Get Out of the Way!

Whenever I pour myself into mastering a new outdoor skill, I ultimately learn that the real key lies in getting myself out of the way. An instructor at Gunsite once told me, “I get sick of all these guys talking about sub-MOA rifles. Like that’s what matters. Any modern rifle out there already has more inherent accuracy than you can exploit. What you need to do is learn to let the rifle shoot.” In other words, get out of its way.

What is the cure for shooter's flinch but to cultivate the intention not to interfere with a rifle's recoil? In other words, let the recoil happen. Get out of its way. Accept it. Take the hit.

What is the best way to teach a child to fish? The answer is simple—just not easy: Give the child the tackle and get out of the way. (Being both a slow learner and determined not to learn from experience, I have to learn this again every time I take a kid to a pond.) Let the kid do everything "wrong." I mean everything. Stuff that makes you want to rend your garments and throw rocks at cars. Be there to keep things safe and help when help is wanted. But other than that, back off and let the kid have fun.

Recently, I was trying to learn how to spear northern pike through a hole in the ice. The weapon was a heavy, five-foot-long iron trident, except with seven tines instead of three. You start with the tines already in the water before you ever see a fish, so to minimize splash, and you hold the spear absolutely vertical. When the moment comes, you don’t throw the spear so much as release it. Using the slightest thrust of your thumb and forefinger. As if releasing a paper airplane.

In other words, get the hell out of the spear’s way and let it do what it was designed to do and wants to do. Which is to spear fish. It took me the better part of a morning to learn to get out of the spear’s way. And then I nailed a nice northern that I ate that night.