by Heath Wood

As fall-like temperatures replace the hot days of summer, I search for things to do outside that can be enjoyed with family and friends. Being an active hunting enthusiast, I am guilty of spending a lot of time away from my family while fueling two of my passions—deer hunting and predator hunting. Although I enjoy hunting, I try to keep things balanced. One activity that allows me to do that is shooting handguns.

Recently, I’ve come to enjoy the friendly competitions my wife and I have on the target range. Often, our practice sessions intended to improve our shooting skills turn into full-blown competitions. What helps us keep these competitions engaging and “fresh” are the many ways we find to challenge our shooting skills while keeping the skill development exercises fun and exciting. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of expensive, heavy, or fancy targets to do it.

These friendly bouts between us take many forms, often beginning with small Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C 6” Bullseye targets that have bright chartreuse rings. They are easily visible wherever the target has been hit, so we can spend more time shooting and less time making target checks.

In addition to standard bullseye targets for accuracy practice, we sometimes use recycled aluminum cans, which make for cheap plinking fun. Other easy “homemade targets” include old golf balls. When using golf balls, we find an open area, such as a field that has a safe background. Here, we will place a dozen or so golf balls at different distances and shoot them with our Taurus TX22. This is a great way to learn to shoot at a smaller target, which encourages pinpoint accuracy. You also know immediately when you make a hit because the ball goes skittering off in unpredictable directions.

As with any shooting drills, it is important to practice safety. As mentioned earlier, only do this type of shooting in open areas with safe backgrounds. You must also remember to wear eye protection and hearing protection. One of my favorites for ear protection is the Howard Leight Impact Sport electronic earmuffs. Electronic muffs cost a bit more than passive muffs, but they are ideal when shooting with a partner because you can comfortably carry on a conversation and hear your surroundings, yet the auto shut-off protects your hearing when discharging a firearm.

Rotating between different types of bullseye targets, clay-style targets, gong targets, and various homemade targets creates great practice that truly helps you become a better shooter. Recently, we have come to enjoy playing fun games while shooting our Taurus TX22 and a Kimber Micro 9 9mm by using the Birchwood Casey PreGame targets. Some of the games we have enjoyed in this series of targets include the 18-inch Checkered Flag target—a race car-style game in which you must hit a small circle in order to move along the racetrack toward the finish line.

Another fun target is the 12×18-inch Battle At Sea target. This is like the familiar game of Battleship that most of us played as a kid. There are small circle targets are on each ship and once all the spots have been hit, the boat is “sunk.”

My favorite Birchwood Casey PreGame target is the golf-inspired 12×18-inch Chip Shot target. The closer you get to the bullseye, the better the score for that hole.

The PreGame series is a great way to spend time in the backyard with friends and family. My family and I have enjoyed these games so much that we now incorporate them into family cookouts and gatherings. It is something that everyone looks forward to.

Being an avid predator hunter, I am always considering new hunting methods. Most recently, I’ve begun to use my Kimber Micro 9 9mm handgun while calling predators into close range. The 9mm is an uncommon caliber for hunting, however, one of the challenges that I enjoy while predator hunting is getting them close enough to use a handgun.

I started practicing shooting coyotes with a handgun when I came across Birchwood Casey’s 12×18-inch Coyote Silhouette Freedom Targets. This is an easy-to-set up, portable target that is close enough in size to a real coyote. When I began using the Coyote Silhouettes to prepare for upcoming hunts, I realized how much fun they are for backyard shooting. With the included folded piece of cardboard making up a quick set-up stand for the targets, it proved simple and economical to set up three or four different coyote targets at different angles and distances.

With these targets, it’s fun having someone call out which target to shoot and then getting on the target quickly and making the shot. Not only is this exciting, it also makes you a better shot when in an actual hunting situation.

What I enjoy most about the diversity of Birchwood Casey targets is their high entertainment value and low cost. As a bonus, the various games and shooting at life-sized animal targets create an array of practice situations that will make you a better marksman—something that pays off in self-defense situations, while hunting, or when shooting competitively.

Heath Wood has been published in many major hunting magazines, websites, and blogs for over the last 15 years. His favorite topics include deer, turkey, and predator hunting. Wood has also appeared on Bass Pro Shop's Outdoor World TV, Hunters Specialties' The Stuff of Legends and the popular DVD series Cuttin' and Struttin', as well as the NWTF's Turkey Call TV. Heath enjoys helping introduce newcomers to hunting.

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