- Shoot in the elements
Practicing your shot on bluebird days is great. It allows you to focus strictly on your accuracy without weather distractions. This kind of practice is important as it allows you to dial in your accuracy and perfect your shooting form. Repetitive practice like this helps your body establish a muscle memory that you’ll use every time you shoot. However, one thing those bluebird days can’t do is prepare you for the real world elements that Mother Nature will no doubt throw at you in the field. Rain, snow, sleet, wind and more are staples of hunting season.
Wind, in particular, can be especially challenging for shooters. Stiff breezes will press against the body and force movement you usually don’t have to contend with. By intentionally practicing on windy days you can learn how to compensate. Hold your gun or bow a little firmer and work on controlling the movement of the reticle or pins so you can make an accurate shot.
- Shoot with an elevated heart rate
In real world scenarios, your heart rate will likely be elevated when you go to shoot. An uptick in your heart rate could be from the walk into your stand or the adrenaline that starts pumping through your veins as you stare through the scope at a monster buck. It could be the result of a physical stalk you’ve been making on an animal or a different reason. Regardless, few things make it harder to lineup your reticle or pin on an animal without bouncing around than being winded, out of breath and having your heart pumping.
Shooting with an elevated heart rate is something that should be practiced. By doing some jumping jacks, going on a brief jog or engaging in some sort of physical activity that will get your heart rate up just prior to shooting, you’ll be able to see how an elevated heart rate impacts your shot. From there, you can practice steadying your breathing and controlling your gun or bow so you can shoot without wavering.
- Shoot from different positions and angles
How do you hunt? Do you sit in a blind or treestand or are you a spot and stalker? Will your shots be taken from a seated, kneeling, standing, prone, or any other position? Will you be elevated or at eye/ground level? Will you have a shooting rest, or not?
Now, how do you practice? Does the way you practice reflect the way that you hunt? Many hunters will stand and shoot their bow down range at a foam target and rifle hunters will sit at a bench and punch holes in paper. However, these situations do little to prepare hunters for real world scenarios.
Hunters should practice how they intend to hunt. If you will be bowhunting from an elevated position, find a way to practice like that. Shoot elevated at a 3D target and move it around to simulate a variety of different angles. If you’ll be hunting from a box blind or ground blind while sitting in a chair then make sure you have a chair on the range. If you are a spot and stalk hunter who will be taking quick, impromptu shots from a kneeling, prone or standing/offhand position, then practice that way. This kind of practice builds confidence which is important. A hunter who is sure of their abilities, has practiced and knows what they are capable of will be more likely to make a solid, accurate shot than the guy who is unsure of himself.
- Shoot fully dressed
Shooting in a t-shirt and a pair of jeans is much different than shooting completely decked out in all your hunting garb. Trade out that t-shirt for some camo and you may realize your movements feel more confined. Throw on that bulky cold weather camo and see if it makes a difference when shouldering your firearm or drawing your bow. Do yourself a favor and suit up! Put on your facemask, gloves, base layers, coat, and bibs. Put your binoculars around your neck and your rangefinder in your pocket. Now pick up your gun or bow and see if any of your clothing or gear gets in the way so you can remedy any issues that come up.
- Nixing Target Panic
Simulating real world hunting scenarios while you practice can help you avoid target panic in the field when the shot counts. Target panic is essentially when a shooter loses their composure and confidence as they are about to shoot and it can happen to archery and firearm hunters alike. Nerves take over, it’s difficult to get the reticle or pin on the target without flinching and that leads to rushed, pulled shots. Being well practiced can help hunters avoid this situation by giving them the composure to get on their scope or sights, hone in on their target, stay calm and squeeze the trigger or release the string and make a good shot.
Practice the way you’ll be hunting. Simulating field conditions will make the transition from the range to the field much easier and will also help to build your confidence and accuracy.