Coyotes and Indoor Shooting
Christmas Eve was dark, with no moon to assist a human’s dominant sense of sight.
My brother, my daughter, Abby, and I had just put food on the table for a quick meal before church when we heard the dogs barking furiously outside.
These were not warning barks or curiosity barks. These were fighting barks.
Roger grabbed a flashlight, I grabbed a rifle and we ran out the door toward the barking.
We didn’t have to run far.
About 25 yards from the house, my two guard dogs faced each other with a cowering coyote between them.
I raised the rifle, but couldn’t find the coyote in the scope. He took off toward the creek with the dogs hot on his tail.
Roger and I followed, hoping to dodge all the unseen badger holes.
The dogs cornered the coyote a second time, about 100 yards from the house. A second time, I couldn’t find him in the scope because of the darkness.
“Next time, bring a different rifle,” Roger suggested. He’s always gentle with his suggestions.
“Yeah, one with an open sight,” I agreed.
By then, the dogs had the coyote in a fence corner and I could get a clean shot.
Roger saw sparks fly from a metal fence post as the coyote dashed into the darkness.
I took one more shot, but it was only an unanswered prayer.
Standing offhand is not my forte, even in the best conditions.
This year, I joined a team of precision shooters for the winter indoor league. My husband, Steve, used to shoot every year and I had joined him a couple of years. But I had not competed for a few years while Abby needed me at home. This year would be different.
Only it is not different.
I didn’t improve my accuracy a single bit during my break from competition.
Each week, each of us shoots 10 targets from 50 feet in four positions – prone, sitting, kneeling and standing offhand. The black part of the target is about the size of a quarter and the bullseye is the diameter of a .22 bullet. A white ring around the target allows a shooter to miss by a little bit and still deduct only five points. A wild miss is a waterhole, minus 10 points.
A perfect score is 400 and most of the guys who compete are capable of shooting perfectly. My team members usually score in the 380s. My average is 315.
But I know I can improve.
The other night, my goal was to hit the black part of the target with each shot, hardly a perfect score, but I was aiming for consistency.
Consistency takes sustained concentration.
My mind tends to send thoughts bouncing around inside my head like a toddlers in a playland ball pit.
I needed to focus.
I managed to shoot okay for the first three positions. I wasn’t satisfied with my score, but I could live with it. All of the bullets had punched the black.
As I stood on the line for the offhand target, I gave myself a pep talk: Shut out the other people on the line. Hold the rifle steady. Choose your shot, don’t just point in the general vicinity and hope. Set the rifle down when you get tired.
First shot in the black. Good.
Second and third shots okay. Making progress.
Fourth shot – where did it go? Darn! Way out in the white. I didn’t even realize I jerked when I squeezed the trigger.
Self-talk all over again. Focus.
That bullseye made me madder than the waterhole. If I could never hit the target, I would know shooting is not among my skill sets. But I can hit the target when I concentrate.
Concentration is like patience. You don’t know you need it most of the time. Then a coyote runs past your house and you wish you had more.
Watch out, coyotes. I’m concentrating.