PPB Intro

The Bullet

The Patch

Loading PPBs

Shooting PPBs

Reading Patches

Hunting & the PPB

Testing Loads



Weather and
Black Powder

Hunting & Range

Making a Pistol Grip


Antelope Hunting and Range Estimation

On the first day, I stalked the buck below for the entire morning. He and a band of 6 does kept moving along slowly feeding as they went. I could not get closer than 400+ yds. Too far for my taste. But eventually, they bedded down in a location that allowed me to crawl within 300 yds.

I was hunkered part of the way up a small bump in the landscape, behind a clump of sage. I had plenty of time to estimate the range, set up my cross sticks and adjust my tang sight. There was almost no wind. But the little breeze that would occasionally pick up just enough to feel was coming directly from them to me. So, there was no reason to hurry. I could wait them out. There was certainly no way that I could get closer.

At best, I could crouch behind this bush, and most of the time I was prone. To take the shot, I would sit up. This is a position that I was well practiced in. So, to kill the time, I estimated, reestimated, and rereestimated the distance to that buck.

While I consider it unfair to take a rangefinder hunting, I spend a lot of time practicing distance estimation using a laser rangefinder. I have found that with practice, I can estimate distances very well out to 300 yds. But beyond this, my error jumps dramatically. Very dramatically. So this puts 300 yards as an upper bound on my shooting range. I also know that I tend to overestimate distances where the ground between the target and me falls away. Across a ravine or valley for instance. I underestimate the distance if the is a rise in between the target and me. In this case, given my slight elevation on the side of this mound, I tried to correct for the former bias.

But when practicing, I always have estimated distances while standing erect. I\92m 6 feet tall, thus my eyes are something over 5.5 feet above the ground. Yet, while spying on this buck, I never got higher than a slight crouch or sitting position. Thus, I estimated the range at 240 yards and set my sight accordingly 0.613\94 of elevation.

After about 1.5 hrs, the herd spotted another hunter (one of my partners) over a mile away. This got their attention, and sure enough they all jumped to their feet and stood perfectly broadside staring at Mark. I wiggled into position behind the sticks, set the triggers, settled the front crosswires on the buck\92s lungs, and squeezed off ever so carefully.

Lots of smoke and lots of animals running every which way, but over it all, even at that range I could hear the 510 gr flatnosed paper patched bullet hit home. Yet when the smoke cleared, I could see a buck (my buck?) now standing closer, under 200 yds. There had only been one buck before, but other animals had been wandering around the area, maybe one had gotten involved in the confusion. Then I spotted blood on the right front leg.

My bullet had hit low, about 9\94 low. It broke the left leg, and punched a hole through the right leg\92s upper tricepts, but just missed below the ribcage. How could I miss that badly? This was not a difficult shot. I had made it many many times on paper targets. Conditions were perfect. What went wrong?

As soon as I stood up, I could tell that the buck had been further than 240. I estimated 255-260, and later paced off 260 yards. Had I set the sight for 260, I would have hit him right behind the shoulder, perhaps creasing the top of the heart while punching through both lungs.

So, a lesson learned. I need to estimate ranges not only standing but sitting and lying down. And learn to compensate. To be accurate enough to hunt with these rifles at these ranges, an absolute error of 10 yards is all that can be allowed. 5 yards being substantially better.

In the end, I got the buck. And his picture is below. But I learned a hard lesson about range estimation. Body position, in addition to topography can create illusions of distance that requires conscious compensation.

A nice view in the midst of the region that I spent an entire morning stalking one buck and his herd of 6 does. October 1999 in Northeastern

14" 4-yr old buck antelope taken at 260 yards with an 1874 Sharps .45-100 using a paper patched bullet and black powder.