8. Shooting

A. No comment... Doug shoots the mouse
Early on, when we were at Mickey's and had just started using the house, it was pretty barren inside. There was only a mattress and springs in the living room, the same in the bedroom and no other furniture. Anywhere. It was a roof over our heads, with electricity and no water. After camping out for the first season, sleeping bags on the floor were an improvement. After an unproductive day we came in, dropped our gear and started an uninspiring meal of canned soup heated on the Coleman. All were tired and no one was talking. Four of us sat in the gloomy living room on suitcases and around the edge of the mattress. A brief movement caught Doug's eye and we all noticed his slowly stretching out to reach for the long barreled Ruger Single Six on the mattress behind him. He pointed it at a mouse running back and forth along one wall. Everyone froze and looked at the mouse. When the critter got to the the doorway to the kitchen Doug cocked the revolver and took aim. Still not a word or movement, except for everyone to cover their plates. The .22 was louder than expected in the near empty room. The mouse was surrounded by a cloud of dust raised by the rat shot. He never moved. No one said a word. Every one silently turned back to their soup.

B. .300 on a doe
Use enough gun is a good guideline and a great book. But there are time when only enough gun could be better. Unusual things happen sometimes. Bill took a doe with the first shot at game with a new .300 Winchester magnum. It was a good hit, at about 110 yards, entering high behind the left leg and quartering down to the front of the right leg. Doug watched the hit through glasses and saw the chest expand like a balloon. The doe actually dropped in her tracks. The deer was field dressed, skinned and hung overnight in the barn. When the quartering and trimming was done the the next morning they found the off shoulder had turned because contents of the stomach had been pushed, or maybe pulled, by the bullet's passing, from the esophagus through the wound cavity to the outside of the ribs. The mass was between the ribs and the leg. There were several ribs broken free at either side of the spine. The "balloon" effect that Doug saw was real and deadly. The bullet was a 165 grain spitzer and approximately 3200 FPS or less.

C. Doe in a cactus patch
The second deer Bill took shooting out of a big live oak tree across the fence fro the old Indian's barn. He'd managed to get his .45-70 rifle up and was sitting on a "pipe stool" drilled into a big limb. It was Sunday afternoon, late in the day, and he was all packed up and ready to go home as soon as it got dark. You can see by the preparations that he wasn't too hopeful about the prospects of getting a deer but a doe wandered in and he took the shot. He got her good enough that she took about three jumps and, on the last one, turned over and landed on her back. Dead. About three feet into a big cactus patch. Doug had stayed, as well, and came to help. They drug her out, with some difficulty, and took a lot of cactus spines by walking and reaching in. They strung her up to a tree limb so they could skin and quarter her. Back at that time all deer taken at Mickey's were quartered and iced down for transport. It began to get dark and they were skinning away and cussin'. She wasn't bad to handle from the outside but there were lots of spines that came through the skin and made pulling down the hide a terrible chore. It was a long time before they finally got her in the cooler and got them selves cleaned up. Teaching, as doug will tell you, takes longer than doin'. Bill sure had some luck that Doug had stayed because he'd only seen a couple of deer dressed, skinned and processed. the experience cooled his future ambitions to hunt Sunday nights and also gave him an appreciation for cactus. When he got the meat out at home there were still "ten pounds" of spines to deal with.

