Original Article Written by Candice Horner in Our Spring 2020 Union Sportsmen’s Journal
Competing for the Hunt: Competitive Shooting Can Improve Hunting
Hunting and competitive long-range shooting are often considered distinctly different sports, yet competitive shooting can improve your hunting abilities. Following are a few ways dipping your toe into competition can make you a better hunter.
Like any sport, long-range rifle competitions require practice to excel. We all know that hunter, who may check his zero just before heading to the stand. Whereas competitive shooters obsessively check zero and practice out to distances they expect to shoot in a match (usually out to 1,200 yards).
A rifle’s zero can change for multiple reasons: environmental changes, different ammunition, or the rifle getting knocked around. Further, practicing in a setting where you induce other stressors, like limited time to take a shot, helps clean up bad habits you may not be aware of. Practicing for competition forces you to know your weapon system like it’s an extension of your body, instead of just a tool for the job.
At long-range competitions, shooters need to build their shooting position and take 10 to 12 shots, usually within 90 seconds. Building those positions, taking a precise shot at a two-to-four MOA target, and making the hit requires several variables to align for success. Dynamic shooting—found in precision rifle competitions—is usually predictable in that shooters know they need to move quickly but still make the shot with minimal wobble. The majority of the stages at precision rifle competitions don’t include prone positions, so top-level competitors are phenomenal at non-prone positions.
When hunting, you often need to build a hasty position fast enough to take an ethical shot before the animal walks away, and you’ll rarely be able to lay out prone while hunting. Consistent shooting matches introduce you to new scenarios that are similar to those you’ll encounter while hunting.
Having confidence in your weapon system and yourself is a huge advantage when you’re in the field and conditions aren’t ideal. Repetition for muscle memory and putting yourself in less-than-optimal conditions are great ways to test your skills and build confidence. Shooting competitions provide both.
How to Get Started
The National Rifle League and Precision Rifle Series are the main competitive rifle organizations. Check them out to see which has matches in your area. Each has a different set of rules, but you can participate in either with a “run what you brung” approach. This means, don’t go out and get the most expensive gun and gear. Instead, shoot a match with what you already have and get familiar with the sport. Competitors in each organization welcome new shooters and will help you during the match. Give it a shot to become a better hunter.
Candice Horner is a decorated professional shooter with an extensive track record of top finishes at national long-range and multi-gun matches.