LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – How was your shooting last season? Maybe it wasn't entirely to your liking. Several options are open to you in this rapidly approaching modern gun season looking at you, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
First, and the one recommended by most any experienced hunter is to take yourself and your rifle out to a firing range and put in some practice time. Don't do it once. Do it several times. Make an investment in time and in ammunition.
If you did miss a shot at a deer, there are a few things to focus on before taking that next shot, according to AGFC Hunter Education Coordinator Joe Huggins. "I would suggest that picking a good shot and not just hurrying your shot helps immensely. Try not to shoot at running deer, pick good angles on deer to shoot and make sure you have a clear shot at the deer by not taking a shot through brush," Huggins explained. "Identify your target. If a good opportunity does not present itself let the deer walk to prevent a miss or worse, crippling the deer."
Were you shooting from a standing position? Were you sitting in an elevated stand? Did you have a clear shot at the deer? Was the lighting dim, like just before darkness? Was the deer broadside, head-on or at an angle from you? And, did you follow proper shooting technique, meaning line up the sights, take a breath, let part of it out, then squeeze the trigger?
Any or all of these factors could have come into play with that shot that missed, and some of them can be corrected.
For improving deer shooting odds, a major step is to rest the rifle. If you use an elevated stand of any type, a rail to lay the rifle across is a tremendous asset. This is something you can correct or add to your hunting equipment before next season, and if you do, practice with it. Set up the stand with the rail, even in your backyard, and do some dry firing or at least practice sighting and getting ready to squeeze off a shot.
A rail on your deer stand is a stand-in for the bench rest that you use at a shooting range.
If you are not convinced about the odds in shooting positions, military shooting experts can help out. The four shooting positions they teach are -- in order of steadiness -- prone, sitting, kneeling and standing.
Prone shooting is rare in Arkansas deer hunting. Sitting, in the military concept, means using a seated position and bracing the rifle with both elbows on knees. That is a lot different from sitting on a stand and holding the rifle in the offhand position, without bracing.
Consider working on your shooting time. This means the short moments you have after seeing a shootable deer for you to get the rifle up and aimed. The key is to do this quickly but accurately. Learn to sight quickly. It's not easy sometimes, but it's an element you can work on. See a deer, get the rifle positioned and line up the sights.
Practice at home can help on this point, even if the stand-in for a deer is a light switch on the den wall. Practice and learn to do this positioning and sighting without looking at anything but the target. Make it automatic to find the rifle's safety by feel and to move it from "safe" to "fire" with just your thumb's tip or fingertip and not by looking down at the safety, which requires head movement.
Most times when a deer comes into view, it is only for a few seconds. Seldom does that buck or doe stand there and let you think about shooting. You need to reduce the time to get off the shot after you've made the decision to take a crack at the deer.