A Good Reason To Shoot More

As all long-time readers of firearms magazines know, their editorial content is heavily slanted towards hunting. Article titles such as “The Best Elk Cartridges” or “Sighting in Your Whitetail Rifle” are all too common. That’s understandable because big-game hunting is still very popular on this continent. Unfortunately it’s a once a year endeavor for most participants and doesn’t provide much shooting activity. But I think the truth is that most big-game hunters are not avid riflemen; most shoot because hunting requires it.

A much smaller percentage of big-game hunters are indeed avid shooters. They like to tinker with rifles, develop handloads, and try different calibers, different action types or scopes. They hunt big game because it gives a purpose to all that tinkering.  I was one of those.

Why say “was”? Because my big-game hunting days are over. In my 60s now, with an injured knee, bad back, a heart damaged from a cardiac infarction, and a lifetime losing battle with weight, I’m simply incapable of climbing to the top of the ridge behind my house like I used to do nearly every day during hunting season.

Before you readers think I’m looking for sympathy, I need to stress that I don’t miss big-game hunting. How many deer, elk, pronghorn or whatever do you kill before satiety? I’ve kept my favorite deer and elk rifle, a restocked pre-64 Winchester Model 70 .308, but the simple fact is I wouldn’t walk across a street to shoot another deer. (Maybe I would for an elk?)
On the other hand, I would and do drive a 1,000 miles to shoot in a weekend competition. I came to formal competition rather late in life. Earlier I had fired in cow pasture turkey shoots and put my share of butterballs in the freezer. But it wasn’t until my mid-30s that I fired in an event with set rules, scoreboards for all to see, and plenty of competition in the form of other avid shooters.

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