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Tips for better marksmanship

Marksmanship is all about hitting your target, in this piece I’d like to discuss the foundational points of good rifle marksmanship. If you can get these basics together, the rest comes down to simple practice and experience. It’s not just about equipment either, you can only buy your way into marksmanship to a degree. You will also have to work on your skills, and maybe even get some training by professionals.

Two different but very comparable rifles, TOP: is a Remington 700 6.5Creedmoor in a Graham Brothers Rifleworks chassis. BOTTOM: A Tikka T3 in 25 Creedmoor mounted in a KRG Bravo chassis.

-The right platform
With so many great rifles being manufactured today, the right platform could come from almost anywhere. The right platform is a rifle that fits you the shooter, and has the requisite features and accuracy for your intended purpose.
Be it for hunting, target, or competition, it is important to have the proper length of pull, cheek weld, etc. so that you can handle and control it accurately. The rifle should be configured to give you proper sight alignment so you can get a proper sight picture as well.
The right platform might be up-gradable for aftermarket accessories, this is something to keep in mind when you are shopping for your next gun. Obviously, for accurate shooting you want a rifle with a good barrel, that will shoot accurately. Accuracy is typically measured in group sizes (or patterns) at a given distance, the smaller the pattern of your shots, the more consistent you and the rifle are at aiming them.
The length, caliber, and weight of the rifle depend on your activities. If you will be shooting from standing, you may want a light-weight rifle, same if you plan on carrying the rifle through the mountains on a hunt. Whereas if you plan on competition shooting like benchrest, a heavier gun may be an advantage.

The right platform is one that is comfortable, shoots accurately, and allows you to aim and focus on the target and especially your job as the triggerman.
Which leads us to the next point.

TriggerTech is one of many aftermarket trigger manufacturers that make outstanding triggers. Seen here is a flat-shoe Diamond, my preferred trigger.

-A good trigger
Most quality rifles sold today have a decent trigger available. Even if it doesn’t come with one, there is likely an aftermarket manufacturer that offers an improved replacement option.
A good trigger is one that breaks clean, and consistently. A good marksman isn’t surprised by the break of the trigger, it is a deliberate movement at precisely the right time. For that you need a trigger that is predictable.
Whether it is a single stage, two stage, a light or a heavier trigger, your ability to trip the sear without affecting the positioning of the rifle is what will make you a better shot.
You want to be able to pull the trigger without it affecting your sight picture. This sometimes just requires additional practice, other times, a better trigger is needed. Dry firing is a good practice that will get you familiar with your trigger and when it breaks.

Whether you replace your trigger, adjust it to a more comfortable setting, or learn to use the trigger as is, make sure you are well practiced and familiar with how it feels, and when it breaks.

-Ammunition
A rifle is no better than the ammunition it is fed, so ammunition is of particular importance.
Some rifles are pickier than others, and some are downright fussy. Not all munitions are equal, and even the same ammunition can vary from lot to lot. Some people forego this issue by handloading all their own ammo, while others stick to specific lines or brands.
The most important thing to keep in mind if you are shooting for better marksmanship is; consistency is accuracy. The only reason accurate shooters can hit their targets is by using equipment that produces consistent performance. Ammunition is key to this.
When selecting ammunition for your rifle, I like to start with two or three options. You can choose more obviously to get a better idea of what your gun likes, but the key comes after you find what ammo you and your gun shoot best.
Practice makes perfect right? Practice using the same ammunition you intend to hunt or compete with. And its probably a good idea to stock up on said ammunition so that in a pinch, you aren’t forced to use something else.

Choose the best shooting ammunition that fits the application and budget, and then stick to it. Both you and your rifle will become accustomed to it, and like riding your bike it will become second nature. You will know what to expect from your shots, how they perform in the wind, at distance, on animals, etc.

-A Good Rifle Sight
A very large portion of modern rifles use optical sights, such as telescopic sights, or Red Dot’s, and some still use the traditional iron sights. Whichever of the type you intend on using will need more of the consistency I have already spoken about.
Iron sights are mostly used for shorter distance shooting such as pistols and carbines. These sights while much simpler and less costly than optical sights, still require precision to be effective to a marksman.

All types of sights require precise adjustments, repeat-ability, and hold their position once set.
A cheap scope may not hold zero, and the internals could shift under recoil or other force. Open sights that are not secured properly could flex or even come off. Either scenario is not going to allow you to make your best shot, so it is paramount to ensure that you have the best possible option.
Optics in my experience are particularly beholden to the old adage “you get what you pay for”. While there are many new and less expensive options available today, make sure that you get something that will do the job you need it to do. Whether that is to hold a zero on a heavy magnum, or repeatable elevation adjustments on a long-range scope.
Don’t skimp on the scope is a motto I learned long ago, a good scope often costs two to three times the rifle it is destined for. And take the time to learn the proper way to use it.

Whatever sight you put on your rifle, should be the best you can afford to use. It should be installed properly with robust mounts that are adequate for the recoil and duty, and much like the rifle, it should fit you. With proper eye relief and focus for your eyes.


