Here at The Hunting Report we get a lot of feedback from hunters on what hunting operators do wrong. But we also hear from outfitters on what hunters do wrong. What are operators’ two biggest gripes about clients? (1) They can’t walk. (2) They can’t shoot. While hunters can hit the gym easy enough and even find a trainer that can whip them into shape, getting a shooting coach who can prepare you for the demands of shooting in the field (not at a bench) is more challenging. After all, there’s more going on than just distance. If you aren’t comfortable in multiple shooting positions, can’t create a steady rest from your surroundings, can’t adjust or move shooting sticks on your own, can’t acquire the right target in short order, miss a follow up shot or God forbid lose it on a charging buffalo or elephant… well, frankly you’re not prepared.
Most of us wing it anyway. And we make mistakes. Sometimes costly ones. Experience and some coaching from a patient professional hunter/guide helps many of us improve over time. But there is a way to shorten that learning curve and have fun doing it.
Editor Barbara Crown recently had the opportunity to attend the brand new SAAM Safari school. SAAM, short for Sportsman’s All-Weather All-Terrain Marksmanship, is a shooting school operated by the FTW Ranch in southwest Texas. They have several programs: SAAM Precision, to improve your rifle shooting out to 500 yards; SAAM Pistol, for handgun shooters; and SAAM Safari, a new program specifically for hunters going on safari. Crown attended a condensed check-out version of the four-day class with a group of African PHs invited to critique the school’s set up, instruction and curriculum.
The program was designed and is taught by two former special operations soldiers, who are also life-long hunters. Part of their careers involved overseeing sniper courses for the US military. Shooting is their thing. Shooting under all imagined conditions, under stress and in imminent danger is their specialty. And with the SAAM Safari course they have translated those skills to real-life safari simulations.
Those simulations include moving targets that charge shooters. There are exercises that begin shooting at stationary targets but require follow-up shots at targets running away from or charging from different directions. A leopard and lion blind set-up, with a hanging bait and all, gives you the feel for shooting from a blind. Their “safari walk” requires a shooter to walk down a path where he is suddenly charged by elephants or Cape buffalo. All the targets feature life-size photos of the animals. Crocodile and hippo targets in a pond give you the needed experience of shooting these species in the kill zone under conditions as close to real life as possible. Other shooting areas challenge hunters to shoot various animals of varying sizes and at different distances on a hillside. The student must choose a shooting position and create his own rest. Another drill has you shooting at a target from the sticks, picking up the sticks, running after a moving target, setting down the sticks, adjusting them and taking a follow up shot. Anyone who feels uneasy using shooting sticks won’t be by the end of the class.
Crown was impressed with the school. She was especially impressed when she heard the feedback from the professional hunters attending with her. Short of having an elephant or a Cape buffalo at the school, they said this was as close as a hunter could get without actually being on safari. Another PH said that he would feel more confident about a new client’s skills if he knew the client had been through the SAAM Safari school.
Based on her experience there and what she heard from the mouths of experienced hunting professionals, Crown gives the school an unqualified thumbs up. The instruction is spot on, and the instructors are able to make anyone not just a better shot but a better, more confident hunter. A four-day class, including accommodations and meals, runs $3,950. Hunters bring their own guns - a .270 to .338 for plains game shooting instruction and a .375 to a .500 for dangerous game instruction. Shot placement on various African animals is part of the instruction. Expect to shoot about 300 rounds over the four days. For more information see the FTW web site at www.ftwoutfitters.com, or call 830-234-4366.