For the Record

Capt. Chuck Uzzle


        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.