Summer shooting sessions set the stage for fall hunting success
Now that spring gobbler season is over, Paula and I have been playing catchup at both work and home. May is an exhausting time, and while we’re always sorry to see the turkey season come to an end, there’s also a sense of relief.
Still, we try to take advantage of the summer as well, and make a point to try to do something every evening, ranging from a fishing outing on the nearby Susquehanna River for smallmouths; a run to one of our trout waters, which can range from a trip up the road to Cayuta Creek to a longer jaunt to the West Branch of the Delaware River; or maybe a simple hike with our two Labs, who need it as much as us.
Too, we’ve made a point in the past couple years to hit the shooting range for a session with rifle, shotgun or pistol. At least once a week we load up our firearms and head to the local sportsmen’s club, usually for a couple rounds of trap. We did that this week for the first time since the spring gobbler season ended, and to my surprise I shot very well, with rounds of 21 and 24. Paula struggled a bit – it had been six or seven months since we shot trap – but not nearly as much as she claimed.
We usually shoot trap, although I admit a jump over to the nearby skeet range would improve my shooting form more so than the trap range, forcing a more solid swing and follow-through. It started a couple years ago when we picked up Finn, our now 3-year-old yellow Lab who showed early signs of being a good upland bird dog. She has progressed well since then, and our work to improve our shooting percentage has helped her along immeasurably. She knows what the game is all about: if it flies, it dies. Well, sometimes it dies. We shot enough birds over Finn last fall and reduced our misses to accelerate her learning curve.
On top of that, trap, skeet, sporting clays, and the rifle and pistol ranges are just plain fun. But the shooting sessions will also almost assuredly pay dividends in the fall when you’re hunting small or big game.
Our rifle range sessions are becoming increasingly important as well. Paula is scheduled for a Newfoundland moose hunt in the fall of 2018 (I’ve already taken a moose so this is her hunt) and she’ll be stepping up from her .243 or 7mm-08 to a .270, which is plenty enough to take down a moose. I shot my Newfoundland moose with a .270, and with the right bullets and the correct shot placement, you’re packing out about 350 pounds of meat. Hard work, but a nice problem to have.
But Paula, like me, can be a bit recoil-conscious. And the moose hunt could involve a long-range shot opportunity, which is also out of her current comfort zone. So we’re going to hit the rifle range for some serious work, getting her used to a slightly bigger – but certainly not a big-bore banger – caliber and extending her shooting range out to 200 yards, maybe beyond.
It will be serious business, especially next summer as Paula’s moose hunt approaches. But it will also be plenty of fun. Whether it’s a shotgun, rifle or pistol, range time is productive and enjoyable, and chances are there’s a good shooting range in your area that’s worth a visit this summer.