There are a lot of factors to consider when you head out the door as a hunter. From wind directions and scent control issues, to decoying methods and tracking techniques, a hunter has an awful lot to remember and an awful lot to master each time he or she hits the field.
However, there is one aspect of hunting that you can simply not be successful without: shooting prowess.
That’s not to say that every hunter has to be a marksman who can put a bullet in the bullseye every single time he or she pulls the trigger. We’ve all watched bullets go wide of their target, and it often happens as a result of several factors.
However, there is a lot to be said for consistency and accuracy, and a mastery of both will almost undoubtedly give a hunter success, even if they botch and forget pretty much every other hunting consideration.
So how can you become a master marksman? Honestly, shooting is a hard thing to teach in writing. If you are serious about improving your accuracy, you will eventually have to get yourself to the local shooting range and spend a few hours blasting at nondescript paper targets.
You need to get a feel for your rifle. You need to know how it shoots and what the recoil feels like in your hands. You need to know which direction your shots tend to skew when they miss the target and you need to determine why they are going off course.
Most of all, you need to gain confidence and consistency for hitting your target with the gun you will use in the hunting field. The shooting range is the perfect place to do all of these things.
However, the shooting range should not be the end all, be all of your marksmanship practice. If you want to shoot like a professional during the open season, then firing at targets in a heated, indoor environment will only teach you so much.
To truly gain practical hunting training for your shooting skills, you will need to take the rudimentary skills you mastered at the shooting range and translate them into an adverse, and sometimes frigid outdoor environment.
Cold temperatures can change the way you shoot, as can your hunting gear. Targets shaped like deer can also take some getting used to after the less specific targets of the range. Consider taking your training to a private property spot where you can shoot at deer decoy targets in full hunting regalia, preferably in the cold, low-light conditions that you may face on the frigid mornings of the hunting season.
This scenario will allow you to translate the more theoretical skills of the shooting range into a more practical setting, which in turn will aid you in becoming the shooting pro you want to be when you actually find yourself up against live deer.
Lastly, try to imagine your shots under the conditions of unbridled excitement and pounding adrenaline. This stage of marksmanship training is the most difficult, as it’s hard to replicate the emotions of the moment when you first see a trophy buck wander out of the woods within shooting distance.
However, if you can master your own adrenaline and emotion to formulate a concentrated and accurate shot, you will have successfully mastered the art of shooting as well.
Beyond all else, remember that practice makes perfect. Rounds shot at a range or under training circumstances will help towards making the shots that count that much more meaningful.