“To shoot or not to shoot, that is the question” that is what Shakespeare said, right?
My son Colt, who is now 7, has been shooting long range since he was 5 years old with a custom made 7-08 that I built for the kids a couple years ago. He has probably shot over a hundred rounds at steel targets from 300-1077 yards over the last couple years. I feel shooting steel at distance is super important for kids (all of us really) because it gives you instant gratification when you make a solid hit and you hear that sweet sound of a high velocity round impacting a hanging plate. But more importantly it gives you instant feedback on the miss. You realize very quickly when shooting small plates at great distance that maybe you rushed the shot a little, were a little heavy on the trigger squeeze or…ect. We can make excuses all day on why we all miss but you learn from your misses as much or more than your hits. Let’s face it- we miss sometimes. That being said, the second the primer is punched I know whether it was a good shot or not. When you shoot enough you learn when you’re going to hit with confidence and when you are not. This brings up the big question in long range hunting… “To shoot or not to shoot”
Colt, age 5, verify zero with half MOA group and a hit at 1,015 yards on shot #2 with new 7-08
Colt had to the opportunity to take a caribou this year. We were on our annual family hunt in the Denali area. Kimber, his older sister (age 9), had just made a great one shot kill on a caribou at 255 yards. While field dressing her caribou, another pops up. We grabbed the rifle and ran to the top of a small hill and got Colt set up on a tripod with a saddle on it. He could not shoot prone due to brush on the ground. The caribou was at 290 yards standing broad side; Colt is in the rifle, scope is dialed, and he is ready to shoot, he’s aiming, and aiming, and aiming for about 30 seconds. Finally he looks up at me and says, “Dad, I can’t shoot. I just can’t quite hold still enough on him.” I had an instant proud dad moment right there! I just could not help but think, “Wow”. When I was that age if there was fur in the scope there was lead in the air. So I pulled the gun out of tripod and told him we would try and get to a better shooting position. We moved up about 50 yards into a small clearing on the side of a hill where he could lay on the ground prone (like he is used to shooting). He got right in rifle and made a great shot! Told him how proud I was of him for not taking a shot he knew wasn’t very good.
Two days later on the same hunt I spotted a legal, fork-fork moose about a mile from camp. We grabbed our rifles and gear and threw it into the ranger and headed down the mountain. We got to within a half mile of the moose with the ranger and stopped, loaded our packs and headed out after him. This was all flat, swampy ground now shooting off the tripod is a must due to bushes for Colt. We get almost set up on the moose 5 times from 400 to 200 yards but he just couldn’t see it since he’s only about 40” tall. Finally, the moose stopped and I got the tripod set up and got him in the gun. The young bull is at 260 yard, he is standing/feeding in about three foot tall alders, so he is not 100% visible and not holding perfectly still. Colt is in the scope at this point and on him. The moose knew we were there and was super nervous. “Ok Colt, once you are on him, go ahead and squeeze the trigger.” He aimed for 20 seconds which seemed like forever. “Dad, I can’t see all of him well” he says, “Can you make a head shot?” I ask . “ya I think so “ and another 20 seconds goes by…. he looks up at me “Dad, he won’t hold still enough for me to shoot”. So I tell him, “don’t take a shot you’re not 100% sure of.” By now the moose is getting even more nervous and moves out about another 50 yards. We try to follow and set up on him again, but the little bull has had enough and is gone.
It was a long walk back to the wheeler. The swamp may have been a little wetter on the way out due to a lot of tears being shed. I explained to Colt how I was more proud of him for not shooting and risking a bad shot, possibly wounding an animal and it getting away than I was if he would have gotten it. Well… when you’re 7 years old and your older sister shot a moose at age 6 and you’ve been counting the days off on the calendar until the start off moose season, Dads reasoning isn’t that comforting. I reiterated that he made a good decision and that you don’t always get a good shot at every animal that you stalk.
Fast forward a week… Now we are hunting on the pass close to our house. It is day three of Colt, my friend Bob and I getting up at 5:30 in the morning and walking in the dark with headlamps to one of our favorite honey holes on the side of the mountain. Colt was a trooper, getting up early every day and making the hike in. He would fall down in the dark about 30 times every morning, get up and say nothing. He REALLY wanted to get a moose.
The deal was if we saw a big one, Bob was going to take it and if we saw a legal, spike/fork, Colt could try and get it. As the daylight broke, we saw several moose feeding including 4 or 5 bulls of decent size. We were sizing up the bulls to see if any were legal for Bob, when out walks this perfect fork/fork behind a cow moose. “There’s a moose for you Colt!” I whispered!! His face lit up like a camera flash! I quickly took off the rear butt stock from my XLR Element chassis and screwed on his stock that is already adjusted for length of pull, cheek riser height, and cant to fit the kids on my 7-WSM. He crawed up on a big rock and we started the process of getting him in the rifle, ranging, and dialing elevation and wind. This was not an ideal shooting position but we made adjustments to get him in the gun. I was holding onto him to keep him from sliding off the rock, my pack along with two shooting bags under the rear of rifle, one leg of bi-pod fully extended and the other fully in. He was solid in the gun now, scope leveled and dialed.
Moments after when colt made the shot
The moose is 455 yards, perfectly broad side in the open. Bob is spotting for us and I tell Colt to “take him when you are ready” He aimed with his finger on the trigger for an eternity it seemed. If the moose takes two steps he is in the trees. I am pretty sure I was more excited than Colt was at this point. Boom! The smell of burnt Reloader 26 hung in the air. Shooting suppressed you could hear the bullet impact. Bob says “absolutely perfect shot, right behind the front shoulder!” Moose took two steps, reared up on its hind legs and went over backwards! Congratulations were had by all and I was one proud Dad! My 7 year old had just smoked his first moose with one perfect shot at 455 yards!
One happy young hunter right there!
Proud of his heart shot!
On the walk down to the moose Colt told me that when he first got the rifle on the moose he so badly wanted to just jerk the trigger and make a quick shot cause the last one got away and he really wanted to get one but he went on to say “I didn’t shoot Dad, I did exactly what you taught me and took a deep breath and just squeeeeeeeeezed the trigger.”
At the end of the season it all worked out for him. My son showed more ethics this year than most any hunter I know and I am proud of him for that. I will try and remember that if a 7 year old can have the willpower to not take a shot then all of us should too. Here at Long Range Only our motto is “we do long range right “and I feel there cannot be a better example of this than what Colt did this year!
Colt practicing off tripod
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