January 5th, 2011
I am a Nurse Anesthetist employed by the Department of Anesthesiology at a large hospital in Jackson, MS. I also run our family farm in Onward, MS that has been in our family for 64 years. In 1996 I established a duck and deer hunting club on the same land and named it South Delta Hunting Club. Our farm is made up of 1200 acres of large, expansive fields where we farm cotton, corn, soybeans and rice. These fields are flat as a tabletop due to millions of years of MS river flooding. Growing up hunting this property I was fortunate enough to kill my first as well as several more deer over the years.
I have no military experience. I have never shot rifles competitively or attended any formal shooting schools. As a teenager I was armed with 2 things: a Ruger .270 Winchester and my eyeballs. I learned very quickly that attempting to judge distances across these long, flat fields was nearly impossible with the naked eye. One afternoon while sitting in "the corner", several deer walked out in front of me. By looking at them "I figured" I needed to aim about a foot over their backs to compensate for bullet drop. Not knowing anything about my bullets trajectory or even their approximate distance, I proceeded to unload round after round. After sending each shot downrange, I noticed in the scope that not only was a deer not on the ground but in fact they had not even moved. Once my 5 rounds were spent they started eating again and I subsequently had to "shoo" them out of the food plot because they were in between me and my ATV. It was that day that made me realize that before attempting those shots again, I needed to learn much more about ranging and ballistics.
After that eye-opening experience as a teenager, I have concentrated my hunting efforts on establishing food plots and shot opportunities at reasonable, known distances. Our longest food plots are 150 yards long and anyone with a rifle appropriately sighted-in is instructed to simply "hold right on the shoulder". Upon completion of Anesthesia school at The University of Tennessee and establishing a family I wanted to learn more about why I missed those shots so badly as a boy. It was then when I became interested in long-range shooting approximately 3 years ago.
The internet is a wonderful tool that we didn't have when I was a kid. I found that there are several great websites that specialize in shooting and ballistics that provided me with many hours of education. Two binders and lots of printer paper later I felt much more educated on the subject and I was ready to begin my efforts to shoot better and farther. After reading forum after forum and link after link I decided on the necessary equipment such as rifle make and model, caliber, barrel, stock, bullets, optics, mounts, rangefinder, weather station and ballistic software. I shipped my new rifle-build all across the country getting this done and that done until I was introduced to a Machinist named Alton Britt in Brandon, MS. Alton is a Master Machinist, hunter, gunsmith and award-winning competition shooter. After meeting Alton I asked him to re-barrel my factory .270 WSM with a new competition barrel and re-chamber it in 7mm WSM. Needless to say his work is amazing. After getting to know Alton and finding we had so much in common, we decided to combine our efforts and establish Dixie Precision Rifles, LLC and begin testing our hand loads and products.
I am lucky enough to have several friends that were interested in the subject and together we built a shooting range across one of our soybean fields. Our tractor barn is located on the north end of this field and I felt like it was the perfect location for a covered, raised shooting platform. Over a few days we built a solid shooting platform in the barn and installed a sliding glass window overlooking the range which is 1500 yards long. I then took several 4x8' sheets of plywood, stapled targets to them, held them up with 2x4's, placed them every hundred yards from 100 to 1000 and started practicing. Over the next few weeks I had recorded my adjustments which would allow my vertical to be dead-on at each yardage out to 1000 yards. Over the course of shooting and documenting my adjustments I noticed that the adjustments that my ballistic software was telling me to use were slightly off. I recorded my actual data and re-worked my inputs in the software to generate the same numbers I had obtained in the field. I then had the program extrapolate that data out to my maximum range of 1500 yards but I knew in the back of my head that a margin of error would remain present with the software.
The day of the shot:
On the afternoon of January 5th, 2011, two friends of mine, Tim Kelley and Brian Turner, both of Tennessee and amateur shooters themselves, wanted to sit with me at the new platform now known as "The Krowz Nest". We set up the rifle, spotting scope, binoculars, rangefinder, wind meter, and video camera. I then took a few minutes to go over what would be required of us to make a shot on a deer if one presented itself that afternoon. We took time to go through a couple of "dry runs" to practice each of our responsibilities and to go over the terminology we would be using during the ranging process. The weather meter was showing the wind gusting from 3-9mph at directions between 300-360 degrees so I decided to split the differences and set the "dope" for a 6mph wind at 330 degrees. I dubbed them my "spotters". At approximately 5pm 2 does walked out into our food plot. Brian was able to consistently range them at 1400 yards. Since we got the same numbers 3 times, we felt like that was an accurate distance. We then went to the software and made the stated elevation adjustment of 148 clicks (1/4moa each). I then placed the largest doe in my crosshairs and collectively we decided to attempt a shot. Facing to the right, the deer remained in my crosshairs after the shot so subsequently all three of us were able to see the bullet impact the dirt at the base of her back foot. Being so close to the deer, the spray of dirt startled the deer and she ran into the woods. The smaller doe appeared confused and when she stopped running around she had come 75 yards closer to a range of 1325 yards and began eating again. Brian once again was able to obtain three separate ranges on this deer between 1325 and 1328 yards so we felt again that this was accurate. Since the wind was off of my back right shoulder and the bullet impacted the back foot of the deer, I decided to give myself one more 1/4 moa click into the wind. We then went back to the software and obtained the recommended adjustments for 1325 yards. I now suspected that the software was inaccurately calculating my bullet drop approximately 30 inches low. I read that the calculated bullet drop at 1325 yards was 463 inches. Since the height of a whitetails back is approximately 30 inches, and seeing the bullet hit at the base of the previous deer, I decided to add 30 inches to that calculation and predict that instead of dropping 463 inches my bullet would actually drop 493 inches. I then looked at the moa adjustment calculated for a 493" bullet drop and adjusted the elevation down from the 148 clicks that I had dialed in for the 1400-yard shot to 138 clicks for the 493" bullet drop at 1325 yards . Now with a new windage and elevation adjustment, we felt that we could make an accurate shot on the other deer. I then waited for the deer to turn broadside, put the crosshairs on her shoulder and pulled the trigger. All three of us waited during the 2-second bullet flight time with anxiousness and somehow it instead seemed like 2 minutes. Once again, the deer remained in my scope after the recoil subsided and all three of us watched as the deer fell in her tracks. To say that we were excited would be an understatement. It was an amazing experience.
My High-Definition video camera was rolling the whole time with the intention to get the shot on video and we felt great about what we recorded. When we replayed the footage, we saw that my elbow had bumped the camera just out of the frame of the deer sometime in between the first and second shot. Devastated that I missed the kill shot, it made me feel better when I reviewed the footage and saw that the deer is easily seen standing and eating in the food plot, then the camera was bumped, the shot was taken, and then the camera is adjusted back to see the deer laying dead where she once stood. We then recorded the ATV drive from the barn to the spot where the deer now lay dead. (I'm working on getting it increased to HD on youtube so you can see better) Upon arriving to and examining the deer we see that the bullet traveled precisely through both shoulders making it a perfectly placed bullet. I took several pictures of the entry and exit wounds to examine The Berger VLD performance at that distance and velocity.
This was a very exciting and educational experience for the three of us. For me, it was an achievement that culminated from many years of thought, education, practice and determination. I am extraordinarily happy that I was able to experience it with two of my close friends. My hat goes off to Alton Britt and Dixie Precision Rifles of Brandon, MS for giving me the equipment necessary to "drive tacks" at any distance from 100 to-now a whopping 1325 yards.
For High-Def go "fullscreen" then click the number in the lower right corner... usually 360. Change that to 720.