-Training
All the right equipment won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to properly use them. From the very basics of shooting such as eye dominance, breathing control, and a good clean trigger pull, you need to make sure you are not creating a problem in your shooting routine.
A good rifle needs to be “driven” properly, the way it is held without inducing torque or other uneven forces that can cause it to recoil differently from shot to shot. And recoil management that will keep you on target for followup shots should also be a part of it.
Trigger control using the pad of your finger vs. the joint, breathing properly to induce the least amount of movement as the trigger is broken.
Learning the proper use of your scope perhaps, adjusting for come ups or estimating wind values and their requisite holds.
It always amazes me how much better people can do after some very simple instruction from a professional, it could be as easy as a few tips and some constructive criticism. It is well worth your time to get this kind of help, a lot of competitive circles even employ after-event workshops or clinics to help marksmen learn about what they did wrong.
The most satisfying part of all is when you gain the confidence that you can hit what you choose to hit when your rifle is fully understood and is simply an extension of you. The shooting sports industry offers many different training opportunities that can help you better your skills, and employ them in your quest for marksmanship.

Apply yourself to learn those basics of marksmanship, and make sure your equipment fits both you and the task at hand, you’ll soon find yourself making better shots. Keep practicing and learn from every shot whether hit or a miss.

_CBM

Mouse Hunting

Originally Posted October 2015

The morning was damp from overnight rain, a muggy feeling as I rolled out of bed this morning. An early workday, and I was not feeling it yet. I stumbled down the stairs toward the kitchen, and turned on the light. The silence of the early morning surrounded me. As I sat there in a sleepy stupor, thinking about the day’s events. I was startled, by the sound of a grocery sack rustling across the room. For a moment, I thought I saw a shadow of movement near bye. I went about the business of making my breakfast when from the corner of my eye, I saw him. In the blink of an eye, a small dark shadow shot across the kitchen floor. My jaw clenched as I wrapped my still cloudy mind around the situation. An intruder, with no respect for sovereignty, or private property, was now threatening the peace of my home. All I could think of is my wife and her reaction upon discovering this interloper. No comfort, no solace, and the screams and torment would go on for days. In just a few seconds, all these scenarios played out in my mind. And above all this, a sharp deadline loomed over my head. My co-worker who was to carpool with me, would be pulling into the driveway any moment…Time slowed, and I squinted my eyes. My instincts aligned, and I transformed. My true nature revealed. Almost as if he felt the challenge, this foul rodent confronted me. Showing no fear, he walked out into the open, our eyes again met. We stared at each other, studying the other’s movements, calculating. When he’d had enough, he scurried behind one of my wife’s plants. Like a professional predator, I sprang into action. I hastily descended to the basement and armed myself. In no time, I had returned again to the kitchen. In my hands, I held the equalizer. His speed was now matched by my marksmanship. My weapon of choice was my daughter’s Strawberry Shortcake issue Daisy air-rifle. My triumphant return to the kitchen was a deeply disturbing realization for my opponent. I could see his worried demeanor from a crossed the kitchen. As time ticked away, I knew I needed to make it count. Several times, he exposed himself, but with the patience of a trained killer. I waited for the perfect moment. As he showed himself for the last time, I drew aim, and began the long trigger pull. When the shot was released, the BB shot crossed the kitchen, under the table and between the legs of a chair. The wee mouse disappeared from view, only the cold sound of a BB rolling across the floor could be heard. I paused, my breath still held tight, and listened for a sign. A warm sense of satisfaction poured over me, as I heard a rustling sound. My prey had succumbed to my shot, and was now in the throes of death. I carefully drew near, weapon still on point, never yielding. He lay there, in a puddle of his own life-sustaining blood. One shot, to his little brain pan, had ended this standoff. I reveled in the moment, knowing that my family would wake soon, and know nothing of the fear, and the struggle.  I removed the offender, and cleaned up the mess. It was time to go to work, well, at least to my part-time job. My real job of course being a top predator.

What is Windage and Why/When to adjust for it

Anyone who has shot in the wide-open spaces of the plains states knows what wind is. It’s an old nemesis for marksmen and one that has likely ruined more than a few shots over the years. But could a better understanding of this gusty adversary put more hits on your scorecard?
Wind deflection is the physical effect of air currents that your bullet is forced to combat as it travels towards your targets. Wind can come from any direction, and the effect it has on your bullet can vary greatly depending on air density, humidity, temperature, and other atmospheric conditions. In this article we’ll address those effects, and what you can do to counter them.

Windage corrections align your point of aim and your (altered by wind) point of impact.

