Most hunts come down to one fleeting, high-pressure opportunity. Here are several proven ways to make your next one count.
Becoming a good field shot with the rifle is mostly about practice. But, some tools and techniques can help. Here are some favorites that have helped lead me to heavy game poles.
THE SHOOTING SLING ADVANTAGE
Many rifle shooters either don’t understand or appreciate the advantage a shooting sling can bring to field shooting. Gunsite Academy founder Jeff Cooper was a proponent of the “speed sling”—a carry sling that could quickly double as a shooting aid. I’ve found that a speed sling like the Galco Safari Ching Sling, Andy’s Leather Rhodesian Sling, or the Galco RifleMann Sling I helped design can improve your accuracy from field-shooting positions by as much as 70 percent! If you’ve never used one, it’s time to give one a try.
THE RIGHT MAGNIFICATION
Riflescope magnification does not help you shoot better, it helps you see better. That’s not to say more magnification is always a bad thing, but it can be. The more magnification you use, the harder it seems to hold the rifle steady. Select or adjust your scope magnification so you can see the target clearly enough to position the reticle properly. Any magnification beyond that will become a hindrance. As a rule of thumb for big game hunting, you need 1X magnification for every 100 feet. Follow this guide and you’ll never have a shot that appears more than 33 yards away.
LEARN TO RUN YOUR RIFLE
When shooting a semi-automatic rifle you do not remove the rifle from your shoulder between shots. This would obviously slow down follow-up shots because you would have to remount the rifle. So, why do shooters remove the rifle from their shoulder when it’s a bolt, lever, or pump-action rifle? The answer is simple; they do not know what they’re doing. Learn to run your rifle’s action without taking it from you shoulder, and without taking your eyes off the target.
POSITION YOURSELF FOR THE SHOT
You may know how to get into a proper sitting, kneeling, or prone position, but can you do it in a hurry? A simple rule for field shooting is to never take a shot when you could easily get closer, and never take a shot when you could get steadier. Develop the ability to swiftly slip into field-shooting positions and practice doing it regularly. You should be able to go from standing to kneeling, sitting, or prone, and get a hit on an eight-inch target in less than 10 seconds.
GET A GOOD TRIGGER
One of the most-important aspects of any rifle is the trigger action. When shooting from a bench you can deal with a bad trigger because you can devote 80 percent of your concentration on it. In the field, when shooting off-hand, it’s exactly the opposite. You need to devote 80 percent of your concentration on the sights. That leaves only 20 percent of your brain to focus on the trigger. If your trigger is bad, you will miss. With the ease of install and affordability of the excellent “drop-in” triggers from Timney (see above), there is no excuse for a crappy trigger. Upgrade now!
PRACTICE THE SNAP SHOT
In the field you don’t always get an opportunity at a big buck standing broadside and unaware. Sometimes you need to shoot quickly. This is a struggle for most hunters because they don’t practice it. Here’s a tip: When shouldering the rifle find the sights/scope and target first, then your final movement should be pulling the rifle back into—not up against—your shoulder. Practice until you can start from the “field-ready” position and hit a six-inch target at 25 yards, in less than two seconds.
Bullets do not fly flat. Because of this you can only adjust the sights on your rifle so the bullet crosses your line of sight at two points; one at about 25 yards and the other at about 200. You cannot adequately prepare for field shooting by only practicing at 100 yards. Learn where you bullet will strike at 150, 250, 275, 300 and even 336 yards. Ballistic turrets are great and so are ballistic reticles, but sometimes your ability to hit will depend only on your ability to envision the bullet’s path. And, don’t forget about the wind. This takes lots of practice and lots of ammunition; if consistent rifle hunting success is what you seek, both are smart investments.