In order to stalk and dispatch deer humanly with a rifle with open, iron sights, how close do you have to get?

Open Sights Highland Stalker 555

(Above: Peter Jones in action with the Highalnd Stalker Rifle equipped with iron sights)

In the first of a two-part article and film, Peter Jones and James Schneider set out with John Rigby’s new ‘Highland Stalker Rifle’ to establish if it is possible to hunt deer with iron sights.

Like most young lads who grow up in the countryside my first introduction to hunting came in the form of an airgun with which I used to hunt Rabbit and Pigeon and other vermin.

With the legal limit in the UK for non FAC holders being under 12 ftlbs of energy, you had to stalk in pretty close with an air-gun, usually around 20 yards, where upon a head shot was the only way of insuring instant death.

Open Sights film still

(To watch the film follow this link: youtube)

I loved it. And countless hours were spent after school and during school holidays at the local farm near Ashdown Forest, where I immersed myself in nature, either lying in wait or stalking in on my quarry.  It was during these early days that I learnt my craft.

As for my choice of gun? It was a second hand Weihrauch HW80 beak-barrel airgun in .22, equipped with iron sights, thankfully with pellets being so affordable, I could spend hours practicing shooting at paper targets without breaking the bank.

Of course, paper targets didn’t provide much in the way of instant gratification and so I used to turn empty shotgun casings (which in those days littered the countryside) on their end and try to shoot at the small round metal case. At just a couple of centimeters in diameter, I became pretty-handy at sending them 'pinging' off the fence post where I placed them some 20 – 25 yards away.

Today in a climate in which hunters are seemingly being encouraged to take longer and longer shots at their quarry, using top end rifle scopes, we have become less accustomed to employing field craft to get in close. I was therefore delighted when the opportunity arose, to return to my roots and once again hunt with open sights. The opportunity was provided thanks to John Rigby & Co Gunmakers who loaned me their new highly acclaimed ‘Highland Stalker’ rifle which arrived in .275 Rigby, also known as the 7x57 Mauser. A superb calibre in a beautifully thought-through rifle.  

John Rigby Highland Stalker Rifle County Deer Stalking

(Above: The Highland Stalker from John Rigby & Co)

Hailed as a traditional deerstalking rifle, the new ‘Highland Stalker’ was inspired by the same smaller calibre rifles John Rigby & Co produced at the turn of the 20th century, that were used by iconic British adventurers such as Karamojo Bell and Jim Corbett. The rifle took three years to develop with Rigby’s historic partner Mauser and all rifles feature the famous Mauser ’98 action, grade 5 wood as standard and traditional Rigby pattern iron sights, a feature which was to be the focus of my attention.

So, on a cold, wet February morning, along with my friend and colleague James Schneider we set about determining just how accurately we could shoot with the Highland Stalker’s open sights. This was going to be an important exercise and crucial first step in establishing if it was going to be plausible to set out in search of deer. Just how accurately could we shoot? And at what distance would we be able to place our shots consistently in a 6 inch kill area? These were the questions we would have to answer in order to ensure that we were going to be able to fulfil the obligation we have to our quarry to dispatch it humanely.

We started at just 30 yards and were pleased to see that we were easily capable of placing shot after shot in the kill area.

Out to 65 yards. This is the distance at which the Highland Stalkers Pattern sights are set, and Rigby’s world-renowned reputation for quality firearms didn’t let us down, our shots were a little more spread out, but once again 100% of our shots were well within the kill area of our life size deer target. Remarkably even out to 100 yards we were still able to place consistent shots in the chest cavity on a life size steel deer target.

Of course, the exercise was not intended to be about pushing out the range, it was about understanding our limits and ensuring that we were able to dispatch our quarry humanly. And so, armed with new-found confidence, I now find myself looking forward to my first live stalk with open sights. And I hope to reveal to our readers just how I get on in the coming weeks when I set out to get up ‘close and personal’ with our quarry.

It is worth mentioning that a great deal of our success with open sights stems from the confidence instilled by the firearm. Whether the iron sights would be up to the job on other rifles is arguable, however, John Rigby & Co have a long and proud tradition of building rifles for big game hunters, many of whom have depended on the use of the pattern Iron sights when shooting dangerous game. It is therefore no surprise, but a credit none the less to Rigby, that we found the iron sights on the ‘Highland Stalker’ to be accurate ‘straight out of the box’ and no less reliable than on those made for their other more expensive big game calibres rifles.

Our thanks to John Rigby & Co for their assistance.  

If you’d like to watch the short film about our day spent practicing with open sight’s then follow this link to our short films pageyoutube

To read about the .275 Rigby / 7x57 Mauser Calibre then click here: rifle-calibres

Alternatively, if you'd like to try hunting with open, iron sights then contact us here at County Deer Stalking on 0203 981 0159 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 




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