Pro Staff Ashley Kelly tells the story of her first NRL Hunter Match
Find. Range. Engage.
Something we all do as hunters trying to fill a tag. Sounds easy enough, but you only have four minutes to do so. There’s more than one target, and you will often be changing positions. It’s a blind set up so you won’t know your exact course of fire other than there’s x number of targets at x number of positions. There are weather considerations to factor in as well, that can and will affect your shot ranging out to as far as 1000 yards, and that’s just the highlights. I’m talking about a NRL Hunter Match, one of the neatest platforms in shooting sports.
First Time at NRL Hunter Match
The Sisterhood of the Outdoors provided me the opportunity to shoot at my first match at the impressive Arena Training Facility in Blakely, GA. With these competitions being male dominated it is often intimidating as a woman to even consider signing up to shoot. Personally, I had been wanting to get back into shooting long range and knew this was a great opportunity to do so. Check In was on Friday to complete registration, weigh guns and sign up for squads. Next was checking equipment and hitting the zero range to ensure we were match ready. Ryan Hey with Kestrel Ballistics was there to assist us with using the MagnetoSpeed V3 chronograph to determine our bullet velocity and calculate our power factor. Through NRL Hunter Marketing Director Brittany Ishida, I was able to meet another female shooter, Steph, and we ended up squadding together for the match. Everyone was more than welcoming and eager to help while making sure I had all the equipment I needed to be successful.
Saturday morning came bright and early, and we all knew rain was in the forecast. Eddie Noland, the Operations Manager at Arena provided the introduction to the shooting facility. Followed by Match Directors Scott Peterson and Tyler Payne, and Travis Ishida from NRL Hunter who explained the match to include all rules and regulations for the weekend. After the Pledge of Allegiance each squad was dismissed to their first stage. Steph and I loaded up with our guns and equipment and headed to stage 9 where we would begin our day. The rain started early and didn’t let up all day, we progressed through each stage and joked with fellow shooters about the great South Georgia sunshine. With rain came the cold and the mud. The shooting was tough and even the best competitors were feeling the impacts of the weather. Difficulty seeing targets, bolts sticking, glass fogging up, but we all were facing the same hardships. With some stages I had first round impacts, with some I never shot a round, but this was my first match, and I was already learning so much! The ROs or range officers at each stage were very helpful and offered advice or tips upon completing the stage, after all these guys were shooters too. Steph would tell me her best safety tips, ways to cut time, better shooting positions, the most stable platforms. Other competitors were excited just to have another female running the course and intrigued to hear about how I got involved with shooting. Day one ended with a big dinner for everyone and a lot of comraderies. It was interesting to learn that a large portion of these guys were shooting their first match as well. Despite all the weather mishaps, everyone was excited for day two, the rain was pushing out as the wind was coming in, and new strategies were already being planned.
Day two opened much the same, Steph and I joined up with our squad and began the day mud riding to our first stage. The wind proved to be difficult and conveniently gusted immediately before pulling the trigger. Without being in the rain this time, waiting to shoot stages was much more enjoyable on day two. It was a great opportunity to socialize with other competitors, make jokes, hear about their hunting and shooting stories. It gave time to see what other guns were being shot and how the various bolts, bipods, tripods, scopes, and binoculars had handled being in the changing weather conditions. There were less stages to shoot on the second day and I finished my last stage with a first-round impact. Steph and I were already planning what matches I would come shoot at next time.
An awards ceremony was held after the match completion and an amazing prize table was up for grabs courtesy of some huge sponsors including Leupold, Vortex, and Arken optics, Manners stocks, Hornady, Beretta and Savage Arms just to name a few. Numbers were up and winners were announced for each division. Steph took first for ladies and I managed to take second. I exceeded my personal goals which were don’t get last place and have a good time learning all I could while meeting new people in the process. Truly my background started with hunting, then progressed to shooting some long range at home and after shooting the NRL Hunter Match I can honestly say it will make me a better hunter. The friendships created and confidence earned are unmatched and I’m already signing up for the next one. Without the Sisterhood of the Outdoors, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity, even though the world’s best shooters were new once, we all have to start somewhere.
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Links to getting started with NRL Hunter competition.