JP Vicente is an outfitter with Big Chino Guide Service. Members of the USA receive a 10% discount on all guide services. Click HERE to learn more.
Your dream has finally come true-you have the chance to kill the trophy of a lifetime. Your mind keeps replaying the scenario, but you’re just hoping the bullet hits your mark. All those days at the rifle range flash through your mind in that split second from when you squeeze the trigger until your bullet hits its mark.
How many times are we in this situation? We practice and practice for that one opportunity to harvest a trophy animal. But in the course of this pursuit, everything must come together at once. A good hunting buddy of mine used to say, “It takes a little luck to kill an animal, but damn it, you better practice.”
In pursuing trophy animals in the west, I find myself in many situations that seem second nature to me but so darn difficult for the guy who’s been waiting his entire life for an opportunity at a trophy animal. So I decided to pass on the tips I share with my hunters when they’re at the cusp of making their dreams a reality.
Be patient – try not to get flustered. Easy to say, but hard to do, especially after you’ve climbed 2,000 ft. in elevation and hiked 3 hours to do it. You are out of breath, and the trophy bull elk is feeding over the top. We often find ourselves rushing the shot because we’re afraid that once that bull crests the ridge, he will be gone forever. You need to catch your breath and remain calm.
Get in a comfortable position. With the shooting bipods and rests available today, we generally find that sitting is the most comfortable and common shooting position in the field. So get settled in.
Know your range. Having a range finder is essential in every hunter’s backpack. They’re affordable and take the guesswork out of the shot. Here in the west, many shots are more than 300 yards and commonly 400-500 yards. The modern rifle calibers have perfected the long-range shots.
Know your rifle and the ballistics of the round you’re shooting. Once you’ve selected your round, I recommend that you download the ballistics and tape them to the butt of your gun or carry them in your daypack, so you can refer to them for those long-range shots. You need to understand the drop and learn to compensate for it.
This year, one of my hunters killed an elk at 580 yards. He shot the bull five times and put five bullets in the chest cavity. He was able to do that because he practiced at long-range shots, he referred to the ballistics taped to the butt of his gun and he was in a comfortable, sitting shooting position.
You never want to miss or wound an animal, so don’t shoot unless you are 100% sure that you will hit your mark with a clean kill shot.
Remember that long-range shooting takes lots of practice but, more importantly, confidence in the shot, and the only way you gain confidence is with practice. As they say, “when there is lead in the air, there is hope in my heart!”