View Full Version : Saskatchewan

08-25-2007, 08:01 AM
1) Saskatchewan: Upon my return from Wild Basin I packed up and flew off to lovely Regina, Saskatchewan for several days of shooting with Board Member Ian McMurchy. Ian is in the elite ranks of outdoor writer/photographers, and is wrapping up a new book on Long Range shooting. We, Ian and I, have been wanting to get together for a shoot for quite some time. A window of opportunity opened up and so I wedged this outing in.

In part, my presence was to act as a photo “subject” for the book. Ian needed an experienced shooter for that, as well as to do a final run-through with someone as-yet unexposed to the training approach Ian has developed for shooting way out there. As many of you know, Ian was for many years responsible for the official culling of large animals in his Province. Having a background as a champion marksman, he was naturally the primary shooter in this program as well. Because of the unique requirements of the program a great deal of the culling was from long range. The program used a team, consisting of a shooter (Ian) and a spotter, deployed all the equipment of a well-turned-out sniper team, and for all intents and purposes functioned as a professional sniper team would. Ian knows his stuff on long range shooting, and has the observation and communication skills to teach what he knows. His techniques reflect many decades of experience. I can shoot far, and have successfully done so when necessary. Ian has made a career of it, and so I arrived on his turf ready to pay attention.

Ian had told me it wasn’t necessary for me to bring a rifle. That he had that covered. Well, he was right. The man possesses a plentiful supply of extremely accurate rifles, all equipped with very impressive tactical scopes. We selected a quiver of them and headed out for his remote and very private Range. After setting our target array, Ian began to introduce me to his system.

Ian’s methods as regards the shooter are indeed a bit “different” from what I’ll call conventional. The man is a very smart, and meticulous, observer of the elements involved in the shooting process. So let’s go thru what I learned that might be new to you colleagues:

---Position: (This is from prone, THE position for long shooting.) Ian recommends the shooter lie in-line with the rifle bore. No angle at all. This will keep your shooting position “locked in” better for second shots than if you’re canted to the side; the recoil has to move your whole body instead of just your shoulder. In addition, Ian recommends a completely flat chest—you are not “supporting” any part of your body, or the rifle, with musculature, which can certainly affect the shot at serious ranges. Use both a front and a rear rest to support the rifle. (Ian introduced me to some really clever little rear rests. I’ll be making some ultralight versions of my own soon.) Trigger should be in the middle of the last finger digit, and the pull-back should be just with that finger, NOTHING else. (Happily, that is precisely the way I’ve been pulling triggers for as long as I can remember, and so I completely agree with this instruction.)

---Breathing: I’ve been letting out that final half breath and holding since forever; Ian instructed me along these lines: Breath normally. There’s a natural pause between exhales and inhales wherein the body is most relaxed. Two or three seconds. Let the shot go during that pause. It works, guys, and works real well. Makes sense too.

---Vision: There’s a limit to how long we can stare at a target with utmost acuity. That time shrinks as we age too. If you find your target acquisition lessening look to the side for a moment and then re-aquire the target. Of course you’ll want to regulate this with breathing so that both factors, indeed all factors are optimum when the shot departs.

There’s a lot to coordinate. It’s a challenge, especially in the hundred degree F heat and biting flies we were assaulted with while I was up there shooting with Ian. But it works. There’s more though. We covered in some depth optics, wind, lighting and mirage…all important elements in shooting way out there. How far? Ian pegs 700 yards as the threshold for “really far”.