What is windage:
Windage is the correction for the effect of the wind. Your rifle should be zeroed to the center of your point of aim (POA), and the wind is that obnoxious character that blows your bullets away from that point of aim. You adjust your windage according to how far away from your point of aim it pushes the bullet. If the wind blows your bullet three inches right of POA, then you can aim three inches left of where you want to hit.
Shooting in the wind can be intimidating, but as with most other disciplines, it is simply a matter of familiarity. Instead of fair weather shooting, you’d be better off forcing yourself to get out there in the breeze and learn from it.
The effects of wind and other air currents are exacerbated with more exposure time, the longer your bullet is flying in the wind, the more the wind will affect it. And a wind blowing you off target up close will stray your shot farther than a wind downrange. A simple way to look at that is the further distance your bullet travels, the longer time the wind will have to affect its trajectory. It’s important to note then that bullets traveling faster will be less affected than a slower one all else being equal.
Regardless of velocity, the further away from your target, the more you will have to account for the wind.
Bullets drift with the air they are flying through. If the wind is blowing from your nine o’clock your bullet will impact right from your point of aim and so on. Your job as a marksman is to know how much that deviation will be at whatever given distance or angle you may be shooting.

A wind meter such as this Kestrel can be a valuable tool when shooting in wind.

There are many ways to calculate or estimate those offsets, and you are probably looking at one of the easiest ones as you read this. Ballistic computing apps that you can download to your phone do a great job of predicting how far you need to correct for wind in most scenarios. You will need to have input data to get what you want from it, which could require additional hardware such as a wind-meter like a Kestrel.
There are also plenty of wind charts you can research that will give you good estimates for particular bullets in a given set of conditions. Keep in mind they are estimates, and your results may vary some.

There are a couple of ways to correct windage, the first and probably more common is to hold for it. If the wind is blowing from your right to your left, then you hold your aim right of the target, and the wind will carry it into the target. The other common way to correct is to dial a wind offset into your riflescope. If the wind blows you a foot left of the target, then you dial the equivalent of a foot to the right, and then you can aim dead on.

Much the same way you have to lead a shot on a bird when you shoot a shotgun, you must aim your shot into the wind if your target is in a cross-wind.

When to adjust your windage:
With an understanding then of what windage is, when do we need to apply it to our shooting?
In my opinion, windage should be taken into account in almost every shot you take. I say almost because a slight breeze will barely affect most center-fire rifles inside one hundred yards, so in that case, you are probably safe to disregard the breeze. But if you are shooting a 22LR, even a light breeze can blow your shot off the target sometimes. Distant shots are especially subject to the wind as I mentioned above, even a slight breeze can blow your magnum rifle off the point of aim at significant distances.

Before you shoot, you can take a good look at the conditions downrange. If you see signs of wind, such as blowing grass, or by reading the mirage on the ground, it is good practice to analyze it before shooting. This would be when you pull out your wind meter and ballistic app to determine how much windage you will have to correct. Or if you are an old hand at it, you might just lick your finger, or toss a pinch of dust into the breeze.

Know your Wind:

An important thing to keep in mind is not just the speed of the wind, but the direction. A wind coming at 90 degrees will have a greater wind deflection on your bullet than one that comes at a 45-degree angle. A wind coming from straight behind you will actually cause your shot to hit high, and one coming head-on will cause it to hit low. When you compound the effects by the wind coming from strange angles, it can get a little tricky, and to be honest the best way to get better at it is to just shoot and see. You will soon realize that some shots require both a windage and elevation (up & down) corrections.

Another thing to watch for is multiple wind affects. The wind blowing from your shooting position might be different than one downrange. The wind up close could be blowing right to left, whereas four hundred yards away it may be blowing left to right, and both of them at different speeds. Again, sometimes the only way to know for sure is to take your best estimation and shoot. Then be ready for a quick followup that includes a better wind correction.

Wind holds VS. Dialing:
Some people like to hold wind corrections using the reticle in their scope, while others like to dial the wind correction into the turrets of their scope. I am more of a wind holder myself, and I’ll tell you why. The wind is fickle, and always changing, even between shots there can be significant switches in the wind. Using a good reticle with wind offset marks, allows you to hold a precise value into the wind. Should that wind slow down, or change, you can adjust your hold on the fly by simply holding a different point on your reticle. Whereas if you dial the wind into the scope turret, you will have to redial every time you see a shift. I find it a little simpler to just hold for what the wind currently is.

Whether you holdover, or dial, whether you dope the wind with dirt and grass, or use the tech gadgets, get out in the wind and let it teach you something. Keep your brain turned on and pay attention if you miss a shot and don’t know why, you are wasting time and ammo. Pay attention to the conditions and learn from every shot, hit or miss.

-CBM

Taurus USA TX22 Pistol

I have long wanted a 22LR pistol, if nothing else just to have some cheap shooting fun for myself and the kids. Its hard to beat the 22 for teaching kids the responsibility that firearms demand, and they are so fun to shoot that anything less than a brick of ammo just wont do.
The only thing that kept me from buying one over the years were concerns of performance. There always seemed to be issues with 22LR pistols, be it malfunctions like a jam, or being finicky when it came to ammunition. All I wanted was a gun that ran perfectly every time, and one that I didn’t have to worry about what to feed it.

