Oct 29, 2008

Wisdom of a Professional Hunting Guide

How relevant is organized range training to the hunting field? Can matches and classes and other HunterShooter events really help you become a better hunter?

The following was sent to me by a retired professional big game guide.

"I was never a famous name guide, but facts are facts and this is what I experienced.

"Have to believe you are right about the importance of organized shooting. I shoot NRA and CMP Service Rifle. I am not that great a shot, generally shoot in the low end "Expert" range, but I shoot these matches for precisely the reasons you push HunterShooter events: Competition and time constraints make you do funny things, unless you know how to handle the pressure (mostly from experience) and the problems that crop up.

"I routinely invite friends, buddies, and shooting acquaintances to give matches a try. I always offer the use of a rifle and ammo and gear, and am always more than happy to give some pre-match training, etc. I have had exactly TWO people take me up on it. One was a former High Power shooter, now back into it after his feet were rewet, and the other a complete newbie.

"The old saw about 'can't hit a target but I never miss my deer' is pretty old and soggy in my book. I have never taken a competent shot out and had a lousy performance from them in the field. I have taken plenty of 'good game shots' out and had them discover that animals move and there is no bench rest handy. What can a guy say after seeing this type of thing over and over?

"I always preferred guiding prairie goats and muleys. The goaters I like the best, cause to me it was like chess on a giant scale. Outwit, outthink, be where they WILL be and have your hunter set up and ready. Mostly I'd have fellows set up for a 75 to 125 yard shot. Most would guess it to be anywhere to 200 yards and beyond. Never let a client shoot over 200, cause you don't have enough hours in the day to chase the cripples."

Oct 22, 2008

Killer of Kids

Unregulated Access
By Erich Pratt

They are small and easily concealable. But make no mistake about it, this weapon is a deadly killer.

Kids all across the country can buy this weapon cheaply without any legal prohibitions whatsoever.

The industry that manufactures these deadly items is completely unregulated. Their proliferation has resulted in massive head traumas and in the deaths of many children all across the nation.

Much of the carnage has occurred on Saturday nights, which should prompt Congress to examine why teenagers can so easily get their hands on these “Saturday Night Specials.”

Stores like Walmart have marketed these instruments of death to children under the age of 21. Not only are there no laws to discourage this type of irresponsible marketing, there are no laws preventing minors from handling these kinds of weapons at all!

Parents have been known to encourage kids as young as two or three to "play" with these assault weapons, without any parental supervision whatsoever. The greatest travesty occurs around birthdays and Christmas, as some have even been known to negligently give these instruments of death as gifts to their children. Not surprisingly, children take these items to school, resulting in senseless violence all across this country.

All this violence could be easily avoided if reasonable steps were taken to regulate this deadly killer:

Parents who wish to keep these items at home must be responsible enough to lock them up.

Kids under 21 should not be allowed to touch one of these lethal killers unless they have a written note of permission from their parents on their person.

Congress must begin to crack down on the weekend "bazaars" where trading cards that glorify these instruments of death are swapped back and forth by under-aged children.

Parents who wish to buy one of these assault weapons should be registered and fingerprinted with the FBI. After all, no deaths have occurred wherever these weapons have been legally registered.

To be sure, nobody wants to stop the legitimate sport and recreational uses of this weapon. But no one should object to small, incremental steps in order to save children's lives.

These weapons are completely frowned upon in England. Not surprisingly, that country does not record any deaths resulting from this deadly item.

So what is this lethal killer? What is causing so many young people in this country to tragically lose their lives?

It is the football.

Yes, it is that funny-looking pigskin that is sold across counters nationwide, in so many different sizes and colors.

It will come as a shock to many that more children die playing high school football, than they do by firearms at school.

The University of North Carolina conducts yearly surveys to determine the number of high school football fatalities. Likewise, school gun deaths are annually tabulated by the National School Safety Center.

These studies show that twice as many football players (18) died during the most recent school year ending in June, 2000 -- from hits to the head, heat stroke, etc. -- as compared with the nine students who were shot by firearms.

