Pondra Shooting and Lambing

Our kids are finally old enough that my husband, Steve, and I both can participate in our regional precision shooting league.

Every Monday night, Steve and I join our team to see if we can hit the 0.15-inch centers of quarter-sized targets with .22 rifles better than the other team. We shoot from four positions — prone, sitting, kneeling and standing off-hand.

My teammates are good. Out of a possible 400 points, often they will score somewhere between 375 and 395. Sometimes, they — and members of other teams — shoot even better than that.

My role, on the other hand, is to be sure no one else feels bad about his score. I try to hold that rifle steady, but I’m always surprised at all of the miniscule causes that create huge effects. For instance, I might think I’m squeezing the trigger, but I jerk a little bit. On a target the size of an elk, this wouldn’t matter much, but when I’m aiming at a quarter from 50 feet away, I might miss completely.

Or maybe my belt is too tight — that happens in the winter — so I can’t bend far enough to rest my elbows on my knees for a steadier shot in the sitting position.

Both my teammates and those on other teams continue to encourage me, though. Some give tips, others remind me that real precision takes practice. It will come if I keep trying, they tell me.

So I make up my mind that I’ll shoot better next week. I’ll drink a little less coffee that day and concentrate harder with each shot.

My ego gets bruised every Monday night, but I try to remember that, even if I miss that target, I’m still shooting more accurately than in the past and I’ll be a better shot when it really matters.

This precision shooting league prepares me for lambing season, too.

After all, a sheepherder needs a resilient ego, too.

Newborn lambs don’t have very much internal fat so they get cold quickly. They need to receive nourishment soon after they are born or they are goners.

That is the best-case scenario because it assumes the lambs are born quickly. Many ewes will carry twins, triplets or even quads. Legs and heads can get mixed up inside. It is a proven fact that the front quarter of one lamb will not fit through the birth canal while the back quarter of another lamb is taking up space.

And ewes usually only want to take care of their very own lambs. That is good, until they get mixed up and claim another ewe’s lamb for their own. Invariably, an innocent newborn gets left alone in the cold.

A sheepherder’s success is directly correlated to her ability to prevent as many wrecks as possible and react quickly to those that are unpreventable.

Just like precision shooting, there’s always room for improvement. The only difference is that, during lambing season, more caffeine — not less — is critical to success.

Lisa Schmidt and her husband, Steve Hutton, raise natural, grassfed beef and lamb at the Graham Ranch near Conrad.
She has two children; Will, 12, and Abby, 4.

Lisa Schmidt