Antelope, Hunting, Ongoing Series, Roamin' to Wyomin'

Roamin’ to Wyomin’: On Target for October

My boyfriend found an outdoor range on public land just an hour away from our house that we’ve never been to so, naturally we had to check it out! A nice scenic drive into Tennessee brought us to the Bubbling Springs Shooting Range, located in the Cherokee National Forest. This range offered four shooting targets at 25, 50, 100, and 150 yards all for just $2! This gave us the perfect opportunity to work on our shooting for our antelope hunt coming up in October.

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Welcome sign for the range.

If you didn’t know already, antelope hunting can be difficult for a few different reasons. They are the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere and developed that way from evading predators. Granted, we are not the extinct American Cheetah but, we are still predators to these animals.

Antelope also have incredibly good vision. Their eyesight is roughly equivalent to us looking through a set of binoculars set at 8 power and, their field of vision is 320 degrees. That means that getting close to them can be difficult if not impossible. Often rifle hunters can shoot upwards of 300 yards on an antelope hunt. In the mountains of WNC, getting the opportunity to shoot 300 yards is about impossible. That being said, we both need to practice long range shots before we head west.

When we go to Wyoming we will be hunting with a .243 Winchester rifle. My boyfriend got the rifle we will be shooting with on a great sale. He didn’t like the stock it originally came with, and painted over it. He’s also added a cheek riser so that both of us can have a clear view when looking into the scope. He’s also taken to reloading bullets and we will most likely be shooting bullets that he has loaded during our hunt.

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Clearing the chamber.

I haven’t had the opportunity to shoot anything but my bow in a while and I typically prefer shooting handguns to rifles so, shooting the .243 was an interesting experience. The range had shooting benches at each designated target that could be accessible for both left and right handed shooters. Luckily, we were the only people at the range so we got to take our time shooting.

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Focusing hard on the target.

We set up camp at the bench with a target 150 yards away. My boyfriend got me squared away with a few tips for shooting and I was off! I shot 4 bullets at a time. The first time I shot right handed, the second I shot left, and I shot right again for my final time. I wanted to test a theory about my shooting as I am actually right hand dominant but left eye dominant, even though I’ve always shot right handed and eyed. It turns out, shooting right handed and right eyed suits me better than left handed and left eyed.

My right handed groupings weren’t bad considering that I’ve never shot the .243, I’ve never shot that far, and I haven’t shot in a long time. I felt confident in my groupings and I started feeling more confident shooting a longer distance.

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Top: Grouping shot with right eye and hand. Bottom: Left eye and hand grouping. All squares are an inch for reference.

My process for shooting was to pick a spot and hold the crosshairs on that spot. I would breathe deep and slow twice to see the crosshairs float. If the crosshairs drifted away from my spot but drifted back to the same spot at the bottom of my breath then on my third breath I would start to squeeze the trigger on my breath out. If the crosshairs drifted away and came back to a different spot I would start the whole process over again. It was time consuming to shoot only a total of 12 shots but, I wanted to make sure I was getting my process right.

I noticed by the end of my shooting that I was starting to anticipate the shots I was taking. I was becoming more flinchy and less focused on my breathing and that definitely reflected in my groupings. My solution for the future is to dry fire at the house on a more consistent basis so I can get muscle memory without the big bang at the end of the firing cycle as well as spending as much time at the range as I can between now and then.

My boyfriend noticed that I was craning my neck a lot. If I were to get my own rifle to hunt with I would need to make sure that I have a scope with a long eye relief. Since I don’t currently have my own rifle, and we will be sharing the same rifle in Wyoming, I’ve played with the cheek riser to get into a more natural and comfortable shooting position that allows me to see through the scope.

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Looking at top vs. bottom you can see a difference in how we were holding our heads differently with the cheek rest in the same position.

I need to practice getting into prone positions and shooting from different prone positions. We can’t predict the way our hunt is going to go, so practicing for as many situations as possible is a must and something that I can easily do at home and at the range.

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Time to reload.

I’m sure I’ll learn more about myself and about my shooting before October but, this first trip to the range was definitely a success. I even got to play around with the camera and try my hand at some of the photography for this post!

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