---Optics: I was introduced to turret-adjustable scopes. As a hunter, I’ve used “hold” many, many times with perfectly satisfactory results. But I’ve never done it at 700 yards, in the wind, either. My experience with Ian informed me of the incredible usefulness of ‘dialing in” a far-off target with a hundred yard zero and precise, educated turret clicks on a high quality sniper scope. One then holds right on target and let’s the shot go. Getting there with the turret adjustments is an exacting science. It takes into account distance, of course, but also wind, lighting, and mirage. I witnessed all this. Ian, acting as my “spotter” gave me the adjustments; the resulting hits spoke for themselves. Ian had many huge tactical scopes, which we used. But such behemoths are not really necessary for hits. The last evening we deployed a 2 ½-8 power Luepold tactical, with an illuminated reticle. Hit after hit after predictable hit resulted. Come dark, I switched on the illumination at very low power, so I could still just make out the white steel target. Center hits kept on coming…the “clangs” coming back to us in the gloom many seconds later. I’ll let Ian’s book, due out in the spring under the Stoeger Publishing banner, tell the details of lighting, mirage, and the science of using those turrets. Suffice to say it all works, because I experienced it first-hand. Ian says the tentative title is “Long Range Hunting & Advanced Field Marksmanship”. The objective of the book, according to Ian, is to enable the shooter to use the full potential of his rifle. Where does Long Range begin, by the way? It starts at 400 yards, according to the Maestro. Sounds about right to me.

One day we took a spin down to Plentywood, Montana to shoot a Barrett .50 Cal., my first time behind one of these really big rifles. I am happy to report that I survived just fine, and had a grand time too. Thanks Ian. For everything.

These images are from Ian’s camera, and except for one, taken by him; I was too busy lying in a puddle of sweat with a riflestock glued to my cheek, whilst being chewed on by little flying critters. But then focus—no matter the distractions-- is the name of the game in long range shooting.

I flew back home, packed up, and headed off for the lush mountains for Washington to sojourn with my bushwhacking pals that comprise the crew of the Northwest Rendezvous.

1)Getting ready. We put up my 16 man tipi for sun and wind (and a bit of rain) protection. Shooting was done from inside, out the open door.

2. Did a little fooling around with a stand-up tripod.

3. View of the range. One can shoot very far indeed there

4. Ian takes a turn in the dark

5. Smiling about that .50!

6. Closing the bolt on 700 grains of goodness

7. Very long range accuracy on a “reactive” target.

One of Ian’s way out there targets for determining actual bullet drops. Often used for muzzle loaders too!

08-26-2007, 10:36 AM
Looks like a good time! Beautiful country too. What were the makes on some of the rifles that you fired?

idaho lad
08-26-2007, 03:47 PM
Gotta love that 16 man shooting shack. Like the right up, and love the range-click-shoot system with the 100 yd zero.

Out of curiousity what kind of rangefinders did you all use on this trip?

I am currently using a Leica 1200 and a Wild coincedential (optical) unit for out to 1400 yds so far.

08-26-2007, 03:56 PM
Patrick, you get to go on some real fun trips. I have never fired any of the .50BMG rifles but the M2 was always my favorite machine gun in my army days. These can be fired single shot and were rigged with scope sights as sniper rifles during the Korean war and I believe in 'Nam, too. We always thought that directing artillery fire and shooting the M2 were the sports of kings, since only kings could afford to indulge themselves. As I recall, the 8" howitzer cost something like $350 a round in 1960 and it didn't take too long to shoot up a stiff tab on the M2 either.

08-26-2007, 04:38 PM
Not sure if you want Patrick to respond or myself. Perhaps I can provide some info regarding the above questions. I get access to, and require specialized equipment because of my writing projects. This is particularly important for the upcoming book on long range hunting.
Toys by Surgeon and GA Precision, their Crusader, as well as a push-feed Win. M-70 - all in .308 Winchester caliber. Plus a fine little custom Rem. 700 in 7-08 that Patrick would probably have liked to take home since he shot it so well (its going to a new home soon). Shot factory Win. 140 Ballistic Silvertips all the way out to 700 yards with deer-killing accuracy, .308 was Black Hills Ammo 175s' since I wanted to use the good stuff when I had special company. Barrels by Obermeir, Krieger, Mike Rock and Lija. McMillan, Tom Manners and one HS Precision stock. Scopes were Nightforce and Leupold. Mounting systems are by Badger Ord., Richard Near and Nightforce. Really did not need a laser since the ranges are pre-measured, the one I use is an off-shoot of the Leica Geovid. I believe when we needed one when we went down to shoot the .50 Barrett I forgot to bring one.
The 16-man 14-pound shooting shack is the only way to go, particularly when you have "the man" to put it up. Never saw a tent "stapled" to the ground but it sure works.
Patrick, I shot out there yesterday and today, no flies or bugs... You hit a bad week for those little biters.

