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The thrilling days of yesteryear

It just doesn’t seem like hunting season until we get a frost and the oak leaves begin to change color and start to fall.

Of course it has been my experience that the oak trees always seem reluctant to give up their leaves. I’ve even been told that if the oak leaves stay on into winter it means a cold snow filled year. That old saying almost makes me want to go out and shake the leaves off those darn trees.

But even though the urge to hunt has not yet hit me, I really like to shoot so I think I’ll head out to the range and punch holes in some paper targets.

Now, like most boys of my era I watched the TV westerns that always featured a gunfight with single action Colt revolvers. I identified with Matt and Wyatt, but my skill with a handgun never came close to the skill of those TV marshals. Looking back maybe Earp wasn’t that accurate with his Colt either. Maybe that’s why he often clobbered the bad guy over the head with his Buntline Special.

If Matt Dillon had been a rifleman like my hero Tennessee Jed, he could have eliminated Black Bart and his ilk from a distance rather than a dusty street in Tombstone. What? You never heard of Tennessee Jed? You probably never listened to radio either.

Tennessee Jed was a radio serial sponsored by Tip-Top Bread. Armed with his trusty squirrel rifle Jed was a marksman who roamed the plains on his horse Smoky. Jed could shoot a fly’s eye out at a 100 yards and I wanted to be a rifleman just like my hillbilly hero. The show always started with the sound of a bad guy on horseback galloping away. Then the voiceover would call out “There he goes Tennessee. Get him!” Then there was the sound of a shot and a ricochet sound effect with the voice again claiming “Ya’ got him dead center.” This was a radio show just meant for my young ears and I couldn’t wait to get a squirrel rifle of my own.

When I finally did acquire a squirrel rifle it was not capable of knocking a bad guy off a speeding horse but I did learn to be a pretty good shot with my .22 rimfire Mossberg rifle. I no longer have that rifle but when I head to the range I plan to use a mild recoil .22 rifle, and have some fun.

One especially good thing about the ubiquitous .22 is that ammo is easy to find. I’ve bought boxes at hardware stores and at big box stores. The price varies, but if you watch for a promotion you can purchase a brick of 500 rounds at reasonable prices.

If you are looking for special ammo, such as target rounds, expect to sometimes pay much more. I usually use the same loads at the range that I would use to hunt small game so that both my rifle and I know what to expect when the gun goes bang. Just like the larger centerfire calibers, .22 rimfire rifles have one brand of ammo they like best and a good rifleman will try to accommodate their preference.

Shooting at targets can be a lot of fun, but be responsible and shoot safely. Make sure you have a safe backstop so that no bullets will head off to who knows where. Having a safe backstop holds true for plinking and hunting just as much as it does at the range. Also use proper safe gun handling. Keep that muzzle pointed in a safe direction and your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to send a bullet down range.

Like many boys of my era I was introduced to .22 rifles at an early age, and I still love to shoot them. I will never be a sharpshooter like my radio hero Tennessee Jed, but over the years I have gotten pretty fair with a rifle and had a lot of fun.

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