Many of the techniques we have discussed for bow hunting in previous articles will also benefit rifle hunters. Although it easier to harvest an animal with a rifle than it is a bow, often times rifle hunters face stiff competition for hunting areas. There are more rifle hunters in the field than bow hunters. For some reason game animals tend to become more cautious after the first shot of the rifle season is fired.
Get Comfortable With Your Rifle
Before the season starts make sure you sight in your rifle in with the exact ammunition you plan to use during the season. I will tape the ballistic information on the side of my rifle butt for various distances out to 500 yards. This is information can be very useful when used in conjunction with a range finder.
Find you comfortable range. Your comfortable range can be found by placing a paper plate on a target and shooting five rounds at the target. If you can group all five shots inside the paper plate that is your comfortable range to shoot an animal. Keep shooting at further and further distances until you are no longer grouping all five rounds in the target. Do not shot at an animal past your comfortable range. It doesn’t matter how big the horns are, you need to show some respect for your target animal by killing them quickly.
How much practice should a rifle hunter do before the season starts? That depends on the ability of each individual, but shoot as much as possible. You will want to be comfortable with your weapon, make sure it is functioning properly, and can group in your comfortable range.
Get In Shape
In some areas there is a lot of competition for hunting ground. Generally speaking if rifle hunters can get ½ of mile from a road they can eliminate 95% of hunting competition. Find areas that are without roads or in National Forest areas have gated roads. Be sure to exercise months before the season to give you the edge of getting away from the roads. Hunters that drive the roads will spook animals into areas with no roads that hopefully you will be occupying.
Be sure to always carry a small plastic bottle with baby powder to check the wind. Shooting distances are often greater with a rifle than a bow, but it is still essential to know the wind direction. Animals that catch your scent will flee even from several hundred yards.
Always carry shooting sticks. I use two, four-section shooting sticks that form a triangle to rest my rifle upon. You should practice with the shooting sticks at the rifle range to get comfortable using them. I will often use the shooting sticks as a walking stick. They can also be disassembled easily to fit into a belt pouch.
Only Shoot Standing, Broad Side Animals
Do not shoot at an animal unless you have your rifle resting on your shooting sticks and the animal is standing broadside. I have wounded animals by shooting them in the neck or head. When you shoot an animal in the chest and hit the heart or lungs an animal will die quickly and humanly. Be sure you are familiar with the location of the heart and lungs for the game animal you are pursuing.
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I like to use binocular straps that hold binoculars close to my chest for easy and quick access. Sure a hunter can use a rifle scope, but binoculars are easier to use. Be sure to spend a lot of time glassing. The goal is to see the animal before it sees you. A calm animal is a lot easier to hunt and will give the hunter more stalking options.
Do Some Preseason Scouting
Depending on the animal and their location, preseason scouting may not be so much about the animal as learning about the terrain and where to hunt. If a hunter knows the area before the hunt is started a lot of time can be saved for hunting instead of trying to find a hunting area. The scouting process can be started from home by looking at a map and locating areas without roads. Once you have found road-less areas, a closer look can be taken by studying google maps or other software that will give you a bird’s eye view of the area. Some of these maps will be detailed enough to allow the hunter to determine bedding, feeding, and watering areas.
Next get out and do some walking in this area to get a good feel about the topography. Look for rubs, beds, trails, wallows, or scrapes. With an thorough examination of your hunting area you will be able to form a plan on how to properly hunt the area so you can maximize your time in the field.
Listed above are several tips that can improve your rifle hunting season. The bottom line is that pre-hunting season preparation is essential to a successful outcome. Fitness, shooting, and scouting are the keys.
Next article: Boning Your Animal In the Field
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