October 2019, near Hamlin, Texas: The morning began warm and sunny, but before our long-range shooting class started the weather quickly deteriorated. Wind picked up, the temperature dropped fast, and rain and mist swirled downrange.
“Perfect day for long-range shooting,” said Erik Lund, one of our instructors for the Long-Range Hunting Course offered by Outdoors Solutions: Hunting and Fishing Destinations. “Our students will learn a lot today!”
A Tulsa, Oklahoma-based company providing sportsmen with hunting and fishing trips, Outdoors Solutions: Hunting and Fishing Destinations, began offering their long-range class a few years ago, mostly due to client need.
“Clients would call us to set up that hunt of a lifetime out West for elk or mule deer, usually,” said Greg Ray, Outdoor Solutions founder and co-owner. “We’d warn them, given the wide-open spaces you will be hunting, you need to be able to make a shot out to 400 yards.”
Most clients, he soon discovered, hadn’t shot deer-sized game much past 100 yards, and the 400-yard requirement scared them. So, Ray, Lund and other Outdoor Solutions staffers designed the Long-Range Hunting Course.
Held in Michigan, Texas and Utah (with 15 courses scheduled for 2020), the classes are designed to give hunters a much better understanding of what shooting distances are truly possible for them as ethical hunters. By the end of Day One, and shooting from tables, everyone in our class of 12 people was able to consistently hit steel targets out to 1,000 yards.
Ray, though, stressed that his classes are not about taking game at that distance.
“We help the hunter find the distance they feel comfortable making a clean, ethical shot on an animal,” Ray said. “By the time they finish our class, a hunter will know that comfortable distance, as well as when a shot is too far for them, their gear and the weather conditions.”
For the class, we were provided with Remington 700 5-R bolt-action rifles chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor and outfitted with Zeiss V4 Conquest scopes and Jaeger 30 suppressors from Advanced Armament Corporation. Ammunition was 6.5 Creedmoor Precision Match, firing a 140-grain bullet, made by Barnes Bullets.
After a safety briefing and a general introduction to the day’s upcoming events, we zeroed our rifles at 100 yards, and then began extending our range on 3 MOA-sized steel targets, first at 200 yards, then at 300 yards, and were dinging steel at the 800-yard mark before lunch. We also used a ballistic calculator app downloaded onto our cell phones.
By mid-afternoon, all of us were members of the 1,000-Yard Club!
Wes Fitzwater, an attorney from Oregon, took the class. A life-long hunter, Fitzwater usually hunts forested terrain with the shots well under 200 yards.
“I’ve always been very concerned about shooting when it was windy, too,” Fitzwater added. “I wasn’t sure how the wind might affect the bullet, so if it was windy? I just wouldn’t take the shot.”
“I have a lot more confidence in my shooting now,” Fitzwater told me at the end of Day One. “It really was an education today, shooting into the wind, seeing where the bullets would impact, and being behind the spotting scope and calling wind holds for other shooters.”
Fitzwater isn’t going to take a shot on game in high winds. But at 300 yards or less, he figured, and with some wind, he now knows what he is capable of shooting.
Day Two of the class found us in the rolling, West Texas landscape of the T Diamond Ranch, a mixture of arroyos and steep cliffs, rocky hills and wide valleys, all dotted with cedar, mesquite and thick brush.
No tables, no chairs and no awning to give us cover from the elements. It was 40 degrees with gusting winds, and periods of clouds interspersed by bright sunshine.
“Yesterday, your rifles were about as stable as they could be,” Lund said by way of introduction to the day’s shooting. “Out here? Your rifles will be very unstable. Your job today, our job, is to help you get into good, solid shooting positions and help you make the best shooting solutions possible.”
We shot over logs and from shooting sticks, with our backs to a hillside and prone on a rocky road. Our steel targets ranged from 100 to 800 yards away, positioned across valleys, up hills and down slopes.
As a group, we did well but we certainly had more misses than Day One, me included. And that was fine. The misses helped us recognize our own limits, those distances in the field at which we would and wouldn’t take a shot at an animal.
Of course, just how far a hunter can ethically shoot is a decision the hunter has to make. But I can say with confidence the students for this Long-Range Hunting School had their shooting range extended by at least 150 yards.
For Wes Fitzwater, that range was extended by up to 200 yards. And he was eager to get home and get his personal hunting rig tuned up for some longer shots.
Students also got the chance to try their hand at hog hunting once the shooting instruction was completed. About half of us did the hunting portion.
Offered by the T-Diamond Ranch which is operated by Guitar Outdoors, the hunting consisted 1.5 days of hog hunting, some of it at distances, some of it closer. Nearly everyone got a hog and returned home with a cooler full of organic, free-range pork!
Long-range shooting instruction, many rounds put down range, followed by a chance to use the newly acquired skills right away in the field: it was a great experience!
For more information on the Long-Range Hunting Course, and other trips and classes offered by Outdoors Solutions: Hunting and Fishing Destinations visit https://outdoorsolutionscorp.com, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 918-258-7817.