In 2015 my Dad called and told me that Non-Typical Outfitters in Western Wyoming, harvests some giant mule deer bucks. Before burning his points, he wanted to check them out. He scheduled a Spring Bear Hunt, and asked if I’d join him. I happily obliged.
We arrived, and met Robb Wiley, his wife Dr. Brenda, and their two little girls. After getting settled, we were off to verify the zero on his rifle. We chatted with Robb about his operation on the way. The conversation was easy, and I asked him, “what are you looking for from your hunters?” The reply was daunting. He expects his hunters to be challenged. To hunt deer with him, you get very little sleep, you’re riding horses in relatively dangerous terrain, usually in the dark; you have to be able to shoot great distances quickly, in bad weather and uneven, unstable terrain. The potential for shooting at a really big deer is a very real possibility, which for those of us that dream of such an encounter, causes us to shake, breathe heavy, and go into full panic attack. His hunts are arguably the toughest on the planet and you must have confidence in yourself to meet these demands. I wasn’t confident; it was out of my league. He may have seen it in my eyes, but he didn’t let on, and I kept those thoughts to myself, but my head was telling me, I’m a dentist, not a horse-riding, sharp-shooting, big game hunter. I dreamt of being one, though.
Confidence is Attainable
Robb had his personal rifle in the truck, which I found a bit odd. My Dad verified his zero, then Robb took us up the hill to shoot a steel target at 500 yards on a very steep incline. I have hunted with many outfitters, but this was different. He respectfully gave some instruction to my Dad about what it would take to hit the 10″ plate. After several shots and more discussion, he retrieved his own gun from the truck and set it up using a tripod and pack. My Dad fired a few rounds, then I asked if I could give it a try. Heck, I wasn’t even going to be hunting. He allowed it and I settled in on the rifle. I asked where I should hold the crosshairs. His reply, “dead center” and his confidence that I would hit the target was uncanny. I pressed the trigger and heard the bullet ring the steel of my longest successful shot. Believing it to be a fluke, given my personal and less than ideal shooting history, I asked to shoot again. Again my request was granted. Again I pressed the trigger. Again the steel rung.
I immediately knew I needed new tools, and some education! Both would be costly, but I didn’t care. I realized it was possible for me, a fair at best rifle shooter, to ethically shoot greater distance and dramatically increase my odds of humanely harvesting animals. Game on! I returned home after Dad’s bear hunt with great excitement. I turned my rifle into a long range shooter with the help of a competent gunsmith and some new parts. After several months, I had the tools. Now I needed education. I signed up for Robb’s Shooting Class, and in the summer of 2016 returned to the gorgeous western Wyoming mountains.
About 10 guys were there to take the class. Len and Andy Backus from Wisconsin were on site to assist in the instruction. A Father/Son combo of true gentlemen that know their stuff. Camp was comfortable, the food was good, but I didn’t care; I was hungry for knowledge. We began the class by introducing ourselves and discussing where each of us were in the world of Long Range Hunting. A discussion of ballistics, rifles, bullet types, optics, reticles, shooting positions, wind, etc. were discussed during the course. All the information was fantastic, and I took a ton of notes. I never felt talked down to. These guys were there to help me improve.
We shot from every imaginable position: prone, standing, kneeling, off sticks, using backpacks, and dry bags. We received instruction on how to set up using logs, rocks, trees, and dealing with steep and uneven terrain. This was real world, actual hunting scenarios and how to make it happen quickly. I was stunned at how little I knew about how to make a shot in the mountains. I soaked up knowledge and ideas like a sponge.
Confidence is Exciting
We shot steel targets at distances from 90 to 1,100 yards. The ability to shoot these extended ranges in real hunting scenarios was some downright, redneck fun. Once again I returned home with great excitement. I couldn’t stop talking about what I had learned and how everything was different now. My wife ribbed me about how a guy in Wyoming changed my life, but he had. I was now able to shoot with confidence, where I NEVER had before.
I purchased some new equipment after the shooting class. Some of what I owned worked, and some didn’t. Several times, I loaded my backpack as if I was headed out hunting, and practiced in the mountains not far from my home in Salt Lake City. Thinking you have a rifle that you can perform with, is very different than actually verifying what you can and cannot do in real situations. The ability to lie to yourself vanishes. A large slice of humble pie on the mountain is painfully delicious.
I returned to Non-Typical Outfitters in September 2017, for a mule deer hunt. I knew upon arrival what was coming as we got settled in. We all headed over to verify zero. As I approached the crowd of hunters and guides at the shooting bench, Robb inspected my rifle to see if I had made the necessary changes. The guy has a good memory. My toothy grin was on display, as I fired twice, one at 390 and one at 550, both at 8″ steel targets up a very steep hill with a light wind. Steel was ringing and I was ready.
We hunted for 5 days in rain, snow, and foggy tough conditions. On Day 5 my guide, Jacob, and I closed to 340 yards on a nice buck. I quickly got set up on sticks and my pack, and humanely harvested my deer with one bullet. That 340 was a freakin’ chip shot and I pressed the trigger with 100% confidence. I stood up and celebrated with Jacob. As we enjoyed the accomplishment, he snapped a picture of my gun still resting in position even though I had stepped away. My buck is nowhere near some of the giants Non-Typical Outfitters has taken, but I don’t care. I’m thrilled with him; he’s a heavy 3×4 and I EARNED him.
To me, that deer represents a journey I’m on to be a better, ethical hunter. To me, hunting is an adventure, an experience that only a small percentage in this world can grasp. It’s so much more than a B&C number. Since finishing Robb’s class, I have harvested 3 animals at various ranges. I took each with confidence. One was a dangerous game animal that, if wounded, could have been life threatening. All three were harvested humanely and quickly.
My beautiful wife is correct, a guy in Wyoming changed my life. I recommend you take the confidence building Non-Typical Shooting Class But bring a napkin; humble pie is tough to swallow.