- List Your Courses
- Manage Your Schedule
- Get Access to New Students
- Teach at a Local Retailer
I was very lucky growing up. Not only did my family live in a shooting and hunting friendly state, but we had The Cabin. This little house, which my grandfather bought and improved in the late 1950s, rests along the shore of a reservoir river with nothing behind it but rolling hills and ranch land. Several times each year my family packed up the essentials and headed up to The Cabin for a few lazy days of rest and outdoor recreation. Our essentials always included our rifles and BB guns.
Some of my best days have been spent hiking and plinking with my family in that natural shooting gallery. We’ve shot clays, punched holes in tin cans, and knocked spent shot shell hulls off of logs. Four generations of shooters have safely, if not always accurately, put hundreds of rounds down range in that beautiful outdoor setting. So, with good memories and safety in mind, here are a few tips whether you’re heading afield to shoot clay targets or enjoy a little plinking.
Plan Ahead: Although it’s not possible to prepare for every eventuality, planning ahead can help avoid many common outdoor pitfalls. Have you checked the weather report? Will you have enough firearms and ammunition for the whole group? Will you be shooting close to your vehicles or hiking in? Should you pack a lunch, jacket or insect repellent? Who is bringing the first aid kit? The venerable Boy Scout motto ‘Be Prepared’ makes sense, but never more so than during outdoor activities.
Property Permissions: If you plan to shoot on public land, you need to contact the appropriate state or federal agency about what opportunities exist as well as information about regulations. When it comes to shooting on private property, the appropriate agency to contact is the landowner. Even though the owner is likely to be a family member, a friend, or a friend-of-a-friend, a phone call or visit to get permission demonstrates good manners and will ensure that you can enjoy the property in the future. The owner should know where you are going to be, and when you will be there. It’s not uncommon for good neighbors or law enforcement officials to check up on shooting groups. Being able to say that you called Great Uncle Fred and he approved your event should do a lot to alleviate their concerns.
Safety First: It’s important to verify each member of your shooting group understands and is willing to abide by safe gun handling practices before any shooting takes place. Nothing takes the shine off of a sunny day like a member of the group who doesn’t understand the principles of proper muzzle control. Inexperienced shooters should be paired up with an experienced shooter any time they are handling guns or ammunition. And, as always, wear appropriate eye and ear protection.
Take Your Time: Plan enough time to get in and out of the shooting area at a comfortable pace. Not only will the walk be more relaxing, but an easy pace will help shooters to pay attention to safe gun handling as well as the terrain.
Scout It Out: When the group reaches the shooting location, it’s a good idea to carefully check out the area. If it’s a regular shooting site, you’ll know if anything has changed since your last visit. If it is a new site, you can verify that your bullets will be traveling in a safe direction. You can identify the things you don’t want to shoot, like boulders and fence posts, while finding the best and safest places to set your targets. Scouting the area also will scare off any wildlife.
Establish A Firing Line: Once your group agrees on the direction you will be shooting, then agree on where you will stand to fire. Some folks lay down a length of rope to create a firing line, some lay out sticks, and others just agree that the line is from that tree to this rock. Whatever method you choose, no one should cross in front of the firing line once the shooting starts. Everyone holding a firearm should be notified when someone wants to set up or change targets, and all firearms should be unloaded and pointed in a safe direction while folks are down range of the firing line.
Pack It In, Pack It Out: One of the best ways to preserve a positive public image of the shooting community is to clean up after our outdoor shooting sessions. Cleaning up includes picking up spent cartridge cases and shotshell hulls as well as target materials. Try using biodegradable targets to reduce your clean up time. For example, fruits and vegetables, especially watermelons, can produce spectacular results when hit by hollow-point bullets. Just stop by your local supermarket the night before your event and ask the manager for a box or two of old produce they are planning to throw out. You can think of it as composting for sportsmen.
For information on firearms safety, click here
Improve your shooting skills by taking an NRA Firearms Training Course. To find a course near you, click here.
How-to articles for hunting, shooting and archery
Comment on articles and join the ORM Community
Latest Gear News
Access to Our Online Outdoor Training Courses
Latest Outdoor News and Events