Spring Training?

NAH Staff Writer Larry Weishuhn looks at Spring Training for...hunting!

“Send it!” came the instructions from Doug Prichard, lead instructor at the FTW Ranch’s S.A.A.M.  I exhaled all my breath, concentrated on the distant nine-inch metal gong through my Trijicon scope, then started gently tugging my .300 Win Mag, Ruger FTW/SAAM Hunter’s trigger.  The Hornady 200-grain ELD-X bullet had scarcely hit the target at 700 yards when Doug, “He’s at 500, hit him again.”  I quickly made the correction on the target and distance knowing to twist my scope’s turret down appropriately from what I remember being the proper setting from the range card.  It had been presented after the first day on the range and “truing” all my settings with actual shots at targets near and far.

In a whole lot less time than it took to explain I fired my second shot and saw my bullet strike the nine-inch gong at 500 yards, then heard the solid strike.  I cranked my turret back down to my hunter zero.

I waited for my turn to come back around,while others in our Precision course shot at targets they were instructed to.  “This time, load up three.  You’ll shoot the steel plate and if you hit it at the distance I describe to you, you’ll shoot the gong in the life-sized target right next to the steel plates.  If you miss the first shot, shoot your second shot at steel, if you miss it again, shoot the third shot at the steel.  If you hit with your second shot, shoot at the life-sized target.” Doug continued, “You’ll have five seconds to locate the target, get on it and fire you’re first shot.  Soon as you shoot, you’ll have five seconds for the second and if necessary the third shot.

If you fail to shoot within five seconds you get a score of Zero.  Use hold over or dial up, your decision! You’ll call your own wind.”

“Larry are you ready?”  I nodded an affirmative, “ Your target is the large green steel gong to the left of the Dall sheep at 750 yards.” In the next breath Doug started counting “Thousand one…”  I reached up twisted my turret to appropriate setting, got on target holding on the left edge of the plate to compensate for the slight cross wind, let out all my breath, then gently pulled the trigger as Doug said, “Thousand four!” followed by “Hit! Just to right of dead center!”  As he started his count down for my second shot at the life-sized Dall sheep target, I shifted my prone position ever so slightly and this time held just on the inside edge of the left side of the steel gong which was where the sheep’s vitals would be, let out all my breath and squeezed the trigger a second time just as Doug said “Thousand three!”  I saw the bullet impact the steel plate inside the sheep target just below center of the gong.  Immediately I bolted in a third round, and then cleared the rifle.

During my stay at the FTW I shot 300 rounds of Hornady 200-grain ELD-X ammo through my .300 Win Mag Ruger at steel gongs and life-sized targets, including a few rounds to be certain the rifle was properly sighted in at the beginning of the course.  That’s a lot of shooting, but that is also a LOT of fun and learning.  Learning that if I can hit a target out to 750 or more yards I should be able to put a bullet into the vitals of an animal at 100 yards.  I love what Tim Fallon tells all those who attend their S. A.A.M. classes, “We teach long range shooting, NOT long range hunting! We encourage you to get as close as possible before taking a shot!”

Spring, Shooting Training complete, well at least sort of.  I will be returning to the FTW in May to go through their S.A.A.M. Dangerous Game course to help me prepare for an African safari later in July and August for leopard and sable in Namibia.

Next up for spring training,  time to go through my hunting clothes to be certain I have what I need for upcoming hunts.  This coming year for episodes of our “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” television show which airs on Sportsman Channel,I have hunts planned for Africa with Japsie Blaauw’s Dzombo Hunting Safaris as mentioned. I will also be doing hunts in southern Alaska with Keegan McCarthy’s Alaska Coastal Adventures for Sitka blacktail deer and sea ducks in November, and also hopefully a moose hunt in the eastern part of Canada, and if I can get it worked out a hunt in Europe for mouflon and fallow deer, then numerous whitetail hunts in a wide variety of terrain/habitat and weather/temperatures.  But before then, I am planning on hunting Axis deer in June during their rut.  All this means finding clothes that “work” when it is warm to hot and dry to wet.

For the past couple of years, I have been wearing Drake Waterfowl – Nontypical clothing.  Their garments have proven themselves in in all sort of pleasant weather and extremely horrible weather conditions.  Their clothing is extremely “well constructed” and long-wearing, so I really will not have to add anything this coming year, other than possibly a couple of travel shirts.

One of the things I recently added to my “tack” is a DiamondBlade knife (www.diamondbladeknives.com).  I dearly love hunting knives.  Because of my many years as a wildlife biologist which included doing total necropsies, as well as gutting, caping as a guide I know my way around knives. After years of trying a LOT of different knives, I have finally one that keeps its edge and does everything I ask of it.