Wisdom Of A Professional Hunting Guide

How relevant is organized range training to the hunting field? Can matches and classes and other HunterShooter events really help you become a better hunter? The following was sent to me by a retired professional big game guide.

“I was never a famous name guide, but facts are facts and this is what I experienced. I am extremely interested in the idea that hunters should have to “qualify” to get a license, I realize that may seem like an anathema to some but I guided hunting professionally and was so generally disgusted by the pathetic level of marksmanship displayed by a large percentage of my clients I quit.


“You are right about the importance of organized shooting. I shoot NRA and CMP Service Rifle. I am not that great a shot, generally in the low “Expert” range, but I shoot these matches for precisely the reasons you push HunterShooter events: Competition and time constraints make you do funny things, unless you know how to handle the pressure (mostly from experience) and the problems that crop up.


“I routinely invite friends, buddies, and shooting acquaintances to give matches a try. I always offer the use of a rifle and ammo and gear but have had only two people take me up on it. One was a former High Power shooter, now back into it after his feet were rewet, and the other a complete newbie.


“The old saw about ‘can’t hit a target but I never miss my deer’ is pretty old and soggy in my book. I have never taken a competent shot out and had a lousy performance from them in the field. I have taken plenty of ‘good game shots’ out and had them discover that animals move and there is no bench rest handy. What can a guy say after seeing this type of thing over and over?


“I call this the Rifle Problem. An Elk guide sees client’s gun. If the gun is a .270, .30-06, or similar, everything will probably be OK. If the gun is a .30 Winchester/Weatherby/ Ultra/Super Magnum caliber of any sort, expect trouble. If the gun is a 338 Winchester/Ultramag or especially a 340 Weatherby, expect gross incompetence.


“How can I make such generalizations? Experience. For example, .340 Weatherby ammo retails for about $60 for 20 rounds. If your client is going to be half competent with the rifle he or she had better put about 250 to 500 rounds through it before hunting season. If they don’t reload that means 250 rounds equals $750 and 500 rounds represents the price of the rifle at retail.  So, either your client’s got some bucks (and hopefully you get a big tip) or that half shot-up box of ammo he brought with him came with the rifle.


“I always preferred guiding prairie goats because to me it was like chess. Outthink and be where they WILL be with your hunter set up and ready. I’d have fellows set up for a 75 to 125 yard shot and most would guess it as 200 yards or more. Never let a client shoot over 200 because you don’t have enough hours in the day to chase the cripples.”


Read more in our November 2011 issue. Back issues are available.

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