3 Ways to Handle Random Rifle Shots When Hunting
Random rifle shots are an inevitable part of the big-game hunter’s life. Wild animals don’t just show up at a set time on particular days of the week. Mature whitetail bucks make scrapes under our stands at night, bull elk are somehow able to dissipate into the most barren landscapes and a mule deer buck isn’t afraid to show you his rump as he lopes over the next hillside and out of our lives forever.
It’s important to always remain on the ready when moving to and from your stand, or just walking the property. This does not mean forefinger on the trigger guard and thumb behind the safety. Just keep a stream a situational awareness active at all times and be prepared to make shots you wouldn’t normally expect to take.
This is perhaps the most important point for any rifle shooting scenario. Squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk, exhale slowly, don’t rush it and so on. Imagine walking to your deer stand. You’re running late with the sun already coming up and as you round a bend in a big bean field, a nice buck is already out feeding. It doesn’t take but a glimpse to recognize him as a real “wall hanger,” so your blood pressure rises to a dangerous level. Involuntary human instincts take over.
First, we freeze. Then, we drop everything in our hands as we reach for the rifle and prepare to start blasting. But consider this. The deer is just as surprised to see you. And what if, in his moment of frozen terror, you’re smoothly un-shouldering your rifle. If you can do this in one fluid motion, the chances of getting a stand still shot are pretty good. Even if he begins to run, you at least have your gun up.
Use the Sling
Now he’s running. In your excitement, you may not be able to eliminate muzzle movement, but you can sure mitigate it by utilizing your rifle sling. If you’re a righty: with gun to shoulder, put your arm between the sling and the rifle and rotate your arm clockwise, cinching your arm up in the sling. With the butt tightly in the pit of your shoulder, you’re ready to give that ol’ buck your best effort. Slide forward the safety. Find him in the crosshairs and for crying out loud. Stop holding your breath!
Some of us just don’t want the extra weight or bulk of a two- or three-legged stand on the stock of our rifles and that’s fine. But the sling is beneficial in off-hand shooting more than any other position. Sure, it also helps quiet the rifle as you slide it through the window of a shooting house or over the railing of a stand.
And then there’s that rare chance to use foresight for a rifle shot. Let’s say you find a travel corridor or a scrape line, but there’s not a solid tree to hang a stand within a hundred yards. This can happen in the hardwoods, especially in areas where logging companies have raided the land in recent years. A pop-up ground blind might work, but it could still cause you to sit too low. It’s likely that wild animals have been using the area because there isn’t a place to hang a stand, which will disway 99% of hunters.
Here, we have an opportunity to build a structure or rifle rest. A simple tree seat is easy to construct with just a sapling (that’s twice the distance of the two trees you’ll lash it to) that’ll support your weight, several feet of parachute cord and a hand saw. Eddie Nickens at Field & Stream made a great video that demonstrates exactly how to put it together.
To sum it up, be ready. Don’t make desperate shots that could wound an animal you may not find later. If nine times you go to the woods and don’t have anything unexpected happen despite your readiness, that tenth time will probably be the one that leaves you baffled because you had a momentary brain lapse when you should have been paying attention. You know what we’re talking about.