Petzal: Shooting With an Empty Mind

A friend of mine booked a sheep hunt early this year, and because of the nut-busting price, he decided to leave nothing to chance. He bought a .270 WSM from rifle builder Mark Bansner, and mounted a Schmidt & Bender scope that cost as much as a Volkswagen. He jogged with a 50-pound pack and the rifle on his back, and on the gun’s stock he taped a cheat sheet that showed bullet drop in 50-yard increments out to 500 yards. Then he memorized the cheat sheet.

When the shot actually came, it was a 300-yarder, and a funny thing happened: His mind went absolutely blank. He forgot every number on the sheet, and had to read it to get his holdover. But he got the ram.

This is the great weakness inherent in all the rangefinders, range-compensating reticles, and everything else that tells you where to hold—when the moment actually comes, most people’s minds go blank. They forget how to use these electronic miracles, panic, and blaze away somewhere in the general direction of the beast.

There are two cures: One is to be born with the nervous system of a monitor lizard. The other is to do a lot of shooting—and I do mean a lot—at various long ranges. About 15 years ago I saw a young man from the Midwest take a nice Wyoming mule deer at a true 600 yards with one round. He simply flopped down in the prone position, got into his sling, and pulled the trigger. He was a member of a National Guard rifle team, and fired hundreds and hundreds of rounds every year at distances from 200 to 1,000 yards. For him this was just another day at the office.