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Become A Better Shot

There Is Only One Way To Become A Better Shot

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There Is Only One Way To Become A Better Shot

No matter how much you scout, no matter how well you spot and stalk, no matter how long you prepare for your hunt, it's all for nothing if you miss the shot. You may only get one chance – do you really want to blow it after investing all that time and money?

There is only one way to become a better shot, and that is to practice. Taking your rifle to the range and shooting a target at 100 or 200 yards over and over until you consistently get a nice tight group is a great beginning, but when you get out in the field things are much different.

Range Finder: 'Never Leave Home Without It'

Forget for the moment that you may have to take a shot standing up in high brush, from a sitting position in boulders, or lying on your belly on the side of a mountain. One of the biggest concerns you have when hunting is range. How far away is that animal? The further away it is, the more important the information becomes, simply because bullet trajectory changes more and more with distance.

Some people are gifted with an ability to accurately estimate range, but I'm not one of them. That's why I invested in a range finder. It's dead easy to use – just turn it on, look through the lens at the target, and push a button. The range pops right up and you can choose to have it in yards, meters, whatever trips your trigger. I never go big game hunting without a range finder.

It Starts At The Range

The first step in making sure you don't miss the shot is to sight your scope in at the range. I like the range because they have target distances measured out and you can change the distance when you want to. Here's how I do it:

Put your rifle in a vise or sandbag it good and sturdy so it doesn't move. You can rent a shooter's sledge at Ben Avery Range. Make sure the rifle is stationary.

1. Take 1 shot at 25 yards, aiming at the bullseye. Check to see where your bullet put a hole in the target. If you didn't hit the bullseye, put the crosshairs back on the bullseye, and using the dials on the scope, move the crosshairs (NOT the rifle) until they are right on the hole you made with that first shot.

2. Move the target to 50 yards. Do the same thing again. You should be a lot closer to the bullseye, and slightly under it.

3. Move the target to 100 yards. Take three shots. Move the crosshairs (NOT the rifle) to the center mass of the three shots. If your rifle is stationary, those three shots represent the best group your rifle can get with that ammunition.

I generally buy several boxes of ammo in different weights and makes for the caliber I have when I buy a new rifle, and I sight it in at 100 yards and see which kind of ammo gives me the tightest group. Believe it or not, rifles "like" some rounds better than others. If you have a one-inch group at 100 yards, that will be two inches at 200 yards, so it really makes a difference the further out you shoot.

Don't Rush The Process

If you're not getting to a one-inch group at 100 yards with your rifle good and stationary, then your gun just won't do well with that ammo. Try something else. Bring several boxes of ammo to the range and try each. Don't do a practice group with a hot barrel. You should be able to grab the barrel comfortably before continuing. Hot barrels move, so if you rush the process you're just hurting yourself.

I generally finish up by zeroing my rifle in at 200 yards. In the old days we used to have to get the ballistic table off the box of ammo and tape it to the stock or put it in our pocket so we'd know how high or low to aim for different distances. Things are so much better now. For our big game rifle, we bought a Leupold CDS Scope.

Custom Dial System

The CDS means Custom Dial System, and it is personalized just for you and the rounds you use – and even where you hunt. Here's how it works: After buying the scope and zeroing it in with the steps I detailed for you, call Leupold and give them the information asked for on the insert that came with the scope. This will include the serial number, cartridge, ballistic coefficient, and a bunch of other stuff.

They make you up a special dial that goes on the scope.To use the CDS, just use your rangefinder to range the target, and turn the dial on the scope. If the target is reading 350 yards, move the dial to 3.5. Simple as that.

Scopes With Ballistic Reticles

You can also get scopes with ballistic reticles, which means that when you look through the scope you will see crosshairs with other lines above and below them. You find your cartridge on the scope's list and it will tell you which line to use for the shot. Again, back in the old days they had what was called a "ladder sight": The rear sight flipped up and had a sliding bar across it that you could move up or down to correct for distance. No scope. Margie's dad hunted with an old 30.06 with ladder sights, and he could dead reckon distance. I'm glad I don't have to.

Basics Of Shooting Accurately

Chances are, if you're not as good a shot as your buddy, you're just not breathing right. If you breathe during a shot, you get a wobble. You want to touch off the round when you are not breathing. The best time to do that is after you exhale, but don't force it. Just breathe naturally, and after you exhale, hold your breath for a second while you squeeze the trigger.

Relax, Exhale, Hold, And Squeeze

Squeezing the trigger is the key. I always drop a new Timney trigger into every hunting rifle so they all have the same pull. You don't want to have a long pull because then you start anticipating, and might jerk or run out of time holding your breath. Too light a trigger can surprise you and make you jerk. If you keep things consistent, you'll do better. Relax, exhale, hold, and squeeze.

One thing to note is that this doesn't mean to force all the air out of your lungs. You don't do that naturally when you breathe. Just notice your breathing for a minute or so. Your body should be relaxed at the end of a breath. This is when to hold your breath for a few moments and squeeze the trigger. Practice this at the range while your rifle is in the vise. Practice it every time you shoot. Every time.

Best Option For Steadiness

If you're winded from running up a hill or you've got buck fever and you're shaking like a leaf, it's important to take a few deep breaths and get control. In this case, you might have to take a deep breath, hold it, and shoot while holding a full breath. It's not ideal and it doesn't give you long to touch off the shot, but it does offer the best option for steadiness in extreme conditions.

Effective Range Targets

Once you've got your rifle sighted in as good as it gets, you need to find out how good you are. You owe it to the animal you are hunting to be the best shot you can possibly be. To see how far you can shoot effectively – you, personally – go to http://www.determinationtargets.com and get some Effective Range Targets. They say just five shots at 100 yards will reveal your effective range. How? Concentric rings.

Effective Range Targets are designed to be placed at 100 yards. Take five shots at the bullseye – the best five shots you can manage in a position like you would be using during an actual hunt. In other words, your gun should not be in a vise or a sledge or sandbagged. Just brace and shoot as if you were in the field. The targets are available sized for various types of big game: antelope, elk, deer, etc. They are sized for the vital area of the species.

Which Ring?

Once you have taken all five shots, look at the target and see which ring all five of your shots have landed in. That ring will have a distance written on it. If the best you could do was get all five shots inside the largest ring, your effective range is 100 yards. Don't try for an animal farther than that. If you can get all five shots inside the smallest ring, you will be effective out to 600 yards. That's pretty darn tight. Personally, I'm happy at 400 – 450 yards. Very happy. Farther than that and guns and ammo and optics start to get very expensive.

Practice All You Can

So that's how I do it. My goal as a hunter is to make a clean shot, and the footwork it takes to do that is well worth the effort. Besides, I enjoy shooting and I meet great people at the range. It helps if you have a buddy with you who can sight through a spotting scope or binoculars and at least let you know if you are on the target. Take time to be an accurate shot. Practice all you can, and when it comes down to the wire, your work will pay off.


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