How to Shoot More Accurately When Hunting or at the Range
Accurate Shooting is a Must for Hunters, and Helps at the Range as Well As I look back on my hunting "career," I can do it with a smile. I've certainly made some mistakes, but I've done it right more often than not. I've missed some easy shots at deer and other game, but I've hit far more than I've missed - and every deer that I have hit has come home with me.
Naturally, I'm proud of that record - but not so proud that I think I can't still mess up. Shooting accurately under stress is usually not easy to do, and requires conscious thought and/or experience.
Let me elaborate on that statement: Conscious thought is required for accurate shooting with a rifle, crossbow, or handgun. With enough accurate shots thus fired under various circumstances, both in the field and at the range, experience begins to provide a sort of "autopilot" via muscle memory that can allow us to make accurate shots at times when our conscious minds might not be, um, working as well as they could (can you say buck fever?).
How to Shoot More Accurately When Hunting:
I have a brief article on this site entitled "How to shoot more accurately." It presents a short overview of how you can make more accurate shots. In this article, I will expand on the points in that one.
Know Your Gun (or Bow, or Crossbow)
This is important. In addition to knowing that you can fire a particular gun accurately at the range, you need to be familiar with its trigger pull, the location of the safety, how to load and unload it, etc. Believe me, a rifle with a poorly-located safety has cost more than one hunter a trophy buck.
Make sure the ammo you're shooting is accurate in your particular gun. Too many, this is a no-brainer, but not everyone knows that most rifles will provide more or less accuracy depending on the ammo used. It's up to you to make sure you're using the right stuff.
Hold Your Breath
Control your breathing... Dad used to tell me to take a deep breath, let half of it out, then hold that and fire. That doesn't always work best for me, but you definitely don't want to breathe while trying to make an accurate shot. It just causes too much body movement.
Squeeze the Trigger - When You're on Target
Trigger control is the most important point of all, and can't be stressed enough. This applies to firearms and crossbows, and even to compound bows with trigger releases.
You should gently squeeze the trigger - don't pull or jerk it. And when you squeeze it, do so with control. Observe your sights or crosshair. They will wobble and move... your job is to contain that movement - and to only apply pressure to the trigger when your aim is within the kill zone.
For a more comprehensive guide on Shooting you should check out Scopepicks.
Tighten up on the trigger smoothly and surely... and when the sights wobble or weave outside of the kill zone, hold what pressure you have on the trigger, but do not squeeze any more until you have contained the movement and brought the point of aim back inside acceptable limits. When you do, begin the squeeze again.
This may seem complicated, but it's not, and can easily be applied through practice - and it doesn't take nearly as long to do as it does to describe. As you gain experience and practice, you will be able to do it faster.
Do not anticipate the shot. If you do, bad things will happen. I still find myself guilty of this sometimes myself - but for the most part I remember and heed my father's sage advice to let the shot be a surprise. You aim and apply pressure, aim and apply pressure, aim and apply pressure.
Eventually, the gun will fire - but the instant when it does should be a surprise, so that you find yourself unable to flinch in anticipation.
Don't fear recoil. Relax and roll with it. You're on the safe end of the gun when you're firing it! If the recoil is too much, grab yourself a Limb Saver recoil pad and try again. Recoil can be managed, but you simply cannot shoot accurately consistently if you flinch or anticipate the shot.
Take a Rest
Whenever possible, use a rest to steady yourself. When using a handgun, don't rest any part of the gun itself, and don't rest a rifle's barrel or action. Use anything available to help steady yourself - even if it just means leaning back against the tree you're hunting from. Every little bit helps.
Use a Sling
Shooting can be much improved via the use of a sling. It's amazing how much more steady you can hold a rifle when you use a sling properly. You can even benefit from simply pulling a rifle towards you (into your shoulder) - with or without a sling - using your non-trigger hand.
Take Care of Your Gun or Bow
Take care of your gear. Make sure everything on your gun, bow, or crossbow works properly and is in good shape. Not only will this help you by building confidence in your gear, but it will also help familiarize you with your hunting tools so that you will know them inside and out. Even wearing a good pair of boots can help to make a better shot. I have seen ShoereviewPro has reviewed on best-hunting boots. You may have a look of their boots review.
Take Your Time (But Hurry up)
That's what Dad always said about shooting - and it's right on. You have to make sure you take the time and effort and conscious thought to keep your sights aligned and on target, squeeze the trigger instead of pulling, only sueeze when your aim is true, and all of that - but you must also learn to do so in as short a time as possible.
With practice, you will amaze yourself by being able to make accurate shots quickly. The time will come when you'll make a shot and then wonder how the heck you did it. Don't rush it, though - if the deer is getting away and you are not confident in the shot, do not fire. There will be other deer, but believe me - you do not want the regret of making a poor shot and wounding a deer. Letting it walk away is far better and much less stressful.
I hope this advice helps you become a better shot. As always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to post them in the forum.