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I Didn’t Believe Her

**WARNING** IF THE SIGHT OF A DEAD ANIMAL THAT HAS BEEN KILLED FOR FOOD BOTHERS YOU, DO NOT PROCEED ANY FURTHER. THROUGHOUT THIS POST, THERE ARE PICTURES OF A DEAD DEER AND A VERY HAPPY LITTLE HUNTRESS.

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Alison and Daniel in the blind.

When my beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, animal-loving nine-year-old daughter informed me she wanted to go deer hunting, I didn’t believe her. But, I should have. She meant what she said and was persistent in trying to convince me she was ready. After two years of her pleading, Alison got her wish the day before Thanksgiving of 2015.

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I don’t sugar coat life for Alison, and discussing hunting was no different. She quickly learned it would be her responsibility to make a good kill shot so the animal wouldn’t suffer. She would be the one pulling the trigger, taking the life. She would have to experience every detail after that shot: tracking, cleaning, cooking and finally the anticipated end result- the gratification of a field-to-fork meal.

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Tyler Payne teaching Alison what to look for when tracking.

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She’s excited about tracking, there’s some lung tissue!

My husband, Daniel (Alison’s step-dad), prepped her for her first hunt. They practiced shooting positions, dry-fired the rifle, zeroed together, and discussed the anatomy of deer. Daniel tested her shooting ability to determine at what distance Alison could successfully shoot. Alison was consistently making hits on an 8 inch steel plate out to 200 yards from multiple shooting positions. She was confident behind the gun.

I was stressed leading up to the hunt; this was a new kind of worry for me. Maybe I was the one who was not ready. Instant panic rushed through my body when my husband texted saying, “You are not going to believe this!! She got one.” I texted back with questions- no answer. I tried to call- no answer. Immediately, I was scared she would regret her decision. I worried she was crying and I couldn’t hug her. This is one of those defining moments in a child’s life; I hoped the moment she was living was a positive one.

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It didn’t go far, but she was thrilled to find it.

Forty-nine minutes after that initial text, Alison called me with her story. “Hello? Momma, can you hear me?” As soon as I heard her voice, I knew she was okay. I could hear her smiling through the phone. She proceeded to tell me about how she “made a good shot, right through the heart.” She was beyond excited. She was proud; I was proud. My little girl did exactly what she set out to do, and she has provided us with many meals thanks to her success. Her comprehension and accomplishment has given me a new outlook on what “my little girl” can do. Go forth and conquer, Alison.

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Dan makes success happen.

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Big thanks to Tyler for letting Alison hunt on his land!

The details:
Date: November 25th, 2015
Location: Marion Co., Georgia
Rifle used: The same unicorn gun I used for my first hunt. It’s a Surgeon action, with a PROOF Research barrel, chambered in 30 AS, in a Remington Lightweight RACS chassis, and a Leupold VX-R firedot scope.
The deer: A 7-point buck that happened to turn broadside at a little over 50 yards away (lucky, right?!).

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Alison’s no newbie around firearms, she spends a lot of time on the range and got her first rifle when she was six years old.

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Mammoth Sniper Challenge 2015

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Photo credit: USAMU

“Do you want to do Mammoth together?”

“Sure, I guess so.”

That was the simple dialogue between my husband, Daniel, and I about 6 months prior to the Mammoth Sniper Challenge of 2015. In previous years, Daniel had competed in (and won) the Extreme Tough Man division with Tyler Payne being his partner. Fast facts about Daniel and Tyler: they are both in the Army Marksmanship Unit, they each have extensive training and experience, they have shot several sniper matches together as a team, and won every match they’ve shot together. With all that being said, the bar was set pretty high for me as Daniel’s partner.