08-26-2007, 04:58 PM
Gents, the equipment Ian has is "Tactical" all the way. The rifles are mostly custom-built, and the componentry consists of a blizzard of tactical brands that have never been "familiar" to me in the way that sporting arms component brands have been. I shot over a hundred rounds a day, running the scope turrets and the trigger whilst Ian acted as spotter and turret click advisor/insructor...there wasn't much time for me to get a firm grip on who made the barrels, actions, stocks and so forth. Seems like the words Badger and Rock Creek (?) were thrown around. I'll defer to Ian at this point. I THINK he may be headed for a hunt in AK, so it could be a while. Suffice to say all his equipage is state-of-the-art tactical stuff. Oh, I remember another brand--a lot of the scopes were Nightforce, I believe.

I anticipated some of you long range fellows might get a kick out of this Trip report.

Idaho Lad, I'll let Ian tell you about his range finder; it is really something, FAR beyond anything we normal folk have even heard of. The thing will range waaaaaaaay out there. Astonishing piece of kit.

Ralph, the M2 as "kingly", eh? I'll not argue at all. And for nine decades. That's usefulness, which never goes out of style.

08-27-2007, 07:43 AM
I doubt that I would ever shoot at an animal that far but it would be a hoot to whack some steel "way out there". As usual I am jealous of your good fortune but such a nice report takes some of the sting out.

08-27-2007, 12:53 PM
Just to keep things in perspective, yesterday I helped some guys with some marksmanship basics so they could try longer shots. How long was dependent on them and their rifles. One fellow had a Browning BAR in .270 with a Bushnell 3200 3x-9x and a Browning A-Bolt in .300 WSM with a Nikon Monarch 2.5-10, the other guy had a Rem. 700 BDL in '06 with an older Monarck, same model and an Encore in .22-250 with the new Bushnell 6.5-24 Tactical 4200, last guy had a Win. Stealth with a fixed 10X Bushnell 3200 Tactical. They all got deer killing accuracy with their rifles out to 500, including the little .22-250 since they hit the heart or lungs of the steel deer. The guy with the Brownings had never shot long and he shot some very good clusters out at 700, again would have killed a deer but the wind was having its way with us. We did keep virtually every shot fired by the Brownings on the steel at 700 (two side by side 15x25 inch).
Point is you really do not need tactical or target grade rifles to shoot with confidence and lethal accuracy out to 400 or 500 if you understand how to make the shot.
I practice a lot at 700 and longer so I can hunt with real confidence and success out to 500 to 600 yards IF such a shot is the only option and I cannot get closer. I honestly prefer to shoot as close as I can, but this practice gives me a greater "scope" that I can hunt in. We can and have made a lot of longer shots but we stack the odds by having a backup shooter and spotter and take our time.
I appreciate that a lot of guys do not have any interest in doing this, that's fine. But a lot of guys are intrigued and interested. I see it as attempting to utilize the full potential of your equipment. Some equipment has more potential that others, so do some shooters.

08-28-2007, 05:49 PM
Thanks for the write up of what sounds like a great time, Patrick.

I'll let anyone with experience chime in on my questions.

I am currently looking for a new scope to put on my .308 and I am leaning toward the Bushnell 3200 but I have few questions first.

#1 Is the plain version, without the target turrets, suitable for long range, click-adjust shooting or should I stick to adjusting my hold?

#2 Can I get targtet turrets to add onto a 3200 to make it easier for long range adjustment.

My goal is to be able to whack a milk jug at 400 yards everytime and make that my hunting envelope, for now.

I am basically looking to do everything with my .308 and I want the best all around bang for my buck.

I enjoyed your article on the 3200 target scope on long range hunting. You have a clear writing style that, as an English teacher and student of the rifle, I can appreciate.



08-28-2007, 07:35 PM
There is a company called Kenton Industries that sells aftermarket turrets for a wide range of hunting scopes. (http://www.kentonindustries.com) These turrets are beautifully machined and engraved and do a fine job helping make longer shots. I believe there are some other options to consider, from a pure tactical viewpoint a pair of fixed 10 power scopes, one is the Bushnell 10X 3200 Elite tactical which has a one inch tube and the SWFA Super Sniper which has a 30mm tube. The Bushnell sells for about 175 dollars and the Super Sniper is 299. In that 300 dollar range you can also look at Nikons Buckmaster turret equipped scopes, they are reliable and very sharp. Good value for the money from what I have seen. A bit more would be the Bushnell 4200 6-24 Tactical which is selling for 500 dollars on the net. I am using this scope and it is performing very well.
I would consider a turret equipped scope, you would probably get mildots or a hold-off reticle in it so you could either click your elevation and wind or use repeatable hold-offs.
I tried my darndest to convince Patrick that clicking is doable in the field and I believe I might have made a convert...

Thank you for the kind words and good luck with your decision.

08-30-2007, 05:46 AM
I was looking at those Bushnell elite scopes- they seem pretty decent. Are they a good starter scope for learning how to click? I was looking at the elite 3200 fixed 10x with the mil-dot and turrets. I think it was on SWFA for 179 bucks. I also saw it at the local sportsmans warehouse for 199. Also, when is your book due to come out?

08-30-2007, 09:22 AM
We have shot the Bushnell since it came out with very good results. To be honest there was two scopes that developed problems with their turrets that Bushnell immediately replaced. That was early in their sales life. Recently I have not had any problems, we even shoot the little 10X on a Barrett .50 BMG and it is holding up fine. Matter of fact Barrett factory mounts that scope on one of their M99 bolt action packages.
The scope is not a Swarovski as far as optical qualities, but it is definitely sharp and bright enough to shoot out to 1000 yards with. The turrets are good, very repeatable and easy to operate, a good entry-level tactical turret scope.
No idea just now when the book will be out, will sure let you guys know as it moves alone.

08-30-2007, 09:26 AM
Thanks Ian,

I look forward to the book, hopefully by that time I'll have a decent rifle setup.

idaho lad
08-30-2007, 10:53 AM
I've owned and used the 3200 Bushy 10x. It's an alright unit for the dough, but I prefer going up a little notch to begin with and getting the SWFA super sniper. The SS has tons of real elevation adjustment and mine has been very precise thus far.

I wont' dog the Bushy 3200, but give the SWFA unit a look and you'll notice the difference in construction and robustness.


09-07-2007, 11:11 AM

It is good to see that some do not believe that you need huge volumes of powder to shoot at longer distances. As the powder volume goes up the flinch increases exponentially. I have done well out to 700 with a 223 (on paper little wind) and the 175's in a 308 fair well at 700 and 800 with a bit of wind. I am anxious to see your book when it comes out.


09-08-2007, 06:04 AM
Sounds an awful lot like a "precision rifle" class I took.

Interesting to hear that people are having good luck with the Bushnell. I was told by a pretty knowledgeable guy that my lower level Leupold 3-9 mil dot/turret was the weak point in my set up (a lightly slicked up Rem300 VSF with their Mark 4 rings and base).

I can see someone smarter than me figuring out the elevation changes in the field if you have a laser and are shooting at game that are going to be still long enough to make the changes (try doing it on a timer some time to add some pressure). I did leave thinking that I needed A LOT more practice at shooting at longer ranges to get a feel for the wind. Unfortunately there are few ranges past 600 yards in my area.

