If you are a rifle hunter, you may be used to thinking that practicing at the shooting range is enough and that, as long as your rifle is sighted-in for your hunting ammunition, you’re good to go. However, you may have developed bad habits only practicing at the range and might want to sharpen up if you want to be a skilled hunter. Learn why you need realistic hunting practice and how it can help you become a better shot in the field out in a hunting a blind.
Use The Range for Marksmanship Basics
Practicing at the shooting range with targets at known distances is the best way to familiarize yourself with your rifle, figure out a suitable rifle-ammunition pair and, most importantly, sight in your combination of rifle, scope and ammunition. Once you’re confident that your rifle is zeroed at the range of your choice — typically 100 to 200 yards — continue to practice shooting with it in various positions to build confidence in your marksmanship.
Don’t just practice from the most comfortable stances; try shooting in as many positions as possible, including standing, kneeling, sitting, prone, from a rest, from a bipod or from shooting sticks. Getting the basics down is essential, but don’t over-exert yourself. Hunting loads in most calibers develop significant recoil energy, and most shooters experience muscle soreness and fatigue after going through several rounds. If you feel confident you can shoot your deer rifle accurately and from any position and stance, you are ready to start realistic target practice.
Use 3D Deer Targets
It isn’t enough to be good at hitting targets and producing tight groups. Many hunters mistakenly think their skills at the shooting range translate into skills in the field. In reality, if you rely solely on target shooting basics, you are only really prepared for shooting flat targets. Deer are three-dimensional creatures that you encounter from a variety of distances and angles. Most hunters agree that the perfect 100-yard broadside shot doesn’t happen every time. Your training and functional practice should reflect that fact. The best way to practice is to borrow a training technique from bow hunters, which involves using a 3D deer target.
Unlike a paper or a steel target, a 3D deer target presents realistic size, colors and a kill zone outline to help you find the right point of aim. You can and should orient the deer at various angles and place it at a variety of distances during practice. Most deer targets are relatively inexpensive and, if you can find a model featuring replaceable cores, you can get many years of service. Try placing your targets at awkward or difficult angles, on uphill or downhill slopes and at all kinds of ranges from 50–200 yards. You should also try integrating your practice at the range and shoot from various stances and positions. If you feel confident and your caliber can shoot relatively flat trajectories, try long-distance shots such as 300 or even 400 yards.
When learning to shoot from hunting blinds, placing your practice targets strategically at various distances from your blind may help you get used to shooting in life-like conditions.
Consider shooting from elevated positions to get a better idea of shooting angles, such as a tree stand, a DIY deer blind or a shooting tower. The deer’s kill zone changes significantly between the ground and an elevated position. A good deer rifle paired with modern ammunition is very accurate and capable of performing humane shots even at long ranges; you only need to build up the skills to get to that point.
Your gun is likely more accurate than you are, so don’t mistakenly believe you can simply buy better rifles or accessories to improve your accuracy. You’re better off spending the money on ammunition and practice instead.
Train in Realistic Conditions
Have you ever looked outside during sundown and thought to yourself that there isn’t enough light to practice shooting or go plinking? Have you ever told yourself that it’s too windy or wet to go shooting? Wind and rain are conditions you should expect during realistic hunting scenarios. So why limit your practice to only the fair-weather days? Not only does inclement weather provide a good test of your skills, but it offers an opportunity to check if your gear and your scope, in particular, are up to the task.
When it comes to scopes, you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, many inexperienced hunters sacrifice functionality for affordability and, when out in the field during poor weather, they quickly find that their glass isn’t as fog-proof or weather-resistant as they initially believed, which can rob them of an otherwise good opportunity to take a shot.
Learn Your Limits
Practicing under less-than-ideal conditions in various positions and conditions serves two purposes: to hone and improve your abilities and to find out what your limits are. Practicing in realistic conditions helps you make more realistic estimations and have an idea of how likely you are to make a difficult shot. It’s tempting to try to go for the far shots while you’re at the range; after all, the only consequence for missing is spending around. But when you’re in the field, where a miss may, at best, make the buck flee and, at worst, wound it, don’t let excitement get the better of you and tempt you to try to take an unlikely shot. Knowing your limits lets you keep a cool head and make a better, more informed decision. Maybe the best solution is to wait for the deer to come closer or for the wind to die down. With a cool head comes patience and, with patience, often comes a successful hunt.
The Bottom Line
Practicing taking shots in realistic scenarios can help you better prepare for the hunt, ensuring that you don’t come home empty-handed. During practice take notes and keep a cheat sheet for each rifle and ammunition. Having a helpful reminder of your bullet’s trajectory can help you find the right holdover points at any given distance or wind conditions.
This article was produced by the marketing team for Shadow Hunter Blinds, a company focused on building hunting blinds that withstand the test of time. Shadow Hunter professional-grade blinds are the #1 brand preferred by industry-leading Pros and Sportsmen everywhere.