We all know we need to practice with our rifles before the season starts (and this goes doubly for bowhunters!) It's the only way we can pull off those hard to hit shots. Without extreme amounts of luck, most shots at a moving animal are failed attempts. There are lots of factors that go into these shots and a combination of small miscalculations can result in a complete miss or worse... a poor hit.
This weekend, I used a 20 mph wind with strong gusts to see how much wind drift I'm getting out of the load I shoot in my .243. It's a sizeable amount too! The wind drift at 100 yards was approaching one Mil in my mil dot scope, which is 3.6 inches! At 200 yards, I was missing prairie dogs by FEET when there was a good gust. I learned that the effective range of my rifle is limited in those strong winds. If forced into a windy shot situation, I will have to use responsible judgement and only take shots to 200 yards max at a deer. (my 30-06 is a much different situation) whereas, in still atmosphere, I'd be comfortable taking a 300 yard headshot on a doe. I wasn't fully aware until this experience that I would have to limit my range. I am glad I took the opportunity to learn it!
I do know that I will be using both an 80 gr hornady g-max and a 100 gr hornady interlok in my rifle. In a windless situation, the g-max was THE bullet of choice, but the 100 grain bullet dominated the windy dog town... and produced carnage previously unwitnessed before in this prairie dog community.
This just goes to show me again the importance of shooting often and shooting in less than controlled circumstances. I would never have learned that at our rifle range, and I am more confident in my ability for having taken the time to shoot on a crappy day. We should all make the effort to spend quality time and develop our skills because you never know what hunt it will pay off on!
This summer, I have a list of other situations to practice as well, just to put some ideas out there for everybody.
I'm going to practice shooting with an elevated heart rate (I will do some sprinting, then run to the shooting bench and fire 2 shots and keep repeating this until I can hold a respectable off-hand group at 100 yards.)
Then I will practice shooting in uncomfortable situations (leaning heavily to one side or another) and whatever else I can dream up between now and then. Good shootin' and good luck!