That deer gong (I assume it's a gong) is slick!

10-08-2007, 11:43 AM

I missed this post in August...

I did not care for the article in the NRA rag, I've heard from a friend of yours that it was outdated and should not have been printed, makes me feel better....

I know you've got it well under control... and everything Patrick mentioned I agree with totally, except finger position, IMHO much as rifles fit differently, and need to be adjusted, and we shoot at NRP, I think the finger must fit the trigger to where it pulls straight back all by itself without"draggin wood" To that part, I often find myself shooting at the crease of the first joint.. just the way the guns/triggers fit me. IE I don't feel you can say, midpoint of pad of first joint works best for all, IMHO you should be thinking, whatever it takes to come straight back cleanly. Allowing for a firm firing grip, that one finger should not be in a bind doing what it has to do.

Again, IMHO.

Thoughts appreciated.


10-09-2007, 10:02 PM
I use the cuticle reference so the shooter thinks of using the end of the digit, agree that some stocks do not position for this so the proper fit is as you mention. I like to get it as far out as possible for most stocks I shoot - A5's, HTG's and Manners tacticals. I think the article you are mentioning had been sent either four or five years earlier - frustrating but nothing you can do about it. I had other LR articles published with much more current info in other mags. Thanks for the info.

10-13-2007, 05:15 AM

Yep, makes sense now... almost all my shooting is tied to the AR15 service rifle and you can't adapt it.. hence I'm much more about adapting around what you have... Should have been thinking, you are using adjustable or made to fit stocks mostly.

Sucks about submission vs printing dates...NRA mag rags just irritate me mostly.

Adaptation still applies, had a coach come by and step on my juniors prone feet to get them flat... she was shooting 198-200 at 600 with a service rifle from my work with her, making her solid but comfortable..... his position dropped her score so we dumped it quickly....

Waiting on the new book anxiously.


10-15-2007, 08:10 PM
"Trigger should be in the middle of the last finger digit, and the pull-back should be just with that finger, NOTHING else."Is this referring to the normal trigger finger next to the thumb?

10-17-2007, 10:27 AM
Standard index finger is what it means.... as I've said, and I think Ian agrees, as long as that index finger or pointer finger is the only part moving AND its positioned, relative to how the stock/trigger fits the finger/hand that it moves to the rear in a straight path, all should be good. Generally helps to have a firm handshake type grip on the pistol grip also. Remember I use the word press these days as I'm trying to avoid squeeze as squeeze can be a combo of fingers working in reality, and steering the gun off course. IE the thumb and and index finger tend to want to work as a pair and are sympathetic movers to each other. Press means much more to me that its a single finger movement in a straight line.

Good luck, Jeff

10-17-2007, 05:33 PM
Have you ever heard of cutting a small piece of closed cell foam and placing it under the three fingers on the trigger hand, then pressing them until the foam completely compresses. Supposed to offer uniform hand control. I have not tried it but do make a very strong effort to maintain uniform, firm rearward pressure on the pistol grip particularly when firing a rifle with any significant recoil, including the heavy tac-style .308's.
Great suggestion about using the term press rather than squeeze, uniform contact with the firing hand is essential to accuracy. When I am "on" I know without any doubt that the shot is either going into the group or going to clang a gong regardless of the distance (assuming my spotter has given good dope). The rifle goes "chugg" and the bullet does as it is supposed to. Takes a heck of a lot of practice shots to get to that confidence but it is a lot of fun.

Took a mulie a while back at 525 standing head-on in pretty stiff crosswind. Absolute confidence, the spotter was taking too much time so I cranked on the wind and elevation I knew I needed and broke the shot. He died in his tracks with an AMAX in the center of his chest. Headon shots are the most difficult but I knew that deer was dead as the rifle went off. Another ran over to the same area and it died with the next shot. GA Precision rifle and Black Hills Match ammo loaded with 168 AMAX bullets, NXS 3.5-15x50 in Badgers. I use a Pathfinder on the scope so I know my drops almost instantly. Big thing is knowing the exact distance courtesy of the lasers, now if they will hurry up and get a wind laser - believe something is coming...

