journal that notes wind speed, direction and the elevation you’re shooting at. When you prove everything—your load, scope, gun and the like—you build confidence.”


One must-have item of the long-range shooter is a rangefinder. You can’t be accurate if you don’t know the exact distance to your target. According to Gunsite Academy Range Master Cory Trapp, too many shooters skimp when it comes to rangefinder quality.

close up of a rifle

“The range can’t be a guess, and it can’t be a process that takes loads of time,” Trapp says. “You need a balanced rangefinder that provides an immediate ballistic range to the target, and this can’t be a reflective range. You need a rangefinder that will detect an animal at the ranges you’re planning to shoot. Spend the money and get a rangefinder you trust.”


Jim Gilliland knows a thing or 10 about long-range shooting. A retired 20-year Army veteran, his sniper section was recognized as the best in Iraq in 2005. He is also accredited with taking a record single-shot engagement with a 7.62x51mm rifle. Today, Gilliland competes as a long-range shooter, hunts lots of big game and owns Shadow 6 Consulting.

“Of course, you need to know the weight of your bullet, your barrel twist rate, bullet velocity and bore height, but there’s so much more that goes into long-range shooting,” he says. “You need to know your true range and your ballistic range, and be able to make good wind calls. However, you also have to realize that you’re shooting at a living, breathing creature. You’re not banging steel.”

hunter looking down the rifle scope

Gilliland notes that long-range shooters need to exercise extreme patience, get stable and put everything into the shot.

“Just because your equipment will make the shot doesn’t mean you should take it,” he says. “Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right for one reason or another. You can’t get steady. Your breathing is erratic. You’re not 100 percent confident in the wind call. You have to be mature enough to know those times when you shouldn’t take a shot. Don’t rush to failure. Take your time and make sure everything is right.”