Posted by Al Voth on 2023 Mar 9th
Hunting Drills For Success - Inside MDT
I'm fortunate to live near an excellent shooting range that allows shots out to 900 yards and hosts numerous competitions. I'm there almost weekly, and it's common to see competitive rifle shooters testing handloads, checking zeroes, and running practice drills. Lots of hunters frequent the range, too, though the number of hunters I've seen running practice drills is minuscule. Unfortunately, humans will invest more time and effort into the shooting skills needed to win a plastic trophy than they will in building the marksmanship required to fill a freezer with high-quality meat.
It doesn't have to be that way, and the perfect solution is a series of practice drills designed to simulate common hunting scenarios. Competition shooters use them all the time, and it takes little effort or imagination to develop relevant drills for hunters. The following are two of my favorites.
THE SLOW-FAST DRILL
To shoot the Slow-Fast drill, place a target the size of your animal's vital zone at a distance you would normally shoot the game you're hunting. Then set yourself up in a typical shooting position, taking all the time needed to fire the first shot. This simulates a normal, deliberate shot, where the quarry is unaware of the hunter's presence or at least not significantly alarmed. It's a common hunting scenario.
The Slow-Fast drill is ideal for predator hunters because it's common for coyotes to show up in pairs, and it trains the hunter to deal effectively with both.
However, once the first shot is fired, the clock starts, just as in real life, because now it's time to fire a second shot as quickly as possible. Have a buddy time you and even video your performance. If available, use a shooting timer to record the time between shots and compete to see who can get two hits in the shortest time between shots. Firearm trainers call the time between two shots a "split," and that's what this drill tests. But work on technique and emphasize safety before trying for blinding speed. The adage about getting good before getting fast certainly applies here.
I shoot it at 200 meters, using an 8-inch steel square as the target. When shooting a typical bolt-action hunting rifle in a mid-sized big game caliber with no muzzle brake, I've found that split times in this drill should be under 15 seconds. You're better than the average hunter if you manage sub-10-second split times. Anything under 5-second splits means you know how to run a bolt gun. Just remember, for the time to count, you must make both hits. If either one misses, you are just measuring how fast you can make loud noise.
A shot timer is extremely helpful when running training drills.
THE UNEXPECTED DRILL
Any hunter with a few miles on their boots has stumbled into a game animal unexpectedly, often while either walking into a hunting area or while walking out. It happens to me almost every season, so this drill provides practice transitioning from carry mode to shooting mode. You'll be on the right track if you consider it the hunting equivalent of practicing drawing a pistol and placing a shot on target as quickly as possible.
Start standing with a target positioned downrange and your rifle slung or carried as you normally would when walking to or from where you're "expecting" to find game. On signal, move into an appropriate shooting position and place a shot on target as quickly as possible. Keep shooting until you get the hit. This drill has multiple variations, depending on how far away you place the target and the terrain you are training in. A 50-yard target, for example, will require a different technique than a 300-yard one.
The hunter's quarry doesn't always show up when expected, so it pays to practice going from carrying a rifle to getting off a quick, accurate shot.
The most relevant practice for my hunting efforts is to drop to a kneeling position as I deploy my bipod for support. Another option I practice is to use one of the posts supporting the range roof to simulate a tree or fencepost, again a commonly occurring scenario in my hunting life. I'll typically shoot it at 100, 200, and 300 yards, again seeing how fast I can hit that eight-inch steel plate.
These two drills should activate your imagination and make you think about training exercises you can design for your hunting circumstances. The terrain, weather, vegetation, and firearm type you use may all differ from mine, but the value training drills provide is the same. Timed drills hold one accountable and make sure that data, marksmanship fundamentals, and efficient weapon manipulation are aligned. Whether you use these drills or develop your own, include timed drills in your hunt preparation.
Check out the new MDT TRAINING SHOT TIMER
HUNTING AND COMPETITION RESOURCES FROM MDT
- Mastering The Mental Game Of PRS: An Easy Way To Achieve A Higher Score
- A Shooter's Checklist - Delivering The Perfect Shot
- Beginners Gear Guide for Precision Rifle Competition
- Expert Gear Guide for Precision Rifle Competition
- How Professional Shooter Allison Zane Sets Up Her Rifle
- How To Shoot PRS: Stage Breakdown With PRS Top Lady
- Dry Fire Drills With Pro Shooter Allison Zane
- How I Got Into Precision Rifle Competition - PART 1 and PART 2
- Tips For A Successful Antelope Hunt
- Hunting In Inclement Weather
- Analysis: Long-Range Hunting
- MDT Field Report - Why The Triple Pull CKYE-POD is a Guides Best Friend
- Tips for Cold Weather Shooting
- How To Optimize Your Rifle For Positional Shooting
- Maximize Performance with Mental Imagery
- Confidence Kills
- Inside MDT - Fitness For Backcountry Hunting
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Al Voth calls himself a "student of the gun." Retired from a 35-year career in law enforcement, including nine years on an Emergency Response Team, he now works as an editor, freelance writer, and photographer, in addition to keeping active as a consultant in the field he most recently left behind—forensic firearm examination. He is a court-qualified expert in that forensic discipline, having worked in that capacity in three countries. When he's not working these days, you'll likely find him hunting varmints and predators (the 4-legged variety).