Confidence, Conviction and Calm

The gun was a legend before I was born.

In the late sixties my father bought a Remington 700 .243 and topped it with a completely adequate Weaver 4x scope. Then he set about working up a handload for the gun with a Lee Loader, as he sat in his easy chair, probably drinking a Budweiser.

If you’re not familiar with the Lee Loader, or Budweiser, (or easy chairs) look ithem up. They’re where millions of Americans got started on their respective hobbies.

By the time I was born the rifle and it’s perfect load had taken several deer and printed several targets with dime sized three shot groups.

I grew up with the gun, a light caliber perfect for Texas whitetails and young shooters, knowing it would never miss. That it would always shoot where I pointed it, for better or for worse, so I should make sure I was pointing it where I needed it to shoot.

At 14, during a deer and turkey hunt, I noticed some dots in the distance and my heart rate spiked. Turkeys. Legal quarry. I dropped down into a stable sitting position, elbows on knees, and made ready. I had dreamed of this moment.

Nervous, I purposefully took my time. I knew everything had to be just right. I knew the gun would shoot just where you told it to and I wanted to be sure in the telling. I knew too that a rifle-shot turkey would not make for good eating unless things were done properly, perfectly, which meant a head shot. On a walking bird. At an unknown distance. So with elbows on knees, stock sucked up into my skinny shoulder and cheek planted firmly on the stock I managed to line up just in time for a shot at the last bird of the bunch.

The gun worked like a talisman and after the shot I fairly ran to examine the bird, hoping to find its head shot off like in the movies. I shouldn’t have been disappointed that I had only clipped its neck and severed an artery, but I was. Such were my expectations of the rifle.

When my dad came to pick me up I told him the story. He was understandably proud that I had shot well, if a little amused that I had the cojones to think I could make a shot like that in the first place. Still, I had had a good rest with my back against that tree, so why not?

He was busy congratulating me for making the head shot at a bit over a hundred yards when I corrected him. Stopped him cold when I said, “No, not there, out there,” and pointed farther out. He stopped and stared at me as if waiting for the punchline. We had a habit of kidding with each other. Bullshitting. Winding each other up. Now, he wasn’t sure if he should believe me.

When he realized I was serious he stopped, actually took off his cap and scratched his head, and had me tell the story over again. And then he stepped it off: two hundred and twenty five yards. Impossibly far, yet I had evidence that it was possible. He was nearly speechless, but managed a, “Damn, son…”

In hindsight, I had a couple of things going for me. I believed in that rifle. I believed in myself. Probably most important is the fact that I had practiced with it. Also, I did not believe there was a possibility of wounding the bird — I believed I would either hit it in the head and kill it, or miss it altogether. That last bit removed consequences from the equation, which helped me stay calm. I would either make the shot or I wouldn’t and all I could do was try.

My dad spent quite a bit of time over the years teaching me to have confidence in myself. To have confidence in well-reasoned, well-thought-out convictions. To believe in my ability to think things through for myself and come to a reasonable conclusion. That shot, which I selected, set up and took, went a long way toward cementing those lessons.

Confidence, conviction and calm go a long way toward success, but a little bit of luck doesn’t hurt either.

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