Editor’s Note: Doug Koenig has hunted all of his life, has been a Mossy Oak Pro Staffer for 10 years and a professional competitive shooter. He shoots 3-gun tournaments and Sportsman's Team Challenge. He's a handgun world champion and national champion. He's won the Bianchi Cup, the most-prestigious handgun competition in the word, 15 times. He also has a TV show – “Doug Koenig’s Championship Season” that airs on the Pursuit Channel. The show features shooting competitions and big-game hunting. Koenig’s favorite two Mossy Oak patterns are Treestand and Break-Up. But he quickly admits, “I believe I have every pattern that Mossy Oak makes. I use just about every one of them each year, depending on what and where I’m hunting.”
I really enjoy hunting with a pistol and have taken a good number of whitetails with it, as well as bears, elk and mule deer. I've also taken small game with my pistol, including prairie dogs. One of my longest handgun shots I ever made was with a Savage Striker pistol. I took a prairie dog at 400 yards with a .22-250, using Hornady ammunition. My longest big-game shot with a handgun was a whitetail I took at 226 yards with a Smith and Wesson .460 revolver. I really love to hunt with a handgun, because it’s a completely unique and different type of hunting.
I’m often asked, “When you took that 400-yard shot and downed a prairie dog, what type of scope were you using?” I was using the Leupold 2.5-8 pistol scope. I had a bipod on the front of the pistol and a really solid rest. At that distance, an offhand shot and a target that small would be pretty much beyond belief. I’d shot many more prairie dogs at 200 and 300 yards. At the time, the range finder told me the distance for my longest shot was actually 402 yards.
On my longest whitetail shot, I was hunting from an elevated blind in the late season, and I made two shots at over 200 yards. With one shot, I took a buck. I had seen this buck chasing does at 600 yards. I got out of my stand and started stalking the buck. When I got as close as I thought I possibly could get to the buck, I ranged the buck at 227 yards. When I fired, the buck only went 40 yards before he went down. The second deer I took with my Smith and Wesson .460 was a doe. I had one of my sons in the stand with me, I had a good rest, and there was snow on the ground. When I fired, my son couldn’t believe that the doe went down. But I really like taking those long shots with a handgun.
Here’s the secret to shooting accurately at long distances with a handgun. You have to be extremely comfortable before you take the shot, and you have to have a good solid rest. I believe trying to take a really-long shot without a good solid rest, having experience at making long shots and feeling confident that you can put the animal down quickly and efficiently is unethical.
I use a Leupold 1,000 yard range finder. You really have to know the range, when you're taking long shots. I sight my Smith and Wesson 460 handgun in at 200 yards. Then, I know I can aim dead-on out to 250 yards. At 100 yards in, I know that I’ll only be about 5-inches high. So, if I aim for the bottom of a whitetail’s chest, I know I'm going to be pretty much dead-on.
When I made the 402-yard shot on the prairie dog, I had elevating clicks in the pistol scope I was using, and I had a target drop chart. Leupold gave me that target drop chart, so I knew what to set my scope on to make the shot. To make the shot without the elevating clicks in the scope at a prairie dog at 400 yards, I would have to aim about 18-inches high. At that distance, trying to determine 18-inches above a prairie dog without the clicks in the scope would have really been difficult.
When you're shooting long range with a pistol, your range finder and pistol scope make taking those long shots possible. I was able to range the distance, dial in the distance with my Leupold scope and aim dead-on. I actually took three prairie dogs out of four shots from that same prairie dog mound. This happened before we started using a video camera. I would really have liked to have a video of those shots.