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November 10, 2008

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The Rifleman's Badge of Honor

This past Friday I was coaching a young hunter in the finer points of riflery when he got careless with the .30/06 he was shooting and received a medium-good scope cut in his forehead. He asked me not to mention it to anyone and I said, Pish tush, you should be proud of it; it’s the mark of the rifleman. I then pointed out three or four of my choicer scars.

Eventually, if you shoot enough, you are going to get a scope cut. Actually, you’re going to get a collection unless you spend all your time shooting .22s or centerfires with IER scopes. (Given the choice between an IER scope on a rifle and a good, bloody scope cut, I will take the latter.)

The two best I’ve ever seen came from a .30/06 with a cheap scope that had no eye relief to speak of, and a .300 Weatherby, whose owner contorted himself into a weird prone position, shooting downhill at a caribou. The ocular lens bell caught him on the bridge of the nose and opened it up like an ax. My own best scope cut came from a .30/378 with a muzzle brake. I was curious how hard it kicked without the brake and fired it prone. I found out.

I came home with blood all over my face and my shirt. My wife summed up the situation in one word:
“A*****e,” she said.

Some people, upon getting a scope cut, are like to swoon, and develop PTSD. Others brush it off. Susan Casey, who wrote a wonderful story for Field & Stream about an elk hunt on which she could not bring herself to pull the trigger, got a medium one, and decided she liked it.

“It makes me look like a badass,” said Susan.

In 2003, I bought a bunch of life-sized whitetail deer targets from the NRA that have been by far the best teaching tool I’ve ever seen if you want to teach someone how to shoot whitetail deer. The vital zones are marked so you can’t see them at a distance, just like real deer.

Last week I tried to reorder, but no one at the NRA seemed to know what I was talking about, and I’m afraid they’ve been discontinued. Does anyone know anything definitive or, failing that, does anyone know of anything similar? My gratitude will be nearly boundless. 


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Dave: Wolfe Publishing has a "life size" Mule Deer paper target they've just recently started to offer. Available in 1, 2 or 4 paks. Check out their website or give em a call. And while you're at it, see if you can find out what happened to Barsness. He was too good to just disappear from gun writing.
Good luck.

Phil Bourjaily

Dave -- I like Birchwood Casey's
deer silhouette, which shows vitals of what looks to me like a more or less lifesize deer. It's pricey for a piece of cardboard. It comes with with replaceable "shoot-n-c" vitals which you might not want to use if you don't want to see the vitals at a distance.



My old man was shooting 30/06 with heavy bullets (300gr. I believe but could be wrong); he had em but had no use for them so he figured he would just burn em off. Well, when in the woods one day, by himself, he chambered one and pulled the trigger. The scope hit him in the bridge of the nose like your friend, knocked him out for however long (according to him it was a several minutes but I suspect more), broke his nose, and blackened both his eyes. It took him 8 hrs. to crawl out of the woods and he couldn't see for a few days after due to the swelling. Hell of a war wound, that's all I have to say.


Dave, try this link. Delta has some really good paper deer targets, each presenting the vitals from different angles.

Keith H.


Try Caldwell Shooting Supplies - They have a lifesized deer target with highlighted vitals and skeletal structure that blends in at a distance. Beleive the product line is called "natural series" targets. Good luck!

Keith H.



Last I knew of he was writing for Wolf Publishings Rifle, Reloader and Successful Hunter Magazines. I believe he is editor of the Successful Hunter magazine.

Blue Ox

How are ya supposed to learn if you've never been scoped before? Be proud!
It's like a badge of honor and a rite of passage.

jersey pig

first time i ever fired a centerfire rifle it was a 30-06 and with the first shit i took a good scope hit. saw stars but didnt bleed much. took a long time to shake the flinch that developed after that.

jersey pig

HAHAHAHA sorry bout that, just read my own post and caught the typo. meant to say shot and the "o" and "i" are next to each other. whoops.


Jersey Pig wrote:

"and with the first shit I took a good scope hit"

It will take a week to get that image out of my head.



I have seen quite a few scope cuts in the guiding business. They most often happened to sheep hunters shooting at fairly steep uphill or downhill angles. I believe that the majority of scope cuts can be eliminated by 1. Awareness 2. Properly mounted scopes 3. Holding the damn gun tight to your shoulder. If all scopes were equipped with the rubber bumpers of some high quality scopes that, too, would help substantially.
You are also right about the value of using silouette targets when preparing for a big game hunt. Knowing what the animal looks like at 1,2,3,400yds is, in itself, most helpful. When my daughter drew a tag to hunt sheep in the Tok Management Area (AK) in 2007, being somewhat in the backwash of Alaska I took a piece of pywood and hand drew my own silouette of a dall sheep, then spary painted it white and we went to shooting sheep and the above ranges. It worked. She put 2 out out of 3 in the kill zone at 300yds.


