Branches, underbrush and other impediments can hinder the long-distance shooter because there may be so many of them between the shooter and his target. But Hartford sees them more as a challenge than a problem.
“I have to pick the right place, and then I have to position myself so I can shoot through them cleanly,” he says. “On the other hand if I can find an open spot 200 yards away, I have a major advantage over the regular shooter who might have no cover close enough to the target.
“I think I see the terrain a little differently when I’m out there because I have more choices of places to set up and more angles to approach a trail. Of course, if I shoot something from 400 yards, I’ve got to walk further to get it and bring it out of the woods.”
Hartford finds time to hunt in Texas, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, mostly looking for Whitetail deer. But he spends most of his hunting time looking for hogs in Florida with Joshua, now 33.
“I used to be in the construction business, and in New Hampshire that meant you couldn’t get work in winter. When it came time to put Joshua through school, I moved to Florida, where I could work 365 days a year. Then I started on my own building houses, and I did that for 13 years. I got sick of that and I wanted to get around, see the country. So I started driving.”
That was 11 years ago, and for the last 10 Hartford has been with Covenant. He drives the lower 48 and leaves his personal vehicle at the company HQ in Chattanooga, Tenn. When he comes off the road and heads home to the Clearwater area, he calls ahead to set up a hunting date.
“My son has about 20 acres near Brandon, and it has a lot of big hogs on it. We’ve taken some over 300 pounds out of there. Now that’s not long-distance shooting; that can be really close shooting, and you have to be careful. Those hogs, with their tusks, are dangerous.”
Hartford says when he retires he’ll head out for Montana to hunt buffalo (“Where there’s no cover for miles, so I’ll have to shoot from a long way away”), then maybe go looking for more big game in Alaska.
At his home, Hartford has a bare wall where you might expect there to be a trophy head. Maybe there will be one day.
“I’ve never put anything up there,” he says. “I only want a 12-point buck or big game. Nothing less.”
Weapons of Choice
Wayne Hartford usually chooses between three rifles when he plans to hunt deer from a distance.
- A vintage 30.06 Browning automatic.
- His father’s rifle, a 30.06 Springfield with a 32-inch barrel, an old World War Two sniper rifle, re-blued, with a new stock and trigger mechanism
- A seven millimeter Browning Magnum, all stainless steel with a fiberglass stock, $700 scope and left-hand bolt action. It was especially made for Hartford, and he can be accurate up to 1,100 yards with it.