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What Is NRL: Hunter? Rules, Stages, And Divisions



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TO GAIN EVERY ETHICAL EDGE, YOU NEED TO GET OUT AND SHOOT

From the mountains to the desert, NRL: Hunter is an event that takes place across the nation for most of the year. Suitable for kids, beginners, and big game pros, NRL: Hunter will teach you a lot about your gear, your rifle, and yourself.

Get your hunting rifle and test your skills! 

THE GOAL OF NRL: HUNTER

For much of the country, hunting is often done at 200 yards or less. Whitetail practically walks up to you in the right areas, and hogs will actually charge you in others.

While hunters used to this might gain something from NRL: Hunter, the real focus is on harder hunts – the kind that is more common in the West.

NRL: Hunter match down near Julian, California. Image via NRL: Hunter Instagram

NRL: Hunter targets can be from 200 to over 1,000 yards, but the most common targets are from 200 to 700. These are ranges that are pretty commonly seen out West. Shooting at those distances, especially for hunting, is extremely difficult. 

Wind conditions, range estimation, weather, positioning, and even just finding the game is dialed up to 11 on the difficulty scale. NRL: Hunter provides a safe, responsible, match environment that allows people to practice the skills needed for these kinds of hunts.

Or if you’re like me, it’s just a whole lot of fun with a new set of skills.

BASIC RULES

Like most shooting competitions, shooters can complete in a range of divisions and classifications. From super new shooters to hard-core competitors, NRL: Hunter has something for everyone.

Shoot over the course of two days, but really each event takes place on three days. Friday is just an afternoon for check-in, gear qualification, power factor recording, etc. Saturday and Sunday are when the stages are shot. 15-20 stages over the two days. Lunch is normally provided on Saturday! The round count is normally between 70-160, depending on how much you miss.

Open Divisions are based on the weight of the rifle + anything attached to the rifle, minus sling and ammo/magazine. Open Heavy is for rifles under 16 pounds, and Open Light is for rifles under 12 pounds. Both of these divisions are subject to meeting a power factor of 380,000 (weight of the bullet in grains times the muzzle velocity), but more on that later.

There are also two divisions built for newer shooters/hunters, Factory and Skills.

Factory is like Production in other shooting sports, a from the factory rifle with almost zero modifications. An approved list of manufacturers is on the NRL: Hunter website, but it includes the names you would expect.

SIG Sauer Cross rifle, perfect for Factory division

Some changes can be made, like adding a muzzle device to a threaded barrel (with some limitations) or adding cheek risers that don’t modify the original stock/chassis.

Skills is an even more accessible division that frees the shooter from most limitations and has a lower match fee to enter. Plus, shooters can be couched on the clock. However, the major downside of Skills is that shooters are not eligible for prizes or to gain points for entry to the invitational Grand Slam at the end of the NRL: Hunter season.

Scoring is unique, with every target only allowing a max of 2 shots. A first-round impact gets 2 points, a second round impact gets 1 point. Miss both times, and you get no points for that target.

Team Shooters

Something rarely seen in shooting sports, team shooting! Teams in NRL: Hunter consists of two hunters. Teams shoot under the Open Heavy rules, meaning 16 pounds or less for the rifle. Stage times are 6 minutes instead of 4, but both shooters need to shoot in that time frame. 

That means a team of two has just six minutes to find and hit all the targets for a max possible score of 16 points per stage.

Shooting as a team isn't easy!

The first team member must finish shooting before the second shooter starts. Once the second shooter starts, the first shooter cannot shoot again on that stage.

While communication between the two hunters is allowed, you must be quiet. If team members communicate with each other too loudly, they will “scare away the game,” and the stage will end with no points being awarded.

CLASSIFICATIONS

On top of the divisions are classifications. There are only two, Ladies and Young Guns. They’re mostly self-explanatory. Ladies are for women that want to shoot against other women. The rules are the same with limits on gear, PF, etc., but shooters are only shooting against the other Ladies in the match. This basically provides more spots in the Grand Slam for women and more prizes. 

Young Guns is the same idea but limited to shooters aged 8-16. Young Guns must be accompanied by an adult guardian.

POWER FACTOR

Skills and Factory divisions don’t need to meet the minimum power factor, but for Factory, the PF of the rifles will be used as a tiebreaker. Higher PF wins.

Open Light and Open Heavy must meet a minimum of 380,000 using the weight of the bullet in grains times the muzzle velocity. For example, a 140gr bullet needs an MV of at least 2,714 FPS. A 147gr only needs to move at 2,585 FPS. Something bigger, like a 7mm PRC with a 180gr ELD, only needs an MV of 2,111 FPS.

Remember, this is not the limit – the 380,000 power factor is the minimum!

Open Light and Open Heavy can use factory-sealed box ammunition, but it must be at least .264”/6.5mm and at least 130gr. PF is still used to break a tie.

MATCH DESIGN

Now for the fun stuff, what does NRL: Hunter actually look like? It’s pretty awesome.

4 minutes are given for each stage (Team shooters get 6 minutes), and every stage is blind. You don’t know where your targets are or how far away they are.

You have 4 minutes to find the targets, range them, and engage them.

You might have 4 targets from 1 shooting position, 2 targets from 2 positions, or as many as 4 targets from 1 position. 

You may ask the RO at the stage simple yes or no questions only. Don’t expect much help.

Before the stage, you’ll be given a rundown on what you’re looking for, as in what each target is and how many of them there are.

Once the clock starts, good luck.

I highly recommend taking a look at some videos of NRL: Hunter stages, one of the best comes from Long Range With The Lillys:

GEAR, RIFLES, AND MORE

This is a big area of discussion that covers everything from rifles to bipods and tripods to hunting packs, bino chest rigs, trekking poles, and a lot more.

Basically, way too much to go into right now.

We’ll have some articles coming soon that look at the best gear for NRL: Hunter, but we’re still working on writing them. Once they publish, we’ll update this section with links to those articles.

For now, here is a basic gear list that you should bring to compete: 

  • Ear Pro
  • Eye Pro
  • Rifle with scope
  • Ammo
  • Magazines
  • Clothing for the weather (rain, cold, heat, whatever is in store)
  • Range finder (binos with an LRF built-in are highly recommended)
  • Rear Support Bag
  • Bipod (and most shooters bring a tripod also)
  • Weather Meter (even your phone works if it’s all you've got)
  • Tools
  • Food and water (water is provided at the stages)
  • Pack to carry everything. Remember, you’ll be carrying your rifle from stage to stage also.

NRL: HUNTER GEAR LOANER PROGRAM

Don’t have a rifle? LRF? Weather meter? All of the above?!

You’re in luck because NRL: Hunter can loan you all of it. Maybe.

If you sign up for an NRL: Hunter membership ($100 per year, required for Gand Slam scoring, not required just to shoot matches), then you’re able to sign up for the Loaner Program.

Good binos and a Kestrel, now just do your part!

Lots of gear has been provided to the NRL: Hunter matches from partner brands like SIG Sauer, Leupold, Savage, Vortex, MDT, Two Vets, Kestrel Ballistics, and more. Loaned out to shooters on a first come basis, this gives you the chance to shoot the match using awesome gear that you didn’t have to pay for.

However, you have to give it back when you’re done. 

Ask nicely and ask early enough, and you might be able to shoot the match with an H-S Precision custom rifle, SIG Kilo 10k LRF binos, a Two Vets tripod, an MDT Ckye-Pod, and a Kestrel 5700. That’s a huge money saver and a lot of high-tier gear.

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