So now what?

Will we start hearing passionate calls to dry up the massive supply of footballs so children will no longer have easy access to them?

Will the media start demonizing the purveyors of death who profit from this deadly killer -- the football manufacturers and the TV executives who make millions of dollars from airing these gladiator forums (otherwise known as football games)?

Will Sen. Chuck Schumer join Hillary Clinton in demanding background checks before the sale and purchase of any football?

Don't count on it.

But one thing is for sure.

Now when your next-door neighbor tries to lecture you about the evils of keeping guns in your home, you can warn them about the real danger to their kids' health.

Ask them to pull their kids off the football team and to support a ban on those ugly pigskins.

Remember, if it just saves one life ...

Erich Pratt is the Director of Federal Affairs for Gun Owners of America, an organization that lobbies in favor of Second Amendment rights.

GOA can be contacted at (703) 321-8585 or on the web at http://www.gunowners.org

Hunting Guns and Gear

Is your hunting equipment adequate?

You may be wondering if your equipment is up for the hunt. Is it good enough? Is it accurate enough?

In a word, Yes!

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, one that you will probably never see anywhere else. The shooting equipment you own now is fine. Any standard, mundane firearm and ammo right from the shelf is fine. Unless it is actually broken or improperly set up, 99.999% of all current hunting gear will allow any hunter to win HunterShooter events, earn a ‘A’ class rating, and take any big game animal they set out to take.

How can I possibly know this without actually evaluating what you own? Because modern arms and ammunition have plenty of reliability and inherent accuracy, right from the box. And by “modern”, I mean almost anything manufactured within the past 40 years or so.

Most of the best cartridges have been with us for decades or longer. For example, the .30-06 was issued in 1906, a modified version of the original released in 1903. Our current firearms designs are even older. The Mauser bolt action, which serves as the inspiration for most modern bolt actions, was issue gear in 1898. Space-age designs like the AR-15 were invented in the early 1960’s.

The advertisers and writers for gun and hunting magazines like to tempt us with “bigger and better” every month, trying to convince us it is absolutely necessary. The reason? They can’t sell the one thing that is a near guarantee of hunting success: Skill.

The manufacturers can’t bottle field marksmanship ability and put it on a shelf, so they focus on what they can sell. And the manufacturer’s advertisement revenue is the only thing that keeps magazines in business, so they write and promote to appease the hand that feeds them.

Hunter’s and shooters may want newer and fancier equipment, but they almost never need it. I’m not saying that improved accuracy, better sights, a slicked up action and trigger, “better” ammunition and calibers, etc., don’t help at all. But the importance of skill is about 100 times more important than any equipment issue.

Do you honestly expect Mr. Buck to just drop dead because you happen to be toting a brand-spanking-new Super-X rifle, in “Magnum of the month” caliber? Quarry isn’t impressed with the price tag of equipment, or how many “gee, wow” reviews it got in the magazines when some misbegotten hunter flinches the shot, sending the bullet wild, or worse, into a non-vital area.

I created a simple course of fire call "The .30-30 Test" and have found most hunters do not possess the skills to engage targets in the field beyond 150 yards. I call it the .30-30 Test because it demonstrates if a hunter has shooting and handling skills to need anything more than a basic rifle and cartridge invented in 1895.

Bottom line: Can you put a bullet where it counts, when it counts? Solve this issue and the equipment “problem” becomes superfluous.

Oct 15, 2008

Five Stages Of Hunters

Outdoor Writer Denny Vasquez penned an article entitled "The Five Stages Of A Sport Hunter." Many of the topics he discusses can be effectively addressed if organized events for hunters, such as HunterShooter format, were more widely utilized.

The Five Stages Of A Sport Hunter

by Denny Vasquez

As with all things in life, a hunter's prospective of his sport changes as time goes by. According to the Hunter's Education manual used by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, there are Five Stages of a Hunter's life. They are the Shooter Stage, the Limiting Out stage, the Trophy stage, Method stage and the Sportsman stage.

