Sunday 28 October
After an easy 14 hour flight to Houston, then onto Amarillo and a night in the ‘highly not recommended but cheap’ Camelot Motel, I arrived at Todd’s place near Canadian. I then settled into the training house at Sleepy Hollow. The afternoon I spent studying my notes from last year on long range shooting ready for the first class tomorrow morning. In the evening I headed in to the Cattle Exchange Restaurant, where nothing has changed since my last visit. The waitress got me to sign a form to get a three day licence to buy a glass of wine as this is still a dry county.
Monday 29 October
Just by coincidence there are a bunch of Kiwi soldiers here on their second week of learning the ropes on the new Barrett MRAD (Multi-role Adaptive Design) rifles the NZ Army is in the process of purchasing. These are a versatile rifle with easily interchangeable barrels, enabling them to shoot both 7.62 NATO rounds out to 1200 meters and the 338 lapua Magnum round out to over 2000 meters. They were led by a major called John, whom I had met before.
At 8am the first class is underway, this year run by Colby, Todd’s eldest son, who like his father is a crack shot with an extensive knowledge in all aspects of the art.
After lunch we headed out to the wind course to put some of the learnings into practice. With targets from 250m out to over 800m there is a huge challenge in judging the wind as it gusts up to 20 kph plus from different angles as we move around the different stations on the 360 degress course.
Tuesday 20 October
At 0630 Kane and OB, a couple of guys who I has also met before, turn up at the training house and we head over to Todd’s. From there we head out looking for coyotes. They are a real problem for the local ranchers as they prey on the cattle when they are calving, eating the calf and the cow while in labour. In a conversation yesterday when the subject of coyotes came up someone asked Colby if they are an endangered species. “Round here they are! We would like to kill every last one of them”.
It’s really windy as we lay down in various high spots and Todd sparks up the caller that booms out the noise of a distressed rabbit. We cover a part of Jason’s 30,000 acre ranch as we drive between vantage points. Only one coyote comes into check out the noise. He moves very fast and disappears as a quick shot from Kane goes just over his shoulder at 250m.
The scenery is vast and stunning. The ranch is dotted with oil and gas infrastructure with many wells going down to 2000m. Large pumps bring up oil and salt water that is separated by machines on the surface, the oil picked up by large trucks and carted to refineries. Gas comes up under pressure and is piped to a local pumping station and then down country.
￼Mule deer look on curiously as we drive past.
At the day’s end Kane, OB and I head out with Todd to go and cull a deer. Jason who owns the ranch we had been out on in the morning also clones deer and is tasked by the local authority with culling poor or sick deer from the wild.
He too is a keen long range shooter and along with Todd and Colby has shot deer at over 2000 meters. We pick Jason up and drive to a hill overlooking a paddock where deer often come to feed in the evening. The range to the other side of the paddock is over 1600m. With spotting scopes we scan the fields and surrounding scrub.￼
Eventually a deer that needs culling is spotted among some other deer. Jason, OB and I take aim while Todd calls the elevation and wind. This time I am using Todd’s 300 Norma Magnum. At this range even though the cross hairs are on the target we are aiming around 4.5m meters above the deer. The count is 5,4,3,2. Firing on the 2 the deer falls but gets up. Another volley is required to finish it. The white tail deer is recovered and taken back to the farm yard to be gutted.
Wednesday 31 October
After another unsuccessful early morning coyote hunt and more lectures we headed to a different range where I got to try out Todd’s MRAD in 338 Lapua Magnum calibre, the same one as the soldiers are using.
In the evening we head off with Todd and Jason for another deer cull. This time from the hill no deer are seen that need culled but as we are heading back we spot one in another location, this time just under 600m away. John and I engage it, the first volley going just to the right as we have misjudged the wind. Eventually it goes down on dark and it’s decided to recover it in the morning. The next morning Jason sends us a photo. It has been stripped to the bone overnight by Coyotes.
Thursday 1 November
After touring some more country looking for coyotes we head to another range. I have lost count just how many ranges Todd has set up here but they cater for every aspect of long range shooting with some ranges having targets at over 3000 meters. This range the closest target is 1200m, the longest at over 2000m. I watch as one of the guys gets a second round hit at 2042m with the 338.
After sorting out the 300 I manage a 1st and 2nd round hit at 1600m. Being a less powerful round than the 338 it is hard to extend it beyond that. Some of the kiwi solders also have with them the .50 semi automatic Barrett capable of shooting out to 3000m.
We then move to another range where a competition is run with each person getting one shot at each of 12 targets ranging from 560 to 1380m. Justin, a former sniper of many years and a keen outdoors man, wins this outright.
Day over we head off for another deer cull but no deer meeting the criteria show up. As we stand on the hill many long trains head up and down the valley as the main line from California to Chicago runs up and down here.
We pass a nice white tail stag as we are heading back, then a couple of coyotes are spotted. Kane and OB jump out to engage them. OB shooting across the bonnet of the pickup kills one at 250 meters.
Friday 2 November
Another early morning start looking for coyotes. We stay only a few minutes at each location. There is no activity so we go to the top of a valley where early on we had seen one cross the road and head that way. Within a few seconds one runs out of some scrub below us and heads across a grassy flat moving fast. I snap a shot off and miss. The guys had been telling me on the way out ‘it was my turn to miss today.” In a flash the coyote retreats at great speed into the scrub. Coming onto a mound above the scrub he stops to look back and OB shoots him in the head. His mate heads up a far ridge 400 meters away dodging the odd bullet as he makes his escape.
￼The ‘golf course’ is being shot this morning, an 18 target course with targets spread out over several kms so the course is driven with the shooters stopping and dismounting to shoot the targets. The last two targets are shot after climbing a hill.
￼After lunch we head back to the wind course where the kiwis have their last competition. There is little wind today so the scores are higher than normal. Jason does a fly over in his Robinson 44 just as we are finishing up.
￼￼Shooting over we head back to the training house for a bbq and a couple of drinks. A Kestrel is awarded to Justin who has topped the shooting on the course. It’s been a really great week I really appreciate Todd inviting me back for a third visit. Colby did a great job teaching and helping people out – “a real chip off the old block”. I really enjoyed the interaction with Major John and his team, a real enthusiastic bunch.