TOP 5 SHOOTING MIS­TAKES

THE MOST COM­MON ERRORS THAT HUNTERS MAKE BE­HIND THE TRIGGER—AND HOW TO FIX THEM

Outdoor Life - - SHOOTING - BY RON SPOMER

Once I fired three con­sec­u­tive bul­lets into a 4-inch cir­cle at 1,000 yards and fan­cied my­self quite the marks­man. Then I missed a bull moose at 150 yards. Ap­par­ently, shooting tar­gets isn’t the same as shooting game. At the mo­ment of truth, with game in our sights, we tend to fall apart—phys­i­cally and men­tally. Ac­cord­ing to in­struc­tors at FTW Shooting School in the south­west cor­ner of Texas Hill Coun­try, most of us don’t re­al­ize which mis­takes we’re mak­ing. So let’s fig­ure it out. The fol­low­ing are five of the most com­mon shooting errors.

NO. 1 FLINCHING

This is how a hunter of 38 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence can miss a moose. I knew I’d flinched be­fore my bul­let even landed be­low my moose. For­tu­nately, I knew what to do next: Calm down and fo­cus on a smooth, clean trigger squeeze on the next shot. A flinch can be as sim­ple as a too-quick jerk of the trigger or as se­ri­ous as lift­ing the head off the stock and jerk­ing the shoul­ders as if you’re try­ing to get away from the an­tic­i­pated punch of re­coil. THE FIX: Dry-fir­ing. This means mak­ing a care­ful shot with no live round in the cham­ber. You won’t jerk or flinch be­cause you know there will be no re­coil. Do­ing this again and again ce­ments mus­cle mem­ory. You can test your steadi­ness by watch­ing where the sight is when the fir­ing pin falls. If it re­mains on your aim­ing point, per­fect. With live ammo at the range, check for flinching by hav­ing a part­ner hand you a ri­fle he may or may not have loaded. If you think it’s loaded and flinch, you’ll feel it and your part­ner will see the jerk be­hind the jerk. It’s mind over mat­ter.

NO. 2 BAD PO­SI­TION

The buck walked be­tween two trees and stopped, only its rump show­ing. Justin twisted his torso hard right, lev­eled his ri­fle—and waited. By the time the deer stepped clear, Justin was shak­ing so vi­o­lently he couldn’t have hit the tree—any tree. He should have set­tled into a more com­fort­able po­si­tion.

THE FIX: Be­ing able to as­sume the best shooting po­si­tion is a crit­i­cal skill rarely mas­tered. It means know­ing which po­si­tion is stead­i­est for any sit­u­a­tion. Some­times a stand­ing, offhand shot is the cor­rect one. Ly­ing prone only to dis­cover the rolling ground cov­ers your tar­get is a waste of time. So, first train in all the stan­dard po­si­tions: prone, sit­ting, kneel­ing, stand­ing. Then train with your pre­ferred shooting sup­port (bi­pod, mono­pod, sling.) Then teach your­self sit­u­a­tional aware­ness. As you hunt, ob­serve ter­rain and veg­e­ta­tion, and how those in­flu­ence suit­able shooting po­si­tions. Hunt­ing is a think­ing per­son’s game. Plan­ning ahead puts you at the top of that game.

NO. 3 RUSHING THE SHOT

I’d set­tled the crosshair be­hind a pronghorn’s shoul­der and had just be­gun press­ing the trigger when the buck be­gan to turn away. Not want­ing to miss my op­por­tu­nity, I slapped the trigger. The 115-grain bul­let from my .25/06 landed in the an­i­mal’s rump, ru­in­ing 7 pounds of the tasti­est veni­son in North Amer­ica. Rushing the shot is a kiss­ing cousin to flinching. You don’t quite flinch, but you hurry your shot by slap­ping the trigger rather than fol­low­ing through smoothly and cleanly.

THE FIX: Mind con­trol combined with dry-fir­ing again.

And again and again. Go­ing through the mo­tions of per­fect trigger con­trol (see No. 1) ce­ments the ac­tion. But you must com­bine this with a firm re­solve to ease off on that trigger any time you sense an an­i­mal is about to move out of its per­fect po­si­tion.

NO. 4 IMPROPER TRIGGER CONTACT

Dust flew just in front of the buck’s brisket, driv­ing the an­i­mal back into the brush and out of Ben’s life. “You pulled it right,” I said. Ben used the tip of his fin­ger to press the trigger, throw­ing the shot right. You can also have the op­po­site prob­lem. If a right-han­der puts the trigger shoe deep in the crease of the first fin­ger joint, it will nudge the point of im­pact slightly left.

THE FIX: Use the cen­ter of the pad on the last joint of your trigger fin­ger to move the trigger straight to the rear. Cen­ter pad, cen­ter trigger, and come straight back.

NO. 5 BOOGER FLICKING

This means flicking your trigger fin­ger for­ward the in­stant the shot breaks. This might dis­rupt the ri­fle be­fore the bul­let ex­its, but more likely it leads to slap­ping the trigger and throw­ing off the shot. You should fol­low through by main­tain­ing your squeeze and hold­ing the trigger fully back af­ter the bul­let is away.

THE FIX: Sorry to sound re­dun­dant, but dry-fir­ing is the magic pill for most shooting mis­takes. To stop booger flicking, con­cen­trate on pulling the trigger back and hold­ing it fully back af­ter the fir­ing pin falls. Pin that trigger back, and imag­ine watch­ing your bul­let all the way to the tar­get.

SKILLS Don’t be “that guy” who lost a game an­i­mal due to an eas­ily avoid­able marks­man­ship er­ror.

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