Now that hunting season is fast approaching, or in fact already upon us in some locations, I see many folks heading to the shooting ranges to “sight in” their rifles and pattern their blunderbuss.
Two weeks ago I picked up a new shotgun, not a planned purchase but a good deal I couldn't pass up. I will be joining some of those folks in patterning Bessie the Blunderbuss. Usually though I shoot throughout the year and keep things pretty well patterned. The reason for this thread is due to what I see at the range.
Every year it seems the same, or same “type” of hunter shows up around this time at the local range. They only focus on hunting and shooting for the few weeks prior to hunting season. Many of them think they are capable of shooting at distances that even I wouldn't attempt and I get to deduct a lot of ammunition off my taxes as an unreimbursed business/training expense. If we haven't been doing something consistently then our ability to do that task at the peak of our effectiveness is diminished. It takes practice throughout the year to maintain our effectiveness.
As my shooting coach told me, “Practice does not make perfect. It makes PERMANENT!” Therefore it is up to us to perfect our practice until we cannot get it wrong. How many hunters have a consistent routine of dry firing? If you're doing this you need to be focused on the correct cheek weld, stance, grip, breathing, and so many other things I don't have room to mention. Your ability to place your bullet where it needs to go is directly related to the time and manner in which you practice, and dry firing is a part of that for me, and should be for many others as far as I'm concerned.
My advice, take the longest distance you shoot at, at the range, and divide by three. Now double that number. If 100 Yards is your maximum distance at the range then approximately 66 Yards is how far you should shoot. I'll call it good at 67 (100/3 = 33.33333 x 2 = 66.67). It seems to me, from what I'm seeing from the “hunters” that are showing up at the range at this time that the majority of them would be lucky to hit anything at 60+ Yards.
Folks sight in at the Bench and call it good. In the field they will stand and shoot, kneel, and maybe even go prone. So why are they not shooting past their intended ranges in these positions? Just because your rifle is zeroed for 100 Yards off the Bench doesn't mean that you can hit your target at 100 Yards shooting from a field position. One needs to shoot from a field position to be able to hit targets from a field position.
Where I live one can only take one deer per year, and that's if they get lucky enough to get drawn in the lottery that Game & Fish has. Why would anyone want to waste money on a tag if they are not going to do what they need to do to ensure success? I understand the tradition of the yearly hunt, camaraderie, and being away from home and work for a short spell, and there is nothing wrong with that. That should be the first aspect of the annual hunting trip for anyone. The thing is though, why not work on shooting throughout the year so that if nature presents you with a game animal that is legal you have the ability to take it cleanly and ethically?
One does not need to shoot vast amounts of ammunition weekly to accomplish this. In fact I only shot four rounds on my last trip to the range. We, my coach and I, identified some issues I was having by just shooting those four rounds. He then gave me exercises to do at home during the week and we will go out again tomorrow, one week later. I probably won't shoot more than ten rounds tomorrow, but the focus will be intense and I will be tired when we are done. I will feel like I have just run a 5K race when I get home. That's focus and concentration, for if done properly I believe it will tax the body and allow one to sleep peacefully.
Once I have a rifle zeroed, with ammunition that the gun likes, I don't change ammunition. Also, I will shoot my rifle to confirm zero, one or two rounds, at every opportunity I get. If I don't hit what I'm aiming at then it's another trip back to the range to check and reset my zero. If I make an adjustment to my scope or sights, I will confirm zero before firing it for real on game or human.
Shooting throughout the course of the year, and maybe even shooting some competitions if one has the ability, is a great way to increase one's accuracy, become solid in the fundamentals, and really begin to know one's abilities. If one looks at the elite shooting units, be it law enforcement or military, one will find that they train more than they do it for real. There is a reason for that. Why do so many hunters do it for real more than they train?