50 Teams • 7 miles • Long Range Shots • Real Hunting Scenarios
Due to the amazing advancements in rifles, optics, ammunition and the actual science involved (which includes the shooter’s heartbeat, wind direction/speed, elevation, temperature and even the earth’s rotation), hitting the mark at extreme ranges is possible today. Military snipers for example have in recent years broken all the records in successfully hitting their mark at unbelievable long range.
This particular advancement in technology has caused the Boone and Crockett Club to recently define what is to be considered as being an ethical shot in order to qualify for its big game record book. Boone and Crockett obviously want to keep the “hunt” in hunting and I fully agree.
On the other hand, I see nothing wrong at all with using this technology for recreational and competitive long range rifle shooting when the target is paper or a steel plate, and I can tell you for a fact that it is a whole lot of fun, not to mention challenging, sometimes to the extreme. Target shooting (in a variety of forms) is for a fact a very American pastime steeped in history.
A Winter Olympic event I always enjoy watching is the Biathlon that entails a combination of cross-country skiing with rifle target shooting, involving speed, endurance and accuracy. The contestant with the fastest skiing time won’t place high if their score on the shooting range is low (due to time penalties per each miss). And when you are in an endurance race with a very limited time to stop and place your shots on a variety of targets, it’s not that easy to hit the mark while you are breathing hard and your pulse rate is accelerating. (The Biathlon was developed originally for training soldiers in Norway with the first competition being held in 1767).
It turns out we have an annual contest of this nature in this country, minus the snow and skis, in fact it is just the opposite involving the late summer heat, hiking boots, and with some serious up and down terrain in relatively higher elevation, and shooting at long range targets requiring good optics and accurate center fire rifles using potent cartridges that can reach out there. Personally, I don’t believe there is a shooting contest of this nature anywhere else In America.
Called the “Vortex Extreme,” it is sponsored by Vortex Optics and held near Treamonton, Utah and entails a 7 and half mile endurance (cross-country and no trails) race that features a variety of steel plate targets set at ranges from 300 yards to as far out as 1720 yards. The terrain is all up and down at an elevation of 6000 feet, which can certainly put a strain on lungs and legs. The contestants are made up of two-person teams and while one team member is shooting the other acts as a “spotter” to determine hits and where to aim. Each team is allowed only a set time frame to complete shots at each target, and contestants have to carry everything including rifles, ammunition, optics and drinking water.
Accepting this challenge recently was Jeremy Kuhne, manager of the Gambles Gun Shop in Caro and his co-worker Josh Bailey. Their rifles were Savage Model 110 “HS Precision” bolt-actions in .300 Winchester Magnum topped with 6-24X Vortex Optics scopes featuring adjustable turrets. The rifles were also fitted with bipods for stable long range shooting, and each rifle thus fully equipped weighed a total of 14 pounds.
Being rookies in this new adventure, Jeremy and Josh did their research beforehand, and did their best to get in physical shape as well as performing a lot of shooting practice.
There would be 57 two-person teams in this event and the early August temperature would start out in the lower 70s and end up in the upper 90s causing Jeremy and Josh to use three different bullet charts (that entailed temperature and elevation) while following the shooting course.
There was one particular shooting station that featured three different targets at varying ranges which shooters could opt for with the longest being a range of 1720 yards (and a successful hit on this offered more points than the other two targets). Jeremy thought what the heck and decided to go for the longest shot, while Josh acted as spotter. The target was a steel plate measuring two feet by two feet, and at 1720 yards, Jeremy’s first shot hit only six inches low. He made his correction and hit the steel plate with his second shot and to the best of his knowledge, was the only contestant to successfully do so.
Jeremy and Josh would complete the 7 and a half mile course in 4 and a half hours, and place 32 out of the 57 teams, which they were well satisfied with as first time rookies that didn’t know what to really expect. They had finished the unique shooting and endurance competition footsore and scratched up by the sagebrush (they were wearing shorts and t-shirts) but wouldn’t change anything next time in regards to equipment including firearms, ammunition, optics, clothing and boots.
The only thing they would do differently is work more on the physical fitness part. Although they felt they were fit enough going in, by the time they reached the finish, both avid shooters realized the terrain, elevation and heat had its way of finding any weak points that needed tweaking. Jeremy commented that his feet had never hurt before as much as they did during this competition.
The Vortex Extreme is an annual event Jeremy Kuhne and Josh Bailey are already looking forward to, and their goal next time is to get into the “top 20” (of finishing contestants). Now that they know the actual lay of the land and what to expect, I believe they will do just that.n