Steady, Aim, Fire!
Steady, Aim, Fire!
By Babe Winkelman
Holding the crosshairs steady on a deer’s vitals is an absolute must for a successful hunt and a fast, humane kill shot. It’s not always easy. Long-yardage shots make it difficult. So does all that adrenaline pumping through your veins when the moment of truth presents itself.
To prepare for that moment, you owe it to yourself and the animal to practice. Luckily, practice plinking is one of the most enjoyable things you can do in life – especially when you can share the experience with family and good friends.
Many off-season afternoons at our hunting land in central Minnesota have been spent doing just that. My daughter Karlee can’t get enough of it. And she’s gotten to be such a great shot that she’s definitely keeping the old man on his toes!
I’ve gotten some great pointers over the years on how to shoot better, so I thought I’d share some of them with you here. The best instruction I received came from my Dad. He taught me the fundamentals of good shooting as soon as I was old enough to shoulder a long arm.
First and foremost, make sure you’re holding the gun properly. This means having the butt end of the stock firmly and squarely in the crook of your shoulder; having your forward arm positioned ideally on the forearm; and having your cheek on the gunstock so your sightline is perfectly aligned with your barrel and optics.
If you have any doubts about your shouldering position with a gun, professional representatives at a gun shop will be happy to help you. You can also consult with friends with a lot of shooting experience. And the Internet has no shortage of shooting tips and educational videos.
Remember that the way you hold the rifle will vary quite a bit depending on whether you’re shooting from a standing, sitting, kneeling or prone position. So when you practice, make sure to do so from all of these positions. While you do it, you’ll discover little things that can contribute greatly to your accuracy. Using a shooting sling effectively is an example. Another is how you rest your arms when shooting from a sitting position on the ground. Many shooters rest their elbows on their knees. This puts the points of contact right on the bones. It’s far better to rest the muscled part of your forearms on the knees. Again, little things like that can make a big difference.
Another thing I can’t stress enough is the effectiveness of shooting off sticks. Since the invention of the rifle, hunters have done this. Back then they did it with a common stick. Well friends, we’ve come a long way since then, and manufacturing technology has given us shooting sticks today that can help you hold rock-steady at long ranges even when standing on rugged, uneven ground.
I believe the Ultrec sticks I use will give you the stuff you need. Because you sometimes only have a second or two to pull off a shot, it’s important that your shooting sticks adjust for height quickly and easily, and Ultrec’s telescoping legs do that. Another important thing these sticks have is a rubberized gun V-bracket that puts a good “grip” on your gun’s forearm. The V-bracket also swivels 360-degrees which is really critical, particularly if that buck is on-the-move.
So, in addition to practicing those off-hand shots, spend a bunch of time shooting from and getting familiar with your sticks. That way, on the hunt you’ll go into full autopilot with the sticks and really improve your chances of making that perfect shot.
Finally, here’s a tip that will make things easier on your wallet and your shoulder. Do most of your fundamental practicing with a .22 that’s dialed in with a high-quality scope. Yes, the ballistics will be far different than your deer rifle’s. But for honing your shooting form it will allow you to shoot with less fatigue and at a fraction of the cost of shooting the big brass.