Mike Trenholm's Story
In the Mountains of SW Wyoming, at a tent camp way up in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, you can have a training experience that's a rare opportunity to improve your shooting & hunting skills.
First, let me say I've been involved in firearms training, instruction and competition since I was 15 years old. I'll leave it to say that was a LONG time ago. I also served 36 years in military and civilian law enforcement so I've attended more than the average shooters amount of training for all types of firearms. Hunting has always been, and since retirement, has become an even larger passion in my life. One of my continuing priorities in the hunting field has been to always avoid being "that guy." The one that too often comes into a hunt camp with minimal or nonexistent marksmanship skills, then misses or wounds game. We all know him and probably have hunted with him. And it's usually painful to observe.
So I seek out professional training, shoot and hunt a lot. I've attended numerous rifle and game shooting schools over the years. Many are geared to basic and long range marksmanship. Very few are training the hunter to apply their shooting skills to the field in practical situations they are likely to encounter no matter where they hunt. This course offered by the cooperative effort of the Long Range Hunting Forum and Non-Typical Outfitters scores big by putting the student into the field and training them to perform under challenging and difficult situations and conditions at various distances.
Robb Wiley and his instructors are all experienced guides, hunters and shooters.
The class is based at a high mountain tent camp in a beautiful area. It's easily (despite the logging truck traffic) accessible in your truck or car. It's a true mountain wall tent camp experience with large hard floored tents, comfortable cots with mattresses, a great mess hall, hot showers, electrical service and a truly professional staff. Robb Wiley and his instructors for the course are all experienced guides, hunters and shooters themselves. The course offers shooters the chance to put both their gear and horse skills to the test under the watchful and experienced eyes of this crew.
One of the things a shooter can acquire from this training is a complete understanding of their capabilities AND limitations in real world situations. This is the kind of a class where the student should seriously consider only using their hunting rifles, ammunition and equipment. Also, make sure your gear is all working and up to speed so you can concentrate on the training experience, not gear, rifle or ammunition issues. I'm a big believer in training with what you carry. Bringing a 16 pound range rifle to the class won't give you a true idea of how your lighter mountain hunting rifle will perform for you when that trophy buck, bull or bear steps out. I brought my hunting rig in 6.5x55 topped with a S&B 3-12 power scope. I shot my hunting/long range loads of a Berger 130 grain VLD hunting bullet that has served me well for several years at both long range shooting schools and in the field on pronghorn and deer. This rifle and ammo combination was completely capable of handling every phase of the course.
You'll be exposed to a lot of great gear, optics and other options that'll likely give you cause to spend some of your cash after the class. Don't ask me how I know this!
Day 1 starts with everyone getting together to introduce themselves and have a chance to talk about their experience and expectations for the class. We had a wide range of shooting and hunting experience sitting around the fire that first morning. The one common thread I observed was every one present was very interested in real world shooting opportunities at various and long ranges.
We then moved to the range and verified or obtained a good zero on our rifles from a prone position. Most shot with rifle bipods, but some actually started the real world experience by shooting from their backpacks. This will warm you up and show those not previously exposed to the higher altitudes the effects on their previously set rifle zero.
Banging steel the first day at these distances in the field is a whole lot of fun.
Then a trip to a location set up with targets at various ranges on the mountainside intended for you to get set up and test your dope out to 800 yards. This is always a new perspective looking over the beautiful scenery and trying to locate and concentrate on your targets. Plus, banging steel the first day at these distances in the field instead of a flat range is a whole lot of fun. This was evident on the faces of all the shooters.
Day 2 started with a challenging 1285 yard target. The mechanics of shooting this target in the altitude, wind and elevation became evident. Everyone was put to the test and all fared very well, even if it took a few shots to get onto the target. Robb had some of his guys working with the group spotting our hits and calling corrections. It was evident these guides had done that before and their assistance was a valuable shooting aid. Here's where your average hunting rifle is stretched and shows you what it is and isn't capable of.
The rest of the day the class was split up so smaller groups could work on other skill building exercises. Robb showed students how to build comfortable and rock solid shooting positions on very difficult and interesting terrain. Uphill, downhill, side hill and other positions were built, tried, improved and tried again using items carried by the shooters. We used our puffy coats in dry bags, tripods, back packs and fellow shooters in new and interesting ways to make some difficult shots very possible. The key to building good field and unusual attitude (that's the pilot in me talking) positions was supporting yourself in a very natural and unstressed position. Often times when your best position was set up it was so comfortable it would have been easy to sit for long periods waiting for your game to offer a shot. Even got comfortable enough it was difficult to stay awake in the afternoon sun following the great lunch we had. Shooters were even faced with a quick shot, standing, using only a small tree for support on an uphill target at 500 yards. The ideas presented have already proven themselves useful for me in the field on pronghorn, elk, varmint and deer hunts this fall.
Jarod, another guide and instructor with an excellent ability to teach from his background as a USMC instructor, presented some great ideas and techniques for shooting off hand and unsupported from various positions. Students were challenged to use these positions from close up to longer ranges. Always an interesting exercise in rifle control. We were introduced to the Hathcock position, a seated position that I had never been exposed to. Most found it very comfortable and stable enabling excellent rifle control and shots at longer ranges. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Thanks Jarod!
Shooters left this course with a much better understanding of what really is needed for shots at various distances.
We moved through several locations and shooting positions. Each placed the shooter in situations that were not comfortable and afforded plenty of opportunities to practice what we had been taught. It was also emphasized that time and shorter distances may present themselves to hunters in the mountains. We were pressed to set up quickly and make the shots. The added stress in these exercises really makes the hunter think about their techniques. Then add the altitude for us flat-landers and breathing control always makes it interesting.
Another situation was set up to demonstrate the actual effects of high angle shooting at various ranges when encountering game sized targets. It was interesting to see the practical effects and issues with high angle shooting. Shooters left this course with a much better understanding of what really is needed for these shots at various distances.
At the end of each day we were treated to a great meal that made it difficult to stay awake very late in the evening. Hot showers are available for shooters and that usually made for an early evening for the students.
The last day was set up to present the shooters with a chance to try their skills and gear out on horseback. Now I'm not a big fan of horses and had mentioned that to Robb and his crew. They did manage to find a ride for me that made it comfortable to ride up and down the mountains. I actually enjoyed the horse ride for the first time in my life! We were having such a great time we spent too much time afield to get back to camp and participate in the other exercise. It was a timed event planned for all the students that involved putting all the skills learned to use on targets at unknown distances and extreme angles. I'm sorry I missed that one.
At the end of this course, I can say it is absolutely some of the best training offered for the hunter/shooter I've ever encountered. I think this training is of particular benefit for many including:
• Someone with a big and expensive hunt on your calendar. You are spending a lot of money on a great and promising hunt. Not to mention travel expenses, licenses and gear. Investing in training that improves your skill set will make that one first shot your best shot possible.
• A shooter who wants to improve not only their long range capabilities, but to also improve their field craft.
Knowing what your capabilities AND limitations are will make that longer shot you may be presented with a real possibility and you'll have the confidence to make that decision to shoot or don't shoot. It's one thing to hit steel at longer ranges with several shots walking into the steel target. It's totally something else to be trained, practiced and confident to do the same with your first shot on an animal that likely won't allow you additional tries to get on target.
Long range hunting is many things to many people. I think it really is where the hunter can be assured of placing an ethical shot with 100% certainty. This course allows the hunter/shooter to find out what that range is for them.
The field craft learned here will give you the best chance of getting set to make those longer and ethical shots.
The class was enjoyed by all. Everyone was challenged and tested to limits that stressed both shooters and gear. The accommodations, food, staff and location made for a truly enjoyable and educational experience that can benefit any hunter.
I want to emphasize your best opportunity to take away the most you can from this class is to bring and shoot your hunting rifle, ammo and gear. The course is geared to the practical applications of the material presented on your next hunt. Come prepared to work out yourself, rifle, scope and gear to their maximum capabilities and you won't be disappointed.