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Will Competing in Target Shooting Make You a Better Hunter?

Every fall over one hundred million hunters take to the woods, mountains, and fields across our great country. It is a time-honored tradition that goes back generations and one that is woven into the fabric of America. Memories will be made, old stories will be recounted, and a lot of truths will be stretched. Handshakes and congratulatory pats on the back await those who emerge victorious while conciliatory words and some good-natured ribbing are on the menu for those eating tag soup.

If you find yourself part of this later group, and let’s be honest we’ve all been there, it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of doubting yourself and second guessing every decision you make, especially if your unfilled tag is the result of a miss. Nothing is more damaging to a hunter’s ego than squeezing the trigger then watching as your prey walks, maybe runs, away unscathed. It can shake you to your core and shatter your confidence. But there is some good news and here it is: IT HAPPENS! TO ALL OF US! Missing doesn’t mean you’re a bad shot or a lousy hunter. It simply means you made a mistake. The important part of making a mistake is learning from it.

Mistakes are an opportunity to improve ourselves. They can highlight the areas we need to work on. We just need to be willing to identify these areas, work to correct the issue or issues, and turn a stumble into a chance to leap forward. When the issue that needs addressed is with your shooting, there are resources available to help rectify the problem.

Muley 2021

Perhaps the problem is an instance of equipment failure. A trip to a reputable gunsmith can often either eliminate that concern or present an avenue for repair. Equipment malfunctions can happen; however, the truth is the issue usually lies with the shooter. Maybe there was a breakdown in form. The trigger was jerked instead of squeezed. Or maybe, just maybe, excitement got the better of you and the shot was simply blown. I have been guilty of that on more than one occasion. How do you fix this? No gunsmith can make an adjustment for nerves. If you ask ten people this question you’re likely going to get ten different answers. The best suggestion we here at Peterson Cartridge offer, and the one I’m going to devote the remainder of this article to, is start shooting in target competitions.

Whatever style of hunting you’re into, there is a target shooting discipline that will make you a better shot. Organizations like the PRS (Precision Rifle Series) and NRL (National Rifle League) will test your ability to adapt and be flexible while shooting under timed and positional real-world situations much like you would encounter while hunting. It elevates your heart rate, strains your muscles, and forces you to concentrate and take your shot while in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position.

Another shooting discipline that will help you develop greater accuracy is ELR (Extreme Long Range). These competitions start at over a thousand yards and can reach out to over two miles. Once you’ve developed the mental toughness to hold on and hit a target at these distances, a three-hundred-yard shot on a deer or elk becomes a chip shot.

KYL (Know Your Limit) and Headhunter matches won’t push you quite as far in regard to distance, but the targets do get progressively smaller as you go. There are also several benchrest organizations and NRA-backed styles that will hone your shooting skills.

Regardless of the organization you join or the rifle you use, the results will be the same. You will become a better, more well-rounded shooter. You will be forced to develop a more complete understanding of the basics of shooting while having the opportunity to be around and learn from some of the best shooters. So, the question asked was, “Will competing in target shooting make you a better hunter?”.  My answer is, emphatically, yes!

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