D. The problems with head shots

E. Shoot and clean a ringtail

F. If Elmer Keith can do it..
Bill and Doug had .357-44 wildcat cylinders made for their Rugers. They were supposed to be the hottest, fastest .357's around. Bill got his and the same day worked up a couple of loads and tried them at the J&J range. One worked really well at 25 yards. The next weekend Everybody was at Mickey's and it was gun season. In the middle of the afternoon someone noticed several does in the field behind the house. Bob had bought a new .30-30 and wanted to try it on a deer. He went out the front door and across to the barn for a shot. The deer spooked and moved further away from the barn, into the field and stopped. Bob came back without shooting. There had been lots of talk about Elmer Keith and his long range pistol shooting. Some of the guys thought he was just blowing smoke,and some thought that he really had made some of really long shots. Especially when he talked of "walking" the shots into the object as he continually corrected for the drop. Bill thought he'd try his new pistol. He opened the back door and took a rest against the door jamb. The other guys went to a window in the back room. Bill guessed at the range and aimed at the back of one's head hoping to have the bullet drop into the shoulder. At the shot the deer's head was enveloped in a red mist and she turned feet up and died. Doug was yelling from the other room, "Did you see that?" Ralph said "it was a lucky shot". Doug came back with his standard question "Where were you holding?". After hearing about aiming at the head and the estimating drop, Ralph said again "That, for sure, was a lucky shot!" Doug Cut his eyes at Ralph and confirmed "You did aim at the head?" "Yes." "Sounds Like you hit where you aimed. What's lucky about that?" Down at the creek the next day Bill couldn't hit a three foot boulder at the same distance as the doe had been. 140 paces. It was a fairly lucky shot, at that.

G. Blinds are fair game, too or "Was that bear armed?"
Shooting to and from and through

H. Bench technique makes fair rifles better
All it took to make the gun more accurate was to learn how to shoot -
A lot of hunters rifles are sighted in at the range when there is time but often the sights were checked in the field over a truck hood. The primitive people of America and Africa first thought that the noise and fire was what killed and and that the bullet was just a component to make the fire work. We all know better today. To someone, now, just beginning to shoot a rifle the instructions are brief: the bead or crosshairs on the target, squeeze the trigger. That done, new shooter expects a Bullseye. He'll probably be on the target with a credible shot. But with each following shot, the more disappointed he may become, if he's expecting a half inch cluster. Know that he's done his part with "see the target and squeeze", he may suspect that HIS gun is not quite up to sub MOA groups. Bill's first modern centerfire rifle was bought when he was on Mickey's lease. He started reloading then, too. Doug helped him with a lot of the details and techniques of reloading. He was fairly pleased with his rifle and was glad to see a deer go down when he shot. Doug's question "Did you hit where you were aiming?" seemed redundant. "Sure, I hit the deer." Calling the shot was still in the future for Bill. From then on, Bill always had rifles and loads of fair or better accuracy, but not many tack drivers. Doug's, Charles Askins-like, rejection of mediocre velocity or accuracy set pretty high standards. They were hard to meet, especially when shooting like an offhand shooter at the bench. Good bench technique make a noticible difference. Fairly evaluating the accuracy of a rifle or load starts by eliminating the shooter's variables. Later, things like setting up the shooting bench to be steady, comfortable and consistent and placing the rifle in exactly the same contact points and using the same hold, not forcing the aim and not canting the rifle, began to make a difference at the bench. And finally realizing, years later, that the some of rifles and loads were not as questionable as they'd seemed. A better bench technique may have proved them accurate. Some people and some guns go together. A few of the guys found accuracy in a few of Bill's guns, that he'd doubted. Doug in the .338, John with the Smith .45 long Colt, Mike with the Smith 59. With the realization that the guns were not the problem, each of those guns, given greater attention to technique, became favorites of Bill's.

I. Barkin' Squirrels is not the same as Barkin' Spiders
Barkin' spiders are legendary critters, akin to the frogs that our uncles used to sit on. Barkin' a squirrel is a mark of a black powder shooter held over from when squirrels were food and the brains were delicacies. A whole, unmarked critter was a bonus for the pot. The idea is to shoot the just under, or next to, the squirrel's head, as he is flattened against the tree, hiding and kill him by concussion. A good shot will bring him down without the bullet striking him.

