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THE EMPTY CASES BLOG

The Secret to Shooting – Its About the Basics

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Discussing guns and shooting at the fire ring at Fort Richmond Safaris.

Sitting by the fire ring the other night, several Gunsite Academy graduates and a few professional hunters were discussing personal protection training with handguns and shooting in general. Training courses and instructors were being compared and I offered a point that is not so commonly considered.

When it coms to the shooting of any firearm, in any discipline, the core of success is the basics. Understanding the basics and applying the basics, regardless of the stress tied to the situation, is key. You do not learn the basics at an adventure camp, and you’ll likely not learn the basics from an instructor who makes a habit of bashing other instructors and their doctrine on social media and to their students.

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With proper instruction and diligent practice you can be a winner as a shooter or in sports.

I wish I could say this wisdom come to me from multiple gunfights I’ve survived , wars I’ve won, and castles I’ve conquered. It didn’t. The revelation is related to sports and the lesson was taught to me by my son. You see, whether you’re playing basketball, soccer, or any other sport, if you fail to master the basics of that sport, you will have to find comfort in how cool you can look as opposed to how good you can play.

My son told me not to long ago that he has tried to win by looking cool and it did not work. You see, if you are going to play basketball you must be able to dribble, pass, and shoot. If you cannot perform these basics tasks, you will lose. That’s why he is up after midnight with a basketball in his hands or a soccer ball on his feet.

By the same token, if you’re going to hit what you shoot at you must be able to bring the firearm to bear, align the sights, and squeeze the trigger, with enough finesse to allow the bullet to go where the sights are pointing.

Its simple, learn the basics, practice the basics, and master the basics. If you can do that you will sometimes still miss but the odds of it happening are dramatically reduced. The secret is, it’s about the basics. If you’re looking for a shooting school to attend or an instructor to listen to, find one that focuses on the basics.

 

 

The Problem with Gun World

 

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Like going to a good movie or playing cowboys and Indians when you were a kid, guns and hunting provide an escape from the harsh realities we deal with every day. For many they are, simply, fun.

In 1973 the movie Westworld depicted an android populated world where want-to-be cowboys or gunslingers could live out their wild west fantasies. The price of admission was high but the potential satisfaction of being John Wayne for a week was alluring. Like all apparent perfect worlds, there were problems and in the movie things went haywire.

The Gun World – the place firearms enthusiast live, not the magazine – is experiencing similar problems. With the election of a pro-gun president consumers are not buying because of fear. Sales have flattened and while gun owners are reveling in a new-found ecstasy, manufacturers and publishers are struggling with how to remain relevant.

Like all things in life the answer to this problem is hillbilly simple. So simple its hard for most to see. This is partly because executives think they must present complicated solutions to justify their salary or position, and partly because consumers have forgotten that one of the best parts of gun ownership is actually hitting what they shoot at and having fun.

Here’s my advice.

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Let me introduce you to Bob. Bob is that faceless silhouette who allows everyone in the gun and outdoor industry to draw a paycheck.

Consumers

Consumers need to forget their firearm inspired happiness is directly connected to their neighbor. Take Bob for example, his neighbor Jake has lots of money because his wife works in the medical field. Jake spends lots of his wife’s money on guns. Cool guns. Bob is envious of Jake because he has cool guns, a Land Rover, and a wife with big boobs. So, Bob spends his free time at work surfing the web looking for a bunch of cool guns so he can be like Jake. Problem is, Bob’s wife wants big boobs too, and Bob will be in the dog house if he buys a bunch of guns.

Bob should forget about Jake and jake’s wife. Bob should sell some of those cool guns he purchased only because of Jake; he never shoots them anyway. And, Bob should take some of that money and pay for his wife’s boob job. But most importantly, Bob should take the rest of that money and purchase 2000 rounds of ammunition. He should then save up some money – it will be hard because his wife will need all new clothes to go with her new boobs – and buy a gun he would really like to shoot. Then Bob should save some more money and take a firearms training course at Gunsite to learn how to really shoot and enjoy shooting that gun.

Bob will be happy. He will have a good gun, 1000 rounds of ammo left over, and a wife with bigger boobs than Jake’s. The moral of the story is that having a gun, even a really cool gun you do not know how to shoot or can’t afford to shoot is pointless. However, having a wife – a happy wife with nice boobs – and being able to hit what you shoot at is priceless.

