5 Tips on Long Range Shooting for Beginners

5 Tips on Long Range Shooting for Beginners

Learning to shoot at long range is all the rage lately, but it can be a daunting discipline to approach. What sort of gear do you need? Where can you shoot at such incredible distances? How do different environmental conditions affect your ability to shoot? When it comes to long range shooting for beginners, there is much to be learned to be sure, but it’s no use trying to absorb it all at once. As such, read on for some tips on how to get started with long range shooting.

Tip 1: You’re Only as Good as Your Tools

Everyone in the industry seems to be selling hardware these days. The latest optic, or bullet, or rifle is apparently all the average-Joe needs to become a scout sniper. Obviously, this is a bit of an exaggeration, but the truth does lie somewhere in the middle. While you don’t necessarily need a $10k setup to shoot 1000 yards, you won’t be doing yourself any favors trying it with a duplex 3-9x40mm on top of your granddaddy’s deer rifle. As such, before you even hit the range, make sure you’ve got a rifle capable of MOA accuracy (or better), and a riflescope capable of dialing for elevation. Also ensure you have a chronograph, or some other method for measuring the speed of your projectiles, and a rangefinder. These will become important later.

Tip 2: .22 For The Wind

If you’re not capable of procuring the above, don’t despair yet. Get a decent .22 rifle and top it with the sort of riflescope just described. Shooting out to 300 yards with a .22 is a great analogue for shooting legitimate long range, and can help build many of the same skills you’ll need to do it for real. Wind calls in particular are tricky with the light little projectiles, and you can get very proficient at gauging exactly how hard the breezes are blowing.

Tip 3: Stabilize It

long range shooting for beginners

There are plenty of myths out there about how easy it is for some folks to shoot long range. Many get the idea they can start out shooting off a tripod, bipod, or even standing. While you will work up to these in time (that final category will always remain much more limited than the others), nothing beats the good, solid rest provided by front and rear bags–either off a bench or from the prone position. Particularly while you’re still learning elevations and wind holds, it’s best to take all other potential influences out of the equation. Once you can hit any distance, any time off bags, you can move on to the next step.

Tip 4: Don’t be Scared of Data

When first encountering the world of long-range shooting, people can be turned off by the sheer amount of calculation, measurement and mathematics involved. Unfortunately, the quickest and easiest way to improve your skills is to utilize all these modern wonders, rather than simply slinging lead until you get a hit and recording how you did it. 

For starters, download a ballistic calculation app like GeoBallistics, and put in as much information about your rifle, ammunition, and environment as you possibly can. Next, chronograph your rifle’s muzzle velocity (an average of at least five works best), then input that into your app–while muzzle velocity is generally recorded on the ammo box nowadays, having an exact measurement of how it performs in your own rifle is more desirable. Finally, range your target, input that into the app, and use the elevation calculation it gives you (you’ll want to decide up front if you’re going to learn/use MOA or MRADs, to save on confusion down the road). This should get you close-to or even right-on target, and you can make adjustments from there. Once you’re hitting consistently, note how far you had to dial before moving on to the next range.

Tip 5: Take a Class

As always, there really is no replacement for expert instruction. Learning from folks who know what they’re doing will put you lightyears ahead of figuring it out on your own, and can be extremely helpful when you have specific, potentially esoteric questions that only a human can answer, as opposed to a search engine. An investment in building your skills will almost always yield a better return than investing in equipment, so while you may balk at the price tag, compare it to how much you have or will spend on rifles, quality ammo, quality glass, etc. Once you’ve decided to make that jump, check out Outdoor Solutions long range schools. We have everything needed to take you from neophyte to knowledgeable in a hurry, and show you a good time while you’re doing it. 

