It happens every year at this time, they come in huge numbers with that panicked look of “I am way behind schedule” etched all over their faces. They scurry to the shooting table with a rifle that has not seen daylight since last hunting season or a cleaning kit since who knows when? As they line up and start blasting away at the down range targets each one hopes that they can just put together a group that will kill a deer. Invariably, these groups are sloppy and unpredictable at best, not even close to what the hunter and his weapon are capable of but they are acceptable for the time being. Then all at once the rifles are tucked away in their protective cases and stowed in the hunters vehicle never to be looked at again until opening morning. Now these hunters are the same ones that have been feeding, scouting, plotting, and planning for months in preparation for the opening of deer season. The same hunters who have 4wheelers or 4 wheel drives that are more show than go. They also have the latest and greatest camo, tree stands, blinds, and gadgets on the market. Now what’s wrong with the picture? The most important element of the process has been the most neglected, their weapon.

Easily the most overlooked element in shooting sports today is the lack of practice or familiarity with ones weapon. It could be archery, shotguns, rifles, or handguns, most people simply do not shoot enough to become proficient in the field under hunting conditions.

Archers spend lots of time shooting at targets and learning how their set ups perform because they can shoot just about anywhere, gun hunters on the other hand have to get to a range which takes a little more effort. In general, most hunters are guilty of not shooting enough rounds through their weapons. Wing shooters greatly benefit from practice sessions on the skeet or trap range, the actual sharpened skills they develop not only make them better hunters it also makes time in the field much more enjoyable. Missing shot after shot is not many hunters idea of a good time.

Rifle hunters need to spend some time at the range getting comfortable with their chosen caliber and learning what both they and their guns are capable of doing. Once they have their gun dialed in and shooting well from the bench it is important to take some practice shots from different positions that simulate hunting conditions. The more prepared you are as a hunter the more successful you will be in the field. Another often overlooked aspect of shooting is keeping your weapon clean. Neglected guns will not shoot nearly as well, rifle barrels that have build up in them will cause “flyers” or shots that stray off the mark dramatically. Proper care and maintenance can keep you gun shooting like new for many years.

Take some time before opening weekend gets here and hit the range, you owe it to yourself and the game you pursue to be the best shot you can possibly be. The extra practice will pay off big in the long run.