Shoppin’ or Shootin’….


By Bill Derby

I had a painful choice to make a few years ago.

We had traveled up to Beckley, West Virginia for our annual visit with Judy’s two sisters, their husbands and her mother who has since passed away.

Carolyn and husband, Jerry Rimes, a distant cousin of the singer, Lee Ann, came from Dallas. Diane and Mike Thacker live in Beckley. Diane is a power shopper and planned a shopping safari for a Friday morning starting very early.

We men faked over-tiredness, remote TV fatigue and general shopping malaise. Mike, who is a master woodsman in addition to being the most famous hunter in Raleigh County, suggested we go target shooting instead of shopping. Jerry and I perked up. Real man stuff. We pondered the dilemma-go shoppin’ or go shootin’?

Jerry was raised in West Texas on a cattle ranch. His daddy, Lum, was a real cowboy. Jerry was no stranger to a shootin’ iron. I had Daisy BB and ROTC target practice, dove hunt shooting and three years of military M-14 and .45 cal. pistol shooting. We decided to go target shooting, a no brainer.

The girls packed into Diane’s car headed to the stores with credit cards. We loaded up Mike’s Ford F-250 diesel with guns and headed 20 miles into the West Virginia woods away from the frantic-shopping melee.

We pulled up to the target range. It was packed. Mike said he couldn’t believe it. He thought we’d have the place to ourselves. Turns out other shooters had escaped shopping too.

As a spot opened up, Mike walked out on the range to place our targets. He picked up little bits of leftover clay pigeons and empty shotgun shells. He kept walking, walking and walking further and further away.  He put the itty bitty targets twice as far away as everyone else was shooting, maybe 175 to 200 yards. How in the world can you shoot something you can’t see I wondered?

Mike unpacked his new custom Thompson Encore 22-250 rifle with a .204 Ruger barrel. It sported a high-powered Mueller scope and bi-pod stand.

“You can shoot the eye out of a gnat at 100 yards with this,” Mike proudly said, spitting a squirt of snuff.

“Well, maybe you can, but I can’t even see the targets,” I countered.

“It shoots straight especially with these 32 grain Hornady V-max bullets with the polymer tip,” Mike said. “They shoot at about 4,150 feet per second and have zero trajectory at 200 yards.”

Mike was talking a foreign language as far as I was concerned. I was used to old peep site shooting. This was high tech. Mike was happily arranging a shooting match between his brothers-in-law.

Mike gave us some instruction. Lined us up. Adjusted the scope. We were ready to start shootin’. I gripped the crafted weapon. Memories from my old army shooting instruction came back. Squeeze the trigger and don’t jerk it. Breathe steady. This was competition shooting. I looked through the scope. It was jumping all over the place. I finally steadied the crosshairs on the tiny target, slowed my breathing and gently squeezed the trigger. Blamb!

“You hit it,” Mike said very quietly looking through his spotting scope.

I think he was surprised a city boy could still shoot. Jerry hit targets too.  Other shooters glanced over occasionally to figure out how we were hitting tiny targets so far away.

We shot two boxes of shells and tried out a couple of other guns Mike had brought along. It was a good day to spend outdoors. It was fun to target shoot again.

Beats the heck out of shoppin’ with a bunch of women.


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