Query: How Does One Learn About Hunting?

So, I admit it: I’m interested in learning more about hunting. Actually, I’ll go further: I’m interested in trying the sport.

There are a number of reasons why I’m interested in this. Part of it is that I enjoy being outdoors and outdoor sports, and hunting is certainly one of those sports. Some of it is that after my recent “first time with a rifle” (the M-1 Garand) I’m interested in learning longer-distance rifle marksmanship. Some of it is that hunting seems to me an important survival skill – after all, there are few things more valuable to survival than being able to put food on the table.

And some of it is the recommendation I’ve heard, from Massad Ayoob, Alex Haddox, and others that if one can’t shoot an animal for food, it doesn’t bode well for our ability to shoot another human being in self-defense. I don’t totally buy this, but on one level the theory makes sense. Part of using deadly force in self-defense is being able to overcome our society’s taboos about taking of life. If you can’t do it when there’s nothing on the line, how will you do it when EVERYTHING’s riding on it? Experience shows we don’t rise to the occasion in a crisis, but we fall back to the level of our conditioning, so I’d rather my conditioning include that experience.

The trouble is this: I have no idea how to get started. Ideally, I’d love to find someone who could teach me about hunting, show me the gear I’d need, and actually take me out and coach/mentor me through my first time. Even better would be someone willing to let me try their gear so I could see what I like before plonking down money on stuff. After all, guns and gear are expensive. And, I have no idea how to find that.

Is there some organization that could provide the experience I’m looking for? I don’t even know where to start, and am feeling a bit lost on the topic. Pointers and suggestions are welcomed in the comments.

Shooting Safety: The “Hot Brass Dance”

If you’ve been shooting long at all, chances are this has happened to you: You carefully align the sights on the target, squeeze the trigger. The gun goes “BANG!” and a shell casing is ejected from then gun. You start to bring the gun back on target, and then…YOW! The (hot) spent shell casing has landed not on the ground, but on some part of your body. And those little buggers sting!

The burning pain might come from your neck, as happened to my friend Ben Branam during a CHL class today. You may catch the projectile with your arm or in the bend of your elbow. If you’re female and unlucky enough to be wearing a top with a low or loose enough neckline, it might be coming from somewhere more…sensitive. (See the photo; although this is a re-creation, I have had both pistol and rifle brass land there even when wearing high-necked T-shirts.)

If you’re even more unlucky, and/or not wearing enough safety gear, a spent casing could land between your safety glasses and your face, a truly unfortunate and potentially dangerous occurrence.

When this happens, it’s not unusual, especially for new shooters, to jump around, scream, flail about, and the like. This is okay, except for when the hand that’s flailing around is still holding a loaded gun. That’s how safety rules get broken. That’s how accidents happen. That’s how people get hurt.

Now, if you’ve been shooting for any length of time, you’ve probably had this experience at least a few times, and you can deal with the situation without freaking out. You know that, although uncomfortable, it’s unlikely the hot brass will be dangerous. And you know that panicking, when holding a loaded weapon, surely will be dangerous. In fact, the last time this happened to me, I calmly engaged the safety on the Beretta I was shooting, set it down on the bench, reached inside my shirt and fished the 9mm casing out from inside my bra while my (male) shooting companions looked on and gaped. But for new shooters, who may not be able to muster up the composure to respond calmly, hot brass can indeed be scary.

