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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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The Easy Answer to Guns for 3-Gun

Dan 3GN shootoff 2014

During 3-Gun competitions, shooters use a pistol, rifle and shotgun to engage targets while moving through a course of fire. Accuracy, speed and agility are all blended together into fast-paced competitions that are often decided in tenths of seconds. In recent years the sport of 3-Gun has continuously evolved and rapidly gained popularity. This progression has resulted in firearms that are more advantageous to competitors. For a new shooter though, gun and equipment selection can be overwhelming and confusing. Looking at what the professional shooters use, and why, can provide you with an easy approach to navigating through the endless options of firearms for 3-Gun competition.

3GN Dan Rifle

Currently, Daniel Horner is undoubtedly the best 3-Gun shooter on the circuit. Some of his most notable shooting accomplishments include:

  • 7-time USPSA National Multi-gun Champion
  • 3-time 3-Gun Nation Champion
  • 2-time IDPA National Champion
  • 2014 Trijicon World Shooting Champion
  • 1st Place 2014 USASOC International Sniper Competition (with partner Tyler Payne)
  • 1st Place 2012 International Sniper Competition (with partner Tyler Payne)
  • 4-time Winner of Mammoth Sniper Competition (2012-2015, 3 times with Tyler Payne, 1 time with Candice Horner)

Daniel is a member of the Action Team for the U. S. Army Marksmanship Unit. He continues to improve his game and dominate the multi-gun circuit. Daniel chooses his guns based on their reliability, accuracy and weight. Read on for a rundown of his guns.

RM3G Dan Rifle

RIFLE

To effectively compete at 3-Gun a rifle should be both lightweight and accurate. Daniel’s rifle weighs 8.1 pounds, and shoots sub-MOA groups at 500 yards (with 77 grain Sierra Matchking projectiles). Many AR-15 components weigh mere ounces, so there are limits to where weight can be removed. Ounces do add up to pounds, though. The best areas to lighten your rifle are the barrel, lower receiver, bolt carrier, and buffer. A quality barrel and optic are the easiest way to attain a sub-MOA shooting rifle. Because Daniel’s rifle is both lightweight and accurate, he is able to consistently make his hits.

Class Dan Shotgun

SHOTGUN

Taran Tactical Innovations Benelli M2.  Daniel’s Benelli M2 has the complete TTI upgrade package, which includes a machined and polished loading port, custom bolt carrier, and 12-round magazine tube. A Benelli from Taran Tactical Innovations with a 26” barrel weighs 7.5 lbs. The choke tube Daniel uses most is cylinder. The upgrades to the shotgun make it easy to reload and engage targets while still maintaining the consistency for which Benelli is known.

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PISTOL

Daniel’s pistol is an STI 5” Eagle slide with a Tactical Lite 4.0 frame with a bushing barrel, chambered in .38 Super Comp, and shoots 2.5” groups at 50 yards. The .38 Super Comp stacks better in high capacity magazines due to the straight-wall casing and rimless design.  Daniel has been shooting the same pistol for the past 12 years and it has over 400,000 rounds through the same slide and frame; it is the definition of dependable.

RM3G Dan Pistol

Gun selection is crucial in the sport of 3-Gun. Instead of utilizing trial and error to select firearms for 3-Gun, capitalize on the success of others. Everything a professional shooter does is purposeful. Watch and learn how pro shooters, like Daniel Horner, employ the tools of their choice to win.

3GN Pro1 Interview

Five tips for succeeding at 3-Gun:

  1. Read the rules for the match you are attending. Many matches have different rules, so acquainting yourself with the current match rules can save you from a disqualification or division change.
  2. Know how to operate your guns and gear. New shooters can easily get stressed when the buzzer goes off. Practicing with your guns and gear will build muscle memory to help you through unexpected malfunctions while you’re competing.
  3. Relax.  3-Gun is just a game. Don’t stress. You’ll learn the game and improve the more you compete. 3-Gun should be fun!
  4. Take care of yourself while at the match. This includes bringing snacks, water, sunscreen and a first-aid kit.
  5. Be a sponge; learn from everyone. 3-Gun competitors are eager to share their knowledge and experiences. You’ll learn and improve faster if you listen to more experienced shooters and then decipher which tips will most help you improve.

 

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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.
Final Ruck

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 :)