First BuckGreat Marksmen practice their craft. You will not become a better shot because you want too, you will improve through practice. There is not just one thing that will make you a better shot but shooting more helps.

One Christmas morning, Santa left me a Daisy BB gun. The model looked like a Winchester, lever actioned 30-30 deer rifle. My stocking had several tubes of copper coated BB’s. I was outfitted with thousands of shots and ran out of ammunition within days!

I had already been trained and warned about proper gun safety. Safety glasses were required and my Dad reminded me that if I screwed up, he would wrap the BB gun around a tree.

As a young hunter, I was instructed to shoot only live targets that I planned to eat. My Grandmother reinforced this lesson, with me, at a very young age. I was using my BB gun to shoot big blackbirds called “grackles”. It was easy when you baited the field with bread crumbs. Dead birds could also be used as decoys. I do not remember how many Grackles fell to my trusty Daisy BB gun that day. Grandma Rose brought me a bushel basket and told me to put them into it. She showed me how to clean one and I was required to clean the rest. I ate Grackles for most of the following week. I have never shot another since.

BB gun season was year around! With every shot, I became a better shot. Targets would be set up at different ranges and elevations. Bottles were great fun since they shattered when hit. Big pieces could be shot again. The bases could be shot at close range, and formed “diamonds”. We saved them in jars to prove our accuracy. The rest of the broken glass would be cleaned up or buried.

Cans made noise and flew when hit. Hanging them strings made for moving targets. Shooting in volleys would make them spin. Aerosol cans would hiss and pop when punctured. Sodas could be shook up and would explode from a BB hit. Styrofoam balls, floating in a stream, would fly high when shot.

Paper targets were ok but punching holes was just not as cool. Using picture targets make it challenging. Aiming at a certain place on the picture added some challenge.

Early BB guns shot a small round at less than 500 feet per second. This was certainly fast enough to damage an eye or break glass. We learned that every gun is dangerous and you could not get a shot back. Responsibility, safety, and marksmanship were the life lessons taught.

Today’s guns are way faster, more powerful, and diverse. They can do more damage, at greater ranges, and more quickly. The ammo is more expensive, louder, and requires safe shooting ranges or locations for practice.

BB gunsBB Guns allow for in home or back yard shooting opportunities where allowed. They are quiet, short ranged, less powerful, and cheap to shoot. A simple range can be set up that will even trap the BB’s so that they can be reused. Plastic containers can be used as targets and recycled. Hanging a sheet or tarp as a backdrop will stop the slower projectiles and direct them into a collecting gutter below.

The basic steps of shooting are the same. Loading, safety, mounting, aiming, hand-eye coordination, breathing, trigger pull… these steps happen with every gun we shoot. The difference is that we normally do not shoot our high-powered weapons nearly enough.

Electronic games are another way to enjoy shooting sports. Large screened video games offer life-like guns that require marksmanship, timing, movement, trigger pull, reloading and other training features. These can also be instructional and educational. Though some of these games may deal with zombies or aliens, others feature wild game or targets.

My Winchester Lever-actioned Daisy BB gun was still around when I taught my kids how to shoot. They too learned the same lessons without losing an eyeball or costing a lot of money. Both children became fine marksmen.

When it was time to become a deer hunter, my son used my first deer rifle. It was an actual 30-30 Winchester lever-actioned rifle. The practice using the replica BB gun was about to pay off. The muscle memory, look, feel, and function were very similar. The thousands of fired BB’s had prepared him for hunting.

We waded onto an island in the Madison River for his first actual deer hunt. He had accompanied me many times and often carried his BB gun for practice. Now it was his turn to carry a real rifle. Dad was just the spotter and guide. We sat in an old ground blind at the edge of a clearing. I told some story about how the blind was made by Indians, years ago, when suddenly he saw a glint of antler. Here were 3 does being chased by a 6 point white-tailed buck. He raised the familiar rifle and scoped in on the deer. Waiting for the right moment was important. The deer was moving and the does were in the way. He had learned how and when to shoot from years of practice. Thousands of rounds had found their mark from his practiced eyes. He only needed one, good, shot to harvest his first buck.

The rifle cracked and I saw through my binoculars that the buck was hit. My son had levered in a second round and was still aiming at the running buck. A second shot was not needed. The thousands of shots had paid off. We approached his first buck together. He did everything he was taught.

Shooting now had a different purpose. His mounted buck still hangs in his home. It is not his biggest but it was his first. It represents a good choice that he had made. The practice of shooting safely and accurately had led to a memory, meal, and accomplishment he would always remember. The practice paid off!

Shoot more, shoot more often!

Montana Grant

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