Jul 22, 2009

Hunters, Go Back to School

Back to School Special


How important are shooting skills to hunters? How well can an "average" hunter shoot? How well should they be able to shoot?

I posed questions like these to a number of hunter's education administrators, writers, and the general public who frequent hunting-related news boards. The good news is the large number of positive responses from administrators who look forward to creating and having such data available. A few folks offered actual data they've compiled, which will be shared with you after we assemble it.

Strange as it might sound, I also had some negative response. Not much, an insignificant percentage, but it cropped up occasionally. I don't understand why offering a hunting-specific shooting format and suggesting that hunters should go out to the range and practice marksmanship occasionally is somehow a bad thing. People who have never participated in any type of shooting match, and have no idea what HSA is or how it compares to other formats will sometimes complain about it!

I'll agree there is much more to hunting than shooting, especially static position shooting on bullseye targets, however:

Shooting is a critical element!

My standard challenge to the "shooting is unimportant to hunters" crowd is to invite them to leave their ammunition or arrows at home. They may conduct their hunt anyway desired using any equipment or technique they wish, but can't actually employ any "unimportant" marksmanship skills.

So far, nobody is willing to take me up on this.

I believe the problem is a lack of understanding what organized shooting can do for all gun owners. Upon hearing the suggestion that matches are a good, safe way to practice shooting a few people become defensive, declaring that hunters need not win any match in order to hunt successfully.

I agree! But this isn't about winning matches. It is about learning.

Learning (and re-learning) shooting skills is best done in a safe, controlled environment on a range, instead of missing or wounding real animals in the field. We all should go "back to school" once in a while.

A relatively poor marksman *can* be an effective hunter IF he has an honest, accurate assessment of what he can and can't do. The key is knowing which shots to take and which ones to pass up. But so many hunters do not.

Many times, I've had hunters with years of experience come out to an Event. I'll put them on a target at a measured 50 yards, but they are sure it's "at least 100 yards away."

As they prepare to shoot throughout the Event, I'll remind them that HunterShooter shooting is freestyle, "You don't have to shoot Offhand. Go to Sitting, Prone, or use a rest as you wish. Do what you need to do to get clean hits to the vitals, just like in the woods."

"No, I can hit it just fine," they too often respond. The gut shots and misses on their stationary full-size deer target indicate otherwise.

Are you confident that you would never make such a mistake? These hunters felt sure they wouldn't either, until they bothered to try.

Occasionally, I'll see the opposite. The new hunter with a bit of practice under their belt but worried about wounding sometimes underestimates their skill. They'll Decline a few scenarios, only to end up with nicely centered hits in the vitals.

The beautiful thing is how rapidly all participants adjust to what they discover. Regardless of the results, a few scenarios like this paints a true picture of reality. The hunter starts making better decisions. And no matter what, everybody wins because everybody learns!

But unless the hunter bothers to get out to a range once in a while, he won't learn . . . until he misses and wounds real animals.

Standard advice is "Don't shoot unless you are at least 90% sure."

I agree. But without trying it first, how can one ever know what "90% sure" is for them?

Start participating in Events and find out!

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