Should This be the Future of Hunting?

     Firearms have been host to numerous gimmicks over the years, including guns that use case-less ammunition and “electronic rifles” that detonate the cartridge’s powder charge with an electrical charge instead of a conventional primer. Most of these ideas, including the two mentioned, have never gotten far in spite of several attempts. But there is a new technology, an integrated rifle and sighting system, that may prove to be a success.
     The idea behind this system is simple. A conventional rifle is equipped with a sighting system that contains a laser rangefinder as well as sensory equipment to measure things like air density, incline/decline, cant, and temperature, among other things. It is also outfitted with internal software to process this data and use it to compensate point of aim. The end result is that the shooter doesn’t need to manually compensate for variables by holding crosshairs or a sight assembly out of line with the intended point of impact. The sighting system automatically and instantly does this.
     According to an article in American Rifleman by Bryce Towsley (January 2014, p.65-69, 106-108), Tracking Point, a company based in Texas, introduced such a system last January. The Tracking Point system uses a small video screen instead of a conventional scope tube and makes use of a “tag” system to allow the compensations to be made. The shooter aligns the sight reticle with the spot on the target they would like to hit and attaches an electronic “tag” to that spot. At this point the gun will not fire until the reticle is aligned perfectly with the tag. Of course, to make the whole thing work the sight system needs to be pre-calibrated to specific loads. Tracking Point calibrates it’s system with three loads made by Barnes. The real drawback to the Tracking Point systems are cost. The least expensive model’s MSRP is listed at $22,500.
     The issue of cost has been recently remedied, however. The CEO of Tracking Point is a former Remington employee so it was only natural that he got in touch with Remington to put together a version of the Tracking Point system that was more affordable. The Remington offering, called the 2020, MSRPs for about $5,500 and comes with 300 rounds of profiled ammunition, which is to say, it is the ammo the gun has been calibrated with.
     Although $5,500 is quite a bit less than $22,500 it is still a lot of money. But there will undoubtedly be people who will pony up the money to get there very own Remington 2020 system. I just hope the cost is high enough to keep it a novelty and not a staple of the hunting world. I can see this being fun to play with at the range but it is not a technology to introduce to hunting.
     Marksmanship is not an elective skill for a hunter. It is one of the core components, an absolute necessity without which a hunter cannot adequately get by. Some hunters are 100 yard marksmen, some are 200 and some are maxed out at 50. It all depends on practice time, mastery of technique, firearm being used and maybe even some innate ability. For the most part you get out of your marksmanship what you put into it. But systems like the 2020 reduce the marksmanship element of hunting to Point, Click, Pull Trigger, Collect Animal. Nothing more need be provided by the so-called hunter.
     In addition to marksmanship the hunter should possess a group of other skills as well, which are collectively known as woodsmanship. Woodsmanship is a skillset that has been waning over the past several decades, the result of more and more gadgets that make hunting easier, less time consuming and more comfortable. Integrated rifle and sighting systems pose a great risk to woodsmanhip and could very well kill it outright.
     Advocates of this particular technology may argue that it is similar to the riflescope, which gained popularity in the post-WWII era and is now standard. After all, doesn’t a scope make it easier on the hunter to hit game at a variety of ranges? Nonsense. The primary advantage of a scope is that it puts the target and sighting apparatus (in this case, the crosshairs) on the same optical plain, thereby making sight alignment easier. But you still have to know how to shoot to make a scope work.
     I have discussed this issue with only a small number of hunters thus far, but opinions seems to be consistent. This is not what the future of hunting should be. Hunting should be a challenge. Everyone’s challenge threshold will be different but it must require effort. That’s what makes hunting worth doing. If all it takes to hunt is clicking a switch and pulling a trigger, you might as well head to the nearest taxidermist and buy a set of antlers to hang on your wall, and swing by the grocery store and pick up some steaks. Because you sure as hell aren’t going to earn your deer with a Remington 2020.

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