I didn’t know the first thing about sniper matches, precision long range shooting, or what Mammoth was really about. I trusted Daniel, and just figured everything would be ok and as long as I did as he said and didn’t quit. The advice Tyler gave me ended up being a recurring thought throughout the match, “Expect it to suck. You’re going to walk a lot, and every time you do, you’re going to think it’s stupid.” We did walk/ruck a lot, a total of 23 miles in two and half days. And at around the one-mile mark of each ruck, thoughts like “Why am I doing this? I could be in my bed, warm and cozy; this is stupid,” would cross my mind. I learned the match was just as much about mental fortitude as it was about skilled shooting ability. On day two, my body reached a limit of pain that was physically debilitating and mentally challenging. The decision to push through was a no-brainer, but the way I did it was to accept I would be hurting for the duration of the match and it will come to an end.

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Running to a position during a stage seven. Photo credit: USAMU

Cliff notes version of the match (Extreme Tough Man Division):

  • We shot as a team, with me as the primary shooter and Daniel as secondary (which is only pertinent for target engagement). That meant I usually shot first and my targets ranged the farthest, this ended up being beneficial for my lack of experience.
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Photo credit: USAMU

  • We had to carry all the guns, gear, ammo, food, and sleeping supplies throughout the match.
  • The rucks (long walks between stages while carrying our gear) ranged anywhere from 1 to 5.5 miles, the max time limit was 18 minutes per mile. If you don’t make the time limit, you are cut from the division.
  • The first ruck was the worst. It was 3.6 miles over 11 berms, several of which were up to 20 feet tall. I struggled thanks to these berms; at one point (more like three) I was literally crawling to get over them. During this movement, Daniel took my rifle for the sake of our success. We quickly learned my max ruck sack limit for an 18-minute timed mile on that terrain was about 50lbs. We moved gear between our packs at the first stage, and Daniel carried my rifle the rest of the time to ensure I wouldn’t make us fail. Thankfully this was a team event, and he was allowed to carry my rifle.
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Failure was not an option. Photo credit: Joseph Niederbrach

  • We completed 3 stages on Friday and Saturday and 2 on Sunday.
  • Each stage had an 8-minute limit to complete the course of fire. We shot from awkward positions and most stages had some sort of obstacle. Keeping track of time while shooting saved us from wasting too much time on targets that wouldn’t benefit us overall.
  • The stage briefs were read very quickly and not repeated. It was important to take notes and understand which targets are worth more than others, because some weren’t even worth shooting at.
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Finding our targets for our first stage. Photo credit: USAMU

  • We slept outside on Friday and Saturday night, temperatures were freezing. Our cold weather gear was extremely beneficial when we slept (and Benadryl). It was imperative to be well rested in order to shoot our best.
  • We were part of a really great squad. The men on our squad were so experienced, it was educational to watch them shoot and to learn about them. I was very thankful to the guys who always finished the rucks first, because they decided the shooting order…and they always ordered everyone fairly.
  • The staff were professional and well organized, they kept the match running smoothly.
  • Before our last 5.2 mile movement, we learned that we had tied with another team and would have to participate in a shoot off for first place. Each team shot from 800 yards, with each team member firing 10 rounds to engage targets of various sizes.
  • We ended up winning. This came as a huge surprise because there were some very legit competitors (36 teams total). I don’t think anyone would have put money on us to win. We won because we are a good team, communicate well, neither of us get our feelings hurt in moments of high stress, and we let the little failures go (like missing a shot). Those little failures end up being lessons in how to immediately improve. I can’t count on one hand how many times I shot at the wrong target, most of which happened on our first stage. Daniel was patient and corrected my errors without creating undue stress while on the clock.
Start of a stage, Daniel lifting the log, me carrying the gear.

Start of a stage, Daniel lifting the log, me carrying the gear. Photo credit: USAMU

Daniel carrying the log up to our shooting position.

Daniel carrying the log up to our shooting position. Photo credit: USAMU

Stage 7, my portion. Shooting from 700 yards at 1.5 MOA targets.

Stage 7, my portion. Shooting from 700 yards at 1.5 MOA targets. Photo credit: USAMU

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Post-match pic with our rifles.

