Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

By author of Guns and Camo

Here’s a shot of the Echols Shrike Stock (Kevin Dilley/ photo)

I try to practice what I preach, and I often preach about practice. If you don’t practice shooting your hunting gun or your bow in the off-season, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

Next week, I’m going beyond practice, and I’m getting some intense training from the folks at FTW Ranch in the Texas hill country. FTW operates the SAAM (Sportsman All-Weather, All-Terrain Marksmanship Training) course, designed for hunters but taught by retired Navy SEAL sniper school instructors. I’ve attended great shooting schools in the past—with both rifles and handguns—but none that were specifically designed for taking big-game animals.  

I was fortunate enough to draw some fantastic tags for this fall.

Thus, I figured it was time to make sure my skills are up to the task. I don’t have time to do the full five-day course. So, I’ll be taking the two-day “hunter prep” course with a few friends. I’ll be sharing some of the concepts that I learn in future posts. (Keep an eye out.)

I’ll be taking two rifles: a Ruger Hawkeye Predator FTW (named for the school), and a Remington 700 built by legendary gun maker D’Arcy Echols. D’Arcy usually builds his guns on highly-modified Winchester or Mauser actions, but he had this 700 in his shop in order to design and test his new Shrike synthetic stock which is built specifically for Remington actions and their many clones.

I need a very specific rifle for the rare Arizona elk tag I drew. D’Arcy offered to help. Krieger was able to rush me a medium-heavy barrel that D’Arcy chambered in 7mm Remington Magnum. It was assembled, blued, and tested just in time for this class. The rifle shoots Nosler partitions into ½-inch groups at 100 yards. Three-shot groups using Hornady SSTs measure approximately .310 of an inch. (There’s a reason D’Arcy has a full waiting list to build rifles.) I can’t wait to use both of these rifles in Texas...and to take my shooting to the next level.

I don’t care who you are, we can all can benefit from professional instruction. The best shooters, best athletes, and most elite troops in the world have teachers improving their game. And if I’m going to spend thousands of dollars on a hunt, I want to be sure I can make the shot count.