Rifle Competition Events  NRL Hunter Heartland Harvester AAR

Yoteski

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Figured I'd write up an AAR to help get the word out about NRL's newest series, the hunter series. The match was held in Nehawka, NE, and Chaz Macrander was the match director. There's plenty of info about the hunter series on the NRL Hunter website, but in summation, Scott Satterlee came up with the format as an alternative to the regular PRS/NRL format. The closest comparison for those who have had prior experience would be the Competition Dynamics Safari matches.

The opportunity was offered to shoot the match free of entry two days prior to the match if you RO the regular match. RO's had to shoot the entire 18 stages in a day, all the same rules as the paid competitors, and RO's scores counted in the match. I chose to shoot/RO to save on match entry as I have more time off saved up than money. I believe there were 8 other shooter/RO's. Chaz generously offered us a place to stay, which was great for me as it is about an 8 hour drive to Nehawka for me.

I slapped on 6.5 creedmoor barrel on my Origin action to meet power factor(see NRL website). I lollygagged around buying components as I didn't know how my work schedule was going to play out in reference to attending the match. I was able to pick up some good ol' 140 Hornady BTHP bullets which ended up shooting bugholes in my rifle. With my Ultra 7 suppressor, Manners T5a, and a Burris XTRIII, my rifle weighed in at 15.2 lbs, qualifying for open heavy class. Other classes are factory, open light (12 lbs or less), and open heavy (16 lbs-12lbs).

The night before the match, we all met up and discussed the format with Scott and how it had come to fruition. My personal interest in the match had spanned from watching so called "field" matches, turned into a game of 20+ lb rifles with 6mm mouse cartridges. I played that game, did well at some matches, and just got tired of it. It seemed there was less and less application of any real skills except throwing a game-changer on a barricade and pulling an 8 oz. trigger. I begin to feel like I was losing the purpose of why I started shooting precision rifle matches in the first place. I started shooting CD matches last year, and immediately fell in love. I had re-discovered the purpose of why I started shooting. The only problem with the CD matches is there isn't very many of them, and the ones in New Mexico are quite a drive for me. The NRL Hunter series sounded like a fantastic compliment to the CD matches, so I figured I'd give them a whirl. On to the match AAR!

We handful of RO's assembled on the range early in the morning in a balmy 5 degree morning on a snow covered field and creek bottom. Dressing for the occasion is paramount to success. I give credit to my hodgepodge of First Light and Sitka gear; it's expensive, but worth every penny when you need to stay warm. Chaz briefed us on the general rules, some of which included:
1. 4 minutes per stage including movement from the blind holding area.
2. 5 rounds loaded in a mag (stages required 8 rounds at most)
3. There were 8 points max available per stage, 2 points on a first round impact, 1 for a second.
4. Stages consisted of 4 targets 1 position, 2 targets 2 position, and 1 target 4 position stages.
5. The stage briefs were posted in the holding area. They were extremely simple, it said what was previously listed #4 of this list, and also had a picture of the target to engage. All targets were animal steel cut, and it was important to pay attention to which direction the critter was facing.
6. All equipment had to be carried the whole match, but there were no restrictions on what could be used on a stage. You had could only have your rifle and binos in hand approaching a stage from the holding area. All other support equipment (bags, tripods, etc.) had to be stored in/on your pack. Tripods had to be completely collapsed while stored.
7. Anyone caught looking through glass in the holding area was an automatic match DQ.
8. RO's would only call hits, re-engage on a miss, and wrong target.
There's other technical rules and what-not covered in the safety brief and NRL Hunter rules, but these were most of the applicable rules for the match that differs from most other matches.
9. After you shoot, you immediately move to the next holding area and are not allowed to speak with anyone about the stage.
10. All other match rules are in place, I don't need to expound on them, check out the website.

We as shooter/RO's broke into two squads and used a flowing RO format as to maintain the integrity of the blind stages. Once one person shot the stage with the MD's ROing, the shooter would RO the next guy in the holding area, and then move on to where the MD's were ROing. Using this format I barely had time to load my mag for the next stage! This was a good things as we could tell the match flow was going to be FAST. You got to a holding area, had maybe 1 minute to check your gear and catch your breath, and then heard the RO asking if you understood the COF. When you said yes, it was go time.

Jumping ahead a little, the match flow for the RO and main match was amazing. There was no spinning of Kestrels, there was no 10 guys deploying tripods to observe the shooter in front of them, there was no talking wind or how to shoot a barricade, there was no barricade fondling to see how steady or what equipment was needed, just grab your shit and shoot; fantastic!