Tips if you plan to shoot Mammoth:

  • Practice shooting from unstable positions and use the gear you have to your advantage (i.e. your pack and multiple sand socks).
  • Wear comfortable boots and good socks.
  • Invest in quality sleeping gear (lightweight tent, sleeping bag, etc).
  • Learn to read trace and give corrections.
  • Have good guns and gear, know your dope and expect to shoot out to 1000 yards.
  • Pick a teammate you care enough about that immediate anger or stress won’t affect your overall performance.
  • Expect to be cold, in pain, and exhausted most of the time.
  • Don’t quit.
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After the final ruck. Photo credit: Joseph Niederbrach

Get the run down on our guns and optics: Precision Guns and Optics: A Winning Combo

Read another competitor’s AAR of the match: Click HERE

Check out the match website, 2016 registration is open: Mammoth Sniper Challenge

Follow Mammoth Sniper Challenge on Facebook for updates.

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My favorite picture. An RO caught this moment through a spotting scope after we won the shoot off.

More pics:

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I rested every opportunity I could. Photo credit: Mammoth Sniper Challenge

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Setting up our camp site. Photo credit: Mammoth Sniper Challenge

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Reorganizing my pack and getting ready for rest. Photo credit: Mammoth Sniper Challenge

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Photo credit: USAMU

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Partner assist stage. Photo credit: USAMU

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Photo credit: USAMU

 

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Photo credit: USAMU

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Jumping into the back of a dump truck to shoot from. Photo credit: USAMU

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Photo credit: USAMU

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Photo credit: USAMU

Mammoth Prizes

We walked away with great prizes. Big thanks to the Sponsors! Photo credit: Mammoth Sniper Challenge

For more pics from Mammoth, check out the album on Facebook.

Stay tuned for one of my next posts about the gear and supplies we used.

Questions welcome :)

 

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3-Gun Nation Ladies Pro Series Qualifier

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Last weekend I competed for my chance into the 3-Gun Nation Ladies Pro Series.  There was a bit of deja vu as far as stages are concerned- but that’s a good thing.  Long story short, I made the cut and I’m honored to have the chance to shoot the fast-paced pro series.

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Who finished first?!  Katie Harris, of the US Army Marksmanship Unit, of course!  Katie is a good friend and a phenomenal shooter whose success is due to her unsurpassed skill.  Some shooters are successful thanks to experience.  Katie is different; there is something intrinsically unique about her competitive edge.  Junior shooter, Ashley Rheuark, attained second place.  Ashley is fairly new to 3-gun, but is a very accomplished pistol shooter with a master shooting resume.  I remember watching her shoot at a local match and thinking “She’ll be on top of this game in no time.”  And here she is, a force to be reckoned with.  I was very pleased with my 3rd place finish, being competitive against national champions, is a blessed position to be in.

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Photo credit: Reanna Kadic

Now let me tell you about Reanna Kadic.  Reanna is a junior shooter (16 years young), and is an absolute delight to be around.  Her bubbly, happy-to-be-living-life-to-the-fullest personality exudes grace and confidence.  She has not been competing for long, but I expect to see great things from her in the future.  Reanna’s dad was with her; his supportive attitude was remarkable.  Their day consisted of a lot of “I’m proud of you,” “Good job,” and critique that was extremely positive.  The best part of my day was bearing witness to their strong bond.  Parenting done right.

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Here are a few tips from mistakes I made at the 3-Gun Nation Qualifer:

  1. Wear sunblock, or you will feel physically drained by mid-day.  I often give this advice, but rarely listen.  I will no longer be stubborn about this.
  2. If you forget something in your stage plan, don’t slow down trying to figure out what is missing.  Slowing down will definitely not help you.  I forgot my mag change on stage 2 and when I missed it, I knew something was wrong but couldn’t figure it out in the moment.
  3. Don’t dwell on that last bad shot.  Think about the one you’re about to take, it’s more important.
  4. Treat every stage with the same amount of importance.  I didn’t give the walk through on my final stage as much attention as I did the others.  I missed an important position because of it.

