Shooting practice at the 200 yard line at Fort Ord, California, April 1987. Shooter Russell Holt and coach (me) were TDY shooter at the 6th Army Marksmanship Training Unit.
Shooting or Marksmanship?
When hunters have asked me how they could improve their chances of getting an elk I have one answer. Develop a consistent level of marksmanship. As a rule, about 98-100 percent of my hunters had the opportunity to take a 5x5 bull or greater, but only about 60 percent ever succeeded. For clarification those opportunities were at ranges less than 200 yards.
If a person just goes out and shoots a few times each year they can never develop into a marksman. One needs to go further--practice to develop the skill. The adage, "Practice makes perfect," is only half corrrect. Perfect practice makes perfect. As a competitive shooter, I know what that means. As an elk hunter, I don't have to have the skills required for national level competition found at the Marksmanship Units. But the ability to turn a conscious act into a subconscious skill is necessary if you want the big bull--on demand. The schedule for the Marksmanship Unit was to live fire every other day, and dry fire on the other days. Dry firing is important. Perhaps, dry firing is required. Only through dry firing can you really see what the rifle is doing. There is no recoil or loud noise to disrupt the firing process. And if you followthrough you will be able to spot most of your errors without a coach.
As this post is being written the smallbore leagues have started across the country. Smallbore shooting is great to develop that unconscious skill, show your spirit, and enjoy fellowship with like-minded people. It doesn't cost much. After purchase of a rifle, glove and jacket, the rest is nickels and dollars for shells and entry fees. After dry firing, smallbore and air rifle shooting will improve your shooting more than shooting a big bore rifle. Shooting a smallbore or air rifle gives you feedback of where that shot went--one step beyond dryfiring, while still not having too much recoil or noise. (wear ear and eye protection)
For information on competitive shooting you can contact the National Rifle Association competitive rifle shooting programs.
Don't be a shooter. Shoot to be a markman.