By Jennifer McDaniel, for the Lincoln Sentinel
For the shooting enthusiast, there’s nothing more exciting than hitting a target from a distance of more than five football fields away.
And while the feat itself automatically grants the shooter bragging rights, there’s more to it than just luck.
Shooting at extreme ranges is a skill, and it’s all in the details.
The growing popularity of long-range shooting has resulted in a surge of new products from firearms and optics companies designed to make it easier to hit the target. And though these newly developed rifles and scopes are loaded with improved features to make each shot more precise, it’s still all in the details from trigger control to proper breathing and body position.
And at businesses like Spearpoint Ranch north of Lincoln, shooters have the opportunity to practice and hone their skills, giving them the confidence to make each shot land.
Steve and Laura Wirth first opened their small crop and livestock ranch to hunters in 2001, offering pheasant, quail, deer and turkey hunts. Years later, the couple is still offering hunters small-town hospitality as well as the excitement and reward of the hunt.
“One thing we do a little differently is we provide a personalized and exclusive experience for the guests,” Steve said. “What this means is the group that books the place is the only group that is on-site for the duration of their hunt. They are the only ones in the lodge and on the hunting grounds, while they are here. We can also customize their stay at Spearpoint to fit their needs.”
The Wirths specialize in a relaxed atmosphere where hunters enjoy clean and comfortable accommodations in a modern, ranch-style home, which features a fireplace, pool table and newly remodeled break room.
Meals, transportation and game processing are also provided. The ranch itself is approximately 4,000 acres, including 1,100 acres of state-licensed, controlled shooting areas. Hunts are conducted in various terrains, including open hillsides, CRP land enhanced by food plots and cattail sloughs and wooded creek bottoms.
About eight years after the Wirths began hosting hunters, the couple decided to organize shooting matches at the ranch.
Monthly precision rifle matches are held at the ranch from April through September.
“We put the same match on both Saturday and Sunday, and shooters can pick which day fits their schedule better,” Steve said. “Or, shoot both days if they want to see what they learned the day before.”
During these precision matches, shooting distances range from as close as 10 yards to as much as 1,400 yards, and include anywhere between eight to 10 stages. A shooter usually expends around 10 rounds per stage while engaging mostly steel targets. A small amount of paper targets are also used occasionally, he said.
Not only are shooters tested by target distance and size, but face other challenges, such as shooting positions.
“We shoot some targets prone, but we also use various barricades, obstacles and field-shooting positions to engage targets from,” he said, noting target sizes range from three inches to 20 inches.
Shooters most commonly use short-action calibers – including 6 mm, such as .243 Winchester, 6 xc, 6 Creedmoor – 6.5 mm, including 6.5 Creedmoor, 260 Remington, 6.5×47 Lapua, and .308 Winchester during matches.
“We started hosting these in order for people to be able to get out and shoot, practice and learn more about long-range shooting,” he said.
“Participation has risen from five or six at the first match to averaging a little over 60 per weekend.”
Other competitions offered at Spearpoint include an AR-15 .223- or 5.56-only match, various caliber carbine matches as well as night, team and law-enforcement-only contests.
During regular matches, Steve explained, competitors sign in, and then shoot their first stage – a cold-bore shot, which is the first shot from the clean barrel of a rifle. Once a rifle has been fired, residue inside the barrel affects a bullet’s flight path. Following the first stage, shooters divide up into groups of five-10 competitors and drive to their next assigned stage. Once everyone shoots that stage, the group proceeds to the next until all stages are completed.
“Each stage has a specific way in which you must engage the targets and a time limit, and once in a while, some movement within the shooting position to elevate the heart rate and breathing cycle,” he said. “The stages are designed to make you focus on building a solid firing position quickly and follow through on the fundamentals of breaking or firing a clean shot.”
Matches usually last all day – from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., depending on the number of competitors. The cost is $20 per person/per match, and lodging if offered for $30 per person/per night for those wanting to arrive early or stay after the competition. Groups can also reserve the shooting range for $25 per person/per day.
In addition to matches, Spearpoint also hosts seasonal precision rifle, carbine and pistol training courses.
“These matches are really good learning experiences,” he said. “There usually is no prize, other than bragging rights for first place, so everyone is very helpful with techniques and needed gear and teaching each other on what works to impact the target and what doesn’t.”
Spearpoint Ranch is located at 1890 N. 215th Road, Barnard. For more information, call 785-524-5330, or check out their website, www.spearpointranch.com, or Facebook page, www.facebook.com/spearpointranch.
This article was first published in the Trader Outdoor Guide, which can be found where Waconda Traders are distributed, or, download a PDF copy online by visiting www.wacondatrader.com and clicking on the Outdoor Guide tab.