3 Hunting Tips to Make the Most of Your Next Hunt

3 Hunting Tips to Make the Most of Your Next Hunt

Hunting is a fickle pastime and the very definition of type 2 fun. Unlike planning a trip to Six Flags or a weekend at the shore, the only guaranteed joy of a hunt is the pursuit itself. Game animals have minds of their own, and particularly if you’re out after a trophy, there is always a chance your quarry will not cooperate. Deer do sometimes sleep in, bed down early, or even leave areas entirely for no perceptible reason. All that said, however, there are some things you can do to up your chances of success. Read on for three of the best hunting tips.

1. Know Your Ground

Of prime importance is knowing the area and animals you plan on hunting. Instead of spending your whole summer wetting lines and skipping stones at the nearby watering hole, get out there and burn some boot leather in the backcountry. Find bedding sites, feeding areas, and migration corridors to start, and the closer you get to fall, look for any specimens you can find stomping around in velvet. Will much of this pattern change when the rut sets in? Of course. Does that mean scouting is useless? Of course not! Having a general idea about deer activity is far superior to none at all.

As a corollary to this, if you’re hunting out of state and cannot spare the time necessary to properly scout your hunting area beforehand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring a local guide. Many will hem and haw about the purity of DIY hunting, and they are correct, in a sense. There is nothing quite so rewarding as doing the entire process yourself. What they fail to recognize, however, is that knowing your ground is an integral part of the process. If you skip it, you should really hire someone who hasn’t, otherwise, you’re simply blundering around the woods with a gun, looking for a sign. If you choose to ignore this advice, or simply cannot afford to take it (let’s be honest here, guides are not cheap) at the very least use an app like onX to digitally “pre-scout” your location, to find promising locales. This will greatly up your odds of happening upon a game-rich area.

2. Know Your Gun (or Bow)

The internet is aflame these days with admonitions to not simply buy a gun, but to train with it too. Thing is, that advice is in vogue because it’s dead-on accurate–there is not much more important than having an intimate knowledge of the weapon you’re carrying. As hunters, however, we need to take this advice a step further.

Benchresters shoot from benches, concealed-carry practitioners fire from a draw, and bullseye competitors shoot bladed, but hunters shoot from … well, just about everywhere. Can you hit out to 1000 yards off a bench? Great. But can you hit 400 yards standing? How about 600 seated, or off your knees? These are the kind of shots you’re going to have to make out there, all the while taking into account the effects of wind, elevation, and the invisible timer that buzzes as soon as your target buck disappears behind a tree. If you can’t make these shots on a flat range, I guarantee you have no chance of doing so in the field, so make sure to not just train your wind holds and trigger squeeze, but your different shooting positions too. 

Find out how to get the most stability in every position (it will generally be when you have the majority of your weight supported by bones, bags, and bi/tripod legs, rather than muscles), and practice dropping into these positions in a hurry. The best part? You can do this in your basement as a dry-fire drill. Disclaimer: Be sure to check that your chamber is empty before doing so. Put a small thumbtack in the wall as an aiming point, and see how quickly you can stabilize enough to execute a comfortable “shot” on that target. You’ll thank me when a distant deer’s vitals are in your reticle. 

3. Know Yourself

Okay, I know that subhead is a little out of left field, but I wanted to keep to my theme and it sounded cool, so hear me out. When I say know yourself, what I mean specifically is to know your own mind. Why are you out there? What are your motivations for hunting? How far do you plan on pushing it to find success? As with everything worth doing, hunting contains a vast mental aspect that most people overlook. Ever notice how much heavier that trigger seems when you’re on an animal, as opposed to when you’re banging steel at the range? I guarantee your trigger didn’t just happen to gain 5 pounds overnight (unlike myself coming back from the Golden Corral). What’s changed is your situation: your brain knows that’s a target you likely only have one clean shot at, and it is petrified of missing. This could be due to the shame seemingly imparted by a miss, the fear of wounding and losing the animal, or a myriad of other factors personal to that particular hunter.

