Hunting – Shooting Practice
As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect, and that applies to shooting your weapons as well. However, simply shooting your weapon at the range or in a field is not real practice. Once you have your rifle or bow sighted in properly, it’s time to take some real practice, simulating situations that you will come across on a hunt.
In an earlier post I talked about shooting from odd positions, which is something tree stand hunters will have to do quite often. But there are other things to practice. For bow hunters, you should be able to shoot accurately kneeling down, standing up, leaning right, left, or forward, and definitely practice from a tree stand if that is what you use, or from within a ground blind if you use one.
For rifle hunting, you need to be as deadly accurate from multiple positions as you are with your bench and sand bags at the range. I have never used shooting sticks, but some people swear by them. Still, you should be able to shoot freehand, meaning standing up or kneeling without something to rest your rifle on, you may not have the chance to deploy your shooting sticks. You should also be proficient at shooting from the prone position, using your day pack as a rest, or no rest at all.
With shotguns, the best practice you can get is at a walk-through shooting range where targets are thrown from all different angles and flight patterns. These are called “Sporting Clays,” and they are about as close to actual hunting as you may ever get. If you hunt turkeys, practice shooting from a sitting position with your back against a tree, and shoot at multiple angles from that same position.
Regardless of your weapon, you need to practice shooting in all types of weather, especially foul weather. Rain can really affect your equipment, so you need to experience what it is like to shoot in the rain. The most important element to practice in is cold weather, which you are more than likely to experience if you hunt big game, upland birds, turkeys, or waterfowl. The numbing cold can have a very detrimental effect on how your body functions.
It is also important to practice shooting with the clothing and gear you will be using when you are hunting. For example, you can practice all summer for pheasant hunting in the fall, only to find that when you shoulder your shotgun with your hunting clothes on, you will find that your point of aim is altered by the additional clothing. It’s also a good time to work out any kinks in your gear well before it’s time to actually need it, like knowing where you will have your caps and reloads for your muzzle loader, or what pocket works best to hold your range finder.
It’s never too early to get out and practice, I try to get out and shoot year round, even if it’s only for a few hours on the weekend.