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Elevating Hunting Success: The Crucial Role of Better Shooting

By April 26, 2024No Comments6 min read

The excitement of arrowing a velvet antlered early season deer or maybe archery hunting elk during the rut captivates many, myself included, leading us to release countless arrows at every chance possible throughout the year especially during the summer months as September closes in.  This consistent practice is crucial for gaining a deep understanding of our abilities and limitations, and I applaud those who dedicate themselves to honing their archery skills.

However, when it comes to the rifle hunts many of us take on in October and often November, I feel the story shifts a bit. While some invest the necessary time behind the rifle to become effective and efficient, I feel there are many who could improve significantly. I see it and hear it every season, bad shots, missed shots, shots taken that folks had no business taking in the first place. Beyond merely zeroing in a rifle, ongoing and dedicated practice acts as an important safeguard against missed opportunities, wayward shots, and the all too often wounded yet not found animal.

The misconception that shooting a rifle is as simple as aligning the crosshairs and yanking the trigger often leads to very undesirable outcomes. Preventable mishaps in the field can be easily averted by simply spending more time behind the rifle in the non hunting months. Hunters need to understand their capabilities, and a great way of doing just that is by simulating real hunting scenarios while at the practice range.  Building rock solid shooting positions on various terrains, including uneven ground, in tall grass where a standing pack or even a tripod might be best, is crucial when needing to quickly adapt to the environment you find yourself in.  The moments when you need to make a quick clean shot can come at inopportune times so having a good system you’ve practiced countless times can make all the difference.

Here are my five top reasons to practice shooting more with your rifle in the off season and or get instruction from someone with years of experience.  .  .

  1. Accuracy: Practicing year round in all types of weather conditions will absolutely lead to less missed shots when conditions aren’t perfect, which they rarely are. If you don’t practice shooting in high winds or in extreme conditions then you might be shocked when everything falls apart in that crucial moment and your bullet drifts off target.
  2. Confidence: Regular and consistent practice will build a better understanding of your rifle and how it shoots.  Understand its capabilities, take shots in various conditions, steep up and downhill angles. Shoot in all type weather conditions so you know with certainty what your bullet will do if shooting in extreme cold vs extreme hot, there is a big difference.  Confidence in your shooting ability will undoubtedly help you remain calm and focused when faced with the pressure of a real hunting scenario.
  3. Ethical Hunting: Ethical hunting involves ensuring a quick, clean kill to minimize suffering for the animal. Practicing rifle shooting throughout the year enhances your ability to make clean one shot kills, which is essential and should be everyone’s goal every time they line up for a shot on an animal.  Hoping you make a good hit from a range you’re not comfortable with just isn’t good enough, don’t take the shot unless you’re very confident and it’s honestly within your effective range.
  4. Safety: Proper rifle handling and shooting technique are crucial for safety, both for yourself and others around you. Practicing shooting techniques helps develop safe habits, such as proper firearm handling and muzzle control.  This sounds obvious but I’ve seen handling of firearms get awfully sloppy with folks that don’t spend much time with their rifle. The more you practice being overly safe at the range the less likely you’ll ever have an unfortunate incident in the field.
  5. Understanding Trajectory and Ballistics: Each rifle and ammunition combination has its unique trajectory and ballistics. By shooting your setup more often in the off season, you gain a deeper understanding of how your particular rifle behaves at different distances and under varying conditions. This knowledge allows you to make crucial adjustments for factors like bullet drop and windage, improving your accuracy in real hunting situations.

These reasons collectively underscore the importance of practicing rifle shooting before embarking on a big mountain hunting trip, contributing to both the effectiveness and ethicality of the hunt.

In conclusion, the essence of hunting lies not just in the pursuit, but in the responsibility that comes with it.  Precision shooting transcends mere skill, it signifies a dedication to ethical hunting practices and a profound respect for wildlife. Through consistent practice, hunters can enhance their abilities, improve success rates, and, most crucially, ensure that every shot taken is purposeful. As I reflect on my hunting career in the future, I aspire not to leave a trail of wounded animals on the mountain. Patience, practice, and confidence in my shooting skills will be instrumental in achieving this goal. By honing my abilities on the practice field and understanding my effective range, I can exhibit restraint and enhance my efficacy as a hunter when faced with different shooting situations.