Tips & Tactics

Conquer the Dead Zone

Conquer the Dead Zone

By Tim H. Martin

Photo: Because it stepped into a dead zone, Buckmasters Tip Editor, Tim H. Martin, had to go southpaw in order to smoke this Alabama 10-pointer. Tim learned this trick from a U.S. Army shooting instructor.

Try this test sitting down, as if you were in your treestand:

Using an imaginary rifle, without moving below the waist, pretend a deer is directly behind you on your right side. Try to swing around for the shot. Can’t reach it, can you? Now try left-handed. See how much farther around you can shoot? (Lefties, you try this test on your left-hand side).

As freshman at Auburn University in 1982, I chose ROTC Rifle Marksmanship as an elective course. Little did I know how many extra deer I would collect over my career from one solid tip taught by an Army instructor.

As a right-handed shooter, he showed me how to shoot targets located in the right-handed hunter’s dead zone — anything steeply behind the shooter on the right-hand side.

The instructor taught me to go southpaw. This simply means I’ve trained to shoot left-handed. A lefty would do the opposite, leaning to shoot right-handed.

I practiced shouldering the rifle on my left side, aiming with my left eye and firing the weapon with my left trigger finger — a mirror image of my normal setup. The skill of shooting left-handed enables me to shoot deer steeply behind me on the right.

One of the best ways to practice this technique is with a pellet rifle. Plinking tin cans opposite-handed will quickly remove the awkwardness of using your opposite eye, shoulder and trigger finger. Even a little practice will help shooting opposite-handed become second nature when it’s time to use a high-power rifle or shotgun.

In 40 years of hunting, I can count at least six bucks that would have escaped had I not learned this skill. Once, I shot two does left-handed from Jackie Bushman’s box blind in Alabama. They appeared in a rear window on the right, which would have jammed most right-handed hunters, but by going southpaw, they were dead deer walkin’.

In 2011, I took a crafty 10-pointer with a muzzleloader that would have easily escaped had I not added this skill to my bag of tricks.

The buck was the last in a line of six, stringing their way alongside a swampy creek. I was seated 30-feet-high in a climbing stand, waiting for the bachelor group to pass into my shooting zone. The first five slipped past perfectly, right to left, with only the 10-pointer remaining. That old buck’s sixth sense must’ve kicked in, because, without warning, it walked to the base of my tree, sniffed, stomped and realized something wasn’t right. As the others continued on, it bristled, backtracked and circled into the right-handed dead zone on my extreme right. It was impossible to shoot right-handed, so I simply swapped shoulders and introduced Mr. Tree-sniffer to Mr. .50 caliber.

Conquer the dead zone. Practice shooting your firearm opposite-handed and I promise you’ll master it quickly, as well as make your taxidermist richer.

— Photo Courtesy of Tim H. Martin

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Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd