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August 24, 2007

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Lessons From The African Shoot, Part II

So there I was in the rifle pit pulling the old elephant target up and down. This was the first stage of the African shoot, and the rules called for five shots, offhand, at the old tembo target in 90 seconds. Now 90 seconds is a lot of time for 5 shots, even with a big rifle, but the very first shooter went bambambambam………….bam. In a pants-wetting panic, he cranked off the first four shots as quickly as he could, then realized on some dim, primate level that he had tons of time left, and fired the last one.

He shot a lousy score. So did everyone else who fired quickly. Every guy who shot well shot with a steady rhythm, and used up almost all the time they had.

Gunsite has a saying: "A good fast shot is better than a slow perfect shot, because you won't have time for the perfect shot."

Carve this in your forearm. And I'd like to add a corollary principle:
"A good shot develops a sense of how much time he has--and uses that time."

If you've done enough hunting you'll be able to look at an animal and sense whether you have to shoot instantly, or take a couple of seconds to figure things out. The great custom rifle builder Jerry Fisher (who has done a ton of hunting) says it comes after you take 300 head of big game. That seems as good a number as any.


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After 300 head of big game? I’m hopeless then. Does catch and release count? You know, like when you look at an animal through the scope and pass it up. I would suppose that it does not because in order to have killed 300 head, three thousand head where probably passed up. I’d like to see that guy’s trophy room.


I wonder how fast Bell would have fired at them with his little rifle ?

I don't thing I'll ever have the need or desire to shoot something that big and painful, Shotgun slugs seem brutal enough to me.

Dr. Ralph

300 head? That's ten big game animals a year for thirty years... I'd bet a lot of full time poachers wish they'd killed half that many. Now we know how Dave got in the club. He has to pull the elephant target!


I'd like to think I got it figured out without ever shooting a head of big game... I learned wingshooting quail and pheasants.

It doesn't look like you've got much time, but if you just take long enough to get a good breath, the bird and your gun will come together.

It's no different when I switch to a rifle for furry critters. A running rabbit or squirrel (or deer or hog, although I seldom shoot big game on the move any more) is only gonna go so far, so fast.

You're not necessarily gonna hit 'em right in the eye each time, and you shouldn't try to... but if you just get your breath before you shoot, you'll probably smack them more times than not.


I ain't in the club, either.

Alas! I was born in the wrong era and I shoot too poorly to be a pro hunter, Folks.


Does the target have something to do with Republicans? Anyway I think this post is really about timing. It is developed with experience. Some may need 300, some may need three, some thirty. It also depends upon individual ability. Keep practicing to develop your individual ability and how to cope with limitations.

Steve C

I’ve always believe that there’s a significant portion of “talent” that is intuitive. That is, you can seldom really improve upon it but then neither will much of it ever be lost. In my opinion, knowing when to pull the trigger (as with hunting or shooting in general) is as much about art as it is about science.


Mr. Petzal,

It's off topic, but can you, or any other bloggers reccomend a good peep sight. I want to replace the express sights on my rem Mod. 7600 with them. I rifle hunt in mostly thick, hellish overgrown choppings in Maine, where most shots will be 50 yards and in. I've been looking at XS ghost rings, any other brands out there? I'm hoping to do it myself, but am willing to take it to a gunsmith.



Clay Cooper


A peep sight for your environment is the worst sight to use due to very low light conditions, not to mention other variables. I strongly recommend that you use a red dot scope. It’s none magnified, works fantastic in all light conditions and is exceptionally accurate. You can vary the red dot intensity accordingly to the light conditions. I have one on my Wife’s muzzle loader and this California Girl never shot a gun in her life blew the hell out of my 44 oz coke at 50 yards. So much for my drink!

Steve C

art as it is about science!

I seriously believe Steve that you have the makings of a extreme shooter!

Clay Cooper

Jerry Fisher is right. Busting rocks the size of your fist at varing ranges from 200 to 500-600 works to!

Long-range shots on Jackrabbits work the best! You get both sitting or running shots. This is how I learned to shoot at long ranges. I’ve worn out 3 barrels shooting these critters, I recon I got my 300 in, so what do you think Dave?



I'm old school, no red-dot sights for me..... either traditional scops or iron sights. I used peep sights while shooting competition .22. in high school. I'm comfortable with them, and believe they afford you quicker target aquisition than traditional iron sights. Your eye naturally centers the post in the rear aperature.

Thanks for your opinion though, always helpful


Watched a hunter on the Outdoor Channel, tracks across Africa. Shot a nice Cape buffalo. Had to use shooting sticks. I prefer a 1 ¼ military sling NRA style!

Mike Diehl

Dan -

I think I hunted that pile o' tops back when the cutting hadn't grown over. Let me quess: Blue Spruce. Lots of it.


Shotgun a bunch of Canada geese over a few years. I've clocked them "just cruisin' around" at better than 40mph/70kph. The geese will let you know what your shooting speed has to be to put them next to the plum sauce.



I “still hunt” in the mountain laurel of the Appalachians almost exclusively, so I think I know what you are trying to accomplish with the peep sight. I tried one for a while but gave up on them; I prefer the resolving qualities of a GOOD low power scope. If you insist on the peep out of tradition, (you want to be like Larry Benoit?) a Williams peep is nice. The Williams has a removable aperture that will give you the option of a small peep for precision when there is plenty of light and a large “ghost ring” for general use in hunting situations. I also recommend getting a fiber optic front sight to use with it if you go that route.

Maine is beautiful, I would like to come up there and try my hand (or foot) at snow tracking some day. Not to mention the 300lb bucks!

Charlize Theron

Shoot one gun. Shoot it a lot. Shoot it from different positions. Know it intimately, and let it become an extension of you. Be the gun.


SD Bob

Wow Dave! Your doing a pretty damn good job at illiciting a response lately!!! I'd have to say my big game count must be around 70 and the first half of them were taken with a bow in much greater of a time frame than the remaining half taken with a rifle/shotgun and I directly associate the skills of bowhunting teaching me the neccesary skills to read the body language of whitetails which can transferred to reading the body language of most animals. Now that I live in South Dakota, and there are tons more choices and opportunity of big game animals than my previous state of Michigan, when my rifle comes up, an animal goes down. It didn't take 300 head! Sorry! But if it takes that much killing to become an expert at reading an animals body language, that's a statement coming from an elitist who is trying to over emphasize his/her own abilities or lack there of. I'm no expert but I can call BS when I see it! If it takes 300 head, your pathetic!

Blue Ox

Hey Dan,
Do yourself a favor and ditch the remington. Go grab a lever action Marlin in 45-70 and use the iron sights. If you can handle the recoil, pick up some Jarret loads for it. You won't be disappointed.

Blue Ox

Is it Garret or Jarret? My bad if I funbled it!

Blue Ox

That's 'fumbled'. Sorry. That tends to happen after a fifth of Jack.


Blue Ox

Asking a Mainer to give up his Remington is like asking him to give up his green plaid wool. It’s just wrong man!


peep sites been using them for everything since my nam vacation ,williams makes good ones ,period

Clay Cooper



Go getem SHOOTER!

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