The Taurus USA TX22 pistol caught my eye at SHOT Show 2019, I immediately fell in love with the feel of the pistol, the grip did not feel like many of the 22 auto pistols I had held before. It felt like a full size gun in my hand, the grip texture gave an almost sticky feeling in your palm. The well balanced and lightweight TX22 felt much like an M&P, or maybe a Sig Sauer P320.
Another great feature of the TX22 is it’s 16 round magazines, and it comes with two. Most 22 auto pistols are single stack 10 round magazines, it is refreshing to see that barrier being broken.
For the many patrons to the NFA, adding a suppressor to your favorite pistol is a must. Many of the 22 pistols available today come with threaded barrels for suppressors, but the TX22 even comes with the adaptor collar needed to mount the suppressor.

When I picked up my TX22 from my FFL, I already had a box of ammo and suppressor in hand. So it should come as no surprise to you that I didn’t even make it home before shooting this handsome little Taurus.

The TX22 shown with suppressor collar installed, without it, the barrel is flush to the nose of the slide.

A quick stop by my local shooting spot armed with 100 CCI Mini Mags was just enough to wet my whistle. It was the fastest five minutes of my life if I recall, those hundred rounds burned through the TX22 like grain through a goose. I was now addicted to this thing, I temporarily left my range to get two important things; More ammo, and my son. I knew he would love this thing as much as I did.

A few hours later, after Junior and I had stopped by Cabelas, we were ready to go for round two. I had purchased an assortment of ammunition, a pretty good spread in my estimation. I wanted to try everything, from the cheapest bulk ammunition to the ritzy high end stuff. I even bought a couple different boxes of subsonic ammunition, to see how the TX22 would handle it.

The next few hours of shooting turned out to be some of the funnest we’ve ever shared, magazine after magazine of plinking fun. We tried every kind of ammunition I brought, the cheap bulk stuff from Remington, the Winchester 333 pack, CCi subsonic, Remington Hornets, and even some Aguila Eley Prime. I was ecstatic with the performance, after shooting six or seven hundred rounds, we hadn’t experienced a single failure (but for the 730 fps subsonics, they will not cycle the gun, even suppressed). My favorite ammo for the TX22 would have been both the CCI subsonic 1050fps, and the Winchester 333 pack. Both of them shot very accurate from the TX22, at least more so than the rest.

The pistol runs flawless whether suppressed or not. There is of course a bit more back-pressure when shooting suppressed, this causes the gun to foul a little more aggressively but that is no surprise. I loved shooting the gun without the suppressor too, it is balanced perfectly, and fit me so well that I found myself hardly using the sights.
The very mild recoil of the 22LR is soaked up nicely by the recoil spring, the gun hardly moves in the hand when fired. Follow-up shots are easily made, and can be done so very quickly.
The trigger of the TX22 features a trigger safety, but utilizes the whole shoe vs. a blade safety like many are accustomed to. The striker fired TX22 trigger is very clean, and resets are pretty short as well. I would love to shoot this gun in some kind of three gun competition or something similar, the inexistent recoil and fast shot to shot time would be a blast.

The sixteen round magazines were nice to have as well, one thing about 22’s is you spend a lot of time reloading. So having sixteen rounds to shoot prolonged the time one spent at the shooting line. The magazines have a small circular pin through the follower that you can pull down slowly as you add rounds to the feed lips until it is full.

The gun is easily disassembled following the directions in the owners manual. With as much ammo as you will go through, you will need to clean it often. Especially as dirty as most 22 ammo is. No tools are needed, except for removing or installing the suppressor collar. And I would suggest removing it after every range session, if only to clean it. I’d hate to see it get stuck on the barrel by all the 22 gunk.

The TX22 has a single magazine release, though it can be switched from side to side. It comes configured for a right handed shooter, but the simple directions in the manual allow lefties to switch it over to their liking. I initially found the magazine release to feel a bit small and perhaps difficult to purchase with my thumb. However I quickly withdrew that observation after shooting the gun, at no point during all my shooting did I find it to be a problem. Mag changes were done quickly and without any issues.

The TX22 with the Silencerco Spectre II suppressor

The easily adjustable sights were another welcome feature. There are two screws you can adjust with a micro flat blade screwdriver, one is for elevation adjustment, and the other for windage.
The TX22 also features an ambidextrous safety, with familiar positioning and function. Up for safe, and pulling down with the thumb puts the gun into the firing mode.
The front of the polymer frame features an accessory rail where you can add you favorite light, laser, or other device.

As it turns out, the Taurus TX22 is everything I hoped it would be when I first held it in a Las Vegas casino. It shoots as good as it handles, it’s function matches it’s handsome looks. It brings some great new features that were long overdue.
I love this little pistol, its been hard to put down. I even left my usual CCW at home, just so I had an excuse to have the TX22 with me so I could look at it, and show it to friends. Not that I would recommend a 22LR for a carry gun, but it sure was nice to have such a light and narrow pistol inside my belt for a change. We had fun shooting the pistol at the range, as well as a little squirrel hunting. The SilencerCo Spectre II made the gun so quiet, we could sneak into acorn distance.

You mess with the bull, you catch these horns.

The only negative things I have to bring up about the TX22 is regarding the magazine design. As I removed them from the box, the floor-plate of both magazines was easily pushed off. The first time resulted in my magazine guts getting shot out across the floor. They aren’t big pieces, so it took a bit to find them all. When I tested the second magazine for the issue, I found it to be the same, the floor-plate retainer didn’t seem to have enough of an anchor to keep them in place.
Oddly enough though, the problem never reoccured. After shooting the gun a few times, I again tried to get the floor-plates to slide off. But even with aggressive pressure they stayed in position. Perhaps the vibration of shooting helped seat them better? Either way, the problem has never been repeated.
Another concern is more of a user problem than a design one. When loading the magazines, it is easy to want to just pull the follower down well ahead of the cartridges you are feeding into the lips. This can cause cartridges to tilt inside the magazine, causing an obvious malfunction which usually requires emptying the magazine and starting anew. This problem is easily remedied by only pulling the follower down to allow the next cartridge to be fed into the magazine. One at a time until all sixteen rounds are loaded.

These are minimal complaints, and surely not something that would inhibit my purchase of another one. The Taurus USA TX22 is a fantastic pistol all around, it is simply done right. It wouldn’t surprise me if its a design they continue to build on for additional pistols, and I will be watching and waiting for it.

-CBM

Elornis Industry Back Pack/Drag Bag

I frequently get the chance to check out some cool new gear, and this is about just such a thing. Elornis Industry is a manufacturer in the Czech Republic, they make steel targets, hardware, textiles, Kydex, and many other great products for shooters. I managed to get my hands on one of their BackPack/ Drag Bag‘s, and I was very impressed.
The bag is a smaller one, for carbines and bullpups like my SRS. It serves as either a simple soft case for transporting your rifle to the range, or as a backpack to carry the rifle and accessories all over creation. It also works as a traditional snipers drag bag, to tow a marksman’s kit safely.

First I must say, the quality of Elornis Industry products is second to none. Quality materials, stitched firmly with good quality fasteners present a top notch case. The extra large zippers used in the case are smooth and strong, almost feels like you could zip a finger up in them.

The backpack straps are well padded, and adjust to fit the user. They also can be stowed inside the pack if not used as a backpack, as can the waist belt and chest strap.

There are additional storage compartments both inside and outside the case. Allowing for gear organization, there are even different colored zipper tabs to help distinguish. Inside the case, there are three zippered pouches made of mesh. On the back outside of the pack there are also three pouches accessed by opening the three way zipper.

The rifle compartment itself has a soft interior lining, a couple straps can be added to help support and stabilize the rifle inside.

The pack also has a built in rainfly that deploys from the top. It fits over the pack with a small bungee around its circumference to keep it tight.

Other handy little things like well positioned handles for carrying, velcro strip for adding patches (you know the ones, so that everybody at the range knows your blood type), these features round this pack out as just a great bag. I think it is ideal for a full day deployment for something like a shooting match, or a day chasing rock chucks in the Rockies.

If Elornis Industry makes all their products like they did this one, then I need to order more of them. Definitely intuitive products built for shooters by shooters.

-CBM

Watch the video here

Sacrifice, Harvest, and Killing

Do you think we are the only predators on this planet that contemplate these actions? What separates you and I from other top predators?
I have given it much thought over the years, and today I thought I might write about a death we should be satisfied with.

I often hear people refer to hunting and killing an animal as a harvest. This nomenclature has never sat well with me, as it is typically used in referrence to an agricultural crop. The commercialized hunting market seemed hasty to adopt this word, and for perfectly understandable reasons. Hunting and hunters are unfortunately ever less popular in modern society, and Harvest sounds friendlier than Killing.
That said, I dont like the word. You dont harvest a deer, I dont walk out in the pasture and pull a bundle of deer out of furrows. Nor do I pick a flock of ducks from a bush.

Hunting is so much deeper than that, more intimate. There is a very dedicated effort wherein a good hunter exhausts time, money, and practice of his craft in order to take the life of his prey. Better hunters spend even more time researching, scouting, and perfecting their skill. The crux of all this effort is to be a more effective and ethical predator, a skilled killer. It is a costly investment, both materially and emotionally.
I am a killer, I kill animals, and for that I make no apology. There are many reasons I hunt, most of which you’re probably familiar with if you’ve read much of this blog; food, game management, and especially the participation in natures way of taking and giving life. We are part of it, not some distant observer.
You may have heard “wolves lose no sleep over the opinions of sheep”, and just as the wolves sleep soundly in their dens, we should not apologize or soften our stance as both apex predators, and as stewards of the land we rule. Removing ourselves from the food chain does a disservice to the overall ecology, especially when it’s for self righteous reasons.

