Long Range Hunter class at Storm Mountain Training Center
This past weekend (01 - 03 October 2005) I was up in Wild Wonderful West Virginia assisting with a long range hunting class. Everything went well and I thought I'd make a short post of the events and observations.
I arrived at Storm Mountain Training Center early Saturday morning with my life-size elk drawings, rifles and computer. Rod Ryan met me and helped off-load the gear providing a brief 'plan of events' as we prep'd for the class. We were to provide three days of instruction on long range marksmanship and hunting techniques to three hunters; Frank, Mary and Ken.
About a hour after my arrival, and still plenty early, the 'students' arrived and we had a brief 'meet and greet'. We started the class with about 4 hours of classroom instruction covering safety, ballistics (internal, external and terminal), marksmanship, firearms and field (support) equipment and animal behavior. Once we were sure the students were nearly bored to tears and anxious to get to the shooting part we headed out to the 'zero' range.
We weren't sure what type firearms and optics we'd be seeing in the class but we weren't prepared for the vast array of fine firearms that began pouring out of the SUV. First firearm I recall seeing was a TRG42 in 338 Lapua Mag followed by a 300 Win Mag in another TRG-42. As near as I can reall there turned out to be 3 TRG's as a minimum (1 338 Lapua and 2 300 Win Mag), at least 2 Browning A-Bolts in 300 Win Mag, an AR30 50BMG (plinker) and an AR in 6.5 Grendel (plinker), I'm sure I've missed a few but you get the idea. The 338 Lapua had a Schmidt and Bender PMII as did one of the 300 Win Mags, there were a number of Burris Black Diamonds a few Swarovski and a Leupold... some pretty good glass all around. Premier Reticle had done some of the reticles (custom ballistic dots) and all rifles were to be zero'd at 200 yards with dotted holdovers for distant ranges. Rod Ryan (SMTC) and I would have much rather had a 100 yard zero system with range adjustments made via turrets but that was not to be. As it turned out the students (we'll call them hunters from now on) did very well with the setups and other than the few customary miss-calculations and wrong-dot problems things went very well. We cycled through several brands of ammo for some of the rifles trying for a good match and eventually things came together and the proper ammo per rifle was found. We ended the first day with a little familiarization shooting on the 'short range' platform (~220 yards to ~720 yards). All ended well and the hunters left in good spirits.
Day two was a little of a surprise for th hunters as we had placed the life-size elk targets on the range for the hunters. Their first shot of the day was to be their 'cold bore' but they weren’t expecting it to be on an elk. We had placed the elk at ~260 yards, 440 yards and 580 yards with each hunter selecting their own target. Mary selected the near elk, Ken opted for the 440 'albino' (Tyvek paper) and Frank went for the gusto and lined up on the 580. Mary was shooting a Browning A-Bolt 300 Win Mag with a Leupold ballistic dot system and after a short discussion on kill zones and quartering-to vs quartering-away postures she let fly with the 180 Accubond. Ken had his TRG42 with a Burris Black Diamond setup and ready for his shot in short order and again a 180 Accubond went downrange. Frank, ever-ready-Frank, was chomping at the bit to get his shot off with the TRG42 338 Lapua and Schmidt & Bender so there was little time before his shot was off on the 580 target. We then individually took each student downrange to view their results… Mary had placed her shot within an inch or so of the center of her aiming circle, we were all very pleased with her performance and it was a real boost to their morale to have such a fine performance on their first shot. Ken… recall he was using the Black Diamond (non-custom-calibrated reticle model) had a problem and his round struck low, below the chest. Frank had made a near perfect shot with the impact just slightly above the centerline on the elks chest.
We had a short break and discussed the results (Ken was a little concerned and we could see the wheels turning in thought) and opted to continue firing on the steel targets for a while to practice a little more before a second go-around on the elk. The hunting crew fired on the steel out to the maximum distance of 720 yards with very good results anxiously awaiting a second chance to fire on the elk targets.
Ken decided he needed to swap out his Black Diamond for the Schmidt & Bender he had as a spare so we went into the gunsmith mode and made the transplant work also doing the 200 yard re-zero in short order (only minor cussing involved while using the tools). Second go-around on the 440 elk for Ken as he decided he needed to redeem himself on the early morning shot. Second shot for Ken was good and he felt a bit better I’d say.
The group decided to try the elk again with Mary going for the 440 elk and Ken shooting on the 580, Frank opted-out as I recall (short range 260 yard elk was a chip-shot at that point). Mary did well on her shot, missing the drawn-in heart by about an inch high and right, good aorta shot. Ken had a good hit on the 580 and we were once again riding high all around.
The third day we repeated the elk shots and all were pleased with the performance and even opted to go to the far platform and try shooting a bit further. From the far platform the elk were at a different angle to the wind and of course a bit further out. Shots were fired and elk were scored and hunters came to know their limits with their current skills and equipment. Frank made first round hits on the distant elk with very good wind reading skills but the ~770 yard distance was starting to cause a little problem with holdovers using the dots calibrated for 5,000ASL and 50 degrees(F). Mary had a miss at first on the ~430 yard elk but it was primarily due to a misjudged wind by her spotter. Ken did well and shot a perfect pin-wheel heart shot on the ~430 elk. I believe all concerned had a great time and the hunters left feeling confident in their shooting skills and ability to make a one-shot kill on an elk to ranges up to 600-650 yards.
I had a great time, met some fine folks and got to plink a few rounds from some fine gear. I’ve been told that they’ll be back to shoot some more and generally have a good time, I look forward to it. Frank, Mary and Ken are scheduled to be hunting in Idaho this coming weekend, maybe I’ll hear back about their success before I head off on my Colorado elk hunt, I’ll let you know.
Some additional information.
The hunter's home rifle range is limited to two hundred yards so these 'long range' shots were a fairly new experience. When they came to the range the first day we mentioned that they would be shooting and making consistent hits on the far targets (720 yards) but I believe they had considerable doubt that anything like that could happen in just one day... They were very surprised I believe when they did in fact make hits on the longest range targets on day one.
Their hunting was to be at 5,000 ASL and their scope reticles were built for 5,000 ASL and 50degrees(F). We were shooting at ~2,620 ASL and about 75 to 80 degrees (F) and this may have been what we were seeing in the high hits at longer range(750 yards +).