North American Hunter- Magpul Core Training For Hunters

Magpul Core is all about getting unconventional, which as a hunter, is great practice. Learning how to build a shooting position in unconventional ways increases success afield.

In order to be the best, you have to train with the best—and Magpul Core offers some of the most comprehensive long- range precision rifle instruction (LRPR) available to civilians in the country. In fact, I am such a fan of the Magpul Core curriculum that this was my third time attending the LRPR course.

Why keep coming back? Because the fundamentals of marksmanship are a perishable skillset, and Caylen Wojcik, director of training of Precision Rifle Operations for Magpul Core, has served 8 years as a Marine Scout Sniper, executing more than 100 combat missions and giving civilians an opportunity to train with one of the most respected snipers in the country.

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Magpul Dynamics Backcountry Hunters Course

 

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. – Seneca

In the field, when Mother Nature is calling the shots, successfully taking advantage of that opportunity of a lifetime comes down to preparation and training. When the animal of my dreams steps out and provides that opportunity that I have been waiting for, I want to be certain that I have done everything possible to make that one shot count.

Magpul Dynamics has teamed up with Guiderite Adventures to create the ultimate instructional program specifically designed with the hunter in mind that has the desire to take on do it yourself, back country backpack hunting adventures. Having trained with Magpul Dynamics for three consecutive years in a row, I can personally attest to Caylen Wojcik being a top notch firearms instructor combined with Luke Carrick from Guiderite’s backcountry hunting expertise, attending this course was a no brainer and I couldn’t get signed up fast enough.

The course is set up for five days of comprehensive instruction and provides the opportunity for experienced and inexperienced backcountry hunters alike to understand equipment capabilities and limitations as well as teach students how to maximize the effectiveness of their hunting rifle while training under real hunting conditions, shooting realistic angles and pushing both your mind and body through some of the same rigors that one can expect during a backcountry hunt.  No matter how long you have been hunting or shooting, there are new skills that you will learn and develop during this course.

Precision Hunter

The five day course begins with two days of instruction on the range providing students an opportunity to familiarize themselves with their own personal hunting rifle, its capabilities and limitations as well as providing the opportunity to learn or practice the fundamentals of marksmanship.

The most basic but critical components of our individual firearms are discussed at this time; everything from correct rifle fit, scope mounting, ammunition selection, rifle slings, the use of bipods, and on to the basic fundamentals of marksmanship. Caylen takes a tremendous amount of time discussing the fundamentals while providing a controlled environment for students to practice and develop those fundamentals in as realistic hunting conditions as possible while on the range. This practice is designed to extend each students comfort zone in the field creating responsible, ethical shots during the hunt.

The basics in angular units of measure, both milliradian and minutes of angle are taught. Everyone then learns which unit measure their particular optic is and how to understand the function of the scope from turrets to reticle.

Mother Nature is anything but predictable, so Caylen teaches how environmental conditions affect bullet trajectory. As a hunter, it is critical to know where your rifle zero is and where your max point blank or terminal range is based off of that zero. Students are also taught how to use personal ballistics software to define where the max point blank is for your individual firearm.

No two hunting situations are the same and we as hunters must learn to be adaptable making the most of each opportunity. Rarely one has the opportunity for a prone rest, so we practiced numerous resting positions, and proper rest building techniques.

Backcountry Adventure

After spending two days behind the gun on the range, everyone was anxious to begin our three day, two night trek into the Cascade Mountains of Washington. The great thing about backpacking is that there is tons of gear readily available on the market today. The bad thing is that for the novice backpack hunter, selecting the best most functional and versatile gear for your trek is not always easy.

Having nearly two decades of experience backcountry hunting, prior to beginning our trek, Luke Carrick, Owner/Operator of Guiderite, provided students with a comprehensive breakdown of each component of our necessary gear from pack selection, fit, loading and wear, firearm carriage, nutrition and hydration, tent selection based on seasonal use, sleeping bag selection based on seasonal use and fill component, sleeping pad selection, water purification options and meal planning.