The worst scope cut I ever got was two springs ago turkey hunting. My turkey gun is a 12 gauge with a 1-4 turkey scope. Had a nice bird coming in, missed with the first shot, shucked a fresh shell and rolled him with the second. However I had to reposition myself on the second shot and in my haste I paid no attention to how close my forehead was to the scope. I felt it hit and when I stood up to run to the bird I saw the blood dripping. Took 6 stitches to close it back up and left a nice crescent shaped scar between the eyes.


I saw a couple of targets that look a bit like that wandering through my yard last evening. You have to dig a little to see the vitals, but they're servicable.


I was just watching Sportcenter and found out that the cut Kerry Collins (QB for the TN Titans) had on his nose came from a scope hit while he was deer hunting. He got the deer, but it looked like he paid for it.

Del in KS


Did your daughter get her Ram?


My dad taught me 45 years ago that holding a gun tight to your shoulder seems to lessen the felt recoil when you shoot. It works and is probably the reason why I have never been cut despite all the shooting done over the years. Hold a 12 guage an inch from your shoulder fire then do it with the gun tight. The difference in felt recoil will make a believer of you.

Dr. Ralph

I've never had a scope cut but have witnessed many... the crazy thing is the worst scope cut I have ever seen was when my wife shot my RWS pellet gun. Of course she is ten inches shorter than me and was holding the scope right up to her face with the butt of the gun under her arm trying to shoot a dog that had dug up some flowers. Thank god she missed the dog she obviously didn't understand what a 1,000 fps pellet would do. It's been over ten years now and the only weapon she has fired since is her Lady Smith .38. To me the scar makes her all the more beautiful.


Ouch, I got my christening with a model 100 autoloader. The early ones could double fire which I found out years later. Two .308's going off almost at the same time. Did I ever bleed.


Bet /06's have caused more stitches than any rifle in America!(If yer wimpy enough to go for stitches ;)

Dr. Ralph

I wonder if Kerry was hunting here in Tennessee? I would just about guess he had to be since he is in the middle of the NFL season and it was muzzle loading last week, closed this week, then gun opens the following Saturday. Huge buck was a no show again Sunday but I saw a lot of does... father-in-law is anxious saying kill those deer but I'm afraid of scaring the big one. Now I have met someone who has a deer shot within 200 yards of this one about seven years ago and it is another monster 10 pointer. Wonder if Kerry was using 3 pyrodex pellets?


I've personally never been cut even though my deer gun is a 20ga Mossberg 500 pump and I put 1 oz Remington Buckhammers through it. I also shoot my brother's .30-06 every once in awhile and have always felt the shotguns kicked more.


Lousy weather on Saturday kept me inside with the 6-year old grandson. We got out the construction paper and proceeded to make turkey decorations. While finishing the "decorations" we decided they would make good targets. So the 6-year old proceeded to make a scoped rifle with construction paper, 2 miles of scotch tape and a case of staples. Attached to this creation was a "gun carrier" (grown-ups call them slings). Upon completion, he raised the multi-colored rifle to aiming position and crammed his orbit deep into the scope. I took the opportunity to teach him about putting some real estate between his eyeball and the scope. Teaching a 6-year old about recoil in paper rifles proved pointless.

Since pretend bullets from paper guns on paper turkey decorations have a short attention span quotient (and the women were gone shopping) we broke out the nerf guns and littered the family room with foam suction cup bullets.

The turkeys never had a chance.

Walt Smith

Thats just the the price we pay for the games we play, kinda like sheriff Brody and Quint comparing scars right before the shark rages havoc in Jaws.It's all good!

Jim in Mo

Del, I've never had a scope cut either because I was taught to always keep the gun tight to shoulder. Better get pushed that smacked.
DR.R, wish S&W would change the name of the 'lady smith'. That is one nice gun and S&W would have to put on a second shift to accomodate all the men buying one if it was called by a number as others are or the 'Killer'. It is a very nice gun. Have you tested any of Speers short barreled gun loads?


I have been shooting a 300wm for almost two decades with the best Redfield had back then for optics. you have to be back from the scope to see clearly so dont cheap out when buying a scope for a big gun and will save you some pain. I guide I know was in a camp 3 hours from his truck by quad and one of the guys got hit by the scope real bad trying to shoot a problem bear from atop the meat pole in the dark. It was most of 24 hours before they got back from the hospital. You just cant be too careful.


I remember once reading a hunting story written by one of Roy Weatherby's sons concerning a hunt with his father. It seems that the son heard Roy fire a shot at a deer. A bit later he found Roy working away on field dressing a really nice buck. When Roy looked up at his approaching son he displayed two things, a great big smile and a blackened cut wide open eye. On top of that Roy was shooting a .257 which resulted in a lot of laughs from both of them. If Roy could do it then nobody is exempt.

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