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Because of the passion associated with guns and the outdoors, successful companies are those that maintain a cohesive connection with their consumers.

Manufacturers

Those who build guns, accessories, and ammunition, undeniably need to make money. But, as large as many of the companies in this industry would like to believe it is, the industry is small. Historically, the companies really successful are those started by a family and that have remained family owned.

This is party because big corporations tend to get executive heavy and those executives soak up a lot of profits. It’s also because big companies feel the pathway to success is to sell lots of units. It becomes about numbers instead of customer satisfaction, and when the fear buying stops, numbers cannot be met, dollars stop coming in, and the high paid executives think of complicated solutions, and spend more of the company’s money.

Most importantly, big companies forget about Bob.

Family owned companies tend to focus more on quality and their customers because the family name/legacy is on the line, and Bob likes to buy stuff that works. This is why companies like Nosler, Hornady, Mossberg, Wilson Combat, Timney Triggers, and XS Sights remain successful. They understand connecting with the customer, providing a quality product – and quality service after the sale – will always be the foundation of a successful small businesses. And, as I’ve pointed out, gun and outdoor companies are really  small.

BOB V3-3

Its not the gun tests that inspire readers, its the stories about guns actually being used the way the readers use or fantasize about use them.

Gun Magazines

It used to be that gun magazines purveyed stories about guys using guns, they way Bob uses guns or the way Bob fantasizes about using guns. That’s no longer the case. The need to seek advertising dollars has driven the gun press to produce essays crafted to convince guys like Bob he needs the next coolest thing. This helps sell advertising, and without advertising magazines would not exist.

Many publishers and editors have forgotten that Bob wants to be educated about guns and entertained at the same time. They’ve also forgotten that high distribution numbers – the numbers that help magazines sell advertisements – are a result of providing consumers with educational and entertaining stories, not one article after another about how every new gun tested is great. (Yes, a lot of new guns are great but consumers want to read about guns being used, not tested.)

The old axiom remains; if you provide good content, your magazine will sell. (This is why there are best-selling authors who write about guns – and monsters – like Larry Correia.) The solution is simple; educate and entertain your readers and the subscriptions will come. Good content comes from people who use guns, and who convey the fun they have while doing so.

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The Internet has turned into a smorgasbord of click-bait, intended to drive reach and views. Sadly this translate to nothing truly tangible.

The Internet

Every manufacturer and magazine will acknowledge they need an Internet presence. But, just like old cops are reluctant to trust new techniques or technology, manufacturers and magazines are afraid to dedicate to the Internet. They will use the excuse that they don’t understand it. Well, guess what? No one really understands the Internet. It is a very dynamic subsection of life, the answers to which – just like the answer to the question of what women want – are forever clouded in mystery.

Gun magazines will pay three to four times the fee for print articles that they do for Internet articles. They claim those using the Internet have short attention spans and are not looking for in-depth content. (Maybe that’s because supposed Internet success is wrongly based on views or traffic.) They think all consumers want is visual stimulation. Granted, visual stimulation is a large part of what the Internet delivers. This is partly why boob jobs have become so popular; today anyone can be a porn star on the Internet. (No, I’m not talking about Bob’s wife.)

But, here’s the thing: using the Internet for the purpose of getting traffic, views, clicks, or likes, is another example of instant gratification. Does it really translate into a sale or a satisfied reader? That’s unlikely. That type of “high” the reader or viewer experiences only fuels the need for the next high…Its like crack cocaine. Click here, click there, click some more, and then forget where you clicked and go fix the toilet or mow the lawn.

Good content also drives traffic, but its loyal and trusting traffic. Loyal and trusting traffic is better for advertisers than lots of traffic. Manufacturers should support outlets that distribute quality content, not clicks. Loyal readers are influenced to buy guns and gun stuff. Magazines should focus on establishing a relationship with their readers through the Internet so ad buyers benefit from the loyalty those relationships foster.

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A surefire way to get consumers to shoot more is to make them better at it. This task falls on the shoulders of the firearms instructors.

