Try the Weak Hand for a Change
If you are like I am and right-handed, doing anything left-handed feels very awkward. I’m guessing it might be the same for left-handers to do many things right-handed (although I have a couple of southpaw friends who say we live in a right-handed world, and they’ve gotten used to it). But have you ever thought about the value of being fairly proficient at shooting your rifle with your weak hand? Let me tell you two stories to illustrate how I learned the value of this.
Twisting and Turning
The first story relates to one of my very early years as a deer hunter when I was in my early 20’s. I was sitting on a little folding stool – the kind that had a metal frame and a canvas seat, the whole thing collapsing and folding flat so it could be hung on your belt. My back was to a tree and I had my Remington 742 in .30-06 lying across my lap with the barrel pointing to my left, as a right-hander would normally do.
After some time, I saw a flicker of movement almost straight ahead of me. As I kept watching, the small movements gradually materialized into the shape of a deer slowly coming my way, one or two steps at a time. I gripped the rifle tighter and slowly shifted it to point more in front of me as the deer got closer. Soon I could see that it was a doe, slowly picking her way around the trees and occasional bushes. I was concentrating on looking behind her, remembering the counsel of my dad that many times a buck will be following a doe.
As she got closer, it dawned on me that every time she stopped, she seemed to be looking past me to my right; something behind me on my right side was attracting her attention. About the time I figured that out, I heard an unusual sound back over my right shoulder like the rustling of branches together. I slowly turned my head as far as I could and was surprised to see the back half of a large deer on one side of a white pine, and the front legs and neck on the other side. The deer’s head was up and obscured by the lower branches, but it suddenly swept its antlers through the branches and lowered its head to look at the doe, now only a scant 20-30 yards directly in front of me. My heart, which was already beating at a rapid pace, practically jumped out of my chest as I saw the enormous white rack of what was the largest deer I have seen in the wild, even to this day – and he was only about 30 yards away!
The buck put his head back up, and that’s when I began to slowly swivel my body around to the right, and at the same time raise the rifle to my shoulder. If I hadn’t been young and skinny, I could have never managed to twist around as far as I did; but I was able to contort myself to the point where I got my eye up to the scope and see the large pine tree come into view. I pressed off the safety as the crosshairs moved past the deer’s rump and to the trunk of the tree. As soon as they cleared the tree trunk and reached the swollen neck of that giant, I was going to squeeze the trigger. But right at that very moment, the doe, which I had completely forgotten about, had enough of watching this strange thing in front of her moving - and she snorted. The sudden sound of that loud nose so close not only startled me, but also caused the buck to suddenly wheel and completely disappear from my view behind the massive trunk of the pine tree. But the 180-grain bullet was already on its way, and it crashed through the air where the massive neck had been just a split second before. The doe also ran off and joined the buck as they fled into the cover of some heavy brush not far away. I was too rattled to even think about taking a second shot at the quickly vanishing deer.
Shifting to the Weak Hand
The second story is about the deer season of 2008. We hunt public land in the Northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula along with a considerable number of other hunters. The previous year we had good success, harvesting 3 bucks and 4 does between the 5 in our party.
By a half hour before legal shooting time on opening morning of this year I had already helped my wife get into her pop-up blind in the spot where I had taken a buck and a doe the year before. I walked out of the woods to the 2-track and walked the 100 yards to the spot where I was going to re-enter the trees to reach the small ground blind that I had brushed up a week before the beginning of the general firearm season. Just as I turned my head to step off the road, my headlamp illuminated what appeared to be the airport runway lights extending through the woods – directly toward the location of my blind. Someone was apparently back there, and had put reflective thumbtacks in almost every tree about a foot off the ground.
With a sigh, I proceeded up the road to another spot that I knew was a travel route for the local deer once the opening day shooting started. Again I was greeted by those highly reflective thumbtacks marking a highway down through the woods. I assumed that the two hunters were together, and must have bought out the entire supply of those tacks for several counties around!
By now, it was almost daylight, so I walked another 200 yards to a pine plantation, opened up my wooden folding camp stool and sat down, thoroughly discouraged at the tremendous increase in hunters in this area. I really didn’t expect to see anything here as the pines had been trimmed up to a height of about 6 feet, making it very open with virtually no cover for either deer or hunter. But at least I was away from the “crowds”, and I was able to calm down and just watch the morning come to life – always one of my favorite experiences.
It was just about 7:30 when I saw movement to my right. Two deer were making their way slowly through the pines, headed toward the large swamp that was a few hundred yards behind me. They were in front of me, but 70 yards to my right, and their direction of travel was taking them more and more to my right side.
Sitting there with absolutely no cover around me, I felt that to try to twist that far to the right would tip them off to my location, so I carefully shifted my rifle around and raised it to my left shoulder. It felt rather strange, but I told myself that it was basically no different than the other way and there was no good reason why I couldn’t pull off this shot. I found the lead deer in the scope, put the crosshairs behind the shoulder and squeezed the trigger.
At the shot, both deer went racing toward the swamp, but after only a few bounds, the one I shot at veered off and ran at right angles to the other. The mature doe had been shot through both lungs, and crashed into a deadfall within 50 yards. As I sat there letting my heartbeat return to normal, I could only wonder what might have happened 40 years earlier if I had used this tactic on that large, white-antlered buck.
Why Not Practice?
Probably every hunter who has spent many days in the field after whitetails has had deer come from behind them, and perhaps on the weak hand side. Unless you have the concealment of a good brush blind or a shooting “house”, you know how exposed you feel, especially if there are several sets of eyes ready to pick up any large movements – like twisting your entire body around in order to mount your rifle correctly, for example!
Shooting with the weak hand isn’t difficult, especially if you have a scope on your rifle. Most rifles have safeties that can be easily operated with either hand; you just have to think about which way to push it. Use the opposite eye, put the crosshairs on your target and squeeze the trigger. I’m betting that you’ll be surprised at how the rifle doesn’t care at all; it will still put the bullet right where it was aimed. Practice shooting a few targets at the range, and practice again without releasing the safety when you’re in the woods. Who knows? You may have the opportunity to use it sooner than you think.
A Scoped Rifle Shoots Easily with Either Hand