I've always loved to hunt. Whether it was pheasants, ducks, geese, whitetail, turkeys or mulies, I was game. I didn't care how early I had to get up or how cold it may be out, I was there. Back in 2004 I thought I knew how to shoot when it came to hunting. I had a rifle zeroed, I could "point" a shotgun, and I had the average hunters success in the field, which by most hunters standards means your doing something right. Then, I started shooting competitive pistol (IDPA) and shortly after that, 3 gun. I've always believed that competition allows one to learn and grow from the crucible it provides. You can learn from defeats, learn from failure, learn from mistakes, learn from success, learn from winning and learn from the opponent.
I hunted very little from 2006-2012, as competitive shooting became my 2nd job in many ways. I became proficient with a pistol, rifle and shotgun. Not just in the basics marksmanship skills one acquires from competing, but I became quicker on target, quicker to mount the gun, able to take quicker shots, learned to "call my shots" and eventually made my way onto the 3 Gun Nation Pro Series, televised on The Outdoor Channel.
In 2015, my career path caused a move to Idaho, considered by many to be the greatest state for sportsmen in the lower 48. After driving through the entire US and into north central Idaho, seeing the gorgeous landscape, I knew I wanted to get out there and back into hunting.
So where does this all fit in? As a hunter, you need to be able to make difficult shots, shots from difficult shooting positions, shots that provide less than ideal lighting conditions, shots that the target may only present itself for a moment or two and then disappears, or simply a shot on command or a fast follow up shot before the opportunity passes.
I lacked all of these skills as a hunter in 2004, but I acquired them all and more through competitive shooting. Some examples include:
Depending on where you hunt, shot opportunities vary greatly. In Idaho, much of the shooting is long, at an incline or decline and has wind variables. These shots are not easy for the average hunter, however anyone who as competed in a few 3 gun matches can gain valuable insight and learn a thing or two about how to tackle such targets.
Shots from difficult shooting positions:
Take the "difficult shots" scenario described above and add one more variable. You probably won't be shooting prone, nor will you be shooting off a bench at your range. Difficult shots on game can come in the form of off hand shots at 50-100 yards, shots through tight confines, shots through or between trees or shots while bracing against a tree or limb. All these shooting positions are rarely practiced by the average hunter, but after a few shooting events, such as 3 gun or tactical rifle events, those shooting positions become relatively easy in the field.
Difficult off hand rifle shots often occur at 3 gun or action rifle matches. Shoot off hand at "A/C" zone steel from 40-90 yards and it will help improve your hold, and ability to call a good rifle shot. Shots through tight confines happen frequently at matches that require one to shoot from a vehicle or off a makeshift roof. Shooting out of a blind is something this reminded me of recently, the ports / shooting windows were less than ideal but thanks for shooting some action rifle championships in Georgia, I was comfortable with any strange angle or shooting position in the blind.
Often times game presents a tight shot between two trees. Most hunters become concerned when presented with this shot opportunity. Having experience shooting rifle around, between and across targets with "no shoot", "hostage" or " hardcover " targets around gave me the experience and confidence I need to make these tight shots on game in the field.
Lastly, hunting in the woods rarely offers the ideal shot situation, many times a hunter finds themselves faced with trying to shoot off a limb or tree and isn't accustomed to getting into the most advantageous position to make the shot. 3 gun matches almost always have barricade shooting, whether it's off a "VTac" barricade, off a wall, through a window or some other devious shooting position the match director came up with. Having the ability to shoot off of these unconventional shooting positions in 3 gun, gives a hunter the knowledge and confidence he can take to the bank in the field. Whether it's reverse kneeling, urban prone, or sitting, action rifle or 3 gun will teach the hunter valuable impromptu shooting positions that will stick with him or her for life.
In part 2, we'll cover even more examples of how competitive shooting will improve your success in the field!