Firearms Instructors

When Jeff Cooper founded the American Pistol Institute at the Gunsite Ranch in 1976 he had little competition. Today, everyone, their brother, and their brother’s wife with big boobs, is a firearms instructor. They all claim their way is the best way and many spend lots of time on the Internet criticizing other instructors and generally trolling their way to stardom.

A firearms instructor’s goal should be to teach folks to shoot safely and better at whatever discipline they desire. If you’re any good at teaching folks to do that you should not need to talk trash about others; your message should inspire shooters to flock to you or your school.

The best tool the Gun World has at its disposal are firearms instructors who teach gun owners to shoot safely, shoot better, and to have fun. This has an avalanche effect. It causes gun owners to buy more ammo, buy more accessories, by more guns, read more magazines, and surf the Internet looking for educational and entertaining gun related content.

BOB-3

If Bob has more fun shooting, he will involve his wife,  kids, and friends more often. This would be a good – no this would be a fantastic – thing.

The Future

It’s unclear how long we will have a pro-gun President in office. I hope we get at least eight, if not 16 or more years in a row. That just might be long enough solidify the Second Amendment and eliminate the anti-gun brainwashing that has occurred.

In the meantime Bob needs to forget about Jake and focus more on his wife and his shooting skill. (If he does it right, his wife and kids might want to shoot with him more often.) Manufactures need to forget about how many executives they can afford to hire and focus on delivering quality. Magazines should rededicate to educating and entertaining their readers and to building relationships with them through the Internet, by using correspondents Bob trusts. And finally, firearms instructors need to stop trying to one-up their competition and focus on creating safe and effective shooters, who want to shoot more often.

This all reminds me of my best friend in high school who was convinced Christine McVie was not only a better vocalist but also better looking than Stevie Nicks. I tried to correct his misunderstanding of music and the female anatomy but in the end he ignored it all. Much to my despair, he ended up marring a woman and having a bunch of kids, only to learn she really liked women more than she did men, or maybe just him. She left him for another woman and his fairy tale turned into a nightmare. (If you don’t know who Christine McVie and Steve Nicks are, get up and go into the bathroom right now. Stick your head into the toilet, flush it, promise never to listed to Justin Bieber again, and then promptly replace the playlist on your iPod.)

Had he simply listened to some hillbilly wisdom with regard to his teenage infatuation, he might have saved himself from all the heartache that eventually found him. Few things are worse than misguided adolescent fantasies when it comes to spoiling adulthood. Youthful fantasies of big corporations with lots of executives in suites are what’s taking the Gun World down the wrong road.

Those of us who live in it know guns and their use are indelibly linked to the fabric of our life. They are not new smart phones or whiz-bang gadgetry that are best shown to us in porn-like presentations. They are tools to be used and we want to know how to use them better and how to use them to have more fun.

It’s not too late for the Gun World to learn, this is a small industry and the consumers that keep the lights on expect quality and they want a solid relationship where they spend their money and get their information.

It’s all about Bob.

It has always has been about Bob.

And, it always will be about Bob. 

Gun writers, gun manufacturers, and gun magazines who forget about Bob, and fail to establish that campfire-like relationship with him, will soon be wishing Obama were back in office so they could sell a story, an advertisement, a gun, or some more ammunition.

Of course I could be wrong. After all, I’m just a hillbilly.

BOB V3-2

In life and in business, it’s all about relationships. Those in the gun and outdoor industry who fail to establish that long-term relationship with Bob will ultimately fail.

You’re Doing It Wrong

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Hornady gets it right. There is no “.” in 35 Whelen.

Its time those who write for the gun magazines and the Internet learned something very important. When it comes to the name of a cartridge, drop the decimal point!

I had an editor once who insisted that when you wrote a cartridge name you included the decimal point because, in his words, “It is a measurement.” I argued. I lost. That is usually what happens when you argue with editors by the way.

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I’m sorry Black Hills, it’s not a “.308 Win” is a “308 Win.” you put the dot in the wrong place.

You see, it’s not a measurement, its is a name. Now, if you are referring to a caliber that is a different story. A caliber is a measurement but too many gun writers, editors, and even manufactures use the word “caliber” incorrectly. For example, if you go to the Remington website and take a gander at the model 700 rifles you will be shown what calibers they are available in. However, instead of listing caliber, they list the cartridge or chambering.