With a more comprehensive understanding of what primary and necessary functions that each piece of equipment needs to facilitate while in the backcountry, students were then able to evaluate and discuss personal equipment and borrow necessary equipment for the trek if needed.

Once our own personal gear for the backcountry portion was organized and properly loaded into our packs, we were ready to begin our adventure.

The day was warm, sun high in the sky as we began our trek climbing the mountain. Destination, adventure.

New school meet old school. Technological advances have come a long way and I am guilty of being completely reliant upon my GPS unit for the basics of land navigation. As I learned in the backcountry portion of the class, an old school map and compass for land navigation, offers a lot of tools that are both necessary and helpful during the hunt.  

Stopping along the trail, students were taught the beginnings of basic land navigation and compass use, everything from how to read a detailed topography map, attain and track current location on a map, and tips for easily and quickly noting general direction of travel. We were even taught how to create a solar compass.

After a long day’s hike in some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, it was time to set up camp. Luke walked students through the process of proper camp site selection for hunting  scenarios and fire starting techniques.

The evening was spent on the mountain, behind our optics practicing newly learned observation skills with the hopes of identifying wildlife just like in a real hunting or scouting scenario.

The next morning, the mountain goats, elk and mule deer were all on the move from their feeding to bedding areas. Sitting on the side of the mountains with my binoculars in hand, I took delight in watching the sun began to peek over the landscapes lighting up the valley below.

A new day had just began and the excitement for the days happenings were already stirring inside me. After packing up our camp and grabbing water, Luke taught us a new tip for hiking in steep terrain with a heavy load without stopping for breaks called the resting step. Using this method, our entire class hiked over one hour straight up a mountainside without a single break. As a mountaineer, this is arguably one of the most valuable techniques I have ever employed. As a hunter, this is going to help me pack out trophies for the remainder of my life.

Sitting on a rock cliff, behind the gun, three targets stretched out below me, in this first course of fire, I had five minutes to employ my newly learned observation skills and fundamentals learned on the range to identify the three hidden steel targets, range estimate them, make necessary dope adjustment and engage them with a two shot per target ammunition allowance.

The thrill of the hunt was on. Searching for targets in dark hidden folds of shadows and terrain features, just as if you were searching for that bedded trophy of a lifetime. This was the live fire, real life in-field shooting that I had been looking forward to. Three courses later, I had successfully located, range estimated and calculated dope for every target, in every scenario within the time limit and with first round hits.

The backcountry hunters course would not be complete without pre-season scouting tips and tactics. Part of success as a hunter is monitoring the game we seek and during our trek down the mountain, we checked the trail cameras that had been placed a couple of weeks before giving us all an opportunity to evaluate the area wildlife which included, a wolf.

This incredible experience will make any hunter, novice or experienced, a more confident capable shooter that is better equipped with knowledge and tools to embark upon the most epic of hunting adventures, backcountry backpack hunts.  

Click here to learn more about Magpul Dynamics Backcountry Hunters Course.

Magpul Dynamics- Precision Rifle 2

FUN●DA●MEN●TAL:

A basic principal, rule, law, or the like that serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part.

The attendees of PR2 have all attended Magpul Dynamics Precision Rifle 1 and are very familiar with the fundamentals of marksmanship. Mastering the fundamentals of marksmanship is the key that separates novice from expert shooters. Precision Rifle 2 from Magpul Dynamics is a course that will put those fundamentals to the test.

Summertime in Yakima WA is sweltering HOT and typically there is no wind causing shooters to boil on the line of fire. This week we lucked out, high temperatures coupled with 20+ MPH winds were the perfect conditions for us to train with our precision rifles putting our fundamentals to the test.

Caylen always takes a gear or equipment issue and turns it into a classroom learning session so when we had a scope malfunction, Caylen demonstrated to the entire class how to properly mount a rifle scope using a scope level kit and how to properly torque your scope rings.

Time to hit the 100 yard line, get behind the gun, confirm zeroes, attain muzzle velocities, and run some fundamental practice drills. This is where the gear shake down begins. Having attended Precision Rifle 1 not once but twice, my gear was pretty set up and I was ready to shoot.

