Match Report: NRL Hunter Blue Ridge

As you’ve all seen with our recent 6.5 creedmoor ultimate build, KRAFT test overview, NRL Hunter power factor and range bag videos,  I’ve been deep in preparation for NRL Hunter matches. This time I’m headed to Benge, Washington for  the Blue Ridge Big Five. 

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Getting Ready

I’ll be shooting the 147 ELD-M from Hornady and have some new gear. 

I’m most thrilled about my new Cole-Tac bino harness. I’ve been practicing and it keeps my Athlon laser-rangefinder binos close on my chest within easy reach while shooting.

Here’s the primary gear that I used from Cole-Tac for this match:

 I’m shooting Gavin’s 6.5 Creedmoor build in an XLR Element magnesium 4.0 chassis to make weight.

 I’m also using an EC Tuner brake and a Leupold Mark 5 scope. 

Shooting the Match

Shooting the NRL Hunter match was a bit different than traditional PRS. You have a much longer time period and fewer rounds to shoot, but the targets are harder to find. You can’t range targets while waiting, you have to wait until you are on the clock. 

There are three types of NRL Hunter stages: shooting four targets from one position, two targets from two positions, or one target from four different positions. Keep in mind that targets can be varied in size, shape and distance! 

On each stage, you get two chances to hit each target. You earn two points for a first round hit and one point for a second round hit. 

While positions and target numbers are varied, there is a maximum of eight points per stage. If you miss twice, you move to the next target/position. 

There are five divisions in NRL Hunter: Team, Solo Open Heavy, Solo Open Light, Factory, and Skills.

I originally thought that the team shooters would have an advantage, but quickly realized they have a lot more going on. I never saw two team shooters shooting at the same time — one would work on spotting and data collection while the other shot and then swap. I quickly realized team shooters are on an extreme time crunch and must work well together to succeed.

I competed in the solo open heavy class, which was the most popular at the match. There were a few solo open light guns, but not many. Shooters in the factory division are allowed to add a scope, bipod and suppressor/muzzle brake— but only if the barrel is already threaded. 

The skills division is for shooters who just want to try the match and learn. They aren’t scored and just come along for fun. Young guns and ladies can compete into any of these divisions.

Match director Sean Johnson is a hunting guide and mimicked each of the stages after actual hunts he’s taken clients on and they’ve taken animals. You can see the targets as you walk up so they aren’t terribly hard to find, but you still need to range, determine the wind, and figure out how to set up. 

The most important thing I realized was the importance of a steady position. Take the extra time to establish the most stable position you can. I realized after a short period I wasn’t using all of the equipment I had, leaving my cuddle bag on my bag rather than using it.

Under a time crunch, you’re also more likely to rush and slap the trigger. Focus instead on slow and proper trigger control and recoil management. 

I made a few mistakes, but was happy to learn from them.

One stage in particular had a bear target approximately 800 yards away to be shot from four different positions. I started in prone and impacted the target, but when I moved to the next position, I shot low. I looked at my gun and realized I had accidentally turned my turret in the process. I recovered and impacted the bear the next two times. 

Checklists are also important: pre and post stage. After every stage I usually turn my turrets back to zero, stow all my items, and reload my magazine. It’s important to keep gear in the same positions for easy access. I didn’t always follow this checklist and ended up forgetting to load a mag. However, I only lost about ten seconds as I knew exactly where my loaded backup mag was in my pack. 

Conclusion

Overall, the match was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. I’m grateful to Gavin for letting me use his 6.5 Creedmoor.

The EC tuner is very flat shooting and the scope was crystal clear. I also loved the two-stage TriggerTech trigger. Hornady 147 grain ELD-M’s made power factor simple. I did have to tighten a few things with Wheeler FatStix, but everything ran smoothly. Many people say they wouldn’t take all the gear they use in an NRL Hunter match out in the field. I disagree. I found my Two Vets tripod invaluable and will definitely use it on live hunts.

They provide you with a wider range of available shots and positions from a very stable base. I also was fortunate to shoot in a squad with a lot of great shooters who are also incredible people. Several of my squad mates won their divisions — I was the lowest scoring shooter in my squad, but learned a lot and had a great time. 

Cole-Tac Gear

Again, here’s the Cole-Tac gear that I used most during this match, top notch soft gear!

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Thanks,
Travis Fox

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