The problem with rifle practice the way too many shooters do it is they do
"Bang, bangity bang bang." They bang away. Either they sit at a bench
and punch holes in the same 100-yard target over and over or they stand using
bad form and plink at cans, rocks and whatnot.
Who hunts like that?
With an empty gun you can and should merely practice getting into steady
positions. This takes a surprising amount of trial and error and then
repetition. You're training to assume the steadiest shooting position almost
instinctively so that it's second nature. You don't have to think. You just do.
I find that crossing my legs and sitting works 90 percent of the time. It puts
me on the ground in a hurry, right-side up while allowing me to keep my eye on
my game. Sitting also keeps me high enough to shoot
over most grass, brush and rocks. It gives me latitude to aim far uphill or
down, which prone doesn't. And while sitting I can spin on my butt to cover 360
degrees. You can't do that from being prone, either -- or from kneeling -- and
kneeling isn't nearly as steady.
As I'm in the process of sitting, I spread my shooting sticks with my lead hand
and tilt my rifle up so it drops into the V as it comes down. I usually rest my
elbows inside my knees all in one motion. If there's a cut
bank, tree trunk, bush or boulder to put my back against, so much the better.
That really adds stability. I'm usually ready in three to five seconds. And I'm
almost as steady as if I'm on a bench with sandbags.
After you've honed your sitting position, move into the
countryside where you can shoot legally and safely. Set up targets
(steel plates, spinners, balloons on sticks, plastic jugs of water) against
safe backdrops. Now walk into that field as if hunting. As soon as you see a
target, engage it. Don't rush at first. Work on smooth, consistent motion and
careful shot placement. Speed will come later with more practice. No sense in
being too fast and missing. Start with fairly close targets and move out as you
improve. Eventually you'll want to be shooting to your maximum range. That'll
give you important confidence when hunting the real thing.
To save money on ammunition, start with a .22 rimfire.
Or use inexpensive centerfire ammo, even if it's not
the most accurate. Try reduced power loads if you're afraid of recoil. And
always wear good ear protection. Switch to full-house loads, the same you'll
use for hunting, for your final few rounds of practice.
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Ron Spomer has been photographing and writing
about the outdoors for nearly four decades. He's written seven books, hunted on
six continents and been published in more than 120 magazines. He's currently rifles'
editor at "Sporting Classics," Travel columnist at "Sports Afield," Field
Editor at "American Hunter" and "Guns & Ammo" -- Optics Columnist at "North American
Hunter," Contributing Editor at "Successful Hunter," Senior Writer at "Gun
Hunter," and TV host of "Winchester World of Whitetail." He will write on Shooting Tips weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You can read his
blogs and catch some of his YouTube videos at www.Ronspomeroutdoors.com.