Mar 31, 2009

Follow Up for Better Hunting

Most hunters rarely hit their animal perfectly and kill it instantly on the first shot. You need to Follow Up!

While we all should strive for first-shot kills, this is the real world with wind, brush, moving animals and excited/tired hunters. A second shot needs to be instantly available, and an an accurate one if fired.

Preparing for a follow-up shot, even if it isn't needed, is just good gun handling. No matter how you called that shot, you should immediately snick the action and stay on target. If the animal stays down, fine. If not, you're prepared.

This prevents that incredibly annoying habit of "shoot and gawk" where the shooter, after touching off a shot, takes the butt out of their shoulder, leaving the empty case chambered, and looks downrange to figure out what just happened. Watch nearly any hunting show for a demonstration of this novice mistake.

In practice, a hunting firearm should normally be fired in both singles and controlled pairs, with the exception of group shooting and zeroing. By firing pairs, on the clock, the hunter-shooter will eventually master their chosen action. Even when firing singles, you should develop the habit of bolting/levering/pumping before the butt leaves your shoulder and the chamber should be loaded before the empty hits the ground.

This is so important that it is incorporated into the HunterShooter rules, with Procedurals assessed for those that forget.

Mar 18, 2009

Let's Hear it Old Timers!

A common thread is how everything was so much better back in the "good ol' days." However, in some ways, things are better today!

In 1907, decades before hunter's education was established, there were 97 reported firearm mishaps in Wisconsin of which 41 resulted in death. Total deer harvested was about 6,000.

In 2002, over 5 decades after the first HE program was established, the number of incidents was less than half that (47 total) despite a much larger hunting population taking the field: 618,945 licenses sold with 277,959 deer harvested.

Four decades ago there was little to no opportunity for private civilians to obtain useful marksmanship training. Today there are many, plus good instruction is available on DVD and in book form, at least if you know how to weed out the obvious crap. Hint: The instructor on the book or DVD should have a proven record in a relevant form of competition.

The only organized shooting events were a handful of conventional disciplines and everything was scored by hand as inexpensive data processing equipment (computers, calculators) did not exist. Today there is over a dozen disciplines and savvy gun organizations are working to eliminate office work for clubs entirely.

Despite the fact that very few gun owners actually take advantage of these improvements, in some ways, we have it better now.

Mar 11, 2009

Promoting Shooting

The Firearm User Network has been in a state of metamorphosis since its inception.

Originally, I started HunterShooter (then called Hunter's Shooting Association, or HSA) and was looking to create a tiny (about 2000-3000 folks), somewhat elite group of shottists focused on field marksmanship.

Membership would be open to anyone, but the only hunters likely to be interested are those with similar interests. Member and club information was managed in a simple desktop database application and through a 24 page quarterly newsletter. The complete information to actually participate and setup events was published in a 108 page Instruction Manual.

I soon learned a few things the hard way.

In order to sign up 2000 folks as active, card-carrying members I’d have to figure out a way to get the word out several times to at least a quarter million potentially interested people.

Consider the NRA, with a $100 million annual budget, 130 years of experience and four million members. They haven’t figured out a way to create a shooting event that attracts more than 50,000 participants, a scant 1.25% of the members who pay to receive NRA literature.

The gun industry as a whole has little intention of doing anything to motivate the majority of end users (gun owners) to become skilled, or just competent, with their firearms. Of the 130+ publishers and shooting/hunting companies and organizations I initially contacted with the notion of organized shooting events for big game hunters, I could count on one hand the number who even bothered responding (and I wasn’t even begging for money!)

Admittedly, this operation was small potatoes then, but there isn’t any interest to do this anywhere else. The problem isn’t that they wouldn't promote HunterShooter/HSA; the problem is they wouldn't promote anything that will motivate the rank-and-file venison fetcher to get more range time in.

In an attempt to rectify this situation, I penned a couple articles and submitted to American Hunter and American Rifleman magazines. The articles were to inform the NRA membership about NRA programs that can help hunters, namely Sporting Rifle and the Marksmanship Qualification Program. I made no mention of HunterShooter or any non-NRA program.

However, despite the fact I'm a Life Member, the editor rejected the queries because

"Unfortunately, that subject just doesn't fit in well with the mix of articles we are planning for the next year's issues of the magazine, so we can't encourage you to try it for us.”

It isn’t my lousy skills as a writer that were rejected, because the editors never looked at the manuscript. They rejected the notion of promoting their own programs to the big game hunters among their membership because “…that subject just doesn't fit in well…”

Seriously, WTF?

I’ve been running things in a “monkey see, monkey do" fashion, modeling this program after all other shooting programs and that was a huge mistake. History has proven that even the best shooting programs are dismal failures. A bold statement? Consider that organized marksmanship outdates baseball and football and compare which entity is a failure or success.

Some time ago I went to attend a High Power match. I had never been to this particular range before, so when I arrived in a nearby town I stopped at a gas station for directions. Not a single person living and working ten miles from that range had even heard of it, including a thirty-something who told me, “Look, buddy, I’ve lived in this town all my life and I don’t know where you’re talking about.” This wasn’t the first or last time I’ve experienced this.

Anti-Gun attitudes are a symptom of the gun industry's inability to promote events. Gun owners remain largely unaware of shooting opportunities.