It’s never too soon to hone your shooting skills


Sandbags in place, the rifle settled in to a solid rest. Downrange, a piece of scrap wood, saved for just this kind of abuse, stood stock still in front of the shooting club’s huge earthen backstop. A small square, created with a black marker stood out with long vertical and horizontal lines crossing it. The one inch square would be the goal and the lines would provide a measuring reference for the first shots.

Hone your skills

It was time to step into the fall’s coming adventure. Sure, Mother’s Day weekend is a long way from October on the calendar but it’s never too soon to hone shooting skills. Besides, this was the first trip to the range for a recently purchase rifle, a gun selected just for the Colorado mountains.

The first shot from a new rifle is always a lesson in feel, sound, and result and this was to be no different. I choose a Savage Axis center fire rifle, in 30-06 caliber for the hunt, a high country search for America’s most respected big game animal, the Rocky

Mountain elk

While some hunters might select a fancy, high priced rifle, I am going with one of the most inexpensive rifles on the market for a couple of reasons. Most of the country’s gun makers have recently introduced very affordable “consumer grade” center fire rifles to meet the needs of bargain shooters and I am a bargain based guy. I wanted to try one of the bottom shelf rifles to see how accurate, how reliable, and how rugged it would be.

One shot opportunity

The question that kept my mind busy was about the wisdom of going cheap in anticipation of a mountain trip that involves horseback travel, challenging terrain, and if lucky, a one shot opportunity. In other words, I know I will be putting all my eggs in one basket. A faulty shooting iron will make turn a planned hunting trip into an expensive camping trip in a disappointing instant.

I settled on the Savage simply on the company’s reputation of building award winning accuracy into everything they sell. I also like the consumer grade rifles for their synthetic stocks and light weight. I’m getting older and the mountains are getting higher and steeper and I don’t like worrying about a scratch or dent. I buy guns to use; period.

Cheap scopes

What I don’t like about consumer grade guns, which often come in scope and rifle combo’s, is that the cheap scopes included are just that, cheap scopes. If a scope fails from what might be called recoil fatigue or fogs due to exposure to rain and humidity, the hunt is over. Cheap scopes can do just that so I mounted a more reliable Nikon Prostaff scope atop the Savage. I’ll use the less expensive scope on a .22 where it belongs.

But back to the range

The featherweight rifle does indeed punish the shoulder but I know that’s just what range shooting feels like. A few adjustments into the session and each shot was touching the ones before, a good sign for any new rifle.
Shooting skills. Good shooting skills don’t just happen. Practice and more practice make it happen. I plan to shoot several rounds many times over prior to the October trip.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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