Greetings from finally sunny Michigan.
When last I posted about the annual Great Western Pilgrimage to Idaho and beyond and down to Raton, NM, I was in the Estes Park, Colorado vicinity with 15 inches of freshly fallen snow and a 24 hour power outage that had just been restored.
Friday morning arrived and it was time to hit the road for Raton. The sun was out and though the temps weren’t quite high enough to melt a lot of the snow, it did subdue it a bit and the roads were fine. My cuz lives up a canyon accessible by a narrow dirt road and I took a snapshot on my way out.Headed southeast out of Estes Park over to I-25 and then on down to Raton. Arrived early afternoon and the weather was much more conducive to shooting than where I had been the previous 24 hours.
Again stayed at one of the Founders’ Cabins on site.
Checked in, unloaded some stuff at the cabin and then headed over to the high power silhouette range (where The Great White Buffalo resides). Had the range all to myself, so I was able to set up the chronograph and get some samples for both the 6.5×47 and the .308
Something new that wasn’t there last year were some nice shooting benches spaced out along the firing line, so I didn’t have to set up mine.
I warmed up with some shots at a turkey hanger and a ram hanger and moved out to a smaller white buffalo at 847 yards that I had not noticed in my previous visits (or maybe it just wasn’t there before, I don’t really know). In the scope, it’s located just beyond the ram berm. (just off the upper left corner of the #7 sign on the ram berm)
Next, I moved up to my old friend at 1123 yds. and got him on my second shot, having to hold the reticle over 4 minutes left of target after missing with a 3 minute holdover. Banged a few more off the beast and decided I wanted a bit more of a challenge and settled on a rock (just to the right of the right-hand support post, level with the bottom of the buffalo’s feet).
Took two shots to zero in and then several more just to check repeatability. These buffalo shots were all with the 6.5×47. I was feeling pretty good and looking forward to the next day, Saturday, when I would go to the other side of the mountain to the site where the match was to be held and help paint targets and get some practice in at various distances.
Looking back at firing position from the above target stand (arrow):
My intent was to get enough elevation settings captured hitting the practice targets to allow me to run the “Shooter” ballistics app on my android to fill in settings for 5 yard increments from 0 – 1000 yards.
I’ll have to pause right here and declare that I did something really idiotic and proved the old adage that “you can’t fix stupid”. I’ll not divulge details (the guilty party is already thoroughly embarrassed), but it prevented my using the 6.5×47 in the following day’s match and I had to go to the .308 back-up .
Sunday morning arrived and all the participants gathered at the match site at 0700 for signing in, getting assigned to a squad and shooters’ meeting.
I won’t go over the course of fire in detail. You can read about it here, from my initial experience in 2011.
As for this year, in 2013, I did not hold the RNS torch very high. One could say I dropped it. I did not even match my score of last year, even though I thought I was better prepared and used to the course, the altitude and had what I thought were good scope elevation settings. It turned out that my elevation settings were ok for the most part, but my ability or lack thereof to accurately estimate the holdover for wind did me in and I’m not sure it’s something I can master when I only participate in this match once a year. Most of the shooters are regulars who participate each month beginning in February and running to September (as well as other long-range practical matches such as the Steel Safari, held at the Blue Steel Ranch in Logan, NM). In their favor is their experience with shooting in higher wind conditions in the western states than we tend to get in Michigan. Of course we do get the sporadic twisters here and there, but for the most part, I believe our typical winds are of the 3-8 mph variety. The winds out at Raton were running at 13+ mph with gusts well above that. And swirls. Lots of swirls. Even the winds of Boomershoot didn’t seem as finicky. I had written in my data book what I thought was a full value 90 degree crosswind number for each of the target distances and then held plus or minus or right at that number of minutes off the target for each shot. I was rarely correct and missed a lot just left or just right of the target. Obviously I need to practice in conditions that are other than a warm sunny day at the club with minimal wind.
A shot of me on stage #1 with targets ranging fron 260 yd. out to 875 up in the trees:Every year, I drool over the wide-spread use of suppressors by many of the regular participants:
Well, I hope there’s another chance next year, as I love going to Raton and the challenge presented by this match. I finally heard an explanation of why the match is called a “sporting rifle match”. The fellow who got this match up and running at the NRA Whittington Center and serves as match director each month, likened it to the Sporting Clays activity with shotguns but with bolt action rifles. Simple eh?
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that when the 2014 schedule is posted, that the May date for this match is on the second Sunday (May 11), as Joe has already scheduled Boomershoot 2014 for the first Sunday, May 4. I’d hate to have to pick one over the other. I really enjoy making the Great Western adventure each spring and before I finish unloading the truck after 6100 miles, I am already looking forward to next year.
Y’all have a great summer and stay well.