The 100 yard line is a great place to verify that your optic is tracking and adjusting correctly, verify that it is mounted level, ensuring that your ammunition is feeding correctly through your detachable box magazine and anything and everything else. I was thankful that for the first time in the three years I have been training with Magpul, my gear did not need shaken down.

After inputting our individual firearm caliber, average muzzle velocities, bullet information and density altitude in to our ballistics computer program we were ready to confirm our data charts on the long range. The sound of ringing steel is music to my ears. This was my first opportunity to really drive my new Proof rifle and I was beyond thrilled to stretch her legs out to 902 meters with sub ¼” MOA accuracy.

Day 2-

After confirming zeroes on the 100 yard line, we set up the barricades for some hasty rest shooting position drills from the 100 yard line. We had 16 rounds total, 8 rounds were to be engaged off the barricade from the standing and then the next 8 rounds were off the barricade from the kneeling. It was up to us as shooters to attain natural point of aim and when Caylen called out a color dot, to engage that color for time and consistency. We only had one shot at each color and shape.

This is a great drill that will help you as a shooter determine if you are driving your rifle and how well you perform under added stress. This is a FUN drill and I could not have been more pleased with my perfect score. All 16 rounds were perfectly placed indicating natural point of aim and solid fundamentals, even under stress. Happy girl!!!

Next, Caylen gave us a class on angled shooting. Angled shooting seems daunting and I have personally watched many hunters miss fine game animals by shooting over the tops of animals backs on steep declines or inclines.

Shooting angles is really pretty simple. On an incline or decline, the bullet performs the same, so the math is the same. The trick is attaining the correct angle and inputting that angle and the time of flight distance into a mathematical equation to derive the actual distance that you should dial your elevation turret to.

Of course, there are some general rules of thumb and tricks to make it really simple. One interesting point that Caylen did make out was that as your angle to the animal or target increases, your perception of the target decreases. That makes for an interesting hunting scenario.

The most valuable tool that I learned was that I should make a 10⁰, 20⁰ and 30⁰ drop chart with varying yardages to take into the field with me. Additionally, creating some data charts for varying calibers of rifles clearly demonstrated the advantages in angled shooting scenarios for having efficient calibers.

Now that everyone had a more thorough understanding of angled shooting, it was time to burn it down on the range. The top of the mountain is the perfect place to shoot targets at a decline and Caylen had two courses of fire lined up for us to shoot in shooter/spotter pairs out to over 800 meters.

Surprisingly enough, once we determined our angle cosign and did the math to attain our gravity distance on each target, the shooting part was easy. Well….kind of. In 25 mph winds, nothing is easy, especially at long range targets. This was a great opportunity for us to not only practice shooting angles from hasty resting positions but as spotters to read wind cues and direct the shooters holds for accurate shot placement based on the spotters observations.

As a shooter, I find this especially fun as I watch my own bullet trajectory in flight, based on spotter calls, I am learning to self-spot. After all, we don’t always have the luxury of having a trained spotter behind us calling our shots, not to mention the value of being able to self-spot in the field and know where your bullet impacts on a big game animal. Staying on the scope and watching your bullet impact will also translate in the field to being able to cycle a round and stay on an animal for a follow up shot if needed without ever coming off the rifle. That is training time well spent!

The last and final day of PR 2 Caylen put us up to some extreme shooting challenges. Target acquisition, hasty rest building, range, angle compensate if needed and engage, all for time and with a limited round count. Oh goody now we are talking some fun. We had four targets in the bottom of a gorge to engage. Time to burn it down.

The next course of fire, same story, different scenario, we were shooting across a gorge. The distances varied out to 900 meters. After attaining all my necessary data for engagement, the wind was calm, I press off a center hold on the target and miss by 3 mils. WHAT??? This is where as a relatively new precision shooter, without a spotter you begin to seriously doubt yourself.

Knowing my fundamentals were good, I tried another round with the same impact. Something was going on that I was unaware of but trajectory is trajectory, so I adjusted my wind hold to 3 mils and reengaged with a hit. That particular hold for me was equating to a 25 mph wind and there were no visible wind indicators, so as baffled as I was, I engaged the entire course with this dramatic wind hold awaiting a debrief from Caylen.

Caylen is a great instructor, he lets us make mistakes, figure things out on our own and then ask questions offering support where needed. This is PR2, the advanced long range precision course, this is big boy/girl stuff so no hand holding here. After the course, Caylen briefed us all and pointed out some topographical factors that were causing such dramatic impact shifts due to wind that we could not visibly indicate.

The wind was calm where I was and where the target was located, however, during flight, the bullet trajectory was flying directly across a gorge that had strong winds funneling down that were driving my bullet off target. This was a factor that I had not previously taken into consideration. Kudos to you Caylen, you set us up for a tricky scenario that had tremendous learning opportunities for all of us. The best part of this lesson was the solidification that I should be trusting in myself and my skill set. I had in fact made the right call and practiced correct fundamentals. Hooray for me.

Next Caylen took us to another hill top. There were three targets below us, Caylen gave us the target size in inches and we had to use our reticle to mil the range to each target, estimate our wind and angle, set up our resting position of choice and engage the target, once again all for time. Okay, I had not practiced milling targets since PR1. Time to test myself in a big way. Time was up and I was pleased with my target measuring skills.

I was however displeased with my resting position of choice. Caylen had not pointed out what type of rest we had to take and for some reason I chose to engage the targets off of a tripod in 25 MPH winds. Bad decision. I could have easily taken a prone rest and been much more successful in engaging targets, instead, I struggled to steady my rifle with wind gusts blowing me and my gun off target more than I would have liked. Another great lesson served, whenever possible, especially in the wind, you want to get as close to the ground as possible.

Not practicing and thinking through how to take the best rest possible in a given situation could cost you the trophy animal of a lifetime. Had that course of fire been a buck or bull of my dreams, my rest could have caused me to go home empty handed. Always use everything that you have on you to help stabilize your resting position.

The final course was four targets, we were not allowed to attain ranges, we had to guess based off our previous shooting scenarios as they were close by. This is a great chance to really test out your ability to range estimate visually, engage a target and make necessary and correct elevation and windage adjustments for successful hits. This one was pretty fun and I even ended the course with a first round hit.

Precision Rifle 2 was very different from Precision Rifle 1, building upon skills and putting those skills and our basic fundamentals to the test. As a hunter, I honestly believe it is our ethical responsibility to understand our own individual firearm, its components, how they function in varying conditions, the weapons limitations as well as our own.  I left the course looking forward to returning in 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

Precision Rifle 1- MagPul Dynamics

PRE•CI•SION (noun): The quality of being precise: exactness or accuracy: the quality of being reproducible in amount or performance.

CON•SIS•TEN•CY (noun): A harmonious uniformity or agreement among things or parts.

AC•CU•RA•CY (noun): Freedom from mistake or error: the quality of state of being accurate: the ability to work or perform without making mistakes.

 

Precision, consistency, accuracy, those are the three founding values of the MAGPUL Dynamics training curriculum, for all shooting disciplines. Having taken the Precision Rifle 1 course for the first time in 2012, I was eager to complete the course again in 2013.

I have been shooting guns since I was a young girl with my dad, with good and bad experiences associated with that; scoped in the face more than once, had a lot of successful hunts and some unsuccessful hunts. I have picked up some good habits along the way and a few bad ones.

For me, training with experts is helping me to develop correct fundamentals and techniques while eliminating some old bad habits not to mention the “gear shakedown” and lessons learned from that.

DAY 1- The Shakedown….

The first morning, class gathers and we discuss the basics of shooting fundamentals. Caylen does a tremendous job of breaking down each component from the weapon, optic, ammunition and finally the shooter and how all of those components must work together in order to achieve those down range, first round hits.

Having the basic understanding and ability to identifying those components and the limitations within each component can help trouble shoot what we see on paper at range.

FUN•DA•MEN•TAL: A basic principal, rule, law or the like, that serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part.

I have had successful hits without training out to 400 yards, beyond that, not a chance. In 2011, I was Caylen discussing the fundamentals of shooting while Tim demonstrates on the gun.on an elk hunt and after 10 days of hard hunting, I was presented with a shot at a cow at just over 400 yards, unfortunately, I was not confident enough with my own ability or my weapon system to take the shot. Let me tell you, it was a huge disappointment for me.

I truly believe that in the field, one does not rise up to the occasion but instead fall back on training. In that moment, I had no formal training and I was not competent enough to ethically take that shot.

Everything goes back to your foundation and that foundation is built on mastering the fundamentals of marksmanship, regardless of your situation. Let’s face it in the field Mother Nature is anything but predictable. Learning what the basic fundamentals of marksmanship and the basic application of those fundamentals behind the gun translated for me into successful first round hits.

Tim building a cheek weld.Gear Shakedown…

Classroom time over, now it was time to get behind the gun on the 100 yard line to put those newly learned fundamentals to the test but first an equipment evaluation was necessary.

Bad past experience: I’m on a hunt and am handed a rifle, “Ok sweetie, this thing is a tack driver…” blah blah blah. Sure that rifle may be a tack driver for a guy 6’2” but it is not going to drive a tack for me at 5’2” and chances are, I will scope myself and miss my target. Look/feel stupid much?

Don’t do this; DO NOT borrow a rifle, especially one that you have never shot.

On the line, I learned a lot about my own personal weapon system. Thankfully, I have my length of pull  correct for me on all my rifles and I have my triggers adjusted or replaced to the poundage that I prefer and my optic eye relief is perfect for me. All set right? Nope…

There are bi-pods, bi-pod stakes, bi-pod cord, weapon load, slings, grip positioning, trigger finger placement and cheek piece height. All these items must all be taken into consideration for each individual shooter. Is your scope mounted level? How about those scope rings are they hand lapped? Then there are all of the components to your rifle to consider.

Bottom line, as a hunter, it is our job to understand our own individual weapon system, how it works, what we can do to improve upon it and know its limitations as well as our own. Thanks to my day 1 shakedown, I have complete understanding of my weapon system, where improvements can or should be made and where limitations are therein.

Day 2- The Long Range….

On the line evaluating my data charts before engaging targets.In the classroom, we learned about external ballistics and how to create individual drop charts for various ranges based on our individual weapon system caliber, bullet type, muzzle velocity, density altitude and temperature.

Caylen is great about teaching us to use this super technology as a guide but not a crutch. We were all taught how to create our “dope charts” with our personal ballistics program and then to transfer that information onto data cards for infield use. Technology has an aptitude for failing so relying on it is a mistake, especially while hunting. If your batteries die or you drop your phone that contains your dope chart, you are out of luck. Use the technology as a tool and learn how to make it work for you fundamentally in the field.

I personally create two charts for a low and average temperature for my specific elevation, taking only those into the field. Nothing else is then needed.

Proving Data

On the line, numbered steel targets are placed from 400-1066 yards. As I stated earlier, without training, 400 yards was my farthest shot taken and this was our starting point; time to put those new fundamentals to work using the data charts we had just completed in class.

The sound of ringing steel filled the air. Nearly every data chart was perfect. There is of course, some proving that needs done to account for muzzle velocity variance at long range but for the most part, the original charts that we learned to make in the classroom proved to be accurate out to 1066 yards!

Day 3- Max Point Blank, Wind and Shooting Positions

Back into the classroom to discuss our data that we had proven the day before and discuss how your trajectory max point blank or danger space works. This formula is used to determine where to hold center mass on a target and still successfully engage the target down rage (high side and low side) without making a turret elevation adjustment or “Holding Over”.

I found this information especially helpful when it comes to hunting. I can take my target’s estimated terminal kill zone size and create and estimate of “how big” that is and then use the taught data to find out exactly where I want my rifle zero set to deliver that terminal shot at a known distance without making turret adjustments. What a time saver this is!!!

The other topic that Caylen elaborated on was ballistic coefficient. After hitting steel out to 1066 and missing some as well, Caylen discussed why a high BC is better at longer ranges. With drop charts, your elevation adjustment is the easy part. The hard part is the wind and your bullets ability to overcome wind resistance.

This leads me into how Caylen taught us the ability to “read” the wind. For me, this is what separates amateur shooters (like me) from expert marksmen. Expert marksmen have the ability to make quick adjustments and target reengagement before those conditions change.

Caylen taught us how to read mirage and vegetation. There is great wind meters out there. I have a Kestrel but that is not going in the field with me. Where that comes in handy is for proving what I believe I am seeing. Teaching myself to read wind speed and direction visually and confirming what I am seeing with my Kestrel and finally with my downrange trajectory. What is my bullet doing downrange and is my wind call good, do I need to make adjustments? If so, what is my actual wind speed down range based off the adjustment that I just made?

Sound complicated? Well it is and the only way to get better is to practice. Oh boy, do I need a LOT of practice!!!

Here is a demonstration of three calibers and their individual ability to overcome wind resistance.

Example: Inches of wind drift from a 1 MPH wind from the 9 O’clock Position (This is an example and figures will vary based on each individual rifle, bullet type and muzzle velocity.)

Target Range in Yards

.308

300 Win Mag

6.5 Creedmoor

300

.7

.4

.5

500

2.2

1.3

1.5

800

6.5

3.5

4.2

1000

11

5.8

7.1

 

Miss steel much? The answer to that could be wind calls that are off by simply 1 MPH, especially if you are shooting a .308 or similar. On a 10 inch target, if your wind call is off by 1 MPH, chances are, you are going to miss where as if you are shooting a 300 Win Mag or 6.5 Creedmoor you are still most likely ringing steel.

As a hunter and shooter, it feels great to have the tools to be able to create these comparative charts and understand and be able to apply the data in the field.

Once we had learned how to conceptually “read the wind” in class and had good comprehension of our individual calibers limitations in the wind at range, we went back into the field to practice our new tools.

This time on the line, Caylen threw out a curve ball. No more prone shooting. Instead, we were to apply our new concepts for multiple shooting positions from barricades, tripods, anything that you could think of, we shot. This was our first opportunity to apply real hunting/in field positional shooting and a great opportunity to test our fundamentals.

From the prone, we have a dead steady rest, from the standing in a tripod; you have to learn to maneuver your rifle in a way that sets you up with a sight picture that is “steady enough” to engage the target while practicing fundamentals. If one tiny error is made, the steel is missed.

This was my first time shooting off of a tripod rest called “The Hog Saddle” which is like a gun vise that mounts to the top of a standard tripod and gives you a nearly dead solid resting position. I was banging steel out to the 1000 yard line while having the ability to watch my own trace and see my own impacts. With this system, I was able to make my own wind adjustments without a spotter and practice my new techniques of “reading the wind” independently.

Day 4-

Scope reticles…these can be confusing. What does each one of these lines translate to down range? Is your reticle in mils or minutes, if so, how many? Do you have a front focal plane scope or a rear focal plane scope? Do you really know what those tiny lines in your rifle scope mean?

Each scope and reticle system is different. Caylen was able to walk us through how to create a drop chart or reticle cards for our own reticle style.

We also learned that if we had a known target size and an unknown target range, we could use our mil reticle system to measure the target and establish a range estimation. Fundamentally for me, I was more interested in using this system to be able to measure antler or horn size in the field as it will work for that too.

Back out on the line of fire, we used our reticle to range estimate targets and engage those targets to determine our individual level of accuracy with the range estimation theory. Let me just tell you that I will be packing around my laser range finder as it is very difficult to measure and range estimate accurately.

Conclusion-

The 2013 Precision Rifle 1 course was very different from the 2012 course that I attended. The curriculum is a constant progression of information and Caylen is great about teaching on the level of the class. We ran numerous drills in addition to what was discussed in this blog. Some of those include drills were to demonstrate how accurate dialing windage and elevation is, we shot numerous targets getting off and on the gun to learn how to quickly achieve natural point of aim, and we even ran drills where we literally ran for each round to see how we would shoot under running and timed stress.

Precision Rifle 1 is a comprehensive entry level course in precision marksmanship, fundamental development, gear comprehension and the logistics in how to make it all work together. I am looking forward to attending Precision Rifle 2 in 2014. Stay tuned...


Len Backus' Long Range Hunting Magazine

No-Off-Season Long Range Shooting School

Len Backus' Long Range Hunting Magazine is the best site to discuss Long Range Hunting & shooting equipment, gear and techniques. I was honored when Len publised one of my blogs for the February 2013 online issue.

Socrates pretty much sums it up with “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.”

Most nights, I fall asleep imagining how my upcoming fall hunts are going to transpire. Some nights, I imagine bugling bulls rutted out charging and screaming in to my fervent cow calls and other nights I imagine lying prone on a heavy blanket of snow taking rest on a swollen necked mule deer buck.

These are the moments that I live for, that I love, from hunting success, to haunting memories of a close call or should have been. Good or bad, these moments are what drive me to become a better outdoorsman each passing year.

 

Click Here to Read the Full Article

 

 

No-Off-Season Long Range Shooting School

 

 Socrates pretty much sums it up with “The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.” 
Most nights, I fall asleep imagining how my upcoming fall hunts are going to transpire. Some nights, I imagine bugling bulls rutted out charging and screaming in to my fervent cow calls and other nights I imagine lying prone on a heavy blanket of snow taking rest on a swollen necked mule deer buck.
These are the moments that I live for, that I love, from hunting success, to haunting memories of a close call or should have been. Good or bad, these moments are what drive me to become a better outdoorsman each passing year.
In preparation for an action packed fall hunting season and opportunity for all of these dreams to come true, not only for myself but for the companies that I serve; the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Team Elk television show, Swarovski Optik, Cabela’s, Under Armour and Realtree. Having taken a long hard look at my current skill level, I have settled upon a few specific skills that could use some sharpening. 
Practicing proper prone positioning.
First on the list: Marksmanship. Being proficient at making terminal hits at various yardages is the key to my fall hunting dreams coming true. 
To begin my journey towards precision marksmanship, I picked up the book “Hunters Guide to Long Range Shooting” by Wayne VanZwoll and when I finish that book, I will read “Dead On” by Tony M. Noblitt and Warren Gabrilska. 
 After having read a good bit of my long range hunting book, my enthusiasm could not be contained any longer. I wanted to learn more information and get behind the gun more quickly, which lead me to contact my cousin Tim Titus and his son Ben. They are predator and varmint hunting experts that specialize in “putting more fur in the truck and executing more first round hits” and have a great outfitting business (www.no-off-season.com).
Fortunately for me, Tim and Ben had a three day opening in their schedule that would allow me to make the short drive to Eastern Oregon to get some hands on training with the expert shooters of the Titus family. 
Tim took my desire to become a more proficient marksman to heart and was in full on classroom mode upon my arrival with a pre-determined curriculum that included discussions in relation to:
  •  Ballistics
  •   Bullet Drop
  • Ballistic Coefficient
  • Wind Doping
  • Sighting In
  • Equipment & Gear
  • Shooting Form 
  •  Trigger Control 
  •  Mental Tips 
  • Minutes of Angle 
  •  Tips on Angled Shooting 
  •  Trajectory 
  •  Basic Reloading 
  •  100 & 200 Yard Range Work/Benchrest Technique 
  •  400 Yard Gongs/Prone Technique 
  •  650 Yard Varmint Hunting
Chronographing to determine the actual muzzle velocity of the rifle for my drop chart.
My first afternoon was spent in the classroom, but I was rewarded with some evening trigger time doing some sighting in at 100 & 200 yards and working on my benchrest technique. I was thrilled to get a 1 Minute of Angle (MOA) group at 100 yards with my Howa .243, that is until I shot Tim’s .204 and shot a .4 MOA group at 100 yards. 
1 MOA Group with a factory Howa .243 & factory 95 grain Nosler Ballistic Tips

 

.46 MOA Group with a Cooper Model 21 .204 firing handloaded 39 grain Sierra Blitzking
The most important lesson that I learned my first night was to know your specific rifle’s limitations. Each rifle barrel prefers a specific bullet/weight/powder combo based on a myriad of factors and will perform differently based on those factors. You can only shoot as well as the rifle you are taking aim with is capable of performing. Many factory rifles like my Howa .243 will simply not perform better than a 1 MOA group at 100 yards. 
With that being said, I proudly posted on facebook my 1 MOA group from my Howa .243 as that is a “tight” group for that particular rifle using factory ammo and without making aftermarket modifications.
The second day, Tim rattled my brain with the introduction of MOA calculations. Ben even gave me a “Pop Quiz” to test my comprehension and possibly math skills. I proudly passed his quiz with a 100%. 
Kestrel 4000
While Ben and I spent a few hours at the reloading bench working up some custom loads for my .243 and testing them on the range while practicing technique and shooting 200 yard gongs with a head wind, Tim set me up for a challenge. 406 yards on a 10” gong with a full value cross-wind. 
Using a Kestrel weather data center and the Shooter cell phone application, I entered the bullet type and weight, muzzle velocity, temperature, elevation, humidity, and wind value to attain the solution (MOA scope adjustment needed) for the 406 yard shot. 
The end result was first round hit, nearly dead center and subsequent 1 ¼ MOA group. I can’t begin to tell you just how excited I was as this was the most accurate I had EVER shot at 400 yards. 
406 Yard Gong 1 1/4 MOA Group- Swarovski Z5 3,5-18x44 with BT/Factory Remington Model 700 .300 Win Mag, Timney Trigger/ Factory 185 grain Nosler Ballistic Tips
 
Our final morning was spent wrapping up classroom discussions on shot angle and trajectory before we celebrated my “graduation” with some long range rock chuck hunting. I could hardly wait to get in the field and apply all of my newly acquired long range skills on real targets.
The Rock Chuck- A football sized target, is the perfect marksman challenge, at any range.
My first opportunity on a rock chuck came with a steep uphill shot into a quartering wind at 211 yards where I quickly sent this chuck flying through the air with a terminal first round hit. Needless to say, I was beyond ecstatic!
The next rock chuck appeared at 270 yards on the edge of a rock face with a slight uphill angle. Making the needed adjustment for elevation on my Swarovski Z5 BT scope and holding slightly to the right of the rock chuck, but still on fur, to account for windage, I made another first round terminal hit on my target! 
At this point in the day, I felt that my graduation gift had been delivered and I had already exceeded my expectations in marksmanship. After watching Tim and Ben terminate a couple of rock chucks at 650 yards, I was appreciating the value of an accurate shooting rifle, quality optics and good technique as they are all important at ranges under 400 yards, but there are additional considerations that come into play that are invaluable at ranges outwards of 400 yards.
Information is one of the biggest keys in long range success.  Using tools like the Kestrel weather data center to attain the current temperature, level of humidity and windage, and having an reliable program like Shooter to attain the solution to long range shooting is a must for success. 
With some degree of urging from Tim, I set up to take my ultimate test….650 yard rock chuck. Taking into account all of the needed factors for success, my first shot was sent down range and ending up passing slightly over my intended target. Tim was my trusted spotter, and urged me to dial down my turret for the second shot as the rock chuck had not moved from his position. My second shot was sent down range and still slightly high. 
At this point, I played the mental game remaining focused on my target that was still standing in the same place. With another slight turret adjustment, I sent my third shot down range with the final words of wisdom from Tim “aim small, miss small” when my bullet slipped into my target launching it into the air. 
Before the day was over, I am proud to say that using the Kestrel weather data center information and inputting it into my Shooter program to attain the solution for a successful first round 650 yard hit on a rock chuck, once again launching it into the air!
Thanks to Tim and Ben Titus, with all of their patience and generosity in sharing their infinite wisdom with me, in three days, I was able to successfully and terminally connect on a football sized target at 3/8 of a mile, graduating with honors.
The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know, so I have registered to attend the Magpul Dynamics Precision Rifle 1 course in July and can hardly wait!
Ben, Tim and I with our rock chuck harvest of the day at the following yardages:  211, 270, 450, 450, 650, 650, 650, 650, 650, 650.
To book your first class varmint or predator hunt in Eastern Oregon with Tim Titus visit the No-Off-Season Website at: