Preparation is often the key to success on a hunt
The fall hunting season is in full swing and a common theme I've heard this year is a lot of hunters have missed their game.
While I know that missing a shot, be it with a bow, muzzleloader or rifle is always a part of hunting, it often can be attributed to one thing, lack of preparation by the hunter.
I am as guilty of this as anyone.
We are all very busy, and quite frankly at least for me, drawing a big game tag here in Arizona has been tough.
Case in point.
This year I applied for and drew a muzzleloader antlerless elk tag.
In 2010, I got lucky when I drew a muzzleloader bull elk tag, and I did quite a bit of load development and shooting with my old charcoal burner before that hunt.
The result? I got lucky and harvested a great bull. Now I'm a confirmed antlerless elk hunter.
But this year I didn't practice nearly as much before my hunt started as I knew the load I was going to use was good. Thus, I made just a couple of trips to the 7 Mile Hill Range and shot a few shots off the bench to confirm the gun was on.
But I didn't go out and practice under actual hunting conditions, and when the time came for me to make a good shot at 110 yards on the hunt, I didn't do it.
Here is another case in point.
I had a young lady who drew a good rifle bull elk tag this year for a hunt in northern Arizona. It was a semi-rut hunt that should have resulted in her taking a very good bull.
But as I found out, when she got to camp, she hadn't fired a rifle in over three years! Her last hunt was when she had hunted in Africa for plains game.
Her comment to me when I asked if she had practiced before this hunt was, "It's like riding a bicycle, you don't forget." That statement would came back to haunt her.
On opening day, with bulls screaming all around, she missed a shot that no one could believe.
A beautiful 6 X 6 bull that was in the 330 inch range, came into the plaintive cow calls of one of my guides.
It stopped broadside at 30 yards with the back half of its body concealed by a small tree. Everyone there agreed the vitals of the big bull were in plain view.
The young lady, who was apparently overcome by excitement, fired a shot from her 270 rifle that completely missed the bull!
Seems she fell off her bicycle!
Before her hunt was over she would have three more shots at longer distances and she passed on a number of bulls, but the results of her shots were the same - all misses. She took her tag home unfilled.
In both cases, I suspect that if we had spent more time practicing both on the range and under actual field conditions, the results would have been quite different.
Shooting is a skill and just like anything that requires skill, the only way you acquire it is to keep practicing.
We have a very good range near Kingman and there are many elk hunts coming up.
If you have waited a long time for that tag, then do yourself a favor and go to the 7 Mile Hill Range, get your rifle sighted in, then spend some time in a remote area and practice at targets under field conditions.
We not only owe it to the critters we hunt to make good shots, but if you take time to prepare, the odds of eating elk steak this year will be much better.