The crosshairs of the 6X Leupold scope danced wildly all over the buck’s body. My lungs were heaving, thumping my chest violently in and out with each strained snort-wheeze. It was not a giant, trophy buck by any stretch of the imagination, but I had run about three miles to circumvent the downwind woodlot in order to cut him off at the marshgrass pass, and I had made my mind up that this backstrapper would be mine! Now to put it altogether.
I lay in the wet grass, only my head and gun showing over the lip of the field ridge edge. With the 12 gauge shotgun as steady as it could be, my elbows formed a bipod for the long, 130 yard shot. He was staring straight at me through the glass, as if he could see the microscopic movement of my gun barrel and scope, plain as day. This only exasperated my nerves and I did not dare take off the safety. No shot yet.
But I remembered what dad and uncle John had taught me about trigger control and accuracy, as I sucked in a huge breath of cold morning air, snuggled my cheek firmly against the stock, and slowly whooshed it out through my open mouth. The safety tang “snicked” almost inaudibly, and about half way through my exhale, the duplex reticule slowed, then stopped, as if painted on the buck’s backbone, directly over his shoulder. The Browning 12 roared and bucked as if on its own. I yanked the deergun down out of recoil to see him take the full impact of the 1 ounce slug square through the shoulder blade, faltering back, just as I heard the KerWHOOOMP of the lead pumpkinball connect with 170 pounds of dense muscle, bone and sinew. The buck danced the dance of death in a ragged 30 foot semicircle, and fell over sideways with a ceremonial, four-hoofed salute to the heavens. YeeHaaa! Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
The green hull still smoked as I pocketed it, and I shoved another live round into my fiveshot magazine for full battery condition one. My walk to the animal counted 131 steps, which I have come to calibrate as about a yard each. A longer shot for a shotgun, but easily within certain range for intensely practiced scoped and rifled barreled, sabot loaded projectile shotgun marksmanship. From a benchrest, bipod and sandbags, I knew this gun could shoot amazingly tight cloverleafed groups out to 200 yards, IF I could do my part. My part, of course, is disciplining myself to PRACTICE diligently at ALL ranges I wished to kill game cleanly at, and thoroughly test the various makes and loads of slugs and bullets available for optimum performance. The days of shotgun big game hunting with birdguns ought to be over, as far as I’m concerned. It is an exceptionally rare smoothbore that is capable of real field accuracy with solid ammo, and grossly irresponsible to think otherwise. Accountability is right up there with safety and the law!
The same basic principle applies to all “projectile management”, really. Whether it’s arrows from my bow, rocks and marbles out of my wristrocket slingshot, BB’s from my Red Ryder, handguns, open sight rifles or scoped target guns, good marksmanship will only come with certain and intense disciplines. And it will all boil down to trigger\sear ignition on target. And that sight picture control will only come with controlled breathing. Breathing is good. Controlled breathing is best.
The good news is that sporters are spending more time than ever afield, enjoying all the shooting sports. We’re spending more money too, with outdoor activities creating a flow of more than 61 BILLION dollars a year into the American economy in related spending. Studies prove that hunting creates more than $3,000,000 A DAY, all yearlong for conservation programs, like habitat rehabilitation (clean air, soil and water!) and wildlife reintroduction. Grandstuff. Mucho dinero, amigos! And mucho fun as a result.
I encourage everybody I know to get out for more casual, recreational shooting with family and friends. Especially NEW shooters. Every year at our Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids, I witness the effervescent glow from children from all walks of life, as they cultivate and test their marxmanship skills on the range. They love it! These recruited enthusiasts will make or break conservation efforts and gun right’s progress in America, for we all know that the vast majority of conservation and 2nd Amendment support monies and education come from the shooting and hunting community. Celebrate hands on!
So get your “hands on” a gun or a bow. Get out to a target range or gravel pit. Set up some targets and let fly. Always practice ultra safety procedures and wear protection for eyes and ears whenever discharging a firearm, but take extra effort and discover the thrill of the accuracy challenge.
At my best, I’m an OK shot. On average, I shoot very average. But I’m getting better since I set out to specifically improve my shooting procedure. I try to make every shot count by getting my mind in “shoot mode”, and it has really paid off. That first shot is always the most important shot, and a simple repetitious regimen will make all the difference in the world.
My first decision was to shoot more often, thereby getting to know the feel of each weapon intimately. Every arm, every trigger, every bow has a unique touch, and we must know exactly when the moment of ignition\release occurs. Oftentimes, at the range, under strict safety supervision, I line up my gun or bow for the shot, then close my eyes just before I fire, so the “feel” at the moment of discharge is burned into my memory bank. This must be done over, and over and over again so it becomes second nature. The old saying, “Beware the man with one gun” is very true and accurate, because it means he KNOWS the gun intimately, and is therefor ultimately effective with it. That should be our goal. Of course, I want to know all 200 of my guns intimately.
Shooting is athletic challenge at its finest. Be it gun or bow, new or old, take a friend or family member, especially a youngster, out shooting at the very next opportunity. My son glows whenever we spend quality shooting time together at the range or in the field. Every kid is fascinated by guns, and if we don’t train them properly, the alternatives are not very pretty. Make it a prime goal to introduce a newcomer to shooting, for as we assist in their baptism by projectile, we will discover that our guidance will remind us that we have knowledge and good ideas, we just have to think them, speak them, and then implement them into our own shooting regimen. Upgrade will come overnight. Life will be a series of bullseyes and backstraps. Who could ask for more?