I should note that the shooting areas weren't like a typical match. They were outlined with orange lathe boards and were typically quite generous, like at least 10' generous. I think Andy Reinhart said it best, the stages allowed you enough rope to hang yourself with, or to climb up. Chaz had two rebar posts marking the COF boundaries at the rear of shooting area, with a single rebar post marking where all the targets could be seen from. Side-note, being able to see the targets did not mean you could range them from the rebar due to natural obstructions. The first target in every set was marked by a large orange sign that had the course stage number on it. It was virtually impossible to not find the first target in the target set, unless you forgot which stage you were on.

I won't delve too far into my own match experiences to save boring you. I will say shooting CD matches prior prepared me well for the format in both stage execution and equipment. I ran a combination of my Sig Kilo 3000 binos running the AB in them (a Godsend for these matches), a CF tripod, a small Wiebad cookie, and a Wiebad pillow, and hard data. I ran a Vorn Lynx pack to haul all of my crap around. I like the Vorn Lynx because it requires me to prioritize my loadout. Moving to stage and navigating the entire COF requires some level in prioritization of weight. I guess I hadn't mentioned it was around a 25-50 yard run from the holding area to the shooting area depending on the stage. Each second really does count, and it's hard to describe how fast 4 minutes circles down the drain when you're moving, finding, ranging, building a position, and shooting the targets. If I could give one word of advice, shoot the targets you can find. Don't spend 3:30 trying to find the 3rd and 4th target in a set when you can grab 4 points by shooting the first two targets you have found.

I managed to throw together a pretty decent day, and by the end of it, my body told me I had shot 18 stages with a lot of movement from stage to stage along with the overall length of the course; but I felt fulfilled. Never once was I bored, and there was nothing to bitch about. If I missed a target, it was on me. If I didn't ID the right target, on me. If it didn't build a good position, on me. You get it, every F-up was on you, the shooter. I managed to clean 5 stages and shot well on several others. Of course I also ate shit on my fair share, but managed to keep the goose egg off my score card, again, get those easy points when you can if nothing else.

Friday, Chaz and Scott had a weigh in and velocity check at the registration. We weighed and velocity checked our rifles along with all the other shooters. If shooters missed lightweight, they were bumped into heavy. If they missed heavy, their match results were not counted. Luckily, I work were I have access to a very accurate scale, so my rifle numbers were exactly the same as the NRL scale. Other guys were sacrificing all manor of rifle gear to make weight. Some guys just couldn't make weight. Chaz and Isiah Curtis hosted a train-up for the match on Friday. The train-up for the match looked like a great introduction for the shooters.

Moving on to Saturday morning, conditions were practically identical to our RO shoot. A gorgeous February morning in Nebraska, but cold!

The shooters had been briefed well on stage design, rules, etc. so by the time they hit the range, they were ready to go. Each shooter found their respective stage, and we went hot. Now, due to several different variables, primarily weather, the match only had 32 shooters in the main match portion, but the match flow was exactly the same as the RO match. Shooters arrived at my stage, some in T-shirts in 15 degree weather because of the movement, were briefed, and shot. Again, never once did I see one shooter spin a Kestrel. I never had one person bitch about my stage or the match itself. In fact, it was the exact opposite, shooters were absolutely loving the format. Shooters were extremely respectful and upon completing the stage, interested in hearing my feedback about the stage and how they shot it. It was an absolute joy to listen to shooters self-critique and I enjoyed informing them what I had seen work and fail before I quickly had to get them off my stage. I can't think of a single shooter who didn't thank me and have a brief conversation with me.

We broke at noon for lunch, and upon gathering everyone at the lunch area, we found out shooters only had 6 of the 18 stages left to complete! We had run through 12 stages in 3 hours! (All 18 stages were being shot, but most shooters had cycled through 12 individually.) At that point Chaz assembled the shooters and suggested we finish the course that day. The consensus by everyone was that finishing the course, drinking beer that night, sleeping in, and going to the awards banquet sounded like a pretty good time. The rest of the day ran without a hiccup and we were finished by 1500 hours taking a 45 minute lunch break!

Pretty much everyone got together at the little local bar after the match and we all shared stories from the day. I've attended quite a few matches, and the atmosphere was the best I have ever seen. Typically there are a handful of disgruntled shooters you can hear whining in the corner, but this was not the case. We had a great time and I was able to meet some guys I typically don't shoot around.

We woke up the next morning to a white-out snowstorm; thank God we wrapped it up on Saturday. We all slid our vehicles to the Nehawka Community center where the awards banquet was held. We had a great meal and wrapped up the awards in a timely manner. The prize table was fat, and everyone walked away with a really nice prize. The prize table was also random draw, which I thought was a good change. I managed to walk away with a trophy, third place in open heavy division. It was a long 8 hour drive back home with a sunburnt face (wear sunscreen even in 5 degree weather), and sunburnt eyes (I thought only my welder did that!)

I didn't do the match or the format justice with this write-up. I hope I gave you a window into what I think will be an extremely successful series. I'd like to thank Scott Satterlee for coming up with the format and great conversations over the week/end, Travis Ishida for helping Scott make it a reality, and Chaz and Jake for putting on and running a great match. A special thanks goes out to the Nosler guys who helped cover match costs, Bushnell for being the title sponsor, HS Precision for donating a rifle to the prize table, Sig for donating a rifle to the prize table, and Kifaru for the pack I picked up off the prize table. There's countless other sponsors who put a lot of $ worth of goodies on the prize table. I'd like to thank my fellow RO's for keeping the match fair and running smoothly. This format lends itself to needing experienced RO's to run the stages and I think everyone did a great job.

I'll conclude by saying I heard a lot of shooters say they were gearing up to only shoot this format. I can't speak for all of the shooters, but the vibe I got was that this format is exactly what precision rifle has been lacking. It is a format that may not appeal to some competitors who cannot get outside the standard match box, and that's perfectly fine. If you're on the fence about shooting one of these, DO IT! You can get free match entry by doing what I did and ROing the match and shooting it. I think this is a fantastic way to get RO's for a match and makes better RO's for the match. I'm sure this will become a issue of contention, but trust me, there isn't any advantage to shooting/ROing that I could see. I'll reiterate that it if anything, it makes the RO's far more prepared to run the match fairly and evenly.

See you out there!
 

patriotnation

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Excellent write up, sounds like a really good time. I actually spoke with someone yesterday who just drove back from that match and it sounds very interesting. Maybe something I should consider as there will be one in New Hampshire I think. I have never even heard of a CD match( Competition Dynamics) before so I had to look that up. These NRL hunter matches sound like a nice change of pace. I wish I were younger.
 
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Yoteski

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Excellent write up, sounds like a really good time. I actually spoke with someone yesterday who just drove back from that match and it sounds very interesting. Maybe something I should consider as there will be one in New Hampshire I think. I have never even heard of a CD match( Competition Dynamics) before so I had to look that up. These NRL hunter matches sound like a nice change of pace. I wish I were younger.
Don't let age stop you from competing. There isn't really any need to run up to a stage and most didn't due to snowy conditions. Prioritizing and catering your loadout to the match style will be of more use than being able to run a 5 minute mile.
There were competitors off all ages and build at this one and being in great shape was not an essential requirement. You had to be in good enough shape to walk a mile or so with a full loadout. A guy could really make it fairly easy by shooting light class, cf tripod, and git light fill in bags.
 
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enginerd

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Great job on the write up KJ. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and all the stage that were set up for this. I will say that having LRF binos I might have had another 8-10 points because I used a lot of time changing between binos and LRF even though they were mounted on the same plate and co-witnessed. Definitely a fun match and I am really excited for this format to take off.
I was also able to gather some good ideas for operations and layout at the match I will be hosting in April (23-25) in Laramie. It will be really cool to see what all the different venues provide because the terrain will all be so varied between matches. Hope to see you all out there at one this year.
-Collin
 

Yoteski

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Great job on the write up KJ. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and all the stage that were set up for this. I will say that having LRF binos I might have had another 8-10 points because I used a lot of time changing between binos and LRF even though they were mounted on the same plate and co-witnessed. Definitely a fun match and I am really excited for this format to take off.
I was also able to gather some good ideas for operations and layout at the match I will be hosting in April (23-25) in Laramie. It will be really cool to see what all the different venues provide because the terrain will all be so varied between matches. Hope to see you all out there at one this year.
-Collin
Psshh....as if you needed another 8-10 pts! Lol, congrats on the win!
 

enginerd

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Congrats on your finish. I loved this match as well. I'm all in on the NRL Hunter series.

