Hunting 101: The Follow-Up Shot and Essentials Beforehand

Mia Anstine gives you the run-down on essentials in our Hunting 101 series, which features essentials before the shot and why you must be ready for a follow-up shot.

We head out to the mountains, fields and stands for our favorite season: Hunting! As we head out the door, we have hopes of successful harvests. Before the hunt, we apply for licenses, train, practice and scout, all in an effort to fill our tags—and, ultimately, our freezers.

Are you doing all these things? Training? Practicing? Scouting?

I’m going to touch on a situation that pretty much goes un-talked-about in the hunting community. It’s not a bad thing, because after all, we want to be good representatives to those who don’t quite understand hunting.

 

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The author, Mia Anstine. (Lea Leggitt photo)

Sight In

As ethical sportsmen, we desire the perfect shot on an animal. That’s why we practice. When you practice, are you simply zeroing your rifle, or are you taking the time to think about real-life, in-the-field scenarios?

One cause for a hunter to have a poor shot is lack of practice. In hunter education, they teach us the 4 basic shooting positions, but it seems that despite that instruction, many people go to the range, sit at the bench and sight in. It’s not often that you find a shooting bench and stool while you’re on a hunt. When you head to the range, do more than just sight in your rifle.

 

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Practice all the shooting positions and getting into them as quickly and quietly as possible. (Lea Leggitt photo)

Practice Shooting Positions

  First and foremost, Always remember the rules of shooting safety.

  • Prone Position: Lying on your stomach, using your arms, bipod or pack to support the weight of your rifle, this is the most steady of the basic shooting positions. Practice bringing your rifle to your shoulder and finding your target. Prone is an excellent position when you are making long-distance shots, and ideal if you have relatively flat ground and nothing to obstruct your view.In the woods it can be hard to find optimal locations for a prone position. Inevitably you’ll be stalking a bull or a buck through the tall timber or thick scrub oak. There are lots of downed trees, rocks and thick grass to block your view of the target as you lay on your belly. Because of this, you should always practice the other basic shooting positions.
  • Sitting Position: Sit on the ground with your legs crossed or apart in front of you, creating a triangle. Support each elbow on a knee. Pull your position in tight so your arms form a solid support beneath the rifle. In this position a hunter can be accurate at both long and short distances due to the tripod of surface area and anchor points. There is not always time to get down to a seated position, however; you should practice kneeling and standing positions as well.
  • Kneeling Position: The kneeling position lacks the solid steadiness of the sitting or prone positions due to the decrease in support of the arms, but this position will be easy to get to in a hurry. Practice dropping to one knee, resting your support arm on the knee and acquiring your target quickly. With practice you can become steady and accurate in this position.
  • Standing Position: The standing position is the least steady, so it requires a lot of practice. In a high-pressure situation, such as when a bull elk comes running in, there might not be time to lie down, sit or even kneel. Practice steadying, acquiring your target in your sights, trigger control and finishing your shot.

 

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(Mia Anstine photo)

Scenario Rehearsal

As a guide I often act as a shooter’s conscience, talking a hunter through the shot. If you’re hunting alone, you may not have the luxury of a non-shooter to help you through intense situations. This is why you should practice hunting scenarios before you hunt while you’re at the range.

Here’s an example of what I, as a hunter’s conscience, say as I talk an anxious hunter through her shot.

In a calm voice, I whisper, “There he is. Kneel down behind the brush. Relax. Use the log as a rest. Take your time. He’s at 225 yards. Wait for him to turn. Relax. He’s at 230. Can you see him? Don’t shoot. There’s a cow walking out behind him. Wait. Breathe. OK. She’s clear. He’s at 220. When you feel comfortable, he’s yours.”

When I’m talking through the shot I’m attempting to calm the shooter. You need to learn to calm yourself. Learn to breathe and lower your heart rate. Always look at your target and beyond, even on the follow-through.

 

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(Lea Leggitt photo)

Finish Your Shot (Follow-Through) 

Follow-through begins with knowing the action of your rifle. If it’s a bolt-action, quickly lift and jerk the bolt back then slam it forward, chambering another round. Regardless of your rifle’s action, learn to rapidly reacquire your target, scan for obstacles and prepare to shoot again. This is very important in case your first shot wasn’t good. If you can, keep your cheek on the stock.

Practice good habits at the range. They’ll show when you’re in an intense situation in the field.

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