Onward and upward.
Shooting. TV makes it look simple. Point a gun, pull the trigger and they all fall down. Done poorly it is simple.
But when done well, shooting is one of the more complex actions a person can perform, and yet, anyone who can flex a finger and pull a four-pound trigger can do it. Then why do the majority of elk hunters have difficulty? Complex actions need to be done subconsciously. When they are done consciously, the nervous system is overwhelmed.
Think of how difficult it was to learn to drive, play the piano, or ride a bike. The initial learning phase has to be done consciously to train the subconscious.
Outside of just shooting, most elk hunters find themselves in an environment very different than what they experience at home. Mountains, elevation, and cold name a few of those. Additionally, many first-time elk hunters remark how “HUGE” the elk are. All those strange elements add to excitement and increase a person’s fight or flight response. That response disrupts the nervous system much like doing things in a conscious mode. If the hunter has not developed his shooting to a subconscious level, he is wasting at least some of the money he spent for the hunt.
As an outfitter, I used to send all the hunters a book with tips on improving their shooting and ultimately improving their odds of taking an elk home. Most didn’t follow the tips. The ones that did were more successful than those that didn't.
My first tip is given in a rather joking manner. It consists of four steps:
- Build a good solid benchrest
- Sight in your rifle
- Work-up your handloads
- Take a chain saw and cut up the bench into firewood and sell it
Benchrests are good for BENCHREST SHOOTERS, and to perform actions two and three above, but they have one aspect that does not improve an ELK HUNTER'S PERFORMANCE.
- Use of a benchrest trains the eye and brain to only recognize and accept a perfectly still sight picture.
This is HUGE. Obviously the brain learns from what it can see (or touch, taste, feel, hear). If it learns to see only a perfectly still sight picture then that is what it will accept when shooting. The only position that has a perfect sight picture is benchrest. Unless one of your gun bearers also carries a portable benchrest, you will rarely see a perfect sight picture on an elk hunt.
In all other positions there is at least some movement in the sights—even for Olympic athletes. Add in some adrenaline, being winded by hiking Montana mountains, or Colorado’s altitude, and a big bull elk blowing snot, and there is even more movement.
An elk hunter who trains his brain to see a perfect sight picture will never recognize an acceptable HOLD.
Instead, the untrained shooter, who is shooting his shot consciously, sees the sights (or crosshairs) swing across the target. When the sights touch on the desired shot placement, he pulls the trigger. It is already too late. Signal from the eye goes to the brain. Signal from the brain goes to the trigger (and other muscles!). Trigger releases the sear. Sear releases the firing pin. Firing pin strikes the primer. Powder ignites, and the bullet leaves the barrel. By that time, the barrel is pointed somewhere less than optimum.
Chopping up your benchrest is a bit of hyperbole, but a hunter who leaves the benchrest behind, and trains his eyes and brain to accept a good HOLD and shoot a subconscious shot will make the difficult shots easily. Additionally, if that hunter has the opportunity to take a rest on a tree, log, stump or rock he will gain again.
Finally, I am not an expert on marketing benchrest firewood. It may not be saleable in your area.