What did I do right?  Several things, but here are a few:

  1. Didn’t get stressed.  Refer to this article for info on how I deal with nerves:  Have No Fear
  2. Visualized what every single shot should look like for each intended target before shooting the stage.
  3. Shot with both eyes open for the whole match.  Seriously, this is a big deal for me, cause I previously continued to revert back to my bad habit of closing my left eye.
  4. Reloaded my magazines immediately after shooting a stage.  This helped with focusing on the next stage at hand.
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Photo credit: 3-Gun Nation

So what does all this 3-Gun Nation stuff mean?  3-Gun Nation (3GN) is an organization that promotes our Second Amendment right through competitive shooting events.  The Pro Series is a tv show where competitors have to first make the cut to compete and then will compete against each other on the tv show.  In addition to the Pro Series, 3GN holds Regional matches that attract new and experienced shooters.  If shooters do well at the Regional or Club (matches held by local shooting ranges) series, they gain an invite to the Pro Series.  The Pro Series is the quintessence of “run and gun,” there is no room for error in this high-speed environment.  The Regional Series matches consist of longer stages and further shots, these matches are a great place to learn the sport and also to contend for titles.

Please leave any questions in the comment area below.

Upcoming 3-Gun Nation Regional matches:

Regionals

 

In order of finish, here are the Ladies who will be competing in the 3-Gun Nation Ladies Pro Series:

Katie Harris

Ashley Rheuark

Candice Horner

Audra Brown

Kellie Prince

Reanna Kadic

Tennille Chidester

Returning Pro Ladies are:

Lena Miculek

Kay Miculek

Dianna Liedorff Muller

Randi Rogers

Becky Yackley

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Have No Fear

My first match

My first match

I have seen many competitors get nervous during shooting matches. Some of the signs and symptoms of their nervousness include hand tremors, sweating, nausea, and self-doubt. What is the root cause of these manifestations?

Fear can have an incapacitating effect on the human body. Fear is learned, and is only useful for the purpose of survival. Competing in 3-Gun is not life or death, so you must remove fear in order to perform your best. There are two types of fear that can affect your mental game: fear of the known and fear of the unknown.

Poor past performance can cause you to worry that it will happen again. If you haven’t had enough trigger time and are aware of your areas of weakness, you might dwell on parts of a match where you expect failure. Feeling like you are being watched while shooting can cause you to worry about what others are thinking or saying about you. All of these examples are fear of the known; you are familiar with how similar experiences have made you feel and now you are letting them hinder your future performance.

You might be completely new to competitive shooting and not know what to expect. A match that has further shots or different stages than you anticipated can cause you to feel unprepared for this new experience. Fear of the unknown can be just as debilitating as fear of the known because your mind can construct some very irrational possibilities.

Prepping

Prepping

Both types of fear can be handled in the same way because fear is not productive in your growth as a competitive shooter. Build your confidence by strengthening your fundamental shooting skills and believing in your capabilities. Do not think of the match as a whole entity, instead focus on each stage. At each stage, focus on each target. Concentrate on the present in order to keep your mind free from the fears that could inhibit your performance. With so much focus on what is about to happen, there should not be any room left to worry about what other people think. Their thoughts have no impact on how you have prepared, so what they think absolutely does not matter in reference to the stage you are about to shoot.

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Focus on your current shot

I like to view every stage as a new, fun experience. By doing so, I prevent myself from worrying about my overall standing in a match. Even though I am not the best shooter, I am not intimidated by the outstanding performance of my competitors. I believe that their success does not mean my failure; it just means I have a lot to learn. I do not remember the last time I have been scared or fearful in a situation. Have no fear and you will improve your game.

Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine

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I’ve Been Adopted

15260270647_c956037f1f_z  CandiceNKarla

Almost two years ago, a competitive shooter told me “You need to shoot 3-gun. Just come watch a match.” I did as I was told and showed up to a monthly Tarheel 3-Gun match as a spectator. Following a squad for the day gave me insight as to what to expect during matches. Competitors were welcoming of my timid questions and encouraged me to show up the following month to shoot my first match. By the end of the day, I thought “This is awesome; I will shoot 3-gun.” I left the range that day with several points of contact who offered to help me get prepared for 3-gun.

