How Are You Supposed to Practice Hunting?

It's hard to get started without a little training or dress rehearsal. Here's how to practice hunting.

There is nothing like that exact moment when ducks are dropping into the decoys, a rooster flushes, or that big buck is walking right towards you. The fact is that short of having these exact scenarios happen in real time, how do you practice for it?

The honest answer is that you really can't. And no, the "Big Buck Hunter" video game does not count.

Before the ducks answer your call or your bird dog locks on point, there actually are some great ways to practice, or at least prepare, for the big moment. Hunting season might start at the bench rest, but hunting situations start in the mind's eye.

Target Practice

Before any of us get out into the treestand or the blind we should spend some time honing our shooting skills with our favorite implement, be it a bow, rifle, or shotgun. Since the shooting range is the best place to do any bad shooting, it behooves us all to get that out of our system before any big game animals are standing right in front of us.

You should have your preferred ammo sorted out, your ballistics figured into the equation, and the crosshairs on your scope locked in. Aiming points and bull's-eyes aside, good shooting starts with live fire and paper targets.

Here's where you can practice the various shooting positions that you may encounter, whether it be the prone position, sitting, or standing. Not every hunter will need to use shooting sticks, but those who will be doing some long-range shooting will have a better advantage when the moment of truth arrives. Practice opening and closing sticks, mounting your firearm, and executing a shot.

If you're wingshooting, clays are perfect training items to practice with. If you're bowhunting, invest in a good 3D target and some field points. Get the process down and practice your marksmanship to exhaustion. There's no such thing as "too much time at the shooting range."

Dry Fire Practice

This may seem no different than target practice, but it is, and can be super helpful. Dry fire practice can be done out in the field in the actual spot which you will hunt, or from the comfort of your own home. It should go without saying, but ALWAYS ensure your firearm is unloaded before attempting dry fire practice.

There is nothing like raising your favorite gun to a "target" and pulling the trigger, without actually firing the gun, spending money on ammo, or subjecting your shoulder to recoil.

Mental Practice

Here's where things get a little nuanced. It goes without saying that we should already know everything there is to know about the individual animal that we're about to hunt, but it's an ever-changing scenario. Put yourself in a hunting situation in your mind, and work through as many possibilities as you can.

Take some mental pictures of where you expect the animal to show itself, whether deer or bear or duck. Just as importantly, consider what you will need to do when this wild game does not do what you expect. Hunting scenarios happen that we can never expect, but it pays to be mentally alert for any circumstance. Practice slowing your breathing and heart rate, at least as much as you can, so you can employ the same tactics when the moment arrives.

Physical Fitness

Before the first shot is ever taken on any hunting trip, you need to know what's expected of your body. If they're successful, bowhunters and firearm hunters won't just have weapons to carry into and out of the field. They'll have harvested game animals to deal with, and that's where serious physical fitness is often required.

General exercise is great, but hiking the areas you'll hunt (without disturbing or spooking the wildlife) is just about the best method. Count it as scouting and practicing in one shot.

Well, What Are You Waiting For?

Sure, without getting outside, loading your gun or bow, and actually firing it at your favorite wild game, it's a bit of a stretch to say that you can "practice hunting." Game animals never quite do what we expect, but that's the spice of the hunting life.

When that big buck is standing right in front of you broadside, some practice will undoubtedly pay off.

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