MAYFLOWER, Ark. – The 12-point deer was one Bill Haynes should have hung on a wall, but the shot at 40 yards wasn’t even close.
“He didn’t even run,” Haynes said. “He looked around, ‘What’s going on?’ and bounded off.”
The buck stopped again at 70 yards and Haynes took another shot.
“I could see him in some timber, and he just put his head down at that point and started feeding,” he said. “I could tell he was not concerned about anything hitting around him, so I knew then I was way off.”
Haynes later learned in camp that his 14-year-old daughter rode a four-wheeler with the deer rifle on the rack, despite instructions to hold it across her lap or sling it over her shoulder. It bounced off the rack and, dangling by the sling, banged the scope out of whack.
“It knocked it way off,” Haynes said.
It was an odd occurrence but another valuable firearms lesson for Haynes, a retired police officer who worked the SWAT unit. He’s taken his expertise with firearms and works as a safety officer at the Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Camp Robinson Firing Range.
Two days before the gun deer season opened, the range was experiencing a rush of deer hunters hoping to sight in rifles. This time of year the number of shooters climb to 200 a day, lining up at the gate almost an hour before the range opens.
The range averages about 200 people a day leading up to the deer gun season opener. (Mike Suchan photo)
“The first part of September it begins to pick up because muzzleloading starts Oct. 1. For a rifle, we start seeing the business really pick up the first week of October,” said Range Manager Grant Tomlin, who was on the same SWAT team as Haynes. “This is the ‘Oh crap, the season opens Saturday morning, I better go shoot my rifle’ crowd.”
Brandon Hillhouse, his cousin Sam Ross and his stepson Julian Cheathan of nearby Greenbrier had signed in and were waiting for one of the 13 lanes to open. They brought two rifles as backups for their Deer Camps.
“We’re cutting it close,” Hillhouse admitted. “We didn’t think it would be this crowded. I guess there’s a lot of people needing to get their guns sighted at the last minute. Hopefully, we’ll get in today. It’s not life or death, except for the deer maybe.”
Tomlin said the range turns people away every day this time of year.
“We have a waiting list going,” he said. “If you show up at 3:30 in the afternoon, you’re not going to be able to shoot.”
Steve Bowman puts a new Ruger through the rigors of sighting in. (Mike Suchan photo)
Tomlin said most people come in with a new rifle or new scope and are done in one set of 20 minutes. The range is 200 yards but most zero their rifles in at 100 yards because most places in Arkansas “you’re not going to be shooting but 50 to 75 yards,” he said.
More than 2,000 visited the range in October, Tomlin said, and for $3 shooters get targets, ear and eye protection, a rifle rest and sand bags. Sighting scopes are rented out. Haynes said the public is fortunate to have such a nice facility, and that he still has one rifle to sight in. He knows how important it is.
“Not only should you always shoot before the season, but during the season, if you hunt a lot, if you’re putting them on your four-wheeler and bouncing them around,” he said. “You need to at least periodically through the season go back to your local range or the range you have at deer camp and put one round through it.”
Haynes said he does that at least once a week, especially if his daughter is around.
“Just a confirmation round -- that way when you get on the stand and you miss one, it aint the rifle,” he said. “I’m not looking for perfection out of a sporting rifle. It’s not a sniper system. It’s a Winchester Model 70 I bought at a pawn shop 25 years ago. I love the gun. I’ve killed a lot of deer with the gun.
Bowman adjusted the sights on two deer rifles. (Mike Suchan photo)
“I’ve passed it on to my daughter now but I still hunt with it because she doesn’t hunt as often as I do and I want to make sure the gun is clean and shot every year.”
And on target. He knows he might have a 12-point mount had he checked at that Deer Camp four years ago. Only after his miss did he learn that the scope got knocked around.
“She was afraid to tell me,” he said. “If she had been there, she would have caught the brunt of it. I had cooled off enough when I got home.”
He did tell her yet again not to ride with the gun on the rack, that it’s just not a good way to transport a firearm, that things like that could cost a trophy.
“It could happen to anybody,” Haynes said. “I’m in the business. I trusted they listen to what I said.”
Go to 2013 Deer Camp