I was amazed at how welcoming seasoned competitors were to a new shooter, like me. The same people who would become my competition were my biggest supporters from day one. I had no guns, gear, or knowledge of the sport. Several of the “regulars” at the Tarheel 3-Gun monthly matches followed through on their offers to get me squared away for my first match. In October 2012, I shot my first match using borrowed gear, guns, and ammunition. That match was a small, personal victory: I didn’t DQ, I didn’t come in last place, and I wanted to come back for more!

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In preparation for what would become my new life as a 3-gun competitor, I relied heavily on the help from others. There is camaraderie and friendly competition in the sport of 3-gun that I did not expect. Aside from the shooting aspect of the sport, I have made strong friendships with people whom I can depend on in any situation. I’ve been adopted into an amazing shooting family that I didn’t know I wanted or needed, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back, I know that I would not be where I am today without the kindness of complete strangers. I am forever indebted to those who pushed me outside of my comfort zone so that I could grow as a 3-gun competitor. Now I look forward to matches as if they are a family reunion that cannot come fast enough. It’s wonderful to shoot matches, but it’s so much more meaningful when you care about the people you shoot with.

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My advice if you are thinking about getting into 3-gun, go watch a local, monthly match. Ask questions about gear, guns, and stage descriptions. Most competitors will readily let you check out their gear and guns of choice. Not only will you make great friends, but you will save yourself time and money when you’re receptive to those who have been shooting long enough to know what really works in competition.

I would like to give huge thanks to people in my shooting family who played a major role in my first year of 3-gun: Mike and Nancy Oberman, Charles Sole, Steve Wall, Rob Noel, Damon and Dana Woodall, Eric Eckhardt, Garrett Howell, Joe Satterfield, Joe Harris, Katie Harris, Andrew Barnes, Clay Martin, Jim Granger, James Gill, Will Hiett, Cody Nelson, Morris and Madison Thompson, J.J. Nuttlemen, Andy Horner, Karla Herdzik, and Clint Upchurch. All of those people gave me guidance and opportunities in one way or another which has made me a stronger competitor in an environment that I blindly jumped into head-first.

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Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine

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From Dresses to Ammo

Disney Trip 2011   First shooting season, 2013

I have always loved dresses. Recently, I spotted a cute dress that would help me welcome in the beautiful sunshine that’s been trying to break through what is left of winter. I tried the dress on, and it looked great! I looked at the price tag: $89.95. Then a recurring thought entered my mind, “How much ammo could I buy instead?” The answer was: about 300 rounds of 9mm or 160 rounds of 5.56.

The question of “What does this equate to in ammo” has been dictating my spending habits for about a year now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Competing in the sport of 3-gun has been life changing. Most of my free time is now spent on gun related topics such as: cleaning guns, fixing guns, weapons manipulation, finding ammunition in stock, bullet trajectory and ballistics, reading about the new firearms and gear on the market, and actively shooting on the range. Getting into shooting is one thing, but getting into 3-gun requires an additional knowledge base. I had to familiarize myself with three different guns, gear required, and the rules of the sport. The best piece of advice I received as a new shooter, at my first match, was from Garrett Howell who said “At about your seventh match, everything will come together. This is just a game and you will learn it.” I took his advice as gospel and did not stress because I believed everything would come to fruition in time. With my acceptance of passively learning the game, I actively pursued educating myself on everything else that would make me a stronger shooter.

Last year was my first year of shooting; I devised a plan that would enable me to gain as much information about 3-gun as possible, meet meeting veteran shooters, and compete. With guidance, I worked as a Range Officer for several major matches during 2013. In an extremely short period of time, I was able to see and test various guns and gear that top competitors use. The opportunity to work major matches was not without adjusting what I used to know as my life before shooting. Traveling out-of-state for my new addiction meant less time with family and friends, but they understood and accepted my ambitions. Shooting 3-gun excites me and makes my eyes light up in the way shopping used to, so I put that cute dress back on the rack and saved my money for ammo.

War Sport LVOA3G with lots of ammo

War Sport LVOA3G with lots of ammo

Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine