Ever been on a hunt and have a situation where you think you’ve got your target perfectly lined up through the trees and then missed that one perfect shot? Well, you’re not alone.
Most hunters will tell you that really great opportunities to bag a memorable trophy come few and far between. Depending on where you live, the time of year and the animal population in the area, the pickins’ could be a little slim. That, coupled with the fact that the better specimens are usually more crafty in the wild (that’s why they’ve survived), your chances may be limited. If you do get a shot, you’ll want to be sure that it’s a good one.
Like any shooting discipline, hunting with a rifle requires a very specific set of skills. Do you or the hunters that you know actually practice hunting? Or is it more of a target practice and overall weapon proficiency type of thing (or maybe not even that)?
Hunting as an activity can also be considered to be quite recreational and social and more about being in the great outdoors with friends and family. If you don’t come away with anything that weekend, it’s not a big deal. It’s a more casual approach and that’s perfectly fine.
If you want to elevate your game though, you’ll likely need to pay more attention to developing your skills. A few things to consider:
Obviously any kind of practice that you can do at the range is going to be of some benefit. Blowing through a ton of rounds every time may end up being counter-productive though (and expensive). Try keeping your hunting-specific work short-&-sweet, with a lot of focus to make every shot count. There’s a school of thought that promotes more frequent, shorter sessions as being better overall.
If you tend to practice too comfortably all the time (think chair and a bench), your approach may find you limited when it really counts. Field hunting requires that you shoot from a variety of prone, sitting, kneeling, standing, leaning and other awkward positions that you’ll need to be familiar with.
Having a solid understanding of your weapon, ballistics and performance under different conditions is important for accurate shooting. Practice both shorter and longer shots to ensure consistently smooth, fast and efficient sighting and firing. Also be highly aware of the drop over distance and the angle you’re shooting from. Don’t make assumptions with a one-time critical (and ethical) shot.
In relation to the above point on shooting too comfortably, you may want to try a little practice in less-than-ideal environmental conditions to help perfect your technique. After all, it’s not always perfect weather out there. Consider the heat, the cold, rain, snow, wind and low light, and work on offsetting these factors before you head out.
Be aware that becoming too reliant on a perfect bipod set-up for every shot is likely going to limit you over time. Real world situations may require you to mount on a backpack, a tree, a rock or some other object. Know that that your weapon and shot will react differently depending on how you’re situated. Being aware of how to effectively use your sling can also come in handy.
As far as optics are concerned, the general rule is not to go too crazy on the magnification. Fast target acquisition can be problematic with anything too powerful, so something like a popular 3-9 up to a 3-12 should be more than sufficient. Also try and zero from your different shooting positions, as there can be some variance.
Depending on what you hunt and how you hunt it, physical exertion can play a part in your ability to effectively make accurate shots. If you’re seated comfortably somewhere or in a blind or up a tree, this won’t be so much of an issue. If you’re on the move through rough terrain or dense brush however, you may find yourself out of breath and with an elevated heart rate. Your ability to calm yourself and control your breathing in these cases is key if you want to be able to stay focused and shoot well. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could try and replicate this scenario when you practice. Can’t hurt.
Whether you’re looking to fill your freezer or for something impressive to mount in your den, shooting with consistency and confidence should be your goal. Game hunting should be a fun pastime, but there’s always room for improvement if we want to increase our chances of success.
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