The Ups and Downs

December 30, 2021
Kevin "KJ" Jarnagin

It's easy to write about the successes of our hunting adventures. It's far more difficult to pen the difficulties a hunting season throws our way. I'm sitting here finding it hard to put into words how a simple success on a recent media event turned my struggle bus of a season entirely upside down. 

As hunters, we encounter ups and downs throughout our hunting escapades. The highs are delightful and the lows dreadful. However, we progress no matter the circumstances. This year has been a season of downs for me personally. The only redeeming quality I've been able to glean from 2021 is I've been on countless successful hunts, but none of them are my own. That is until I stepped foot to the field with a Savage 110 and Banish 30 in hand.

My season culminated on the expansive FTW Ranch during a media event with Silencer Central. In my experience, high fence hunts lack the challenges most average hunters get to experience. Much debated, high-fence hunting is more complex than you'd expect, especially on such a large chunk of property. I spent more time behind glass than I care to say, and the camp experienced similar issues. Collectively, we knew this wasn’t your average high-fence entanglement. 

When heading into thick terrain, carry a small spotting scope. This helps in identifying targets at longer ranges and positively IDing targeted species.

I spent three days searching for a mature buck, and I didn't see anything until the final evening of the hunt. I resigned to the absolute truth that I may strike out on the hunt. The 13,000 acres ranch offered no shortage of safe havens for critters. They used cover and concealment to their advantage and evaded my pursuit.

During the day, we were greeted by classroom and range instruction by “Dog” and Gene of FTW Ranch. These individuals have trained the elite of the elite. Now they were taking a group of media folks with varying degrees of long-range shooting experiences under their wing. We participated in the Sportsman's All-Weather All-Terrain Marksmanship (SAAM) Hunt Combo course. The media members took in 15+ hours of long-range training and a few hunts. 

My goals for the event were understanding and employing my Kestral during hunting applications and understanding the effects of suppressors on long-range hunting rifles.

For me, the practical application of long-range shooting training transfers directly to my hunting exploits. FTW Ranch develops hunters into legit shooters, which I always thought was the other way around. 

Savage Arms provided some 110s, and Silencer Central graciously equipped the firearms with Banish 30 suppressors. All Savages were equipped with Leupold VX4 optics and ran Hornady 143gr. ELD-M ammunition. 

I highly recommend utilizing a suppressor if you take an extended long-range shooting course. The Banish 30 not only saved all our hearing, but it also eliminated the need for earmuffs, which could impede your ability to mount the gun properly. 

We shot out to 1,000 yards, calling our own wind and dialing our optics to account for the conditions. FTW Ranch develops the mindset as well as the capabilities of the shooter. Because You Only Have One First Shot, their motto rings true throughout the entire training course. Rather than simply dinging away at steel, their instructors challenge the group to partake. A rush of multiple targets and folks watching you shoot make it more challenging to gain accuracy. However, you don't notice all the people calling your shot by the time class is over. You completely immerse yourself into the glass and trigger press. 

One of my favorite drills we did was from various shooting positions. We placed rounds on targets out to 500 yards with two shots to find out our effective ranges. We were solid from those ranges if we could hit the mark on the first and second shots. 

Finding your effective range needs to be done a couple of times a year and isn't absolute. We were using shooting tripods and backpacks to establish a firm shooting platform. Things change in the field so prepare accordingly. 

My effective ranges were: 

450 Yards – Standing

500 Yards – Prone

450 Yards – Seated

350 Yards – Kneeling 

If you’ve delayed hunting with a suppressor, it’s time to stop that nonsense. We fired no less than 160 rounds during the week of instruction, and I couldn’t imagine not using a silencer. The Banish 30s we used during the week performed brilliantly. When I downed my deer, the other deer standing around just stood there. The non-directional sound of the suppressor had them looking all around with little information gathered as to where the sound came from. A second shot would have been easier if I had been arrant on the first shot since the deer didn't know where the shot was fired.

One of the downs this season happened when I guided a deer buddy. We were using my gun with an attached suppressor. He took aim and missed a deer, adding to my season of downs. However, since he was using a suppressor, he could fire a second shot that connected and brought the deer down. This is just another excellent example of why you should use a suppressor on your next outing.

The hunt ended successfully at FTW Ranch, but that wasn't the most significant highs. One of the most extraordinary things to come out of the event was Silencer Central's announcement of e-forms. Typically, the deterrent of owning a suppressor is wait times and difficulty with paperwork. Silencer Central is now submitting paperwork via e-forms. They still send you the fingerprint kit, and you take a photo with a smartphone, but the wait time for e-forms is drastically less. 

The ATF reports that it could only take as long as 90 days to process and acquire your suppressor. I’m currently running past a year into the wait for my very own Banish 30. Silencer Central's process is the easiest I've experienced thus far. So, if you're telling me I can have a suppressor in 90 days or so, I'll take that all day long. Granted, we shouldn't have to wait for something that should be legal. That is an argument for another time. 

If you've ever experienced target panic or some form of anxiety when shooting, let me tell you you're not alone. While I had the target acquired in the stand, the anxiety of shooting in front of a guide and camera took hold. Let alone the deer looked massive in the VX4. This was one of the first deer I've had to take a moment to myself and breathe.

Thankfully, I pressed the trigger and connected perfectly, able to calm my nerves. Don't hesitate if you've ever thought about training and further developing yourself as a hunter with additional training. I like to think I'm a great shot with a rifle and could call my shots, but I found the opposite to be true. FTW Ranch and the trainers exposed shortcomings in my arsenal. The best thing you can do to improve your hunting is to invest in training, no matter if you’re always riding the highs. I promise you the lows are coming, and how you handle those determine how quickly you turn it around. ~ KJ 

Kevin Jarnagin (KJ) hails from Oklahoma but quickly established Louisiana roots after joining the Gun Talk team. KJ grew up as a big game hunter and often finds himself in a bass boat. Whether it’s making his way to British Columbia for elk or training with pistols, KJ always seems to find a gun in his hands and adventure on his mind.

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