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Left or Right? by Larry Weishuhn

Left and/or Right?

by Larry Weishuhn

There simply was no way as a right-hand shooter I could bring my dad’s .30-30 Winchester far enough around to the right to get a shot at the 8-point buck.  Moments earlier I had heard what I suspected might be a squirrel scurrying through the “crunchy” white oak leaves littering the ground on my extreme right.  I cast a glance fully expecting a fox squirrel, but, saw an 8-point buck, the whitetail of my dreams!

I attempted to turn to my extreme left but there was no way to see around the three-feet wide oak trunk I sat next to twenty feet above the ground. I tried, but being right-handed I simply could not get a shot. Even though I was only 14 years old at the time I had dreamed of taking a buck with 8-points for longer than I could remember!  I nearly cried when the buck walked away.

Before crawling to the ground I resolved never again would I fail to get a shot at a “dream buck” because I only shot right-handed.  Back home, I put my dad’s rifle in our gun cabinet, grabbed my single-shot .22, a box of .22 Long ammo, four empty tin cans and headed to the back side of our stock tank to use the dam as a backstop.

I set up the tin cans, moved back 20 steps, loaded the single-shot, put rifle to left shoulder, placed my left index finger on the trigger, cocked the rifle, closed my right eye forcing me to use my left eye, lined up the front bead with the back notched rear sight.  When all lined up, I pulled the trigger.  The empty can flipped into the air.  Success!  I hit a target shooting from the left as opposed to my usual right! I repeated the same procedure numerous times and hit my intended target.  I mentally kicked myself for not having learned how to left-hand before now.  Had I done so, rather than learning how to now shoot left-handed, I could have been dragging home an 8-point buck!

I learned several things that morning.  Even though right eye dominant, when my right eye was closed and my left eye open, I became left eye dominant!  I learned too, how to comfortably hold a rifle on the left side. Before heading back home I continued mounting rifle to left shoulder several times, bringing left hand and finger to trigger guard and trigger, until doing so felt “natural”.

After finishing chores, I headed back to the woods.  Squirrel season was open. I wanted shoot at least one squirrel from the left side to prove to myself I could do so.  Twenty minutes later I spotted a fox squirrel forty feet up, near the top of a tall, leafless oak.  I mounted the rifle on the left side, took careful aim, using my left eye, right eye closed, lined up the .22’s open sight, pulled the trigger, then watched the squirrel fall to the ground.  It was hit exactly where I had been holding.  Now if only that coveted 8-point buck would come back by.  I would be ready whether he came from my left or right!

That night we enjoyed fried squirrel the results of my being able to now shoot left-handed as well as right-handed.

That bit of training has over the years served me extremely well, hunting here at home in North America, in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and Africa, whether shooting a rifle, shotgun and even handgun. 

I suspect one of the several reasons I love shooting Ruger No. 1 rifles is because of the tang safety, so it makes no difference whether I mount the rifle left or right-handed, pushing safety to fire does not require reaching around the action, or doing so with the hand that should be holding the stock’s forend.

One of the hunts where being able to shoot both left or right hand occurred a few years ago on a leopard hunt in Namibia with Japsie Blaauw and his Dzumbo Safaris near the famed Etosha area.

The morning I stepped on the plane bound for Africa, I was having trouble seeing clearly with my right eye.  I contemplated not going, but also knew Japsie would be waiting and prepared, and, I was also taking one of my grandsons, Josh Gonzalez with me to shoot leopard bait, his first trip to Africa. Too, I knew I shot equally well left or right-handed.  By the time we arrived in Windhoek, Namibia vision in my right eye was extremely clouded (Little did I know it was caused by scar tissue build-up from cataract surgery.  Once I returned home it was easily and quickly repaired, restoring excellent eyesight).

The hunt was a long one, essentially fourteen days of sitting in a leopard blind for many, many hours a day. 

It came down to the last morning of the hunt.  Primary reason we stayed in the blind was because some huge kudu bulls were reportedly using the waterhole we watched.  I was set up to shoot left-handed out of a narrow vertical “window”.  Japsie and the landowner on whose property we hunted watched through other narrow slits.  I heard Japsie stir. He motioned it was time to call the hunt.  Just then the landowner said “Leopard” and pointed to the extreme right.  In one motion I stood up, pointed the gun to the extreme right, spotted a monstrous leopard, saw it was a male, flipped off the safety on the .300 Win Mag loaded with Hornady’s 200-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter, got the Trijicon AccuPoint crosshairs on target, then squeezed the trigger.  All that took a whole lot less time than it takes to tell about it; likely less than three seconds passed from the time I spotted the leopard and pulled the trigger. 

I knew I had hit the big tom well and hard.  I also knew, if I had been set up to shoot right-handed as I would normally have, I would never have been able to get far enough to the left to shoot to extreme right.  Set up to shoot left-handed I could!   Talk about being thrilled I had many years ago taught myself to shoot left-handed!

How about you, can you shoot either left or right-handed?  It certainly could make a difference in terms of success!

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