All we left of a six-point bull elk

Sacrifice is an acient principle, it is a beautiful and fullfilling concept that gives meaning to what can often seem like a sufferable existance.
Men have sacrifced animals (for various reasons) since the beginning. And again, I often hear the phrase, this animal gave its life for us. It is used as evidence to care for and respect the flesh of the animal, a fine result but based on a flawed perspective.
Much as I dont care for using Harvest, I also dont feel right about This animal sacrificed its life for us.
Because if it were up to the animal in question, it would still be alive. I draw a similar distinction to my previous point about nomenclature, it goes much deaper than just This animal sacrificed its life for us. This animal was sacrificed against its will for us to live from its loss. There is a big difference you see.
Our agency allows us to choose what to sacrifce in our lives. Parents (both two and four legged) sacrifice for their offspring, soldiers sacrifice themselves for their countrymen, etc. But when a sacrifice is not made of free will, it carries an extremely heavy responsibility. When sacrificing an animals life, honor demands that its flesh be used with little to no waste, in a respectful and responsible manner.

These truths I believe are eternal, and there from comes our moral ethos as responsible hunters. It is what separates us from other apex predators like the wolf. It is the reason our conscience is so heavily taxed when we lose an animal, or when we cause un-nessesary suffering.
It is difficult for man not to think very highly of the animals we hunt. We spend so much time watching, admiring, and challenging them with our own skills, Yet even so we are frequently bested by them. This relationship betters us both, and elevates its value to us.
It is also what gives us such great satisfaction as we eat a tasty venison dinner. A meal that was achieved through great effort, and sacrifice, tastes so much better than one that was not.

Say what you mean, and use the appropriate words that accompany your actions. There is no doubt about the intentions of our brother the wolf when he stares down his nose at his prey. Neither should there be any doubt about our own intentions, and we should honor the sacrifice by giving the most swift and humane death we are capable of. A death we ourselves could make peace with.

-CBM

High Tech Hunting

Has technology pushed back the goal posts in hunting?

I can remember, not too long ago, when shooting a deer from a distance like 600yds or more would get you raked over the coals by the general hunting public. I remember telling my own Father about my aspirations of hitting targets at 1000 yards, and hearing his skepticism. I remember a well known gunsmith telling me that it was silly to twist a .223 Remington barrel for 75 grain bullets and higher. “Everything else peeters out past six or seven hundred yards” I told him. Again, came the refrain; “you cant shoot that far.” 
Like Ralphie, in the famous Christmas Story, I felt like nobody understood my dream. Nobody could see what I saw in my mind. But there was a wave coming, and it was fueled by science, technology, and at least in my case, a quest for ballistic perfection.

Don’t get me wrong here, its not that I simply wanted to kill something from as far away as possible, that could be borderline recklessness. What I wanted was something more, I wanted to build a rifle or rifles that would make me unstoppable at hitting small targets at distances like half a mile or more. And to that end the ability, if needed, to take my game wherever it presented itself be it near or far. It’s easy now, to see my former folly. I had focused so hard on equipment, and failed to see my part as a marksman that is equally important. Thankfully, these Rocky Mountains are a great educator. In today’s hardware driven market, it is hard not to fall for the sales pitch of this rifle will make you a sniper. Many of the best manufactures sell more than just hardware, they sell you training to go with it. Dont be a fool thinking that your wallet will make up for your aspirations.

You can buy accuracy to a degree, but you cant buy skill.

A young buck being surveilled

There is so much more to making a good shot, than just the hardware. Skill is equally important, perhaps more so. “Its the Indian, not the arrow” many people say. You can put a good rifle in the hands of a skilled marksman, and he will deal deadly force against anything within range. But even the finest precision rifle in the unwashed hands of a novice may be useless beyond its point blank aiming radius.

I should move on from the generalizations and get down to real information we can use. The foundations of a good shot are anchored firmly on several things, I dont claim any kind of authority or prestige, so I’ll just throw em out there in the order I see em.

  • A properly built and accurate rifle, capable of  Minute of Angle (MOA) accuracy
  • A properly trained marksman, who can yield at least MOA accuracy in expected conditions
  • Ammunition matched to the rifle providing at least MOA accuracy

MOA is a good start, but ideally you should strive for much better

If you cover those three basic pillars, you are well on your way. But all three of them have been around for at least half a century, so why has it taken so long to break these time cemented barriers that I mentioned above? I think part of it is human nature, and conservative thinking.
If you cover these bases, all it takes is a little pinch of science and a dash of high tech equipment to shatter the barriers that once congested both minds and ranges.

Now lets talk a little bit about hunting. As I outlined in my last piece, killing an animal, is about placing enough energy in the right spot. To me, that is what accuracy is all about, being able to hit my target exactly where I want to. The capacity to place a shot accurately should be the main determining factor in a hunter’s killing radius. If two hundred yards is as far as you can shoot accurately, then you would be imprudent to shoot beyond that.
Now we have come back to my original point, which was people looking down their noses at long range shooting, and long range hunting in particular. Shooting animals at long range distances is a taboo subject, mainly because people have either shot beyond their accuracy envelope, or watched someone else do it, and experienced poor results (wounded/unrecovered animals). Nobody likes seeing things like that happen, so most will shy away from questionable shots, which is a safe and conservative choice.

