I don’t know about you, but I’ve been shut up this winter like a paranoid prairie dog hibernating away from the cold, and in my case, the pandemic. My usual gusto for loading up the truck and heading to the range has been met with a sense of greed over my ammunition and masked isolation. I have been trying to make up for the loss of shooting time by walking in the woods, looking through old photos, cleaning guns (yeah, I know, I’m desperate), organizing my a starving and sad ammo supply, practicing the crossbow and dry-fire practice.
While all of these activities have been helpful, they have also been a sharp reminder that I have not smelled burning gunpowder, felt recoil or inspected a used target in a long while. It’s bad. I have caught myself talking to my guns. I found myself mumbling to my Mossberg MC2c carry gun yesterday. I was locking it away in my truck while I took care of some business in a no-carry area. I laid the gun down gently, and as I was closing the lid I said, “Don’t worry. You and I will put some holes in paper soon.” I’m barely holding on and beginning to consider medicating and starting up a brass foundry.
I’m a psychologist, so I know a lot about coping. I make recommendations on coping to my patients every day. So, I decided that I could handle this on my own. I figured, when you can’t go shooting, the next best thing was reading about it. I went to my favorite online magazine—you can probably guess—NRA Women. It is a wonderful source for reading other female writers that I can relate to. This was working! I was thoroughly enjoying reading stories from Hunt Camp like those by Jo Deering, articles on the newest guns and tons of helpful tips from interesting women. But then, I read a few articles about how to improve and they gave suggestions to try at the range. I also watched some videos that demonstrated ideas that I wanted to try for myself. I glanced at all the empty spots on my ammo shelves and sighed longingly.
While reading about shooting and watching others shoot was as close to the range as I could get, the anticipation to try techniques myself was too much. I decided to try a coping technique I teach my students: meditation. I took some deep breaths and directed my imagination to remember, as detailed as possible, a favorite walk to the creek at the old homestead. I’ve made this walk many times in the past and the walk down memory lane did wonders to relieve my shooting grief.
I remembered the crunch of the leaves under my feet, the warmth of the sun falling in rays through the leaves above, the sound of the creek babbling like a happy child, and the sight of some bushy tailed squirrels chasing each other up and down the hickory trees. I felt my mood jump about four notches on the happiness scale. I remembered the last time I physically walked that trail with my custom 260 and put the crosshairs on a very plump doe. I felt the ideal balance and perfect fit of my custom rifle and enjoyed the slow press of the trigger that resulted in a satisfying bang and expected recoil … well, crap!
Apparently, nothing can fully relieve this ache to go shooting until I actually get to go. So, I’m going to set a date, invite some friends, save up some ammo and try to enjoy the planning and anticipation of going to the range as much as possible. Since I’m not going to want to burn through the usual amount of ammo, I’m going to take some targets that will be more fun than just paper. I’m thinking that plastic bottles filled with colored water, exploding lollipops and busting balloons will do the trick. I’ll save the falling steel for last because I always lose track of how many rounds I send to those. With a few friends, a sunny day and some interesting targets, a shortage of ammo can still go a long way.
As my mom would say, “Spring has sprung!” It’s time to shed those winter layers, raise the shades and smell the proverbial roses and gunpowder. It’s Ok to Burn Up (Some of) Your Ammo. In the meantime, if your spouse or kids catch you talking to your guns, tell them a professional psychologist told you that it’s OK … or is that just me?
About the Author: Samantha Mann, MA, is a WV Licensed Psychologist, Licensed Professional Counselor WV, and Nationally Certified Counselor. Raised in West Virginia, Samantha was the youngest of six grandchildren (and the only female) who were raised to love the outdoors and hunting. She has hunted from Texas to Africa, and believes that while Superman gets his power from the sun, her power comes from the outdoors. Samantha lives in southern West Virginia with her supportive husband, who doesn’t mind showing off her trophies to his buddies. She balances her time in the office helping others with time in the outdoors, focusing much of her career on helping children and adults who have been abused, neglected and mistreated.