Friday, May 30, 2008

Phillip, don't read this

No, really, Phillip: Don't read it. Go away.

Is he gone now? Whew. OK. Now I can say it:

I shot like crap today.

The reason Phillip - a.k.a. Mr. Hog Blog - can't read this is I'm going pig hunting with him and the guys from Hunting with Jim next weekend. Yes, I'm doing my first-ever hog hunt - my first ever big-game hunt - with the the proprietors of not just one, but two hunting blogs. And all these guys carry video cameras.

I must be insane.

We just settled on the date this week, so I thought to myself, Holy cow! I'd better get to the shooting range and practice!

I've shot Boyfriend's .270 a few times and done pretty well with it, so I figured I just needed a little cramming between now and next Friday.

Honestly, I should've been practicing a lot more this spring. I actually penciled in, oh, at least four or five hog hunts since duck season ended. But life's been busy, and I've turned around and canceled them every time, and with them, I've postponed practice.

I did go to the range once during Spring Break with some former students, under the worst conditions: I hadn't eaten all day and I was shaky and somehow chugging a Dr. Pepper and cramming a Snickers bar down my throat didn't help things. Nonetheless, I did pretty well. I needed to adjust the sights, but I had a nice, tight grouping in the black on the target. And I came away with this nice photo, because the guy on the right - Andrew - is a photographer and doesn't mind putting his camera that close to flying casings.

Today was much better. I was relaxed. I ate before I went to the range. I'm happy - no more grading for three months! I was ready to polish my shooting so I could look extra impressive for Phillip, Crazy Jim and his videographer, John.

I decided to shoot a box of cartridges in three rounds: seven, seven and six. I put my nice Shoot-N-C patch on the target so I could see that burst of yellow where the bullet punches through, then returned to my station and fired off the first seven shots at a leisurely pace. Nice and relaxed.

The only problem was I wasn't seeing any yellow. What the hell?

So when the ceasefire began, I walked out to survey the damage. I snapped a picture with my cell phone and called Boyfriend. Honey! I said. I'm shooting like the bad guys in an action movie! I'm hitting everything but the target!

For the most part, I was shooting consistently high, but I didn't know how to adjust the sights - not my gun! - so he recommended aiming lower for the time being.

I went back to my station, got a Diet Coke out of the machine and prepared to blast some imaginary pigs. I was the only chick at the range this afternoon, and I really needed to not "shoot like a girl."

I loaded a cartridge, aimed low but on center, and pulled the trigger.

Yes! Yellow, at last. Die, pig! Insert cartridge and repeat six times...

The next ceasefire began and I went to see up close how I'd done. Hmmmm. Got five in the black, but they were all over the place. Not good. I needed a nice, tight grouping.

I covered the holes with black stickers and walked back to my station, tormented by visions of bad shots, bullets flying over pigs' heads so ineffectually that the pigs wouldn't even bother to run away, and all of it captured on video and webcast to the world.

What was I doing wrong?

I knew I was holding the gun steady, but I had the feeling I was flinching as I was pulling the trigger, because this gun kicks like Jackie Chan. For Round Three, I would have to try very hard to pretend that I wasn't about to get punched with 130 grains of woo ha!

It went better at first - two shots straight above the bulls eye. But then I had two off to the side, and two off the black entirely. I pulled my target off the battered plywood and trudged back.


As I was walking back, I saw a dad come in with his young daughter, mabye 10 or 12 years old, and set up near my station.

Ordinarily, my first thought would be, Wow, that's great! Today, though, I thought, Good thing I'm done, because I'd hate to humiliate myself in front of a little girl. As I got closer to them, I rolled up my target to hide my shamefully random bouquet of bullet holes.

If I shoot pigs like this, it's gonna look like a sloppy mob hit.


Good thing school's out, because I'll be going back a few times before Phillip and I hit the road for Pig Country. If only my students knew the pathetic fact that professors cram too. Let's just hope that I rally as well as they always seem to do.

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


Blessed said...

That's why I like my .243 - it doesn't hurt me :) -- I've never hog hunted though so I don't know if I would be allowed to use it for that or not, according to my husband my next rifle will be a .308 because it also doesn't kick bad and is a "more versatile" gun

HELLEK said...

Ah, kick-back anticipation... that's why I want a smaller gun. Sigh!

You're a good shot, so just keep at it.

Holly Heyser said...

Yeah, Boyfriend and I were talking about it last night and he was thinking a .243 for me would be good. I've gotten a couple other recommendations too, and I welcome any others people might offer here.

Funny thing is the kick on this gun doesn't overtly "bother" me. I'm minimally sore today, and with the pad and proper mounting, it hasn't bruised me since the first time I shot it. But obviously, it's bugging me on some level.