And so it was for the better part of the twentieth century, few dared to push the limits, mostly those in competition or LE/Mil circles. But to the average shooter, and particularly the hunter, the subject remained taboo and legend.
The advent of technology has brought a miriad of supplies to the industry, this has allowed everyone, even rednecks like me the ability to crash through the taboo with impressive impacts.
Some of these technological advances are worth pointing out, in no particular order:

  • Better bullets with higher Ballistic Coefficients allowing the bullets to cheat wind and resistance, keeping them on track further.
  • Better propellants, giving higher velocities, more stable and efficient burns.
  • Compact, accurate, and affordable laser rangefinders, allowing marksmen to extract the data they require to make proper predictions.
  • Precise and accurate telescopic sights, to adjust their shots according to data with exactness.
  • Reticles that allow precise measurements and wind holds.
  • Chronographs, Doppler radar, and other bullet flight testing equipment.
  • Ballistic computers, inexpensive and incredibly valuable for predictions.
  • Handheld Weather Stations, giving exact local atmospheric data.
New tools available to hunters can increase your odds of success

All of these tools, as well as others have not only become available to the average shooter, but they are affordable, and fit in a pocket. The science of shooting has also progressed greatly, even in the short time I have been following it. And again, it is all available right at your fingertips.
So it seems no small wonder then, that what once seemed nearly impossible, is now commonplace. Even as little as twenty years ago, who would shoot at something so far away that a guess could be off by hundreds of yards? And the target could barely be made out in your 3X9 scope? And even if you doped the wind right, and managed the correct holdover, your bullet may have run completely out of energy before it gets there.
These high tech gadgets have given us the tools to cross all those T’s and dot all the i’s. Now you hear about it at every end of the internet, on hunting forums and Facebook pages.
Which begs the question; Are we now living in a post short-range world? And is taking those long shots any more irresponsible with the help of today’s technology? I guess that depends on how you look at it. I have heard both sides of the argument for some time, and I have yet to find a compelling argument against this new anomaly as long as one does his due diligence. For starters, anybody can make a poor shot on an animal. If you hunt long enough, you will eventually make a bad shot, we’ve all seen it. Whether its caused by buck fever, lack of experience, weather conditions, equipment failure, or any one of a million other things that people can blame it on rightly or wrongfully. I’m not making an excuse for it, nor am I defending it, it just happens. I would go as far as to say that more animals are wounded and go unrecovered at close range, than at long range. Simply due to the numbers, the majority of hunters probably never shoot beyond 400 yards. Hitch that to their hit a paper plate at 100yds mindset, and you can count on some animals going unrecovered or lost.

We’ve seen people miss easy and simple shots, as well as make incredible and amazing shots. I’ve said it before, a good shot should be no surprise to a marksman, it should be expected after much practice and experience making same or similar shots in the same conditions and circumstances regardless of range.
We know what it takes to make a good shot, we outlined that above. Making a good shot is the same whether you are shooting 200 yards or 800 yards, the difference of course is the variables that come into play. For example, the wind at 200 yards is much less a factor than it is at 800 yards. What might only blow your bullet off course by an inch or so up close, may blow you completely off target at the further distance. Also, at 800 yards, one MOA is eight plus inches, which is why sub MOA is a much better goal.

As long as one considers all the additional variables and their consequence, they can be mitigated and overcome.
Unless they cant be, what I mean by that is the further away your target the more downrange forces that simply cannot be anticipated unless you have forward observers or other assistance. And the further out the target, the more of these variables you have to worry about. Perhaps someday soon, technology will cover that as well.
Conditions will always dictate what you can and cant do, if it is a dead calm morning, you might be able to pull off something incredible. But if it is a switch wind breezy afternoon for example, it would be a wise choice to keep within your known envelope. A wise shooter, will always keep within his known realm of proficiency. But an even wiser shooter will recognize that his realm changes with atmosphere and weather. Keeping your finger in the air like a weak a politician, and paying close attention to what is happening around you, will go a long way towards letting you know when to shoot, or more importantly when not to shoot.

The ethics of long range hunting will be debated forever. There are those who think taking long shots will always be reckless, and there are those who are willing to take a long hard look at the data, make their calculations, and either take the shot, or choose another course of action.

Those who claim moral high ground, saying long range shots are unethical will always abound. But the truth is this; Not taking long range shots does not necessarily make you an ethical hunter, but staying inside your limits does. For some people, that limit may be four hundred yards, for others it might be twelve hundred yards. It is up to each individual to figure that out, and prove it to themselves repeatedly long before an animal falls in their crosshair.

