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Practice is Important to Making Ethical Shots

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Hundreds of thousands of deer hunters will take to Missouri’s great outdoors in pursuit of white-tailed deer with a firearm in their hands this fall. Most will be prepared to conduct themselves with a high-level of integrity towards the game they pursue by having practiced their marksmanship. Most will, but not all.

Whether you hunt with a rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader or handgun, when the moment of truth arrives, accuracy comes from an understanding of how your firearm performs. This knowledge is obtained through regular practice at the shooting range.

If you have spent enough time in the deer woods, you’ve likely missed a shot or two. I’m not talking about those misses from your formative years. I’m talking about the shot you blew a couple seasons back on the buck that should be hanging in your den. You know, the one. You see him every time you look at that empty spot on the wall.

After you missed, you likely took your gun back to camp and shot a target. It was dead on. Misses like this happen to us all. It’s part of the pursuit. With greater practice, you could limit the chance of missing, but not eliminate the chance altogether.

Even if we practice, we can still miss or worse, make a poor shot on an animal. The real problem is the person who doesn’t practice at all before going hunting. There are way too many hunters who put their gun in the safe on the last day of the season and don’t pick it up again until they head to the woods the following year. The wildlife we pursue deserves better than that.

How much time have you spent shooting the hunting firearm you plan to use this season? I hope your not planning on hitting the woods opening day under the assumption your scope or sights are still on from last year. That’s just not right, and you know it.

Just checking the accuracy of your gun to make sure it is on target still isn’t enough. You need to practice shooting to be a better shot. You need to condition your form, your breathing and your trigger squeeze. These essential elements of accuracy improve with practice.

Shooting firearms requires a proper location, and that can be an obstacle to regular practice. I understand. You might not be able to shoot in your backyard or anywhere close to home. But you owe it to yourself and to the game you’re pursuing to be ready when you pull the trigger. You may have to drive an hour to a gun range or rural property. Doing so is necessary to being an ethical hunter.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms industry, exists to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. A large part of their mission is making sure there are plenty of places to shoot. The NSSF has a separate web site devoted to helping you find a range. The web site is simply called “Where to Shoot.” It is found at www.wheretoshoot.org. Using Where to Shoot is simple. Just click on the tab “Find a Place to Shoot” located in the center of the home page. Once there, you can use a number of search criteria to locate a shooting range convenient to your location.

Understanding and being comfortable with your firearm takes time and practice. Shooting often at a gun range or on your own personal land (where legal) is the best investment you can make towards conducting yourself as an ethical hunter and completing a successful gun season this fall.

See you down the trail…

Brandon Butler

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Read tips on how to hunt the whitetail in this blog post.

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