Things You Can Learn From A Rock
By Darrell Holland

We’ve all heard the statement; “Dumber than a Rock”! Yeah, what can one learn from a rock, it’s a solid mass of particulate that is verbally unresponsive to any question presented.


Downloading intel from a rock is not complex. I use a 12 volt battery charger, I-phone and a direct link via SAT-COM D-5 direct download from Verizon. Adding a FLUX capacitor speeds download time by 50%. Note: " Ground" lead is attached to the bi-pod and the "Positive" lead to the Jewell trigger. If I shoot under the same wind conditions there is a 96% chance I will hit exactly where I aim. Rocks provide the ultimate test bed for doping wind and shooter perfection. Get on Board and shoot some rocks!

However, one can learn many things from someone or thing, that is silent. In order to gain insight we just need to apply ALL of our senses, sight and sound to gain more knowledge.

On a recent hunting trip to South Africa with my Alumni students, I took the opportunity to burn extra rounds of ammunition on distant rocks to gain additional data on trajectory curves, winds and temperatures. One unseen benefit often overlooked by students of riflery; no field dressing, bloody hands, packing or dragging back to the truck and finally, no cutting and wrapping. Sounds like fun to me.

Many shooters fail to take their learning opportunities seriously. In my youth I never wanted to shoot groups in the wind as they often looked more like patterns than groups at long range. Hence my education was stalled for many years until I realized the gravity of my ways. Now, I’d much rather burn a few rounds on a distant rock in tough wind conditions to gain an understanding of wind vectors and topography than shoot another animal.

With all the phone Apps and magic gizmos on the market seducing the shooter into thinking he can hit any target in any condition, I have to laugh. REALLY? While at the SHOT SHOW in Vegas last year, I stopped by the booth of a popular wind meter company and listened in on the sales pitch for the latest/greatest wind meter with Bluetooth, Sat-Com D5 direct download, solar graphical links, G-8 Plus BC data, and a spin drift/Coriolis GPS directional compass. The Tech-ie went on to explain that with this latest advance in shooting gear it was nearly impossible to miss in the field. Just enter data and fire!

Obviously, he has spent more time behind a desk than a rifle. If one was shooting at paper and steel I might not have felt such disdain, but on a game animal, OUCH! Wounded paper and steel seldom go far, a game animal on the other hand can go for miles if hit poorly. On this recent African trip we shot 215 animals ranging from springbuck, blesbuck, kudu, gemsbuck, eland, warthogs and wildebeest. Shots ranged from 30-625 yards, with the average shot around300-450 yards. Winds ranged from calm to 25mph and the terrain often created tough switchy conditions; i.e. 11:00-1:00 o’clock.

Giving credit where credit is due, African plains game are indeed tougher than our North American antelope, deer and elk. An African axiom; the only thing faster than a four-legged springbuck? Answer: A three-legged springbuck. This small antelope weighing around 40-60 lbs can go for an incredible distance if hit poorly with most any cartridge and often hit well (blown heart and lungs) will go for several hundred yards before admitting defeat. Blesbuck are equally tough if not more so. Wildebeest, both black and blue are legendary for packing lead. It is often said, that blue wildebeest eat bullets for breakfast. I hit one a bit high at 365 yards, he sucked up the 140 gr. Accu-bond and joined the herd making a second shot questionable. The chase was on; I hit him again at 750 and 825 yards. He was now packing 420 grains of lead and was still on his feet. We played cat and mouse for over 2 miles before I got another shot opportunity and killed him at around 325 yds. Wow, any of my shots would have ended a deer or elk hunt. What went wrong on the first shot? Hard to say, grass maybe, I thought the bullet path looked clear and the trigger break felt good. Often the best laid plans go awry on simple shots, not to mention shots beyond our skill set and overconfidence with the acquisition of a NEW gadget.

Rocks on the other hand give the same lesson with time to pause, reflect, and figure out *** went wrong with the shot and try again. No harm, no foul and our education is enlightened.

Simple winds coming from 9:00-3:00 o’clock on a flat plain are easy to calculate and compensate for at reasonable distances, 400 yards or less. Skilled shooters can often do so to the 600 yard mark with boring regularity. Winds from 11:00-1:00 can cause grievous errors if the wind changes from left to right and goes unnoticed by the rifleman. As an example: take a wind from 1:00 requiring a 2 MOA (R) correction at 400 yards, fail to see the wind switch to a 11:00 direction and BINGO a 16 inch point of aim/impact shift. Better have your track shoes on, it’s going to be a long day in the field.

In rough hilly country with draws and ridges it is often hard to tell which direction the wind is actually blowing from, is it 4:00 or 2:00 o’clock, many just utter a right wind and begin number crunching. Add in an unstable position, a touch of buck fever, a wind shift and now things get messy. Not so with shooting at rocks. Up and down drafts can be humbling as well, one needs to keep this in mind when shooting at game animals. Experience is the ONLY teacher I know on these difficult shots. I like to call it the “Frisbee” effect, strong winds from L-R coming up against a slope will “lift” the bullet high on the target or game animal. We shot steel at 436 yards with a “Right” wind 8-10 mph, the target was on a slope(20 °) approx. 70-80 yards above the flat ground. The wind came across the flat plane and hit the slope causing a 1.5 MOA rise in the bullet at 436 yds. With a dead center hold on a 9 inch springbuck, that is a miss. On a 15 inch blesbuck the bullet may hit above the lungs and below the spine, and the chase is on. The more experience you have, the better you are able to understand and make a correction. Rocks are the perfect test medium for such experiments.

I’ve shot rocks off and on for over 30 years now and have yet to experience “Rock Fever,” while it may exist, it is quite rare and seldom do we hear tell of it around the campfire. Having the ability to change angles, re-calculate bullet deflection and shoot in howling wind conditions provide the shooter unlimited opportunities to improve their shooting. Take advantage of this on your next hunt, or better yet, book a weekend trophy rock hunt with a friend. It’s affordable and can be done year round without hunt restrictions, tag deadlines, or bag limits.

Trust me, you can learn a lot from a rock.

Darrell Holland:
  • Custom riflesmith
  • Holland's Shooter Supply
  • First Gunsite Gunsmith
  • Defensive and L/R rifle shooting instructor 30 plus years
  • Author, patent holder
  • Designer of Advanced Reticle Technology in Leupold and Schmidt& Bender rifles scopes
  • Manufactures the LIGHTNING STRIKE FIRE STARTER ( World's BEST fire starter)
  • Did consulting work for Savage Arms