Too Much Practice

     Not a lot happens in early spring as far as hunting and fishing are concerned. Weather is too warm to ice fish, most other fishing seasons aren’t open yet and hunting options are pretty much non-existent. Which makes it a great time to burn some powder at the range. When it comes to shooting ability there is no such thing as too much practice.
     Beginning in March the weather generally begins to warm. This makes ice fishing dangerous or at least miserable and in many areas the season comes to an end. Early April marks the start of trout season but even this can be spotty at best if you are not fishing for lake run fish. Although the sound of gobbles echo through the woods, turkey season won’t be open until May. Aside from getting prepped for the aforementioned seasons (which should take priority) you can work on keeping your rifle and shotgun skills sharp.

The time between the end of ice fishing season and turkey season and trout season is a perfect time to spend some time at the range. Regardless of whether you are breaking clays or punching paper there is no such thing as too much practice.

      The warmer weather makes heading out to the range much more enjoyable than the frosty months of January and February. No need to contend with trying to feel a trigger through gloved hands or having so many layers on you can’t shoulder a shotgun when the clay is released. It’s also easier to focus on your shooting without these distractions.
     As much fun as plinking tin cans and rotten produce is, rifle shooting should be done primarily at paper. Plinking targets only give you feedback if you hit them and that’s not very helpful. A five-shot group on paper tells you loads about what you and your gun are doing. A pad of graph paper makes drawing one inch squares easy and gives a quick assessment of where your bullets are going.
     One of the best ways to practice with a shotgun is a clay thrower, either one of the cheap portable models or a hand thrower, although the latter requires a second person. When I was a kid I tried like hell to use a hand thrower on my own. I considered myself lucky if I could throw the clay, drop the thrower, shoulder the gun, get on target and shoot before the clay was hopelessly out of range. With all that going on I didn’t have time to worry about scoring a hit. Hand throwers will send a clay moving along at a good clip but many portable models will not. The one I use has three short legs that are pointed, allowing the thrower to be driven into the ground. There are also holes drilled through the frame that allow tent stakes to be used for added stability. This method works fairly well, but keep an axe or small sledge hammer handy to pound the legs and stakes back into the ground every few throws. My portable thrower is activated by pulling  a string. This is much easier with a second person doing the pulling but it can be arranged to work by yourself. Usually I forgo the string altogether and simply push the release mechanism with my foot to throw the clay. This calls for some quick shuffling to get a proper stance to shoot from, but I like to think it ads to the realism of a hunting situation.
     With daytime temperatures getting into the 40s it is definitely time to get outside. Once you’ve got the streams and ponds checked out and some preseason turkey scouting taken care of, grab a gun and head to the range. Because we can all benefit from more practice.

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