An old back injury forces Dave to review his standing shots technique
Dave doesn’t let an old back injury stop him from shooting
As I stand here writing this month’s piece (yes you read that correctly) I’m desperately hoping that I’ll be able to get out hunting soon. I’m having to stand as I type because I’ve been instructed by my chiropractor not to sit and type for at least another week.
My back is shot to bits and for the past seven days I have been hunched over like an old man. After three visits to the chiropractor, so far, I’m just beginning to straighten up again as my muscles relax and start to get back to normal.
A LESSON LEARNED
My continuing back problems began back in the summer of 1990 when I was just 18. I was digging some fresh lugworm bait about three-quarters of a mile off Leigh-on-Sea. I was straddling a bait hole holding a rather heavy, forged-iron fork loaded with about 20lbs of Essex’s finest mud. As I turned to dump the mud to the left of me I felt something go ‘twang’, followed by an intense pain across the top of my left hip. It absolutely crippled me, and I ended up leaving my waders, fork, bucket and bait where they lay and crawling back to Leigh across the mud on my hands and knees, commando-style.
OFF TO A & E
When I got back to shore I hobbled back home and my Mum took me straight to A&E. It turned out that I’d snapped a tendon and torn the main muscle that runs across the top of my left hip to my spine. I spent two weeks in bed, laid out flat before I could walk again!
Every now and then the problem resurfaces. It usually comes on over a period of days, rather than instantly like it did when I first injured it, and it can be something as silly as bending over to pull the plug out of the bath that triggers it. This time, though, it was bad posture and being hunched over a desk for 14 hours a day, three days straight, which woke the beast.
BORED, BORED, BORED
I’m thankful that my back problems aren’t disc related, just muscular, because it does heal up eventually and when I’m back to full strength I can get out shooting and fishing. Sometimes, it can take just three days to heal, but every few years it knocks me flat for a week or more.
I had planned to go shooting with my good friend, Mick Ball, last week. We’d had it planned for ages – shooting rabbits in the morning then rats in the afternoon into darkness, but my old back was having none of it!
Instead, I have spent the past seven days laid out flat in bed, popping painkillers and diclofenac, but they haven’t helped at all. The only time I’ve been upright is to go to the loo or to visit the chiropractor, who has helped me out no end. I’ve been applying ice to the muscle for 20 minutes, three times a day, too, and finally I’m able to get up and walk about again without doing my ‘I’m a little teapot’ impersonation.
ITCHY TRIGGER FINGER
Mick kept sending me pictures and videos of all the fun he was having on his perm, the git! He just loves winding me up, especially if he’s away shooting and I can’t make it.
I had to let off some steam, so I thought a sensible 20 minutes plinking in the back garden was the order of the day.
Bearing in mind that sitting was not an option, and lurching over my bench with the rifle on a rest was also out of the question, I
was forced to shoot standing up. Maybe this was a blessing in disguise.
When I’m out hunting I usually take my shots either from the prone position, seated, sometimes kneeling – but hardly ever freestanding. If I take a shot while standing, it’s usually with my arm or hand propped up against a tree, or something else to act as a stabiliser on which to rest my rifle. In fact, I can’t remember the last freestanding shot I took while hunting with an air rifle! How hard could it be?
As I stood there in my garden, just 25 yards from my target, I raised my rifle and instantly found that the crosshairs were waving all over the place. I had to zoom back down to x12 in order to keep the crosshairs on the pellet catcher, let alone the target, but of course I was only fooling myself by turning down the magnification.
WORK TO DO
It was then that I realised I had some work to do. Standing shots are often a last resort for many hunters, but sometimes the opportunity arises and it’s the only option. After taking my first ten shots on target, I was at the point of convincing myself to NEVER take a freestanding shot, ever – my grouping was all over the place. I was actually embarrassed and disappointed at the same time.
After three more magazines had been shot I was starting to get my breathing and stance in check, hitting groups actually within the 75mm target!
PATIENCE AND MORE PATIENCE
I started to think that I was being slightly optimistic trying to shoot at 25 yards, and considered getting closer, but I was adamant that I was going to reduce the spread.
I ended up shooting for little over 20 minutes, and as I neared the end of my session I began to hit the targets in tighter 35mm groups, firing five shots at a time then having a little rest and repeating.
At the end, I took five shots from my bench at 38-yards, just to illustrate the difference. I wasn’t entirely happy with those either, but bearing in mind I had been standing for 20 or so minutes and I was still in pain, every single one would still be a kill shot at that distance.
I’m not convinced about my freestanding shots, though, 35mm is quite a large area and until I can hit 15mm groups standing, I can’t see myself risking taking freestanding shots at live quarry.
I’ll continue to work on my posture, breathing and freestanding shooting, and will report back soon, I hope, if I manage to gain more control – any tips will be most welcome!
Standing up and writing was a new experience!
Taking freestanding shots on live quarry is always a last resort, and even then they should only be taken at close range – sub-25 yards.
The ice does relieve the symptoms, but only for a few minutes.
You know it’s bad when the drugs don’t work!
My final few shots. Freestanding to the right, and at greater distance from the bench (left)