Very often, hunters will approach an unsuccessful day in the field – or a weak hunting season in general – by renouncing their old gear and immediately starting a shopping search for newer, shinier, more reliable items. But while this is a perfectly natural and human response – especially given the high desirability of all of the great gear that is available on the market right now – it’s very rarely the correct response. While it is entirely possible that your gear is letting you down or holding you back – especially if you’ve been using the same arsenal of gear for awhile – you need to at least give yourself some time before you completely apportion the blame for your hunting failures to your rifle or your bow.
How long should you wait? That depends. If you’re in the middle of a hunting season, cool it, chill out, and take your mind off the hunt for a moment. Every hunter has off days, and you never know when a day of failure may be followed by a day of success. However, if you’re at the end of a dry-spell season and you can’t seem to land a single accurate shot with your rifle, there’s almost definitely something at work other than your own nerves, fatigue, frustration, or simple luck.
There are two possible scapegoats for a consistent problem with rifle inaccuracy. The first is the rifle. Often, when hunters blame their guns for their field problems, they use range statistics – ostensibly, groupings of shots at different distances – to suggest that their rifle itself isn’t accurate enough to strike big game targets from a distance. The problem is that most rifles are perfectly adequate for hitting an animal – especially a big game species like a deer or an elk – at a reasonable distance. If your rifle is brand new and you are having no luck shooting with it, chances are that you just need to spend more time mastering it at the shooting range.
Which leads us to the second scapegoat for a consistent marksmanship problem. While we don’t want to necessarily say that an expert marksman can be accurate while shooting any type of gun at any distance, that statement is at least partially true. That statement also goes the other way though, in that a poor marksman won’t be able to do much with even the most expensive rifle on the market. This is true for hunters as well, so unless your rifle is extremely old and is showing wear and tear from years of use – which frankly still won’t necessarily impact your marksmanship – then the only way to solve your marksmanship problem is to spend more time at the shooting range.
When you buy a new rifle, chances are that the specs will indicate the general accuracy of the gun in terms of its shot groupings at certain distances. Whatever those specified shot groupings are, dedicate yourself to reaching them rather than buying a new gun. If your rifle claims that it can shoot six-inch groupings at 300 yards, set up a six-inch target at 300 yards and take aim. Until you can perfect your technique enough to hit the target every single time, you won’t benefit from a better rifle that shoots smaller, more accurate groupings, because you won’t have the optimal marksman’s technique to make the most of the gun. If you’re getting the most out of your rifle and you still are missing targets, maybe then you can consider buying a new rifle. However, if you can dependably shoot six-inch groupings at 300 yards, there aren’t many targets you won’t be able to hit, so you will have probably saved yourself the need of buying a new gun altogether.