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Can Rifle Match Shooting Make You a Better Hunter?

Can Rifle Match Shooting Make You a Better Hunter?
By Jake Jourdonnais, FHF Gear Customer Service Rep and Owner of JJ Outdoors, LLC

 

Hunters spend a lot of time preparing to go on hunts without paying much attention to the one thing that can derail their success — a solid rifle setup and good shooting mechanics. 


As a lifelong hunter and firearms instructor, I often find myself reminding people that distance to the target is relative. I have witnessed many poor hunting shots taken at distances of 100 to 200 yds. On the other hand, I have witnessed many animals taken at 500 to 600 yds that were dropped in their tracks. It all comes down to the shooter’s skill-level. If you're taking shots that you’ve adequately prepared for and are capable of, then you're in the right. If you're taking shots to see how far away you can hit an animal for social media bragging rights , then you're in the wrong. It doesn’t help that technology has quickly outpaced many shooters' understanding of their true ability behind the rifle. 


Shot placement is king when it comes to ethically killing game, it doesn’t matter what nitro magnum caliber you are pushing or the Hubble telescope glass you have on top of the rifle. Having a solid grasp of the fundamentals behind your rifle system, regardless of the technology on it, is a surefire way to put any bullet in the center of its intended target. Asking today's hunters to be effective out to 600, 800, or 1,000 yds is unreasonable and honestly, ridiculous. Asking today's hunters to be more effective shooters in the field is and always will be, a reasonable request. 


So, how does someone become better at their craft? It’s quite simple — practice. It amazes me as an instructor when I ask students, especially hunters, how much they shoot on an annual basis. I am often met with something like, “6 or 8 rounds to make sure I'm inside a pie plate at 100 yds, then whatever I shoot during the hunting season.” The animals that we strive to harvest every year deserve better. Personally, I don’t believe a shooter needs to be throwing hundreds of rounds a month downrange to get better. If all one can muster is a box of ammo every couple months, that is a great deal better than 6-8 rounds on a pie plate before opening day. There are many relaxing and enjoyable ways to get more rounds downrange, and one of them has caught fire in the past decade. 


The best way to get better, and have fun doing it, is by attending local shooting matches. I am not talking about sanctioned Precision Rifle Series or National Rifle League matches, just plain old local competitive shoots. These are typically low-round count, slow-paced matches where shooters are introduced to situations they wouldn’t normally put themselves in at the practice range. If that doesn’t aid your lethality in a hunting environment I don’t know what will. Local matches tend to be small gatherings, and if safety is maintained, they are really laid back. If you are new to rifle match platforms and are interested in attending, you don’t need to spend money  on new gear either. Most people at these events are more than happy to share gear with new shooters. To attend all you need is a rifle with a solid ballistic drop card, the ammo that you built your drop card with, a backpack, and an open mind. It is easy to find out about local shooting matches too, just call your local gun club, outdoor sports store, check online in your area, or search local matches on social media. 

 

Getting into match shooting will show you where your limitations are with your current gear and introduce you to new shooting equipment trends. In addition, it will expose trouble areas in your fundamental setup behind the rifle, which may be a bit humbling at first. These are good things to experience as we should be striving to outdo ourselves every year. 


Competitive matches mimic real world adrenaline dumps and high-pressure situations when the shot counts. This will go far in helping a shooter control buck fever. It also forces shooters to become more creative when operating in tight time windows and in unique positions. If you do it enough, you’ll become pretty good at reading wind conditions which is also key to learning how to shoot longer distances. 


Hunters that are looking to become more proficient behind their rifles can improve simply by making a few extra trips to the range on an annual basis. However, that won't force you to get out of your comfort zone and perform under pressure like a competitive match will. Many of the competitive matches I have been to were centered around hunting scenarios, with accurately sized vital zones on life-sized animals placed from 200 yards to 800 yards. Hitting an elk target vital zone at 650 yds might not make you feel like you want to take those shots in the real world, but it’ll increase shot confidence and have you coming out of your shoes with excitement. Soon, 400 yards in a hunting situation won't seem quite as far and you’ll know it is within your wheelhouse. These matches will also help you confirm your ballistic cards for hunting season and make you a believer in taking longer shots if you carve out the time to become more proficient and fine-tune your setup.  

 

Ammunition and component availability has put a damper on our ability to get out and shoot. But there is more and more of it coming online every day and it is slowly returning to reasonable prices. We can and should be doing better to ensure we’re increasing our chances of success and ethically taking game in the field. I highly recommend seeking out a local competitive shooting match near you. Feel free to reach out to me at jake@fhfgear.com and tell me about your experience. I always have time to talk about guns, shooting, and ways to improve on the fundamentals of marksmanship.  

 



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