If you know what I’m talking about, I have news for you. We all miss. I’ve missed, you’ve missed, your dad missed, even your dead-eye grandpa missed (though he might never have admitted it, we both know that jackalope got away back in ‘48). Instead of getting caught up in the emotion of the shot and the possibility of a poor outcome, analyze it logically. Are your crosshairs wandering outside of the vitals? If so, don’t pull the trigger, that’s a poor shot. If they aren’t, for God’s sake don’t try to squeeze every last inch of wobble out by flexing, and definitely don’t attempt to time your shot for the moment the sights rest over the top of the middle of the center of the deer’s main aortic valve–you’ll jerk the trigger and send your shot into orbit. If you’re confident in your wind hold and elevation, and your sight picture is solid enough, there’s nothing more to think about. Squeeze that trigger, and worry about where your impact is after the bullet has left the barrel.

While I think this is its most important aspect, the mental game goes much further. There is no such thing as too cold, too far, or too wet if you’ve got the right equipment, paired with the right mindset. On the other hand, you could be decked out in the best gear imaginable, but you’ll turn around at the first sign of adversity if that adversity is what you choose to focus on. Get your mind right before you hit the field, you won’t regret it.

Deer-Hunting Tips: Scrapes

Deer-Hunting Tips: Scrapes

Whether a beginner or an experienced hand, if there’s one thing that unites us deer hunters, it’s the desire to be a more effective predator. From blown stalks to wasted sits, there’s nothing that stings quite so badly as an unfilled tag. So whether your goal is to drop more deer for the freezer, or to take out a specific target buck, read on for some deer-hunting tips and tricks that will make you more deadly in the field. Today, we’re going to focus on the intricacies of scrapes.

What’s a Scrape?

If you’ve been in the field a time or two, or have sought the advice of an experienced hunter, you likely know to target scrapes for deer of both sexes, but primarily bucks. Scrapes are most commonly identified by finding a scal a clearing of dirt, generally beneath a torn up stick referred to as a “licking stick.” This is where bucks have worked themselves into a bit of a frenzy marking their territory, by chewing up a storm on the overhanging stick, then pushing the leaves aside and urinating down the scent glands on their rear legs into the exposed dirt to mark their territory. Thing is, while this means a buck has been there, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll come back–there are several different types of scapes.

So What Does it Mean?

If you just found the scrape at a random point in the woods it’s better than nothing–at least it indicates a deer is in the area, but don’t get too excited. Bucks often make scrapes while cruising, and there is no guarantee he’ll be back. If you find it on the edge of a field, powerline cut, or roadway however, you may be in luck. This is a boundary scrape, and bucks will often hit them as they mark the edges of their territory. Unfortunately though, these are often made at night, and are therefore little help to hunters. What they can be handy for, is looking for tracks, which you can often use to size your deer. More on that in a future installment. Finally, there are primary scrapes. These are your target, and are often found along ridgelines, and generally are between bedding and feeding areas. If you don’t know where the latter are, you can often tell by looking at the scrapes themselves–primary scapes will commonly be laid in a line, some 50-odd yards apart from each other. A buck will hit these fairly often, and this should be a high-opportunity area to hunt. There’s a good deer-hunting tip for ya.

What if There are None?

Another great tactic, particularly if you can’t find a primary scrape? Make a mock one of your own. Find a low-overhanging branch, and use a stick to scrape the leaves away from underneath. Then pour a little buck lure onto it, to make the local bruiser think an intruder is encroaching on his territory. He’ll be curious to find out who it may be. Little hillbilly tip for you? When you’re out of buck lure/urine, I sometimes improvise with my own. There are hunters who will berate you for this, saying bucks will smell human and avoid the area. As for myself, however, I’ve watched bucks stick their noses into scrapes exactly so freshened–I do not think they have enough contact with human urine to expressly recognize it, and it seems to at least make them curious enough to come in for a look. As with so many things in the deer woods, however, to each their own. 

Three final things on scrapes. First, freshening a preexisting scrape with buck lure can be a rewarding tactic if there are already scrapes in the area. Second, while a little rarer, does can also make scrapes to indicate they are in heat. As a result, I will often make an occasional scrape with in-estrus doe urine. Never hurts to let bucks know there are fertile females in the area. Finally, a scrape dripper can be a useful tool to establish a more permanent scrape than your human schedule of work and responsibilities likely allows. Hang it up higher than a licking branch, and it will periodically drip urine onto a scrape for as many as several weeks, depending on atmospheric conditions. This can also be an excellent way to keep scrapes freshened while limiting human scent anywhere in the nearby area.

There’s more to learn about scrapes, but that knowledge won’t be found on the faux-ink of a webpage. Get on out there, scout, hunt, and find out for yourselves! If you do feel the need for more hand-on deer hunting tips though–as always–check out the fine folks at Outdoor Solutions. I may ply my trade writing “how-to’s,” but even I know nothing beats the hands-on, tailor-made instruction a hunting mentor can provide.

Wild Game Processing: From Field to Table

Wild Game Processing: From Field to Table

Why Wild Game Processing?

Before we get into the details of wild game processing, let’s talk about why. Each person may have a different personal “why,” but there are also some fact-based “whys” you should consider.
Typically, you never know what goes into your grind when coming from a processor, it could literally be scraps left over you personally would have never used, or worse yet, it could be from someone else’s animal that did not take the time or care in the field that you did.
Processors are in a hurry, and time is money, so they are going to run meat through the grinder as fast as possible. Not saying all wild game processing happens this way, but there’s a good possibility that processors won’t take the time to remove the facia or the silver skin, which is impossible to chew and what gives wild game the so-called “gamey” taste.

Before the Grind

Before you plug in the grinder and start the wild game processing, there are multiple things you’ll want to do.

  • Remove all silver skin and facia. You’ve heard the expression, “garbage in, garbage out,” and the same applies here—if you leave the less desirable pieces on your meat, it will taste like it.
  • Instead of cubing all the meat, cut into strips. This saves time and is easier to feed into the grinder
  • Put the housing, blade and dyes in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Moving parts create heat, which will soften the fat and clog up your grinder. Keeping the grinder parts cold will help keep the meat chilled.
  • Put the strips of meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes as well. This will firm up the meat and create a much cleaner grind. 

Buy Once, Cry Once

This is a phrase we use when referring to optics in our long-range schools. Processing equipment can be expensive but doesn’t fall into the trap of sacrificing quality for a cheap price. Look for grinders with quality materials (stainless steel housings, blades and dyes). You also need to make sure your grinder of choice has enough HP to cover the amount of wild game you intend to process.

The OS team has used processing equipment from Meat Your Maker since day one. They are a direct-to-consumer company, which means no middleman pricing. With options that range from 500w to 1 ½ HP, they will have a grinder that fits your needs. Through our From Field To Table program, and personally, we go through hundreds of animals per year, so we utilize several of the 1.5hp grinders. I honestly believe you could grind up a Volkswagen with one of those things. With that being said, don’t underestimate the 500w grinder. Since it is just myself and my wife, Deborah, at home, it is my go-to piece of equipment for 5 to 10 pounds of wild game processing.

How Much Fat?

Depends on what you are cooking and personal preference.  For my burgers, I stick with a standard 20%, this helps the patties, meatballs or whatever you are making stick together and not fall apart on the grill.

Chili, stews or a spaghetti sauce, I might even take it down a notch to 10 or 15% since I don’t need it stick together.

When I’m grinding to make some type of sausage, like Chorizo, brats or Sweet Italian, I will go a bit heavier on the fat and bump it up to 30 or even 35%.

As far as what type of fat, our go-to is pork, preferably fatback, but pork butt is easier to find.  I also will use bacon pieces but you have to be careful that it does not overpower the flavor of what you are preparing. 

Check out the video below to see us do a demo on some fresh ground elk while we are still in camp.

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