As the sport of hunting itself changes through the years, so do the factors which are used to determine what "successful hunting" is. Add to this the changes that take place in each hunter's life and things can get a bit confusing. Some of the factors that can play a part in what kind of hunter we become are, a hunter's age, hunting companions, role models, personal ethics and years of hunting experience. All of these affect our ideas of "success." Where a hunter may fit into one of the five groups changes as he progresses in his hunting career. Where are you now? Where would you like to be?

Shooter Stage
A hunter that is in the Shooter Stage talks about satisfaction with hunting being closely tied to being able to "get in some shooting." Often the beginning duck hunter will relate he had an excellent day if he got in a lot of shooting. The beginning deer hunter will talk about the number of shooting opportunities. Missing game means little to hunters in this phase. A beginning hunter wants to pull the trigger and test the capability of his firearm. A hunter in this stage may be a dangerous hunting partner.

HunterShooter solution: Every successful hunter has to be a “shooter” sometime. It is essential to test and get some trigger time, otherwise the hunter will never learn his equipment. However, we should NEVER test or "get in some shooting" on live game. Testing and shooting should be done within the safety and controlled conditions of a shooting range where the only thing you can wound or miss is your pride.

A miss on a cardboard or steel target on the relatively controlled conditions of a range is black and white. Only the shooter is to blame. This is better than missing (or wounding) real animals.

This will get the hunter away of the bad consequences of the “Shooter Stage” by properly keeping at a HunterShooter event. They can be a shooter on the range, allowing them to concentrate on being a hunter in the field.

Limiting Out Stage
A hunter that is in the Limiting Out Stage still talks about satisfaction gained from shooting. But what seems more important is measuring success through the killing of game and the number of birds or animals shot. Limiting out, or filling a tag, is the absolute measure. Do not let your desire to limit out be stronger than the need for safe behavior at all times.

HunterShooter solution: Limiting Out is the effort to meet some goal, to “prove” oneself. Meeting a set goal is good, but it may be unrealistic, and possibly unethical, if done to extremes on live game.

The solution? A hunter who feels the need to compete or prove himself should do it in organized competition, not against live game. Want to show you’re the baddest dude with a hunting rifle? Challenge every hunter in your area to a series of man-on-man shoot-offs with everyone putting up an entry fee to participate, winner take all. Limiting out should be done on the range, leaving the hunter to concentrate on hunting when in the field.

Trophy Stage
The satisfaction of a hunter in the Trophy stage is described in terms of selectivity of game. A duck hunter might take only greenheads. A deer hunter looks for one special deer. A hunter might travel far to find a real trophy animal. Shooting opportunity and skills become less important.

HunterShooter solution: Shooting skills should NEVER become less important! A Trophy Stage hunter needs to be even better because they will pass up easier shots to wait for “the trophy,” whatever that has been defined as. This type of hunter will then have more limited chances when the trophy does finally show up.

To satiate the drive to get a trophy, let’s offer a trophy of a different type. Look at the current “world record” trophies, as measured by Boone and Crockett points. They were shot by mediocre marksmen at unimpressive distances (43 to 100 yards) with very common equipment. To anchor such a trophy takes some skill, but even more luck, namely, being at the right place at the right time. There are millions of hunters who could have anchored the same record-setting animals, if they had been there instead.

A trophy is better when you prove that you, and only you, could do what you did. Winning a trophy against all-comers in an event shows that you EARNED that trophy, not by dumb luck, but raw talent.

Method Stage
When a hunter has reached the Method Stage, he has accumulated all the special equipment that he could possibly need. Hunting has become one of the most important things in his life. Satisfaction comes from the method that enables the hunter to take game. Taking game is important, but second to how it is taken. This hunter will study long and hard how best to pick a blind site, lay out decoys, and call in waterfowl. A deer hunter will go one on one with a white-tailed deer, studying sign, tracking, and the life habits of the deer. Often, the hunter will handicap himself by hunting only with black powder firearms or bow and arrow. Bagging game, or limiting, still is understood as being a necessary part of the hunt during this phase.

HunterShooter solution: A hunter that chooses to increase the challenge by limiting himself (using a muzzleloader or bow) needs to be even more skilled with that equipment and knowledgeable to make up for the limitations of the chosen method. This makes practice even more crucial, and such practice is still best done on the range where organized events allow the hunter to thoroughly test and prepare before the hunt.

Sportsman Stage
Finally, as a hunter ages and after many years of hunting, he tends to "mellow out." Satisfaction now can be found in the total hunting experience. Being in the field, enjoying the company of friends and family, and seeing nature outweigh the need for taking game.

HunterShooter solution: Hunting days are limited. In my native Wisconsin we are limited to a nine-day gun season all year. If you aspire to spend more time in the company of fellow hunters, but are limited to 9 days, you need to create other opportunities. Attending HunterShooter events can bridge the time between hunting seasons, and allow the same types of experiences and the company of hunting acquaintances.

Not all sport hunters go through all the stages, or go through them in that particular order. It is also possible for hunters who pursue several species of game to be in different stages with regard to each species. Some hunters feel that role models of good sportsmen, training, or reading books or magazines helped them pass more quickly through some stages.

Can you find one of these categories that fits you? Where are you in your hunting career now? Where would you like to be? We each have to make a decision as to what kind of hunter we want to be, and then be the best that we can.

Oct 8, 2008

Proper Target for Hunters

The Proper Target for Hunters


A target records the shooter's efforts at marksmanship. It catches an arrow or leaves a bullet hole showing you the results. There are many targets on the market for the hunter-shooter to use and we'll take a look at them here.

Bulls-eye and Sight-in Targets

The most basic target is some sort of circle or square, such as traditional bulls-eye and sight-in targets. The idea is to provide an aiming point that is clearly visible with a center that is easy to find. As G. David Tubb puts it, conventional marksmanship matches are shooting contests, not seeing contests.

Advantages: These are great for shooting groups, checking your sight settings and working on your basic marksmanship. Paper targets are usually inexpensive.

Disadvantages: The disadvantage of this target is it doesn't provide an appropriate, real world shape or test the hunter-shooter's ability to find an aiming point on a silhouette. It also doesn't react to a successful shot.

Steel Targets

Steel targets that ring and move with a solid hit are great for working on gun handling drills. There are many configurations, but they provide the same basic benefits.


Steel provide reaction when hit. This is beneficial, rewarding, and fun by providing reaction on a successful shot. There is evidence that a shooter will learn about ten percent faster by using a target that provides PIR (Positive Instant Recognition). With a proper design, you don't have to go down range to check and tape because you either hit or you didn't, and the target resets itself. When constructed of good materials, steel targets have a long service life.


Steel isn't very good for shooting groups, as you don't have clean holes, but rather, chipped paint. It also doesn't help determine where your hits are going beyond hit or miss, unless you repaint every few shots. Steel targets can be costly, especially for center-fire rifles. However, there are manufacturers offering good quality, self-resetting, rifle-grade steel targets for as low as $68 each. See Metal Spinning Targets

Even though you can buy animal-shaped targets, such as Silhouette targets, these don't reward proper shot placement, as the steel rings and/or falls even if you miss the vital zone. There is also a danger of ricochet. To help prevent this, use a steel target that swings back and up when hit. This increases the life of the target (the target doesn’t absorb all the impact of the bullet) and will naturally angle bullet material downward, minimizing the hazard to nil, especially when properly used no closer than 25 yards.

Big Game Targets

With the exception of basic marksmanship and handling drills, hunter-shooters need a target that looks like big game. It only makes sense that you should practice shooting at a target on the range that looks like your target in the field. To be effective, the target must allow accurate simulation of target angle, and a variety of configurations, including distinguishing between buck and doe for identification exercises. The following discusses the different types of targets on the market.

Printed Paper Big Game Targets


This is better than a bulls-eye target simply because it has a picture of a deer, instead of an arbitrary shape (circle, square, etc.) These targets can help teach shot placement by outlining where the vitals should be. Paper targets are one of the least expensive types of big game target.


Paper is flimsy and must be stapled to a backer. The use of archery is totally dependent on the backer, as paper can't catch arrows. By their nature, paper targets are disposable. Of course, they are destroyed if they get wet and you can't depend on them to last for more than one event or session. Even if you could, the printed scoring/vital zone area would be shot out and useless.

Because of the permanently printed vital zone, you can't simulate target angle. The only shot you can practice is broadside. You can't even shoot them on both sides (facing right or left) because they're printed on one side. They can't react to a successful shot like steel targets can.

Paper targets don't provide a true silhouette. The silhouette is the target paper, which is square or rectangular in shape. That means you can't use them effectively for spotting exercises, like a roving range or field exercise. Unless the target is used with some kind of organized shooting system, one that rewards ethical behavior and simulates buck fever, this is just another target.

Printed Corrugated board (cardboard) Targets


Cardboard big game targets are die-cut out of corrugated board. This is a durable, lightweight, and affordable material, one reason why every shipping company (UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc.) requires its use in packaging containers. The material is two heavy sheets of Kraft paper sandwiching a fluted sheet and glued together. Corrugated targets can stand up by themselves, secured with lath (furring strips) and staples.

These targets are surprisingly durable and will stand up to a lot of shots, at least a couple hundred, before becoming unusable. You can paste over holes with packaging tape or pasters and the target will hold up for a long time. Good cardboard targets are cut into silhouettes, meaning that you have the actual physical shape of an animal, not a square.

While a bit more expensive than some paper targets, corrugated targets are fairly inexpensive, and their advantages over paper more than make up for the extra cost. A reasonable price is around two dollars per target, including accessories (such as setting up buck and doe targets.)


Given enough time, rain will kill cardboard targets. They hold up better than paper in the rain, for a while, but eventually they turn to muck. Cardboard targets can be treated to make them more water resistant and a reputable manufacturer will provide details for making your target more water resistant.

The permanently printed surface is a bigger problem. Like paper, you can't simulate target angle and your only shot is standing broadside. Normally, the printing is on one side only so you can't even turn the target around and are forced to shoot at a silhouette facing to the right (or left) all the time.

With enough shots, the printed score rings/vital zone will be rendered unreadable. The target is likely still in decent shape, but you can't use it because the printed scoring rings are obliterated. Like paper, the target can't react to a successful shot, can't catch arrows by itself, and needs to be part of a shooting system simulating buck fever and rewarding good hunting habits to be fully effective.

Foam 3-D Targets


3-D targets are the most realistic looking big game target available and are the kind most often used in 3-D archery matches. They are painted and shaped to look like a real deer. In fact, many can double as decoys as well. These targets are very durable and impervious to rain. Many clubs leave their targets set outside all year long. You usually don't need a target stand as you can just plug them into the ground.


These targets are great for archers but worthless for gun hunters. Only bow hunters can use them. These targets are rather costly. The "cheap" 3-D targets start at around $100. Good Whitetail targets run around $150 and anything exotic can cost $350 or more. While they are very durable, they won't last forever. The vital zone must be replaced periodically and this alone can cost around $15-20.

3-D targets are not flexible. If you want a silhouette that faces differently or if you want to simulate a different type of shot, say, a shot at a bedded deer, you have to buy a whole new target. And these targets use an embossed score rings/vital zone that suffers from the same problems as the printed targets: You can't simulate target angle and, with use, the score rings become less legible and must be replaced. If you don't utilize an effective shooting system, this is just another (expensive) bulls-eye. And of course, the target can't be made to react to a successful shot.

Oct 1, 2008

Reality of Hunting World Records

The Reality of Hunting World Records

In the past I've discussed my SHOT Show observations and how the gun industry is failing to promote itself, as witnessed by what programs the big players are (and are not) putting emphasis on.

If you missed it, here’s a one-sentence synopsis: The folks who work with actual end users (i.e. rank-and-file gun owners and hunters) realize the way to recruit, retain, and develop a positive community presence is by hosting and promoting quality events but big companies would rather focus on the gizmos that they sell, even though this will have no effect for successfully promoting shooting, or successfully marketing their products in the long run.

I recently had an illuminating discussion with a person who has never hunted or even fired a gun before. When he asked what I do, I told him about HunterShooter, about how I’m working to form an organization that establishes marksmanship events for hunters and promotes the winners as champions, just like the NFL establishes football contests and promotes their champions.

His response was priceless:
“You mean they [hunters] don’t do that already?”

He isn’t the first non-shooter to make such a comment to me. It’s been my experience that people with no shooting background who don’t harbor bias towards hunting or gun ownership assume that hunters must have an organized way to test skills and advance their champions, but because these non-shooters aren’t personally involved, they just haven’t heard about it.

It is a reasonable assumption. Kids with skateboards do this much. Witness the rise of the so-called X-Games. Certainly an institution as large and established as hunting does the same thing with their marksmen. With big game seasons lasting a few short weeks surely dedicated hunters must do something hunting related during all that down time.

You would think…

Apparently, if the large gun organizations, publishers, and companies have their way, this off time activity should be absorbing the over-priced advertising and ‘articles’ they sell to the manufacturers trying to convince us that we need to replace the perfectly good shooting gear we currently own with a newer new if we want to be successful on the range or in the field.

The problem is this doesn’t fix any of the big problems. Take the Remington case as reported by CBS. Is the problem a ‘defective’ trigger unit that has been in production for decades and is good enough for target grade rifles, such as the 40-X? Or is it poor operator maintenance and the sloppy gun handling displayed by box-a-year hunters? What’s worse, even in the hands of a more competent hunter ‘better’ equipment still helps little.

Let’s look at some of the world record trophies and how they were harvested.

Milo Hanson Buck
Rifle Used: .308 Winchester Model 88 Lever Action
Scope Used: K-4 Weaver
Bullets Used: Winchester 150-grain Pointed Soft-Points
Distance of Shot: 100 yards

Ed Koberstein Buck
Rifle Used: Remington - Model 700 BDL - 270 Caliber
Bullets Used: Hornady 130 GR Spire Point
Distance of Shot: 43 yards

Ed Broder Buck
Rifle Used: Winchester 32 Special
Distance of Shot: under 100 yards

I’m not a trophy hunter and don’t place much value on the trophy rating systems such as Boone and Crockett points (see below) but these animals are as good as a hunter has a right to expect. The ‘world records’ were taken at close to moderate range with typically boring equipment. Nobody in his or her right mind could argue that using ‘better’ equipment would have made any difference.

What should we focus on? Organizations like Boone and Crockett do our community a valuable service. I’m not trying to imply they do a poor job on the whole, only that there are a few crucial topics that need to be considered but have been missed.

The inherent flaw in the Boone and Crockett rating system is B&C points are awarded based on measurements of an animal harvested in fair chase and NOT based on the skill of the hunter. From the accounts of ‘World Class Records' it is pretty obvious that the ‘world record holders’ were/are mediocre riflemen. They were up to the challenge presented at the moment of truth, and that is certainly commendable, but the challenge presented was of less-than-heroic proportions.

  • Koberstein waited all of 10 minutes before the hunting gods bequeathed upon him a ‘world record’ within rock-throwing distance.
  • Hanson and his friends fired well over a half dozen misses at what should have been reasonable distances before anchoring the animal.

I give these guys credit for admitting that their harvests were thoroughly unimpressive, but I have to resist gagging when the title of ‘world record’ is attached to them. It’s like claiming the winner of a lottery is a financial genius.

We’re actually living in the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, non-gun owners believe that hunters are organized enough to run tournaments to test their skills, but we don’t on any serious level (yet). On the other hand, even if we were doing so, the idea of marksmanship as a ‘real’ sport is so foreign to most folks, including many gun owners and hunters, that they dismiss the concept as silly. More than one sports “journalist” has made some mindless remark about how shooting isn’t a real sport. Gun owners stand appalled, whining about the anti-gun media, and then do nothing to change the public’s perception.