It always surprises me which topics from The MeatEater Podcast generate the greatest listener response. One conversation that caused us to get flooded with feedback was when I erroneously said that Sam Houston had died at the Alamo. Man, did that get some Texas blood boiling. Another hot topic for feedback was our conversation about whether or not it’s legal to shoot across private property if you both you and your target are on public land. Health issues are another thing that put people into a writing mood. Last fall, we had an episode where we discussed a minor heart condition that Janis was dealing with. We got flooded with dozens of diagnoses along with more than a few suggested remedies. Same with our discussions around Dirt Myth’s nasty chewing habit. Every time it comes up, listeners hit us with personal stories about how they beat–or were ultimately beaten by–the habit. Recently, we had a follow-up conversation on this subject and I was wondering about the proper word for those who chew tobacco. Cigarettes have their “smokers,” but do users of chewing tobacco like to be called “dippers” or “chewers?” For that, a guy wrote in to suggest “chaw dawgs,” with an emphasis on proper spelling.
I bring this up because another unexpectedly hot topic has been blowing up in our inbox. This one has to do with the proper method of coordinating simultaneous shots with your hunting partners. The subject was raised in the first place because someone wrote us a letter about a negative experience that he’d had with a hunting partner while chasing turkeys. They had two toms coming into the call, side by side, and the partner proposed a countdown so that they could shoot at the same time and bag both. The partner then says “1…2…” and shoots without ever saying “3.” The guy that wrote to us said that he was waiting for the “3” and therefore never got his shot off. He was pissed at his buddy, and wanted our opinion on whether he was justified in his feelings.
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever successfully pulled off a 1-2-3 situation. Many years ago I was hunting with my friend Eric Kern and we had a flock of turkeys that included a few toms coming directly at us up a hill. Eric said, “Let’s wait and get two at a time,” which always sounds like such an enticing deal. So I held fire and Eric held fire, each of us waiting for the other to do or say something. Soon the birds were literally amongst us, and then past us, and then spooked. Zero shots fired. I referred to this situation two falls ago while hunting elk with my friend, Remi. We had two bulls working across a hillside in our direction and Remi suggested going for a countdown. I told him to take his shot and that I’d figure things out with the second bull once the first bull was on the ground. The second bull was gone in a flash once Remi shot, and I was left to question to my decision. In the end I felt okay with my reluctance to attempt coordinated shots. It comes down to the old bird-in-the-hand being better than a couple of them in the bush.
So what were all the email responses about? Mostly suggestions for how to properly pull off coordinated shots. The most helpful versions came from law enforcement and military personnel, who take this sort of thing pretty damn seriously. It comes up in hostage crisis training, terrorism work, and in situations when snipers might need to shoot through glass barriers. Apparently, glass can throw a shot wildly. And since no two shooters can ever coordinate their shots with absolute precision, one of the bullets is going to reach the glass first and shatter the plane in such a way that the second bullet will have an easier time staying true to its path.
The pros use at least two methods for coordinated shots. The one that strikes me as the most applicable to hunting is the countdown method. With this, one of the shooters starts to count down from 5, with the intent of both shooters pulling the trigger on 1. What makes the system work especially well is that the 2 and 1 are not actually pronounced, so that the counter is quiet and focused at the moment of shooting. The counter establishes the cadence by saying “5…4…3…” and then both shooters continue the count silently in their heads. It sure seems like a good way of getting two turkeys at once. While the other method is a bit more complicated and would take more practice, it does seem to be more appropriate for situations where things are prone to sudden change. When one of the shooters finds his target, he says “on you.” That means he’s waiting for confirmation from the second shooter. If the second shooter says “got it,” then the first shooter repeats the affirmation– “got it”– and both shooters fire immediately upon these words. If the second shooter doesn’t have his target after hearing “on you,” he or she says “no target.” In that case, the sequence starts over again.
It’s valuable information, for sure, and I can imagine hunting scenarios where I might use it in the future. But what’s even more valuable to me than the insight is knowing that the MeatEater audience includes the kinds of folks who are willing to take a few minutes in order to pass along information, insights, corrections, and observations in order to benefit the lives and brains of others. It means a lot, so please keep it up.