The Pickering Chronicles #4 – A Place To Shoot

“Happiness is in nature, beauty, and tranquility.”
― Debasish Mridha


I’m picky and can get grouchy quickly. Public or even Club ranges scare the bejeezuz out of me and the noise can be painful.

My last choice for a place to shoot would be an indoor range. My son took me to such a range in Scottsdale and it will be the last time for me. The noise was deafening, there were too many people in a confined space and I was very uncomfortable. Concentration was nearly impossible.

Commercial or public outdoor ranges are nearly as bad. Although being outdoors dissipates a lot of the sound, there is still too much chaos to suit me. I understand the difficult job a Range Officer has, trying to keep dozens of people with a whole spectrum of experience and skill levels in line and safe. That job is a lot like being a Grade One elementary school teacher. Half the students don’t know how to follow orders or understand what is expected of them. I get that. I don’t like to follow order either, (just ask my wife).

Managing a bunch of inexperienced shooters at a range must be like trying to keep a pile of live crabs stacked on a tray. Lack of discipline, too many guns pointing in too many directions, someone telling me when to shoot, when to stop, where to stand drive me nuts.

As I mentioned in Chronicle#2, I found a place called Timber Ridge — 2-½ square miles in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. About an hour from my house (inconvenient, eh?) there is very little traffic on the place. I can go down there in the springtime as soon as I can get through the roads in my light-weight Toyota Camry. Heavy rains stop me from going there because of the muddy access road. Otherwise, I pretty much have the place to myself until late summer when Glen and Kelly drive herds up to the property to stay until late in the year. As long as I stay away from the quarter section(s) where there are cattle I’m free to shoot.

Timber Ridge is open to hunters in the fall, so I stop going there at all once deer hunting season starts.

Regarding distances, I’m content to shoot from 12-15 yards (I have a couple revolvers now) out to 200 yards. However, I prefer to limit my range to 100 yards. I’m told that I can expect to get a shot at an elephant anywhere from 10-50 yards, but probably around 15-40 yards. The ranch is perfect for my needs. Regarding targets, I’m happy if I can keep my hits inside an 8” paper plate. Maybe that’ll change as I get more sophisticated in reloading, but it is good enough for now.

At the end of summer, 2014 I started an entomology research project on the property. Working with the University of Calgary, I started a program to systematically collect insects in what are called Malaise Traps; placed strategically based on the local terrain and flora, they look like a single-man tent. I used to go to the ranch twice a week to remove the collected insects, replenish alcohol in the traps and stake them out in different locations. And also shoot!

Once, while climbing a hill with an armful of trap, I encountered a lone wolf coming up the ridge upwind from me. I dropped the trap and ran back down the hill to get my SKS, but by the time I got back it had passed me and was trotting off along a deer trail as if it had an appointment. No chance for a shot.
<!– From the top of a storm-ravaged ridge at Timber Ridge. Peaceful and quiet! –>
Timber Ridge has a wealth of wildlife: deer, elk, moose, bear. There is a grizzly den on the property. I’ve stayed away from the den, but that is little protection because grizzlies range so far from home. My big problem was with black bears. They would find my traps and tear them apart to get at the alcohol and the trapped insects. Concerned that I might run into one, I carried an SKS during my strolls in Timber Ridge. That got old in a hurry, so I made a dumb mistake.

I bought a Rossi 92 Mare’s Leg chambered in .44 Mag. I quickly learned something Steve McQueen never disclosed. The damned thing kicks like a mule and there’s no way to anchor it. I quickly realized that if I had to use it, I probably would never get off a second shot. I’ve only taken a few shots with it, but hope to change that later this year.

As an aside, it is interesting to see how the US Feds and the Canadian RCMP treat this firearm. In Canada it is called a “rifle”. That means, the short barrel is perfectly legal as that’s the way it came out of the factory. Thus, no special permit to carry a “restricted firearm” is required. In the USA, the piece is called a “pistol”. That solves the short barrel length problem. Of course, it is still illegal in California.

Last year I bought a blank for a full-sized stock and I am in process of changing the short stock to the new one. At least, then, I can anchor the rifle to my shoulder and gain stability. That’s my theory. But it will probably be illegal pretty much anywhere.

About two years ago I found another place to shoot. It is one full section (one square mile) of flat pasture [designated wetland and for bird shooting] that conveniently butts up against a 50-foot berm that encloses a reservoir. I can shoot up to 100 yards against the berm, safely and without bothering anyone. This place is only half an hour from my home on pretty good roads, and is generally empty during weekdays.

If I’m in Scottsdale, Arizona, I shoot in the Tonto National Forest where, if I avoid weekends, I am pretty much by myself or only with people in my group, and away from roads and people.

I was able to get out and target practice today in Calgary. I plan to go again tomorrow and Tuesday, but then I suppose I’ll have to clean my rifles and put them back into the safe until we get back from our trip.

Speaking of which, Saturday (19 May) I travel by air from Calgary to Vancouver BC to Hong Kong to Johannesburg to Harare, and thence by Land Rover six hours to our base camp. Estimated trip time is 26 hours. I should be in camp on 21 May. Wish me luck.

More to follow. . .



Find the entire series here:  The Pickering Chronicles

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