Cotton and his sons brought black powder shooting to the Price lease. They all were members of the Dallas Muzzleloading Gun Club and shot almost every month. Cotton had refreshed and rebuilt several original rifles over the years and it seemed not beyond belief that he may have started with one as a boy in west Texas. He was the was the, good natured, authority on their use. He brought Bob, Ralph, Doug and Bill to the sport. The second and third Bobs had been shooting caplocks before they joined the lease. The twenty five yard target barrels were shot out, primarily, with black powder. They were dirty, smelly, slow and a relaxing way to fill a day. All of the guns and rifles were traditional, if you'll accept the Thompsons with their coil springs. It put you in touch with your boyhood fantasies of D. Boone and Davy Crocket. The boom and the cloud of white smoke, especially on a damp morning, was satisfying, whether you hit the mark or not. Most of the black powder shooters have taken, or at least, harassed, small game and doves. Lots of "mean rocks" and cow patties have been assaulted by the "smokepoles" and pistols. Walking with friends and black powder is an easygoing way to see the property. Ralph is the only one to take deer with black powder and has taken several. He says that, for him, it and his bow are the only way to the only to hunt. Doug likes to say that he has heard, ringing through the woods, and on more than one occasion, a loud "Pop!" followed by "Damn!".

J. .22's and practice
Doug and Bill always enjoyed shooting. Handguns were a particular pleasure. At Mickey's there was a trash dump below the house a few hundred yards in an arroyo that provided good backstops and up to 25 yards of range. That was back when shooting bottles was PC and a way to be sure of a hit. Almost every trip they'd bring a brick of .22 shells each and use the all some weekends. They would usually shoot in turn, the most common target a 20 gauge shotgun hull, and keep it moving. A hit just below the hull would flip in a few feet and the next shooter would fire as it hit the ground. You soon became comfortable with quick target acquisition. Doug shot bottles from the air with great regularity. There was also an abandoned barn that made a good backstop to a long, sloping rise. The hill was bare with a fine powder of soil and plenty of white rock that made great targets up to 200 yards. A challenge with a .22, but in time the range and hold over became familiar. The hours spent with a .22 become a great advantage when shooting with larger calibers. Most of the hunters shoot handguns, some only large caliber and some only on the target range, but not many spent the time with .22's that Doug and Bill did.

K. Learning to handle arms
The first time Chris, John's son, shot a hot loaded 7MM Mag, he looked up at his dad and very calmly said "Oww, Daddy".

The first three of Bill's grandsons walked around the lease carrying an unloaded .22 single shot and Grandpa carried the shells. After a lot of

"Do you really want to shoot his foot?", "Why am I lookin' into your barrel?" and such, they learned to carry a gun in a group and just as important, they learned how to walk around someone with a gun. Later they learned to pick out safe targets and would get one shell at a time from Grandpa to try their luck. They did OK, but still left a lot of mean rocks for Doug to sort out.

L. When you've made your best shot, don't push it.
Bill was dove hunting at the Flying Turkey south of Coleman with a bunch of employees and guests on the company lease. A suburban full of hunters was driving to a new field when Melvin hollered for Leon to stop the truck. He and Lad had a bit of rivalry going and Melvin was a bird behind. About thirty five yards to the right was a single bird on a snag. Lad was sitting behind Melvin. "Melvin, that's not a dove." "It sure is a dove and I'm going to take it." Melvin responded, but although he had raised his gun he didn't shoot. After a closer look Lad got his gun ready, but hesitated. Every body in the truck was watching the bird, that hadn't moved, and wondering if it was a dove and if it would be shot. The ragging went back and forth.
"If you're so sure, take him!"
"That's OK, you take 'em!"
"I believe it is a dove."
"I don't think so. You take him."
"Nah, you go ahead."
Bill slipped out the back left door and walked to the back of the truck. He took a rest on the truck and a bead on the bird. A pop from the .22 pistol and the bird tumbled. He picked up the bird and walked back, handed it to Lad, who showed the rest of the guys the head shot dove. Bill got back into his seat next to Cotton. Cotton had been in a lot of places and around a lot of shooting and was a pretty sage old fellow. He quietly offered "Be sure you don't shoot that pistol in front of any of these guys for the rest of this trip." and smiled. Bill knew Cotton was right. You can't count on two flukes in a row.

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You'll see headings with no story. They haven't been written yet. I'm waiting to talk to the guys that were there.

If you remember any details better than are written, email the edited text to me. If your recollection may not be accurate, join the club. (-CRS-)

Accuracy should be just a bit less important than a good tale.


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