shooting restNo marksman wants to miss their target, ever! Unfortunately, missing is part of shooting. Whether using a bow, rifle, or shotgun, missing is a result of similar issues. The bad news is that a poor shot can result in a crippled and suffering animal. The good news is that, with practice, you can become a better shot.

Take ownership of your mistake. Learn what you did wrong and fix it. If you just make excuses, the problem will happen again. This means more crippled critters, and potential safety issues. Avoid both by embracing the mistake, and making it an opportunity for improvement.

Every hunter used to hope for just one accurate shot. The single shot weapons of the era required perfect precision. Modern hunters seem to be more about firepower and long range. Some hunters feel a need to shoot several times at their target. Sniper style shots are also desired. Whatever the case, the outcome is more about the need of a hunter rather than the respect of the critter. Close shots are more intimate, sporting, and require additional hunting skills. Shooting a critter several times means less meat to eat.

Challenge yourself to be the BEST hunter and marksman that you can be. Snipers pride themselves on one shot, one kill. All shooting skills require experience and practice. My favorite rifle is a Ruger #1 single shot. I carry just 3 rounds when I hunt. The first is for the critter, the second is to put the critter down, if my first shot is not perfect, and the third is for me if I miss the first two. I have never needed the second or third shots. Hunting with a single shot mentality, changes how you shoot. That single, perfect shot is the outcome of hundreds of shots from the bench.

Don’t close your eyes. Great marksmanship is about hand and eye coordination. Many shooters close their eyes just before releasing or pulling the trigger. They never see the impact, with eyes shut. A lot can happen in a moment. The critter can stop, move, step behind cover, turn, or bolt. Seeing the impact of the shot will tell you if your shot was accurate. If you feel that you need to protect your eyes, always wear shooting glasses. To break this blinking/eye close habit, use a BB Gun, or simple archery system, to practice. Force yourself to stay eyes open. Film your shots, using a cell phone or camera, to make sure that you don’t blink. Have a companion film your face when shooting. The more you shoot, the better you will shoot.

Rushing the shot will result in a miss. Great marksmen settle into an almost Zen-Like state when shooting. Complete focus is essential. Breathing, timing, stance, trigger pull, vision, and mindset must all be in sync. The sight of huge buck, bull, or cackling pheasant are exciting. That’s part of the lure of hunting. Learn to keep the excitement under control. Get back to the basics of shooting and practice, practice, practice.

Shotgun, archery, and rifle shooting are about repetition. I have hunted with great trap and skeet shooters that would miss every live bird flushed. Hunting adds a higher level of excitement. Try shooting skeet and trap targets launched at random. Allow the launcher to surprise you. Announce that you are ready, safety on, and holding the gun as you would be relaxed. When the target launches, mount the gun and shoot. Use inexpensive ammunition to practice rifle shooting. BBs, pellets, and 22’s are great choices.

Take a field walk using target arrows. Shoot Flu Flu fletched shafts so you can find them again. These arrows are designed to travel short distances, and do well for aerial targets. Practice instinctive archery skills to help estimate range and shooting. Shoot from sitting, kneeling, and positions near cover. Target big mushrooms, rotten stumps or logs, and specific spots on a dirt bank. These practice sessions always pay off. Identify the skill you want to strengthen and practice. The only way to improve marksmanship is to shoot more.

Don’t shoot a big game animal when it is moving. Focus on the one best shot when the critter stops. Aim at the kill zone. Take a full breath, let half out, hold the sights in place and smoothly pull the trigger straight back. This routine will become consistent with practice. Get excited after the shot. Your great shot can be celebrated after the critter is down. Sometimes the best shot choice is the shot you do not take.

Take the first, best, shot offered. Practice has determined your range of comfort. When the critter is within that range, take the shot. Experience will help you decide when you are most comfortable. Waiting too long can result in a miss, or no shot. The perfect shot is the one that does the job.

Aim at the exit! The vitals of a critter are known but the angle of the bullet needs to be understood as well. Think about the path that the bullet will travel into, and out of, that targeted area. The whole point of shooting a critter is to kill it. This means heart, lungs, and bleeding. Hunting is a blood sport, and death is the goal, and ultimate outcome. If you are going to pull the trigger, do it right!

Be in position. Your body must be ready to shoot. Foot placement, a proper rest, and the angle of your stance are all important. You need to be comfortable when shooting. Shift your position slowly, as is needed. If your body is twisted, off balance, or not facing the target, you will miss. Start planning for the shot well before the moment of truth. Have your weapon ready, and nearby. Hooks on the stand, blind, or tree will help. Keep all movements slow and easy. Use optics to see the critter at a distance. The sooner you see the potential target, the more time you have, to prepare for your shot. Look at any safety concerns and anticipate where and when you plan to shoot. A plan B is always good.

Anyone can shoot. Not everyone is a marksman. Decide what type of marksman you want to be and shoot for it!

Aim Small, Miss Small!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at www.montanagrantfishing.com.