The old United States Army adage “train as you fight, fight as you train” applies just as much to hunting as it does to warfighting. You don’t spend your time at the range doing trick shots if you intend to hunt boar, and you don’t practice with iron sights if you know full well the majority of a hunt will be at night.
If a hunter is serious about his weekend expedition and he wants to bring home the literal bacon, he should spend as much time as possible preparing for the few short seconds of adrenaline-pumping goodness when he’ll have the animal in his sights and his finger on the trigger as well as the stalking leading up to it.
No bench shooting
Bench shooting is great for zeroing because of its stable platform, but where are you going to find a range bench in the wild? The closest experience you’ll have to bench shooting on a hunt would be at a hunting blind or treestand. However, if you intend to stalk your prey, you’ll most likely be shooting standing, kneeling, or prone, and many times ranges won’t allow you to do that.
Most ranges have rules about what and how you can shoot. For example, many restrict range activities to bench shooting only, while others won’t let you bring the equipment you’ll be using on your hunt. However, ranges such as Extreme Tactics and Training Solutions in Waxahachie, Texas, typically allow you to bring more than just sandbags. Vast outdoor ranges such as ETTS are great places for training with your shooting monopods and tripods. You can also shoot from prone, kneeling, or sitting positions just as you would on a hunt.
Shooting prone, if done correctly, can also be more accurate than bench shooting as a result of the many points of solid contact and support, as well as the benefit of employing your entire body to absorb recoil rather than just your shoulder. In a pinch, you could also use a backpack to support your rifle for extra stability.
Shooting while kneeling reduces your size and conceals you from your prey. Resting your supporting elbow on your knee also provides some stability, just be sure not to rest your elbow directly on your kneecap. In case you have mere moments to engage your target, It’s also much quicker to transition into kneeling than prone.
The sitting position is good for when you want to remain in an area for a long time with a higher field of vision than what the prone position provides. Both your elbows should be supported on your knees for stability. However, just like in the kneeling position, it’s important to avoid bone-to-bone contact. Sometimes, hunters find it best to rest against a tree to provide even more stability to their shots.
Zero with hunting loads
It is generally a good idea to practice with whatever round you intend to kill with. Every type of cartridge has a unique ballistic coefficient, and animal vitals are small targets. Any variations in ballistics may mean the difference between a quick ethical kill and long hours of tracking.
Unless you’re shooting from a blind, hunting can be a far more physically demanding sport than say, golf. Activities like stalking through mud, dragging carcasses and crawling through the dense undergrowth searching for an animal take a greater toll on the human body than carrying a golf bag through an 18-hole golf course.
If the great golfers of the world condition themselves for their sport, there should be no reason why you can’t do the same for hunting. Physically conditioning yourself for a hunt doesn’t necessarily require you to have a gym membership. Hunting “workouts” could be as simple as hiking a trail in your local park for cardio. Lifting dumbbells at home or rucking through your neighborhood can also help train your muscles for carrying those heavy carcasses.
Study your prey
The ancient Chinese warrior-scholar Sun Tzu said, “if you know the enemy and know yourself, in a hundred battles you will never be in peril.” The same can be said of the animals you hunt.
When you stalk, environmental clues are not always obvious. There are no tracks to chase in tall grass, and blood trails are notoriously difficult to track at night. Study your intended prey’s behavior. If you’re going on a guided hunt, ask your guide how to look for telltale signs of your prey animal like scat, rubbings, scrapes, tracks, etc.
Knowing your prey’s behavior is vital to understanding best practices for where and how to look for them so you don’t walk through the hunting grounds searching for animals at random. Following game trails and reading clues saves you a lot of time and effort.
Scout the land
Performing reconnaissance is part of preparing for a hunt and provides great opportunities to better know your hunting ground, and to strategize for increased odds of success. Modern technology such as high-tech map apps, GPS/satellite technology, cellular service, trail cameras, thermal imagers and night vision devices make scouting and strategizing easier and more effective than any other time in hunting history.
The free Huntstand app allows you to find public hunting land, view detailed property boundaries and ownership information of most huntable properties in the US and Canada. The pro version also integrates with trail cameras to display animal activity while syncing with weather data to give you the best possible forecasted information for your hunt.
While satellite images from sources like Google Maps are handy, they only update every other year. Images from Huntstand update every few months, providing users with up-to-date satellite data on game trails and nesting areas as well as other changes to an environment; after all, good intelligence is half the battle. With the right training and information, you’ll be on your A-game for your next hunt, and hopefully bag the trophy of a lifetime.