Question: Tony, you mentioned earlier that two of the biggest differences between hunting in the East and the West are that you may have to shoot at long ranges, and you have to deal with thinner air, which will change the ballistic coefficient of your bullet. Once you’ve sighted-in your rifle in the East, how do you know where the bullet will hit while shooting in the West?
Smotherman: I use a Bullet Drop Compensating (BDC) reticle on my CVA rifle to view my sight-in spot at different ranges. Then I make a chart that tells me how-much bullet drop I have at different ranges with the load I shoot. I print-out that chart and cover it with clear packaging tape to waterproof it, and I tape that ballistic chart to my rifle stock. Having this reference on my stock enables me to range an animal and, based on the chart, know exactly where I need to aim. When I hunt in the West, I use the Leupold UltimateSlam riflescope with its BDC reticle on my CVA rifle, because I may have to take a long shot.
Question: How accurate is your BDC reticle, once it’s set?
Smotherman: Generally, most BDC reticles are set-up for 150 grains of powder and a 250-grain bullet, which is the most-common load for muzzleloading hunters. But, I use a 300-grain bullet with 150 grains of powder. So, the BDC reticle doesn’t match-up to the load I use. I have to shoot a lot before I go hunting out West to better understand how those dots in the scope translate to the charge I’m shooting. When making my chart, I make sure I know the hold-over and the hold-under, as it relates to my particular gun and those BDC reticle dots. Taking a ballistic chart when I’m hunting out West is important, because when I see a big bull elk, a monstrous mule deer or a long-pronged antelope, usually I’m much further-away from that animal than I will be from a white-tailed deer. Therefore, I have time to check my ballistic chart before I take the shot. When I range this animal and prepare to take the shot, I don’t have to guess at what dot in the scope I should shoot, or how much hold-over I need, if I need any. That information is right on my stock in black and white.