Funny, it reminds me of why I don't play softball at picnics - I HATE IT when things come flying at me fast. Scares the hell out of me.

The good thing is I'm not obsessed with killing huge animals, so a smaller gun shouldn't be a problem. My goal for next weekend is a modest pig of maybe 125 pounds because that's what will fit in the freezer, and that will taste better than some stanky old boar that tastes like old gym socks and worse.

That said, I may go elk hunting some day, so I need to suck it up and learn how to handle the .270.

Marian Ann Love said...

Holly - I use a .270 Ruger (featherweight) and had an extra pad for cushion put on the end of the stock. I just LOVE this rifle! You do have to adjust the sites on your scope - sometimes that can get knocked off and mess up your shooting. I want to wish you the best of luck with your hog hunt. I went on a hog hunt last season at Rex's over at Deer Camp Blog and have even seen one crossing the road while we were on 4-wheelers. Man, they are good eating. You will do just fine! Can't wait to see the pictures of your harvest. :)

Holly Heyser said...

Marian, I hope your faith in me is justified! But I'm sure I'll at least have a good time. If I don't see any hogs, I'm gonna at least get me a jackrabbit...

Marian Ann Love said...

It's have what it takes! If not the hog go for the jackrabbit...Good Luck! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey, us lefties are counting on you Holly to uphold the finest marksmanship from the other side.

Anonymous said...

Next time you go to the range, take a .22 rifle as well. Alternate between the two guns.
Instead of chugging the soda, take that can downrange and blast the sucker to smithereens.
You can do this.
Are you practicng on shooting sticks? Try it with the .22 first


Holly Heyser said...

That's a good idea, Jean - I actually want to take the .22 on the hunt anyway so I can at least take a shot at jackrabbits if there aren't any pigs.

No shooting sticks on the range. Can't practice off hand either - we HAVE to shoot sitting.

And Jesse, I'll do my best!

SimplyOutdoors said...

I'm sure you will get 'em in there soon with just a little more practice. I know when I start shooting crappy like that, sometimes the best thing to do is take a break and then come back. When I shoot like that it starts to get in my head and a break brings me back around.

I have faith that you'll blast a pig with little a few days. Good luck when you head out.

The Hunter's Wife said...

I can't wait to hear about your upcoming hunt. I'm sure you will do just fine.

Tom Sorenson said...

Fist off, how can you take just a simple day at the range and turn it into such a great post?! I'm so jealous!

The shooting - well, that looked like my groups lately! I can't wait to get my bow back out to restore some confidence...rifle shooting is definitely not my forte'! My guess is that you'll be fine - another day or two on the range and you'll start feeling your rhythm again.

bored_eats said...

Hog hunting!? I'm so excited and I'm not even going! Good luck and I know you'll do great!

Windyridge said...

Good luck! I am sure you'll do fine.

Anonymous said...

Holly.. with an intro like that I couldn't go away. You know me...

Anyway, if you want, we can take a little extra time on Friday to run over to the range, or we can do a little target shooting at the ranch. Those groups are pretty erratic, and I'm wondering if you have a bigger problem than marksmanship... like shifting crosshairs or a loose scope. Without seeing you shoot, it would be tough for me to diagnose.

I have an extra rifle or two that I know shoots well and kicks softly, so if necessary we can make alternate arrangements. Don't forget to bring your hearing protection.

As far as going to a .243, as much as I love the caliber for certain hunts, I can't recommend it for hunting the west. There are other ways to alleviate recoil, including a muzzle brake and a quality recoil pad... a rifle that's fitted to you will also help a lot, just like with a shotgun.

Holly Heyser said...

Everyone, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this support. Doing something new is almost always daunting and scary, and when it involves taking an animal's life, there's even more pressure not to botch it. Your faith means a lot to me, and your coaching means just as much, if not more. Thanks!

Jesses Hunting And Outdoors said...

Lefties rule

Righties drewl 8^)

Brandon Darnell said...

That was a fun day at the range. I shot like crap too, but shooting an M1 makes me smile as long as the rounds are on paper.

I want to go again soon.

With regards to recoil, I know my M1, as a semi-automatic, has much less recoil than my M1917, which is the same caliber, same weight and bolt-action. Unfortunately, firing leftie doesn't always work with semi-autos with the whole shell-ejection-to-the-face possibility.

If you want to play around with my M1, you're more than welcome to. Though I don't recommend it at all for hunting since it has to be modified to take non-FMJ rounds, it could give you an idea of the reduction in felt recoil.

Anonymous said...

Hi NorCalCaza,

I realize this is a late response to this particular blog.

However, as a certified NRA Shooting Instructor I can possibly suggest a few things that may help with your rifle shooting.

If you're interested please e-mail me at

I've tried sending you a couple of e-mails, but have never gotten a reply (not sure if you got them?).

Bill C.-Orygun