Rifle Shooting Tips:
Hunting is a lot of fun, and successful hunting can require investing a significant amount of time. Every second is well worth it when your trophy animal steps out of the brush and into shooting range.
The last thing you want is to raise your rifle to make that crucial shot, only to miss your mark and spoil a prime opportunity.
That’s why Rustic Pursuits brings you our rifle shooting tips.
Too many hunters miss out on great opportunities to harvest big game just because they miss their target. When you’ve put the time and effort into scouting out a promising hunt it’s worth finishing the job.
There are some common reasons why missed shots happen. We want to help you address those reasons before you face the disappointment of walking away empty handed.
Target shooting can have huge benefits in building a hunter’s confidence. But you will get the most out of your time at the range by mixing in a few simple tweaks. These skill-building exercises can build your confidence to the point of knowing without a doubt whether you are capable of making the shot, or if you should wait for a better opportunity.
Common Shooting Errors
Many hunters check their hunting rifle once a year to make sure the sights or scope are still true. After setting up on the bench, a few shots on paper at 100 yards confirms that the rifle is still accurate. Maybe the rifle gets a little wipe-down with oil before the hunter packs up for the day.
While this approach requires the least amount of effort, it also provides the least amount of benefit. There is definitely some merit in confirming a rifles accuracy. But lets be honest here, most hunters don’t hunt from a bench rest.
When the time comes, can you make that same shot while standing? Or at an unfamiliar distance, say 170 yards away? Do you know where your bullet will hit at that distance?
If you haven’t tried, then the truth is: you really don’t know.
Rifle Shooting Positions
When it comes to making an accurate shot, stability is the name of the game. Shooting from a bench rest provides for a stable shot, but there aren’t very many deer shot from a bench rest.
The idea behind shooting in a variety of positions is to see what works and what doesn’t. You will find very quickly that some positions are more stable than others. Generally speaking, the closer to the ground your position, the more stable you will become.
Its worth pointing out that practicing shooting from different positions is not only meant to practice shooting big game from these positions. It is also to learn what works for you so you can apply it in the field.
The Classic Marksmanship Positions:
- Standing – Hunters who walk the woods will often find it necessary to take a standing shot. Unfortunately this is the least stable position and can make it difficult to place an accurate shot.
- Kneeling – This is another really common shooting position. Stalking up on big game often leads to a moment where getting any closer might scare the animal off. Reducing your profile by taking a knee can provide additional stability and prevent spooking the animal.
- Sitting – The classic sitting position refers to sitting on the ground with elbows resting on your legs. But if you hunt from a tree stand, ground blind, or shooting shack then you are likely to take a shot while sitting in a chair.
- Prone – The prone position is the most stable position and consists of simply laying on your chest with your elbows resting on the ground.
The addition of a rifle rest will provide further stability to these positions. If you are an experienced hunter with good accuracy from the bench, you will benefit greatly from practicing shooting in various positions with and without a rifle rest.
Understanding Bullet Drop
It is important to understand that that your bullet doesn’t behave like a laser beam as it leaves the barrel of your rifle. Your line of sight is straight and flat, which is quite different than the path of a bullet as it travels downrange.
Gravity starts having it’s effect on a bullet immediately upon exiting the barrel. When properly aligned, rifle sights and optics effectively counteract bullet drop by causing the path of the bullet to intersect with a visual point downrange. That point of impact could be any variety of distances that you might choose.
There are a few basic approaches to this.
Sighting In A Rifle: First Method
Hunters often adjust their optic to cause the bullet to intersect the line of sight at one chosen distance. Maybe that’s what they were always taught to do, or maybe they don’t realize that is what they are doing.
Whatever the reason, the barrel is angled slightly upward to cause the bullet to rise to a point that intersects the line of sight and then fall back toward the ground below the line of sight.
Sighting In A Rifle: Second Method
The second method we will explore is to align the barrel and optic to cause the bullet to cross the line of sight twice. This second method allows the bullet to cross the line of sight at a closer distance, and as the bullet drops it will again cross the line of sight at a longer range.
In some rifles and calibers this method can provide an effective group size for longer range shots without the need for making sight or scope adjustments. For example, many .223 caliber rifles with a 50 yard zero will produce approximately a 2.5 inch group between 50 and 200 yards.
Choosing the best distance to sight in your rifle will vary depending on your preference and rifle caliber. Thankfully that decision is made a lot easier with a simple ballistic calculator like app like Bullet Drop.
After punching in a few numbers from your rifle and box of ammo, a ballistic calculator will show you what you need to know about your bullet path. Hands down, this is the easiest way to estimate where your bullet will hit at a given distance.
Get The Most Out Of Target Practice
Do yourself a huge favor and don’t stop with a few shots on paper and a ballistic calculator. Now that you have seen an estimate from a ballistic calculator its time to see exactly how your rifle performs at a variety of distances.
Setting up targets at common shooting distances will help with understanding where your bullet is likely to strike. Choose some distances that you are likely to shoot at, like 25 and 50 yards, but don’t be afraid to stretch your targets out a little bit.
Practicing those longer shots at 150 and 200 yards will give you an appreciation for just how difficult longer shots are. With a little patience, you can build the skill needed to make those long shots, and once you do the shorter shots seem a lot easier.
The Answer To Buck Fever
We have all likely heard the term ‘buck fever’ used to describe the nervousness a hunter experiences when the moment of truth arrives. No doubt hunting is fun, but as ‘buck fever’ indicates, the human body experiences various degrees of stress when the hunt finally comes to a climax.
Preparing your body to deal with stress while making a shot at the range might sound silly, but it is very effective. When you spend time at the range, try adding a little stress to the scenario.
An easy way to do this is by setting a time limit for yourself with your cell phone alarm. Ear buds worn under your ear muffs works particularly well.
Time yourself and take one well-aimed shot at 25, 50, 100, and 200 yards. Then set an alarm just a few seconds shorter than your last time. Slowly squeezing yourself will add that little bit of stress that you want. Push yourself until it begins to effect your accuracy.
The more your accuracy and time improve, the more acclimated to stress you are becoming.