A caliber is the diameter of the hole in the barrel. The chambering signifies what type ammunition the firearm will take. And, cartridges have names. Those names most often include a caliber reference but that does not justify the decimal point.

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Remington can’t make up their mind. Is it “.40 Smith & Wesson” or “40 S&W?” Or do you just use the decimal when you don’t spell out Smith & Wesson?

Some ammunition manufactures seem to understand this and others cannot seem to make up their mind. I guess that’s why some shooters, writers, and editors might be confused. If you own a 30-06 and write that it is a .30 caliber you are correct. (Actually, it’s a .308 caliber but hundredths don’t matter, right?) The thing to keep in mind is that a 30-30 Winchester, 308 Winchester, and 300 Winchester Magnum are also .30 calibers.

“What caliber is your rifle?”

“It’s a .264.”

“Cool. What cartridge is it chambered for?”

“The 260 – not the .260 – Remington.”

You might wonder how I know this. Well, I’m a gun writer, I know everything. But, if you won’t take my word for it maybe you will take the word of SAAMI. SAAMI is the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute. In other words, they set the standards for firearms and ammunition. According to SAAMI and their printed standards, cartridge names do not get, deserve, or need decimals.

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This page is taken from the ANSI/SAAMI Standards. Notice there is no decimal point before 223 Remington but that all the measurements have decimals.

I know this is a stunning fact and a difficult pill for many of you to swallow. Especially for those of you who confuse accuracy with precision. Editors and writers get this wrong all the time too. Accuracy relates to the ability to hit a certain spot. Precision relates to the ability to hit the same spot repeatedly. Those are two different things all together. However, if a rifle shoots a 0.50 inch (That’s a measurement, the decimal is OK.) group we say its accurate but what that group really proves is that it’s precise.

Measurements get decimals, names don’t, and it does not make you smarter when you use them where they do not belong.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve made this mistake many times until I learned better. If you see text attributed to me, and there is a decimal point before the cartridge name, it is either old or has been edited by a smart person.

SWEEPs

Five stupid things people say about guns on Facebook.

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You see a lot of stupid stuff on Facebook about guns. Actually, you see a lot of stupid stuff on Facebook about everything. Some come in the form of posts but most are found in the comments section. Here are five of my favorites that have become Internet clichés. Don’t let the trolls post them on your page.

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The 223 Remington works just fine for deer and is legal in most states but bullet choice is important.

1: “The 223 is illegal for deer hunting in most states.”

Um…not true. In fact the 223 Remington is legal for deer – big game – hunting in more states that it is not. It is also very effective on deer when the right bullets are used. Then of course someone will say, “But with a 223 shot placement is very important.” Um…dude…shot placement is always important. Another argument is that the 223 will work for small deer but not big 200-pound northern deer. If you think a 200-pound deer is twice as hard to kill as a 100-pound deer; well, you’ve not killed very many deer.

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Your survival in a defensive situation will hinge more on mindset and tactics than whether you have a 9 or a 45. Get over it – argue about something important.

2: “The 9 is fine but the 45 is final.”

The difference in the wounding afforded by the 9mm and 45 is so slight, trauma surgeons cannot tell the difference. The difference in bullet diameter is after all only 1/10 of one inch. (Some Doritos are thicker than that!) 9mm pistols have more capacity and velocity, 45s shoot a heavier bullet, and the 40 splits the difference. You don’t want to get shot with any of the three.

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No, this new wildcat cartridge – and most likely any other – will not change the world but it was fun and educational to work with. Your lack of understanding as to why it was created is irrelevant.

3: “It’s an answer to a question nobody asked.”

This usually comes up with the introduction of a new firearm and is often the argument presented when a new cartridge is invented. What the person is really, most likely saying is that, “I do not have the intelligence or know enough about guns to formulate a question that addresses the advantages the new cartridge offers.” And then too, maybe the question was, “Let’s make something fun to shoot.” There’s never anything wrong with that.

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Laser sights are not perfect but they can be an important tool, if you understand how to use them. Most don’t.

4: “Laser sights are a gimmick.”

Proudly spoken by folks who have never been trained in the use of a laser on a defensive handgun. Their advantages are many once you open a closed mind and become skilled in their application. They will help you shoot faster and more accurately, and they are very valuable at times when you cannot get the handgun between your eyes and the target. Shoot a bench rest group at 50 yards with your pistol using sights and a laser, and compare the difference. Laser sights are also a great training tool.

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5: “I’ll just stick with my 30-06.”

First, nobody cares if you have a 30-06. Second, this is often another way of saying, you don’t have the money to purchase a new gun you secretly really like, or that you don’t understand the mechanical and ballistic advantage a new cartridge offers. And third, nobody cares if you have a 30-06. Really, nobody cares!

It’s all about the shot!

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The question of why we hunt is commonly asked. The answer is really very simple. We hunt because we are designed to do it. Hunting is deeply imbedded in the human DNA. It is how we fulfill the first – and all – of the three primary aspects of survival – sustenance, shelter, and sex. These needs are the underlying goal of the show Naked and Afraid, a show where a man and woman are forced into the wilderness and must survive on their own. Generally the first two priorities take precedence for the contestants and the third – much to the dissatisfaction of producers and viewers – is never realized.

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Humans are pack animals and like to hunt that way. But, hunting is also an individual endeavor.

We hunt because we must but what is hunting about. Some will offer it is about camaraderie. This is understandable; most of us prefer to hunt with friends. Humans are pack animals and from the beginning hunted that way because it greatly increased success. Today, to some extent that can be true, but with modern weaponry strength in numbers is not necessary except on the battlefield. Still, some of my most memorable hunts have been because I was with others like my wife, daughter, and son.

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Interaction with nature can be mesmerizing, memorable, and deadly.

Then there is the idea that we hunt to interact with nature. This too is a very enjoyable aspect of hunting. I’ve seen, felt, heard, and smelled things while hunting that are forever engrained in my memory. Like the time I fed a Newfoundland fox my ham sandwich, listened to red stags rumble the German country side like trolls, smelled the pristine smell of wilderness on the River of No Return, and stood yards from more than a hundred African buffalo, all looking at me like I’d slept with their old lady.

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Done right, squirrel gravy is a delicious delicacy that will delight.

Securing food of course is the primary endeavor of the hunter. The food nature can supply us with is protein rich, totally organic, and tasteful. Rough grouse roasted over a campfire will warm the soul, pronghorn steaks grilled medium rare will satisfy the pallet, and eland back strap cooked over warm coals will make your knees weak. I’d be derelict in my mention of wild foods if I did not also describe the delicacy of squirrel gravy and biscuits the way only my father can make it.

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Campfire stories are always better after a successful shot has been made.

But will all those good reasons to hunt; hunting is really all about the shot. Hunters work endlessly in preparation for the shot. The meticulously assemble their gear, weapons, and ammunition, Work tirelessly on the range, hike over hill and dale, brave all Mother Nature can throw at them, and run, crawl, creep, and slither, into position to make the shot. For without the shot the campfire camaraderie is a little less exciting. Without the opportunity for the shot, the memories are a little hard to recall. And of course, the wild protein is impossible to taste.

Memories like this do not come from a miss.

Memories like this do not come from a miss.

“No,” you say, “I hunt for the experience, not the shot.” Well then pilgrim, just leave your rifle at home. For you see, without the possibility a shot may materialize, and without the equipment to make that shot, you are not hunting; you’re just walking around in the woods.

Yes, hunting is all about the shot: preparing for it, searching for it, and making it. For that reason and regardless of your weapon of choice, hunters should continually prepare for the shot. If you make it – if you secure that sustenance – and if you have a tent, cave, or hole to crawl into, you can then focus on that last element of survival, and life gets a lot more interesting.

The gift of a shot well made.

The gift of a shot well made.

Maybe the producers of Naked and Afraid should give their unclothed contestants a course in shooting, a gun or bow, and a tent. Then, each episode might be a bit more, um… exciting. Of course, it will still be all about the shot or they will starve to death and intimate contact will never cross their minds.

SHOT-6

It’s always, always, all about the shot!

Squirrel Scramble

The Greenbow Foundation and the Squirrel Scramble.

An uplifting tale about kids, parents, guns, and hunting. Some day the whitetail deer is the greatest game animal of all time, but the squirrel offers unique opportunities for young and old.

Cainaan and Mason Nakamura

Nakamura and his son Mason enjoy their first ever hunt as father and son during the Squirrel Scramble.

In Virginia, deer season ends as a new year begins. As such, most hunters put their guns away. However, I didn’t want the area youth to wait so long to get back into the woods so I did something. Through my youth foundation, The Green Bow Foundation, I created our first “Squirrel Scramble” to educate area hunters about the challenging fun of squirrel hunting and to help bridge a dormant span of hunting excitement between deer season and turkey seasons.

The Squirrel Scramble was held Jan 28, 2017 at the American Legion Post 247 in Remington, Va. Teams comprised of one adult and one youth paired up to hunt squirrels anywhere and any way legal, from half an hour before sunrise to noon. From noon until 1PM teams checked in and weighed their harvests to decide who would be our Squirrel Scramble champion.

Winners earned bragging rights and a Ruger American 22 LR Compact rifle. Mossberg also awarded the top male and female youth hunters with a Mossberg Blaze rimfire rifle. Second place netted a Simmons 22 Rimfire scope and third place a $25 gift certificate from Clark Brothers, a local firearms and outdoor equipment store in Opal, Va.

Mason Nakamura first squirrel

Mason Nakamura celebrates his first ever harvest as a hunter.

I am thoroughly impressed with The Green Bow Foundation,” said Cainaan Nakamura, who used the Squirrel Scramble to introduce his son, Mason, to hunting for the first time. “From the day we registered for the event and even after the event was finished, we were met with happy, knowledgeable people that truly want to educate the youth (and the parents) about hunting and conservation. After meeting James Pinsky, the founder, I realized that this foundation is less about teaching the youth about responsible hunting and more about helping youth develop into responsible adults, that will have the confidence to make tough decisions and understand to results of those decisions.

Like many parents, Cainaan took the Squirrel Scramble as an opportunity to mentor his child into the world of hunting, which quite frankly is the very best thing possible for this kind of event.“

squirrel weigh in

Mason Nakamura waits for Green Bow Foundation founder, Jay Pinsky while he weighs in his first squirrel at the Squirrel Scramble.

“Our experience was great, not only during the event but also leading up to it,” Cainaan said. “Mason had to pass three (Dad imposed) guns safety tests before he could go on the hunt. The tests included a written test, memorization test, and practical exam. We began the hunt 30 minutes before sunrise and hunted until 11 a.m.,” said Cainaan. “There were very few squirrels that morning but I figured this would be the case since we were hunting squirrels. It seems like whenever you are hunting deer you typically see 1,000+ squirrels. Overall it was a successful hunt, I was able to experience my son take his first squirrel and watch him apply all the skills he had learned leading up to this hunt. Needless to say, he is hooked.”

The Squirrel Scramble did a lot more than challenge local hunters to harvest squirrels. It celebrated squirrels as a viable game animal in Virginia, with a seminar on the squirrels of Virginia by Green Bow Foundation’s senior conservationist, Dyllan Chapins. Additionally, American Legion Post 247 member and U.S. Army veteran Joe Cole taught participants about the proper field dressing, cleaning, and cooking of squirrels; two aspects of the event which weren’t lost on hunter and father Cainaan Nakamura.

“During the weigh-in and before the award ceremony we were able to learn all about the indigenous squirrels we were hunting, the proper way to process his kill, and even some different ways to prepare the meat. I really respected the balance of education that was married to the hunting portion of the event.”

andy thorpe colby lewis

Congratulations to Team Tree Rat Eradicators Andy Thorpe and Colby Lewis who won our 2017 Squirrel Scramble.

In the end, the success of the Squirrel Scramble wasn’t seen in trophies, but in memories and one-of-a-kind moments. There were many, including seeing a mother and son – Tammy Lusk and Austin Shutt – hunt together for the first time. Austin wound up winning his division with an impressive harvest of a 2 pound 12 ounce fox squirrel with an air rifle.

A summer squirrel season in Virginia has inspired a second Squirrel Scramble for June 3, 2017. For more information about the Green Bow Foundation, visit the website www.greenbowfoundation.org

By: James Pinsky