I don’t hold anything against those who dislike long range shots, they are entitled to their opinion. But the irritating part of the debate comes when someone tells me (or anyone else) that you shouldn’t do that, simply because they cant do it. They love to make insults like; that’s not really hunting, or real hunters get closer. And it occasionally comes from people who hunt from a shoot house, with a Keurig and heater, overlooking senderos strewn with corn feeders on land so flat you cant see more than a hundred yards without jackin up the shoot house. Its really an ignorant position to take, particularly when you don’t know someone else’s skill-set or practices.
Just because a person can make a long shot, doesn’t mean they cant stalk into arrow range of an animal. There was a time where big bore muskets were used to shoot deer at what we today would consider archery range, should we go back in the name of purity? Would our ancestors look down their noses at our modern equipment thinking there is no challenge? It was the push for innovation that took us from those ancient smooth bores and stick bows to the rifle and/or bow you hunt with today.

Another problem with this way of thinking is that it is a never ending slippery slope. Long range hunting < spot and stalking < archery stalking < spear hunting < knife hunting < teeth and hands < etc. < etc. Where does it end? Are we so dedicated to our own ideal of hunting that we would deny another’s? Surely if a stalk into bow range is your thing, with wooden arrows and handmade broadheads, who am I to stop you? Despite having seen many wounded animals with arrows still in them, I wouldn’t argue that archery is unethical, nor would I want to keep people from doing it.
That leads me to my last point.
The worst thing that we hunters can do as a group, is to fracture off into different tribes pitted against each other. The anti hunting movement is growing wildly, everywhere you look there are people trying to take away our ability to hunt and fish the way we enjoy. We as a group need to stand together more than ever, for divided we will surely lose.
I used to be infuriated by the mass hordes of hunters that would flood my favorite hunting spots. It drove me nuts that they didn’t understand my plan, and walked right through my hunt. As years have passed, and age has toned my opinions, I have changed my attitude. Those hordes have just as much right to be there as I do, and I would rather it be other hunters interfering in my hunt than protesters.

Instead, I have evolved as a hunter. I now welcome these large groups of bush beaters, and like the predator that I am, I simply await the inevitable, like a hawk kiting in the sky. Instead of trying to beat them through the forest, and beat them to the stalk, I await the escaping game from a position where my skill allows me an advantage over the hordes. An advantage I intend to keep.

Technology and necessity have indeed pushed back the goal posts in todays hunt. I see nothing wrong with it, provided marksmen respect their prey enough to become swift and lethal, and stay within their known limits.

-CBM

Venison Rib Eye Roast

A few days ago, I mentioned an unfortunate even that I chose to turn into a positive. As I returned home from my brothers house one evening, I noticed a young deer laying on the side of the small two lane main street of our rural town. I quickly pulled over to confirm my sad suspicions, the poor little guy had been hit by a car. I tried to access his prognosis, which turned out to be quite poor, both his back legs had been broken dooming him to to death. I contacted the local Police, so he could be euthanized quickly to end his certain suffering. But I didn’t want his suffering to be in vain, so I decided to turn this sad affair into something positive.

Following through of course with the legal requirements applicable, I called my brother, and we took the young deer back home, where I fully intended to butcher him to avoid further waste. In just a few minutes, we had him cleaned, hung in a tree, and washed him down with cold fresh water. The evening air is still quite cool here in the Rocky Mountains, especially as it flows down from the canyons no more than a mile away. So we left the deer hanging overnight, before putting him into an iced cooler for a weeks worth of aging.

That was a week ago, and this past Saturday morning, it was time to turn what could have been another foul roadside surprise, into something that would make even our Mother proud.

My brother and I set to work, with sharp knives, butcher paper, and my dog Benson staring with wide eyed attention at what must have seemed mountains of juicy and tender cuts. Benson knows a good meal when he sees it.

The deer was fairly small compared to the deer we were used to butchering. He probably was last years fawn, which didn’t leave a particularly large amount of meat. But I’m not one to sniff a gift fish. We quickly turned the small deer into a bunch of neatly little white wrapped packages, destined to become some of my critically acclaimed hamburgers, some savory Sunday roasts, and perhaps a spicy pot of chili. But we decided to save the very best for last, and for that, we needed a sawzall.

We left the carcass of the deer complete, stripping everything but the backstraps. And when we were ready, cut two complete bone in ribeye roasts.

With the deer now completely butchered and packed away safely in the freezer, we discussed this rare springtime delicacy. Its not often to have a fresh never frozen rib rack in the springtime, so I suggested to my brother that he turn this prize into an unforgettable Sunday supper. We discussed the hows and the why’s, and in the end, he bathed the little rack in a puree of garlic, rosemary, and olive oil. And thus it rested overnight in the fridge, destined for the next days dinner table.

What happened next involved much butter, and about twenty minutes in the oven above four hundred degrees. After searing the outside of the rack in hot butter, it was brought up to an internal temp of 130. Then rested, before being served with fresh vegetables. The delicate and delicious meat was then picked from the bones, even Benson got to gnaw the leftovers.
Its hard to beat such a fine meal, prepared with care and skill. But it was even more savory perhaps, because of the knowledge that we had turned what could have been a terrible waste into something that was positive and enterprising. I am still saddened at the suffering this poor animal endured, but grateful that we were able to stop it, and turn it into something beautiful.
-CBM

Special thanks to my Brother Spencer for the help, the pics, and for sharing his talent.