Missing the Candy Shot

Some guys never miss. The deer may be running like a scalded cat, zig-zagging through brush at 300 yards, and they will drill it through the heart with a single shot every time. Often, these guys are gun writers. I’m not one of them. I may be a writer of guns and other frothy tales, but I do miss sometimes.
During the past couple of days I’ve been chasing elk around the high desert near Meeteetsee. The first day there were three of us, including another rather well-known scriber of hunting tales. I won’t reveal his name, but his initials are Jim Zumbo. The other fella isn’t as well known, but he is a very good shot—most of the time. We have been hunting cow elk—winter meat we call it. After a few false starts we managed to get into a position where about 20 head of elk were within rifle range—say 225 yards. Normally this is a candy shot; place the crosshair behind the foreleg, squeeze the trigger and get out the knife.Blog 152
Jim was on a set of shooting sticks, and my other buddy and I were using the truck for a rest. Boom! Boom! Boom! Each of us shot, and the whole herd continued on its frantic escape. Each of us swore that we had a good hold.
What happened? We still are not sure. As for me, though, I’ve been through this rodeo before. If I am dead sure that I had a good hold and something else didn’t cause the miss, I know it’s time to check my rifle. In this case I did not have the time to check my rifle so I traded it for another one in my safe. Yesterday I had another opportunity and shot at a 175-yard cow. This time the old gal got lucky and jumped at the shot. Yes, I missed again, but I’m pretty sure it was her good luck and my bad luck.
Quite a few years ago I was on an elk-deer combination hunt here in Wyoming. I had two rifles with me. The first day out of camp I slipped on ice and fell right on the scope of my .338 Win. Mag. A couple of hours later it took me four shots to anchor a bull elk at about 260 yards. Several days later my .270 Winchester fell out of the scabbard as my horse was struggling up a near cliff. The sound of a pet rifle clattering in the rocks is as about a disgusting sound as one will ever hear. Anyway, a couple hours later I came across a nice mule deer buck about 400 yards from camp. I grabbed my rifle and had this old buck dead to rights at perhaps 125 yards. Eight frantic shots later I finally had him down. Of course, everybody him camp heard the re-enactment of the Khe Sanh firefight and were only too glad to remind me of my shooting performance throughout the ride back to the trailhead.
That is why when I miss now and cannot come up with a reason, I quit shooting and either check the rifle or get another one.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”
  1. Christina Holden Reply

    Look forward to reading your posts, Dave!

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