Even the Pros Can Use Refreshers Every Now and Then
by Larry Waishuhn, host of DSC’s “Trailing the Hunter’s Moon”
“Targets will move from left to right and then from right to left. The range is 350 yards. The steel plate targets are 12-inches in diameter. You will watch them go by on the track between the two berms one time. Try to determine how fast the target is moving this first run without shooting. The flight of the bullet at that distance is one second. Adjust your turrets to the 350 yards setting based on your range card. We have a constant wind of one-minute right to left. In this instance adjust your vertical crosshair one minute to the right, so you won’t have to determine the wind hold as well. Ready?” asked Doug Prichard, former Navy Seal sniper and shooting instructor at FTW Ranch’s S.A.A.M. Hunter Training. To my left I heard Walt Hasser, our other instructor also a former military sniper, say on his radio, “Start the run!”
I started counting just as the 12-inch yellow painted plate reached the vertical part of my Trijicon scope reticle. I completed the “thousand one” count as the plate passed the reticle. I determined my proper hold was to gently pull the trigger just as soon as the target started to hit the vertical crosshair.
“Range is Hot!” announced Walt. I waited and then as soon as my target got past the left berm using the hold I had determined, I pulled the trigger and heard the solid “whomp” of Hornady bullet hitting steel. But I also saw my bullet strike the target. My shot was perfect center. Soon as I saw this with a proper follow through I bolted in a fresh round. When the plates reached the far right, they immediately reversed. I shot a second time, this time with the targets moving left to right. Again my shot was near dead center. My hold was a proper one.
On the next run I loaded three Hornady 200-grain ELD-X into my Ruger FTW Hunter in 300 Win Mag. “Shoot once when the targets move left to right, and when they return to go right to left try to shoot two shots.” I heard Walt say. I did as I was requested. Soon as I fired my first shot, without taking my eye from scope or my target I bolted in a fresh round immediately after I saw the bullet strike metal. When the targets moved right to left I held appropriately and shot as soon as my target cleared the berm. “Hit!” I heard Walt say, but then I had also seen the bullet strike steel. I quickly bolted in a fresh round without taking eye from scope or target, and immediately got on target with the proper lead and shot my third shot. I saw the bullet strike the yellow target about an inch to the right of center. All shooting from a prone position.
We repeated the drill several times, but with each “run” the target speed increased, causing us, the “students” or shooters to re-adjust our appropriate lead. Of the 24 shot opportunities I missed two shots because I rushed them, trying to get a third shot before the plates disappeared behind the berm when they were traveling at about the same speed as a running deer.
Years ago I spent considerable time teaching myself to shoot running game, including expending many rounds at running jackrabbits. Remember 64 jackrabbits eat as much as one animal unit (AU) which equates to eight (8) jackrabbits eating as much as one whitetail deer! Along the way I also learned how to shoot running deer, antelope, coyotes, wild hogs and other big game animals. I love shooting running game with a rifle!
Years ago every magazine written about shooting and hunting ran at least one if not more major articles about shooting and hitting running game. Unfortunately, hitting running big game has fallen out of vogue these days. Much of this is because of bowhunting, where running shot are not considered to be ethical and rightfully so with a bow and arrow.
That said I agree hunters should not shoot until an animal is standing still! But once that first shot is fired all hunters should know how to hit running game if that animal doesn’t go down immediately!
I loved the moving targets!
Later that same day, our fourth of four days of training, we were on the FTW’s Crusader Range where there are targets out to 700 yards, small steel plates, usually one 12-inch plate and one 9-inch plate this at each varying range target. It is at this particular range, one of about twelve different ranges on the FTW, where normally you are asked to find specific targets, get the range, make scope adjustments, determine wind holds and then once you have done so within less than 10 seconds shoot the bigger of the two targets and then shoot the second smaller target. That is not a lot of time. But it teaches you to concentrate, know your rifle and load, your scope, engage your target, quickly use your range card which was provided to you based on your rifle, scope, load, then shoot, reload and shoot again. If you miss the bigger steel plate on the first shot, then you try to hit it on the second shot. This is a scored shooting event, where you compete with others in your “class”. I was able to hit my first target then re-engage and shoot my second target in about 3 to 4 seconds. I missed one shot because in dialing up my scope I went to 14.5 minutes when I should have dialed to 13.50. By following through properly after pulling the trigger from a solid prone rest, I was able to see my first shot fly just above plate at 635 yards. I quickly bolted in another round without taking eye from scope and target and held my horizontal crosshair at the bottom of the plate to compensate shooting over the target with the first shot. Part of the training involves learning how to correct your own mistakes.
The day before Blake Barnett, my co-host in “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” and I had been shooting on another range where we took turns shooting. Both of us were using our Ruger FTW Hunters in .300 Win Mag, his wearing Trijicon scopes. We were both shooting 200 grain Hornady ELD-X ammo. The drill was to help each other. The spotter would pick out a target from ranges of 235 yards to 800 yards. Then using landmarks throughout the nearly mile long canyon, help get the shooter on target, give him the range, and an estimation of “wind” then call the shot. My first two targets for Blake were at 235 yards at a very acute downhill angle and the second at 725 yards. I should note here most all long range shooting during the training is done at prone and there are other drills for various shooting positions and how to take advantage of natural rests as well as various man-made rests. Blake performed admirably.
When it was Blake’s turn to point select targets for me he chose one a 620 and 800 yards. The latter required me to do more than one full revolution on my scope. I hit the 620-yard target with the first shot. I hit the 800-yard target a 12-inch steel plate on my second shot. I made a slight miscalculation on my wind call on my first shot. Soon as I shot the 800-yard target, Blake did the same.
These were only part of the various drills and ranges we experienced at the FTW’s S.A.A.M. (Sportsman All Weather All Terrain Marksmanship) Hunter Training, all of which started with class room work going through the basics of rifle, scope, ammo, shooting and shooting/hunting ethics.
Even though SAAM training involves long-range shooting training I love that the instructors stress only shooting targets at extremely long range and not animals. “We encourage hunters to get as close as possible to the animals they are after and only take ethical shots. Remember it’s the hunter’s responsibility to kill the animal on the first shot!”
If you’d like more information about the FTW’s S.A.A.M. Hunter Training, please go to to www.ftwsaam.com. I can tell you it will be the most intense but also the most fun and enjoyable four days you’ll ever spend regarding shooting, no matter whether you are an “old ranger” with many years of experience or simply just now getting into shooting! And while you’re having great fun, you will also be learning more than you can imagine!
You can follow Mr. Waishuhn and DSC’s “Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” on Facebook and catch the show on the Sportsman Channel or Persuit Channel.