10-17-2007, 05:49 PM
Wind laser, now thats a new one...

I know the feeling of knowing the shot..... I also know the feeling of tensing up to pooch the shot, lucky enough shooting trained me to know when to and when to stop.... You know right away when its bad or good.... Just got done with a friends 06 tonight, 1 shot the setscrew came loose on the rest and the front of the gun started off right just as it broke, could not stop it...was zeroing it in.. amazing it was exactly out where it should have been, next one was within half an inch of center... Calling shots is great! I recall one field, we were shooting does out of and one stopped at the back fence which was almost exactly at 300.... my rifle was zero'd at 300... I took 3 shots at her head... totally amazed as I could stay on an eyeball so solid that day... and totally amazed that she didn't drop at the first shot.... back to the range right quick, somehow the rifle was off all of a sudden...but confidence is unbelievable as you well know.... after I managed to beat David Tubb once... my mental game improved 10fold... enough so that I almost won our state palma match with a service rifle... as it was ended up 3rd...

Folks need so much pratice, IMHO to stay practiced to the wind. Again IMHO.

Had not heard the foam trick, I can see it would work though, I am a bit past that like you are, but its sure a good written reference for the mental part of it... I'm like you, I do my level best to maintain firm shoulder contact/tension as well as the firing hand tension and ZERO tension in the support hand.

I've dinked some deer with 75 amax and 223 over 500... they did work well. Dont' care all that much for plastic tips, but out further they seem to do ok.

10-17-2007, 07:27 PM
"Pooching the shot..." Been there, matter of fact this week at the 100 yard range with a Surgeon and Crusader that drive tacks. I could not drive watermelons that day, very frustrating. Could not hit the ground if I dropped the rifle. Just one of those days when all I did was make expensive empty cartridge cases.

Part of the problem was my head was not into shooting, too much other stuff going on. I went to the range to clear my head but could not get into the concentration needed to shoot super-accurate rifles. Frustrating when a rifle, scope, ammo combo that is actually capable of shooting well under 0.5 moa are tossing flyers that you call bad, real bad as in outright stinkers. My hot shooting rifles can shoot crappy groups if the dummy on the trigger does not do everything right. Accuracy is the result of an accumulative process of taking care of the details in my opinion, you cannot cut corners. Only solution is to head out to that big hill Patrick and I shot from and beat the hell out of my steel targets.

10-18-2007, 02:52 PM

Well you know that the brain(even though women claim different) cannot multi task efficiently. Subconscious has to be on one track to perform well. You were thinking of something else...

Wife and I ran into that enough here, get home from work its 112 in the shade, need to practice, get all the gear out, walk over to the range and quickly dump a P100 match downrange... but all the time you think of grass to mow, supper to fix, its hot and miserable etc... it has to be quality practice to be worth it....

Funny thing, the rifles never vary, they drop it right where you aim or flinch it....

Side story... nerves used to tear me up. Still do in offhand a bit. I'm just not a stable off hand shooter so it gets to me. I'm new man on the team at Camp Perry, we are in the big team match, NTT. My first shot offhand is not good. I think an 8. Second is a 6.... thats followed by another 8..... I finally realize I'm nervous and swap my attention to a tree all by itself out on the edge of lake Erie... I stare at it as if I'm in love, admiring shape, color, leaves etc... until someone tells me my turn(we are pair firing) I snap out of tree, into gun, load, settle, come to black adn fire the shot, go right back to tree, never saw the score etc... Come to find out I never dropped another point after taht in standing and finished the windy match as high shooter on the team... That brain has to be just right!
But you can turn it off and on.

BTDT on the bad days.... seems like the shots just break at the worst times, and are outside of call instead of inside. Those are the days to pack up and go home.

Go bang some steel!!