Here are some tips to help new shooters with the “hot brass dance”:

  • Check clothing before going to the range. A low-cut top like the one in the photo above is probably not a good choice for a new shooter on her way to the range. High-necked, long-sleeved tops, shooting glasses, and baseball caps can all help keep errant brass out of sensitive spots.
  • Check the new shooter’s choice of firearms, especially if they’re shooting one of your guns. An M1911 is a heck of a lot of fun to shoot, but the ones I’ve fired all scattered brass every which way over a wide distance. In fact, at a recent IDPA match where I was scorekeeping, I was standing about 15 feet to the right of and about 10 feet behind the shooter…and I still managed to catch a .45 casing in my jeans pocket! Although flying brass is something of an occupational hazard (unless you’re a revolver shooter), selecting a weapon that tends to eject brass along a predictable trajectory is a help for newbies.
  • Explain the problem to new shooters, and remind them of what to do. I usually say something like, “Sometimes, when the gun ejects the spent shell casing, it’ll land on or in your clothing. This can be uncomfortable but not dangerous. If it happens, set the gun down on the bench without pointing the barrel at anyone, and then you can retrieve the brass.” When we get to actually shooting, this is one of the things I watch for. Knowing what to expect, and knowing that hot brass isn’t dangerous, seems to help.

And if you DO end up with a burn, like Ben did, remember that it’s just the gun’s way of giving you a little kiss to tell you it loves you. No? Not buying that? Well, it was worth a try. But anyway, remember that a hot shell casing is much less dangerous than an armed, panicking woman (or man). Stay calm, safe the gun, and then retrieve the brass. A burn might hurt a bit, but I guarantee it won’t hurt nearly as much as a bullet wound.

Long-Range Shooting and Risk Assessment

Bob Mayne over at the Handgun World podcast has been having a running debate in his forum (starting here, and continuing here) about the wisdom of training to make shots at longer distances – 100 yards or more – with a handgun. Bob argues this is a skill worth having because there could, indeed, be situations where you need to make shots at longer range to defend yourself. Some of his listeners argue that you should never take shots at long distances because, if the threat is that far away, there’s no immediate danger to your life.

The topic was resurrected because of a news report from Texas about a citizen whose long-range (about 165 yard) shot with a handgun saved the life of a cop locked in a battle with a man who’d already shot and killed at least two people. Bob asked on his forum about whether this report changes people’s views about the wisdom of being able to make a shot at long ranges.

Here’s my response:
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Thoughts on My First IDPA Match

Well, I did it – I shot my first IDPA match today! Thanks to Match Director Joe L. and all the Safety Officers who made it possible (and put up with more than a few newbie mistakes from me). A special shout-out and sincere thanks to Julie Golob, whose encouragement got me through that moment of panic when I looked at the stage diagrams and thought to myself “what the &#!* have I gotten myself into?!?”

For the curious and intrepid, here’s some video – we shot six stages, but I only was able to get video for four of them:

Let me say, first of all, that IDPA is an absolute blast! You get to exercise skills – drawing from a holster, shooting while moving, shooting from cover – that rarely get exercised at a regular range. You also get the adrenaline rush that comes from shooting under pressure (in this case, time pressure), which is a good thing to know how to deal with. In a self-defense situation, you can bet the adrenaline will be pumping, so knowing how to shoot through that is an important survival skill. (In fact, after my first stage today, I was so buzzed/shaky from the adrenaline surge that I dropped four cartridges while trying to reload.)

A few thoughts about the experience and lessons learned:
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Be Intrepid!

I had another post ready to go, but didn’t get a chance to put it up earlier. That’s because I was out of the house early this morning. Friends of mine were taking me to the range, and for the first time I was going to shoot a rifle. I wanted to make this first in my shooting career special, so my friends offered up a classic rifle for my first time: The venerable M-1 Garand.

I can’t say too much about the experience yet – I’m writing a magazine article about it, and I need to keep my mouth shut until after it’s published. But I did get some video shot at the range:

I want to talk about a lesson here that I think is important, though. And that’s this: Life will be much richer and more enjoyable if you can be intrepid.

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Book Review: SHOOT, by Julie Golob

Whether you enjoy shooting rifles, pistols, or shotguns, or even other weapons like black-powder muskets, chances are there’s a competitive shooting event for you. And, chances are that you can find it within the pages of SHOOT, the new book by professional shooter and Team Smith & Wesson captain Julie Golob.

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