Thanks for the Git-Lite shoutout. We think that Git-Lite will be perfect for the NRL Hunter series.
Glad to see you got home finally. That storm sunday was something.
I was using a Git-lite filled Saracen bag from Warhorse Dev for my bag too. Great stuff when you have to carry it for field matches.
 
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rob.sfo

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Thanks for the write-up! I’m attending the CA match in late March.

I’ve never shot any sort of long-range match...just deer/hog hunting, long-range classes and 3gun/pistol matches...so the tips are invaluable.

I’m definitely concerned about sorting out my gear/process in order to even get my shots off in time.

I can’t wait though, this format is super appealing to me.
 
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enginerd

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Thanks for the write-up! I’m attending the CA match in late March.

I’ve never shot any sort of long-range match...just deer/hog hunting, long-range classes and 3gun/pistol matches...so the tips are invaluable.

I’m definitely concerned about sorting out my gear/process in order to even get my shots off in time.

I can’t wait though, this format is super appealing to me.
If I could offer some suggestions:
Have a system for recording what target is what distance/elevation you need to hold/dial. I use a arm board with hard data then just reference that based on range from my LRF.
Get to the shoot position, and reference your direction of fire then after finding your first target, you no longer need to stand at that point to range or find the rest so start considering where you are going to shoot from and try to range from there.
Take the time to build a good shooting position, first round hits count double! cross check your range/dial before you shoot the wrong target.
If you only find two of 4, shoot the two, then go back and find the other two. A 4 on a stage is going to be way better than burning 3:30 min and not getting to shoot.
 

Simonsza1

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So I just signed up for the Tennessee match. Then went to add up my power factor and I don’t make it. I’m pretty close but short by just a little bit. Unfortunately I only have 130eldm to load, guess I need to try and find some 140s quickly.
 
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Simonsza1

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I have 1 box of 143 eldm but they are my only hunting bullets so I dont want to use them up. Would be great if I could score a couple more boxes of those. May have to put a wtb in the px. I could try to bump up the 130s but this barrel is so dam slow
 

Jcbusaf

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I have 1 box of 143 eldm but they are my only hunting bullets so I dont want to use them up. Would be great if I could score a couple more boxes of those. May have to put a wtb in the px. I could try to bump up the 130s but this barrel is so dam slow
That sucks. Keep asking around someone will have enough to help you. I’m on the hunt for 140 hybrids myself
 

Simonsza1

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I just checked midway and they do have the Barnes 140 still. 500 for $163
 

Simonsza1

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Well I signed up for light cause I believe my 18” 6.5cm hunting rifle will make weight. If I have to switch to heavy after I put the scale on it then I’ll probably switch over to the Archimedes in the xylo which isn’t really that heavy
 
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BPGuru

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So I just signed up for the Tennessee match. Then went to add up my power factor and I don’t make it. I’m pretty close but short by just a little bit. Unfortunately I only have 130eldm to load, guess I need to try and find some 140s quickly.
Where is the TN match being held and when? Thanks!
 

Yoteski

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I bit the bullet and ordered 400 135 atips for my creedmoor. I was getting an easy 2825 with my 140 bthp out of my 22" barrel, so hopefully I can find a good node that reaches velocity minimum for power factor (2,814).
 

sammispec

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Below is an AAR I just wrote up for the inaugural match in Nebraska.

 
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Yoteski

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Below is an AAR I just wrote up for the inaugural match in Nebraska.

Excellent write up!
 

Simonsza1

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Welp as usual shit ain’t workin out! I got the 140 Barnes and they grouped real well. So I B556C5EC-042A-4819-A401-B2820E8792FD.jpegstarted a little load development to see where I’m at. I’ll skip the beginning but I got to 43.1gr of h4350 and my average was way to slow to meet power factor. 18” barrel may not cut the mustard. This is what I got from the 43.1. I could go a bit more I believe but not much without pressure problems. Need to get to 2,710 worried it’s not gonna happen.
 

mahlv

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How new is your barrel? I've seen it take up to 100-150 rounds for a new tube to stop picking up speed.
 

mahlv

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Bummer... well depending on what your goals etc are, I saw that the NRL is allowing you to shoot whatever you want (under 3200fps) for a much lower cost. You aren't eligible for awards etc, but you would be able to shoot the match regardless.
 

Simonsza1

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I really wanted to shoot my hunting rifle. I think the power factor is needed in the hunter series but feel an exception for 18” barrel slinging 140s should be allowed. I guess I’ll just switch over to heavy class and shoot my xylo/Archimedes with the 140s