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Practice Before Hitting the Field

Posted by on September 28, 2014

I do a lot of practicing with my airguns before, during, and after hunting seasons. A good portion of this is after work in my basement range at 15-20 yards, and you may wonder what value that has. If I was just shooting off a bench, not much. But I find that using field positions; prone, sitting, standing, off hand and off sticks while shooting a FT target with the smallest kill zone is great for a tune up or for refining technique.

My basement is unfinished, so I lay one of my wife’s yoga mats down to soften the concrete contact points where knees and elbows meet the floor. And try to get fifty to a hundred shots every day, focusing on guns I’ll be using for upcoming hunts. I also shoot off sticks when possible during my hunts, usually sitting or kneeling. When I’m going to Africa I spend a lot more time shooting off sticks while standing as this is the most common shot option.

Some years ago I got a letter taking me to task for shooting off sticks instead of shooting offhand. My response was that you want to take the highest percentage shot whenever possible, and I don’t care how good an offhand shot you are, you’ll do better when rested. A lot of places you’ll encounter will have grass or other obstructions that preclude shooting prone with your gun over your pack. Many of the others will not have natural objects, such as rocks or trees, to rest on. A good set of sticks is the perfect answer for these situations.

The other advantage of this practice with respect to the hardware, is that you get accustomed to each guns trigger. Pulling it three or four hundred times in low intensity (non hunting) conditions gives you time to study the trigger while committing it to muscle memory. And moreover, you get accustomed to the general shooting characteristics of your rifle. With all the loading you’ll be doing, it will condition you to move quickly in the field where it counts.

I know I can belabor the point, but for the vast majority of us an airgun is the only hunting tool (aside from a bow) that will allow this much practice. It’s all that much better when we’re using the same guns will be depending on in the field.

Well summer is winding down; I got out on four prairie dog shoots, a few trips out for jackrabbits, groundhogs, and pest birds ……. but the real season is just getting started. In the couple weeks since opening, I’ve already been out of seven hunts in five new places and, have bagged a dozen and a half bushytails with a few different guns. Granted most of these are a couple hours in duration after work or on weekends before family time kicks in, and usually only a squirrel or two before I pack it in, but it seems like I’m getting a lot of field time in. In addition I’ve got four weeks of vacation that I’ll be stringing together to use on several major hunts between now and early next year. I love these filler hunts though. After the EBR I’ll be hitting the dairy farms with my buddies Scott and Steve. I know I’m repeating myself, but you gotta love this time of year!

By the way, just wanted to mention again the joys of a compact full power gun. I was out early this morning with the Brocock Specialist .22, and it was a joy to carry and shoot in the heavy fall foliage. Using JSB Exact Match pellets, the gun is putting out about 21 fpe and along with the accuracy is all out of proportion to the diminutive size of this carbine…… love the gun!


5 Responses to Practice Before Hitting the Field

  1. Jimmy

    Jim, been reading your posts for a while now. You gotta come up to Kodiak, AK this season. Abundant snowshoe hares, red squirrels, and, my favorite, ptarmigan way up high on the mountains( & Sitka black tail if you have the caliber). Airgun paradise in the winter….all for a 25 dollar small game license. Just gotta keep an eye out for the Bears….

    • Jim Chapman

      I’d love to visit someday, it’s one of the trips I’ve been wanting to do for a while. How late into winter are you able to hunt? I’ve got some airline miles on credit and some time to hunt 🙂

      • Jimmy

        You can pretty much hunt all winter. The snowshoe hare and ptarmigan are plentiful throughout. I didn’t hunt squirrel last winter so don’t know how they fare. Very little pressure up here on small game b/c everyone is fishing or pursuing big game(bear, mtn goat, Sitka deer). If you decide to come up I can get you in touch with the local who writes hunting for the newspaper, he spends his winter on small game. Full disclosure, I just started hunting last year when I moved up here. Started with a springer and now have a .22 bobcat. The one major downfall is the big aluetian low pressure systems that blow through. They can stall out over Kodiak and bring days of sideward rain and nothing is moving. But the best hunting is right before hand ’cause the animals instinctively know its coming and start moving to feed.

    • Neil

      I live in Kodiak too and love to hunt with airguns. It’s a bit of work chasing those Ptarmagain up in the mountains and I’m still figuring them out. The Snowshoe Hares and Red Squirrels are pretty fun. This weekend I was hunting and watched two Ermine chasing an adult Snowshoe Hare. Fun to watch. Yeah, come on up.


      • Jim Chapman

        I’m going to get up there to hunt at some point …… maybe wait for more warmth and more daylight than mid winter though 🙂

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