by Janis Putelis. An Associate Producer on MeatEater with Steven Rinella, Janis guided big game hunts in Colorado and Arizona for 12 years, as well as fly fishing tours in Colorado. He resides in Salt Lake City, UT with his wife of ten years, Jennifer Jones, and their two daughters.
My shooting ego was humbled. A better term would be “crushed.” I was invited by Ryan Callaghan and Kenton Carruth of First Lite to shoot the Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf course. Kenton wanted to do a dry run of the course before competing in the Vortex Extreme contest. Check out the link to see what that’s all about: http://www.vortexoptics.com/content/vortex_extreme
They drove down from Ketchum, I came up from Salt Lake City, and we met outside the small town of Trementon, Utah. Spirit Ridge is set in a sea of sage grass on a beautiful ranch. The owners lease the ranch to Spirit Ridge after their sheep are done grazing. There are three main shooting stations and a bonus station. Travel is by OHV via 6 miles of dirt road. At each station you shoot at 6 targets. A first shot hit scores an eagle, a second shot hit scores a birdie, and a closer target is offered for the third attempt to save par. Thank goodness there are no bogies because I probably would have run out of ammunition. The course is set up for two skill levels: the classic course has targets from 200-500 yards and the master course has targets from 250-1000 yards. Foolishly I agreed to attempt to shoot the master course. I had shot steel targets out to 1,000 yards before, but the steel had been much bigger. The targets at Spirit Ridge come in two sizes: 6”x 8” representing smaller kill zones like deer and bear and 17”x 11” for bigger kill zones like elk and moose. That doesn’t sound too bad until you see that the targets are shaped like a half moon; which means if you shoot near one of the low corners-it’s a miss. We chose to shoot prone instead of using the provided shooting benches to simulate field conditions. In retrospect, I should have used the benches thus gaining a better rest. This would have allowed me to focus more on my ballistics and less on trying to find a good position. Although I had many more misses than hits, I felt good about my shooting since many of my misses were by mere inches. And at 750 yards, missing a 6”x 8” piece of steel by three inches ain’t too shabby.
It was lots of fun but I would have been better off shooting the classic course. At the shorter distances I still would have had plenty of misses but more hits as well and more scenarios that resemble hunting situations that I would encounter. In my opinion, 500 yards in a hunting scenario is a long shot.
I recommend the Spirit Ridge Rifle Golf course to all hunters and shooters. It’s a perfect way to define your limits as a rifleman and get some always useful trigger time. My one piece of advice is to come properly equipped to make shots at extreme angles; most of them uphill. I had a 9” bipod and my backpack with me and I struggled on multiple occasions to gain a solid rest at the angle needed to engage the target. Also, bring lots of water; by midday it was sweltering and being dehydrated makes that long shot that much harder to make.
Big thanks to First Lite for inviting me along.