Rifle Practice and Training the Professional Way at FTW Ranch
K.J. Houtman 06.30.14
What distance do you consider to be your longest acceptable shot when hunting with a rifle? Two hundred yards? Three hundred? Four hundred? How do you practice with your rifle, other than sighting in at the range? Many hunters would benefit from attending the Sportsmen’s All-Weather All-Terrain Marksmanship (SAAM) school at FTW Ranch. Nestled in a remote and beautiful spot in the hill country of southwest Texas, this incredible ranch-based school will not just improve skills, but is a heckuva lot of fun. In fact, the experience may rank just as high as any trophy mounted on the wall.
Taught by Special Forces veterans who really know their stuff, the SAAM course will benefit:
- Someone with a big hunt on the calendar next year. If you’re spending money on airplane tickets, out-of-state licenses, or international trophy fees, it would be good to invest a bit more on your own skill set. “You only have one first shot,” said Tim Fallon of FTW Ranch and co-creator of the SAAM program. Fallon is obsessed with hunting of all types, but especially big game. The lodge displays an amazing family collection of trophies from all over the world. The Fallon family lives the dream of owning and providing a great school for preparing, planning, and experiencing your next hunt.
- Someone new to hunting—or just new to rifle hunting. If someone in your circle is getting ready for their first big hunt, a class like SAAM will set a hunter up for success, rather than failure. The confidence that comes from spending quality time with a hunting rifle and learning to dial-in the scope would help any hunter, and especially a tried-and-true duck hunter who is about to embark on his first elk hunt. Sleep will come easier the night before opener with a four-day SAAM class experience a few months prior.
- Someone with a new rifle. A bit of time at the range is a good idea (anytime!) but especially needed with a new gun. “I wish I could just look at a make and model and know what ammo it will like,” said Fallon. “It takes a few rounds through [it] to learn what ammunition your gun likes best and how it performs at 200, 300, 400, and 500 yards.” Few ranges offer more than 100- or 200-yard targets. FTW Ranch has targets every 50 yards within 350 yards and every 100 yards beyond 400 yards—out to 1,000 yards.
- Someone who wants to increase their range. If a hunter’s confidence deteriorates beyond 200 yards, and that elk, antelope, or deer may very well appear at 400 yards, SAAM training can help. They teach taking ethical shots, not bragging-rights shots that have little chance for a clean kill. It is one thing to ping a steel plate at 700 yards using 10 to 12 cartridges to walk it in; it’s another thing entirely to exercise restraint in a real hunting situation to wait for and find a clean, one-shot kill. FTW tries to simulate those situations on a set course. “It is our job as hunters to kill quarry with one shot,” said Fallon. “We strongly emphasize an ethical shot with a 100 percent chance of success. Everyone needs to find out where that is for them.” For one hunter it might be 200 yards. For another it could be 300, and depending on the equipment and the stability of the hunter (something the instructors teach), it could be longer.
SAAM school isn’t cheap, but doing most things right isn’t. After all, in Texas they like to go big or go home. The facilities at FTW Ranch are top-notch. You may find yourself planning a return trip before you leave from the first one.
“Repeat business is our biggest segment now after eight years,” said Fallon. “So we keep changing up the course and offer new targets for coming back a second or third time.” FTW’s courses are something like sporting clays for a rifle: simulated real shots at targets and keeping score, like golf, with the harder shots being worth more points. All the major writers in the shooting sports industry have been to FTW Ranch, and many gun companies and corporate groups have their new product or strategic planning meetings there as well. With FTW’s 17 active ranges, it holds endless possibilities for the repeat visitors.
SAAM works with your equipment and because they appreciate all rifles, scopes, and bullets, there is no pressure to buy something new. They focus on making you better with your gear. Grandpa’s theory of holding two inches high at 100 was spot-on, of course, but with the training at SAAM you will know exactly which holdover you’ll need shooting with your specific rifle and scope with the range card Fallon builds for your equipment and specific ammo. Now, about the wind…I only hope you can call it as accurately as the instructors at SAAM school. I, for one, got a little spoiled by my instructors.
K.J. Houtman is the author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for eight- to 12-year-olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Her work is available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.