I started hunting a little later than most. Growing up on the Washington coast I was obsessed with all things fishing. My enlistment in the Air Force found me stationed in Texas and that’s where I discovered hunting. Being a financially challenged Airman I called my Dad and told him about my new found obsession and asked if he had a rifle I could have. He was coming to visit soon so with him he brought my grandfathers rifle, a Savage 99 chambered in 300 Sav. It had an ancient Tasco on it that I replaced with a Leupold VX 2 and after a few trial boxes I found it shooting Winchester ammo well. So after a hunter safety course I found myself sitting in tree stands on Camp Bullis looking for deer. I never was lucky enough to harvest a deer but nonetheless hunting had gotten in my blood. I soon completed my enlistment and returned to Washington. I harvested my first Deer, a blacktail, in the thick woods of Western Washington my first season back but desired more open terrain. Traveling east over the mountains gave me wide open spaces and was the “Western” hunting that I had desired. It wasn’t long however until I outgrew that 300 savage and found a 7mag in my hands. Seeing game at extreme ranges lead me to discover Long Range Hunting. After much research I found a well recommended gunsmith that just happen to be in my area, some calls to him (many in fact) and I was driving to his shop and dropping off that 7 mag to be built into a Long Range hammer. Fate must have been with me because that rifle builder happen to be Travis Redell of R Bros rifles and that man has given me rock solid advice as I have grown in my shooting experience. Fast forward past a couple years ,spending nearly all of it on the ground and a couple local long range shooting competitions later (even winning the overall and big game in this year’s Sportsman Challenge) I decided to travel to Utah for the Vortex Extreme. By coincidence Travis was offering a PRS (Precision Rifle Series) training class just a few weeks before I was leaving for Utah. I had been interested in the PRS shooting but had been a little intimidated to jump into a competition. So here was a perfect opportunity, a chance to get my feet wet in the PRS and getting off a 100 rds just before my competition in Utah.
I have to be honest I didn’t expect to learn much specifically relating to my shooting. I mean after I had just won a shooting comp and had harvested animals at 934, 916 & 942. I had shot out to 1933 yards on smaller than ¼ MOA targets, I didn’t need help on my shooting right? I expected to get some tips and tricks for the PRS and 100 rds of rifle validation to build my confidence for Utah. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong Travis and his brother Jesse are professional shooters and they showed it during this class. All my self taught bad habits that I had gotten away with on bipods and sandbags showed themselves once I got off the ground. This class was a legitimate shooting class that takes you all the way from zero verification dot drills, load data confirmation with verification from lab radar and then finally shooting all the way out to 1000 yards all before lunch! Once they get your zero and data all confirmed the real learning starts and this is where I began seeing the true value of the PRS training. On the ground little changed for me. I had my data pretty solid, for some reason my zero session started off rocky but in the end I only made ¼ moa adjustment left and ¼ down from what I had arrived with.
I was target 1 and you can see it came together on my bottom string.
The verification out to 1000 went smoothly as well. At 600 yards they had a camera setup that had the ability to measure group spread, I heard Jesse say after my second shot that I was at 1/2 “ at 600 and on the x even. We were running two shooter at a time and trying to move through so I didn’t catch what the third shot put me at but I was feeling all the confidence in the world so it didn’t much matter to me. I found myself ¼ moa high at 1000 but I could live with that and was ready to face my fear of coming off the ground and seeing what PRS was all about.
As I feared those wobbling crosshairs caused me to struggle initially but with Travis and Jesse coaching me my shooting quickly improved. While on my first set of barriers I was having trouble spotting my hits. Jesse quickly identified that my trigger pull need some attention. I don’t remember the specific words he used so I’ll use my own but basically I was fanning the trigger. I was just brushing that 1.5 lbs trigger with my finger tip. What I needed to be doing was “pinning” the trigger back, not jamming or jerking the trigger but deliberately keeping the trigger pulled back. This is like the follow through with your driver while golfing. It took pretty much the remainder of the day but by the end I was “pinning” the trigger much better and I was having an easier time spotting my shots. The other surprising revelation was my scope position was way too far back, which again Jesse was quick to catch and point out. Without realizing it I was cranking my neck back to find a good sight picture. While on the ground I had never noticed and it felt reasonably comfortable but while trying to press your weight forward into a barrier it became problematic to push the rifle forward but force my head back.
The author on the barriers with Jesse Redell
After this discovery I got back on the ground and sure enough I was pushing my head slightly back, it was just so much more pronounced and noticeable on the barriers. With some of my bad habits out in the open but some tips and coaching from the Brothers the class moved on to alternative support methods and this is where I think PRS comes in to benefit the hunter. As a long range hunter I strive to look for the ideal high flat positions with great views and flat ground to prone out. In the field this isn’t always practical or do able. I’ve had to pass up shots as close as 350 yards because I just couldn’t get confident in my shooting position. PRS gives you practice in these positions and getting in them quickly. There is no substitute for quality high volume shooting, simply put shooting from modified supported positions often will make you better at it. I like using things that I’m already carrying and one of the methods taught during the class that was highly effective was using your tripod with the legs extended near max and gripping the legs to provide a rear base. This proved to be quite stable and was my favorite method to use for off the ground support. I was able to make solid and near automatic hits on 2 MOA targets well over 300 yards. A class favorite was the use of the trigger sticks tripod. These were fast and were used under the butt of the rifle as a more traditional rear rest. As I stated earlier I like to use what I’m already carrying and as long range hunters most of us are already packing around a tripod so I chose to stick with that method for the remainder of the class. Another important lesson learned is filling void space in your shooting position to create a more solid platform. During the class this was accomplished with “tactical pillows” which I doubt many of us will be carrying in the field but the concept can be applied using puffy jackets, coats, or other items we find in our pack. At one stage we even put our regular rear bag under our foot (heel or toe, whichever suited or needs better) to bring our knee up creating a much improved rear support. Before this I had been flexing my calf up to lift my knee. With the bag under my foot my muscles were relaxed and as a result much more stable.
Villing void space to create a more solid shooting position
I would never have thought of many of these methods, all of which once learned and practiced can be applied directly to hunting scenarios. Once the fundamentals of getting into position were taught and relatively well learned by the class we moved into target selection, managing your time and setting up your course of fire. We also covered spinning targets, maximizing your target size for your wind call and many small or overlooked factors one faces during a PRS match. I truly feel taking this class took a year off the learning curve of competitive precision rifle shooting. During the class we were given many attempts to practice skills we felt we needed to work on and both Travis and Jesse were patient, knowledgeable and (something that is hard to quantify) relatable, they were able to convey the concepts that they were trying to teach in a very natural and easily understood way. I only heard positive comments from the rest of the students and the class had a camaraderie that was more akin to friends shooting than strangers being put through the ringer of a competitive rifle class.
Travis Redell explaining the proper shooting form
The rifle I was running for this class was 14 lbs with a 26” barrel plus muzzle brake, caliber isn’t specific. This rifle is very similar to what many are running as a long range hunting rifle and with this class and lighter setups these methods will apply very seamlessly to the hunting field and create more opportunity to take higher percentage shots while in the hunting field. These are skills that are difficult to simulate otherwise and likely to happen while we are in transition between our favorite lookouts. If you have been interested in PRS but intimidated to dive in like I was look into a quality class. If you want to just jump into to PRS all the people I’ve encountered were great and friendly people. Bottom line is PRS will make you better shooter and as a result a better hunter. If you are in the Washington area or willing to travel I highly recommend The R Bros class, with great and experienced instructors who are not only professional PRS shooters but also long range hunters and top tier rifle builders.
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