Not all easy shots are kills

By JEFF NORTH,

What happened last November led to the full day exercise this past Saturday. I am doing everything possible to prevent the debauchery that occurred last year from repeating itself again. It has haunted me every day and I catch myself re-playing the scenario over and over until my gray matter is mush. I’ll catch you up on what happened that frigid day on the Canadian River in the high plains of Texas.

JH had killed his buck around 9 a.m. the opening morning. My plan was to ride with our outfitter and cook for the rest of our hunting party the whole week of Thanksgiving. I had already been on an early season muzzleloader hunt in Kansas and I really didn’t want to pay for another Texas hunt. I had JH’s covered but times two adds up pretty quickly if you know what I mean. So with his buck tagged and in the cooler we debated on what in the world we would do for a week while Sam and gang worked to fill their tags. The decision was made and to the local grocer we went to buy another license and tag…. for me. A good friend of mine told me a long time ago you can do two things with your money. He said, “You can put it in the bank, or hang it on the wall and look at it.” In this case, I chose the latter.

 

It wasn’t long before we were overlooking a steep canyon filled with brush and cedars. We hadn’t been there five minutes when one of our guides whispered, “big buck in the bottom.” All five of us trained our binoculars on the approaching buck and I looked back over my shoulder at my outfitter and he gave me the thumbs up. From my prone position I settled the crosshairs behind the buck’s shoulder as Larry whispered, “he’s two hundred and eight yards.” It doesn’t get any better than this I thought, and sent the 154 grain boat tail on its way. Words can’t describe how I felt when I saw caliche dust kick up over the buck’s back. Sickening, nauseated, embarrassment, and panic are just a few that come to mind. How in the world did this happen with a rock solid rest?  It’s really pretty simple.

Most of us sight in our rifles to hit above bullseye at 100 yards. At 200 yards most calibers are even a little higher still than where point of aim is. Of course we sight in our weapons like this to offset bullet drop at extended ranges of 300 yards and beyond. What I failed to do was to compensate for the already higher point of impact from my rifle and the additional issue by shooting downhill at such a steep angle. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was. What this led me to do though was to evaluate my equipment. After years of shooting long distances and using the guessing game of “hold over” at long ranges, I updated my optics. So this was our exercise for the weekend for Sam had to check his rifle, Rock had two to shoot, and I had two to shoot.

 

Sam bragged his rifle hasn’t changed zero in 25 years. He was correct. Three shots, three inches above bullseye at a hundred yards and he was done. We shot JH’s rifle with the same results. It was a little different story for Rock and me. With both of us having new optics, it took a little while to get dialed in at a hundred. Then the real technology came into play as we calculated factors like altitude, bullet velocity, bullet type, humidity, and more to come up with how many clicks we dial up at distances that are crazy. I’ll admit, I’ve always been pretty simple when it comes to technology. I refer to myself as an analog boy in a digital world. But with the help of Ford and Rock, I began to understand and get the hang of this game. Am I trying to get too complicated and lose focus on what the real enjoyment of the hunt is about? Perhaps, but if I leave my comfort zone of hunting only in the thickets where a long shot is 50 yards, then I better prepare. Those days in Montana when we were using “old school” tactics worked out for us most of the time but there were still misses incurred. If we want to extend our effective ranges in those wide open spaces then we have to prepare. I am amazed at the accuracy these rifles offer when everything comes together. If you know the range and your equipment is fine-tuned it is crazy how good you can be. Don’t let me minimize though that the shooter still has to do the job no matter how good the equipment may be.

 

The morning turned into afternoon but eventually we were ranging targets and adjusting our optics for elevation and ringing the bell. I guess the main benefit I took away from the day at the range was confidence. Of course with any endeavor, confidence in your ability to perform the task at hand is monumental. Will my new tactics and technology reward my efforts? I suppose only time will tell as I’m sure other obstacles will get in my way of producing.  For those of you that want to continue the old way of shooting by using Kentucky windage, that still works pretty good for those who practice. As for that buck on the Canadian, he shouldn’t have stopped with a little hold over at 334 yards, he too got to go for a ride in the truck.

Enjoy your days on the range and remember practice makes perfect. The more we shoot, work, garden, or golf, the better we will become at it. I suppose this even works for house cleaning and dish washing.

Until next time enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.

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