The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 30, 2012

Practice makes perfect

As gun seasons approach, find time to work on your shot

Chris Ellis
From Staff Reports

BECKLEY — West Virginians are considered great shots — it’s simply part of our mountain heritage. The Mountaineer doesn’t carry around a shrimp net, for crying out loud, and although I have never seen a nationwide poll, I can only assume that the people watching the Mountaineers play ball are somewhat confident that the Mountaineer knows a thing or two about shooting a firearm.

Most of us grew up participating in such extracurricular activities as squirrel hunting, rabbit hunting and filling freezers full of fresh venison. Unlike other areas of the country, we were raised blessed in a gun-friendly culture with plenty of room to enjoy the natural world sharing nature’s bounties. Our rifle skills were tuned and sharp because we participated regularly at shooting. Even though we might not have known it at the time, we were practicing to become great shots.

Fast forward to today, when everyone seems to be overworked and overbooked, and many of us simply do not have the time to practice. Yeah, ammo and guns are more expensive, but since when have sportsmen allowed costs or time to get in the way of our pursuits or passions?

Unlike bowhunters, who practice religiously from different yardages and at different hunting scenarios, rifle hunters can sometimes undervalue the need to practice on a regular basis.

This past week, I was asked by a local writer and a professional in the firearm business to set up a range scenario for some long-distance shooting at my hillside farm in Fayette County. I was honored to be asked and we spent a day crawling around in the hayfield shooting at little targets far away. I have to admit I was a touch rusty, but after a few shots and a little luck, the practice of my youth paid off. I wouldn’t have won any gold medals at the Olympics, but I left the backroads feeling pretty confident that if a bugling elk happened to want to meet me on a foggy mountain morning, there would be plenty of room in the bed of the truck to accommodate him.

I am often asked by West Virginians about hunting out west. I mostly get questions about specific rifle calibers, scopes and other gear. I rarely get asked what kind of practice drills they should be concentrating on to make that shot on an elk or mule deer of their dreams.

My point is simple. Whether you are learning to play the guitar, blow bubbles or shoot a rifle, practice makes perfect. And with many West Virginians familiar with the drill, a little practice goes a long way.

As a friend of mine once told me after a successful practice session when I was shooting well, “The only problem now is making up an excuse as to why you missed the deer. You had better be thinking of a real good one, too; not something lame like the sun was in your eyes.”  

Before this year’s opening day of West Virginia gun seasons, find a little time to practice shooting in field situations with the equipment you plan on carrying in the woods. After all, Mountaineers are well known for our shooting ability and we have a reputation to uphold — even if the sun does get in our eyes.