From Bullseye to Buckmaster

A Zero obtained at the bench needs to be confirmed…

A Zero obtained at the bench needs to be confirmed from position. Hunters should move to field courses as soon as possible

In many people’s eyes, there is a large disparity between the marksmanship skills of the target shooter and the hunter. The target shooter, with his custom-built gun and bag full of specialized trinkets, seems to live in a world totally alien to the die-hard venison fetcher. What are the similarities and differences between target shooting and field shooting? What parts of the target shooter’s discipline will help us hunt and which parts should we discard?

Field marksmanship requirements aren’t typically addressed in some forms of competitive shooting. Learning these factors will help you take more critters!

Numerous hunters have commented that good scores on the range don’t automatically correspond with success afield—where the shots really count. Obviously, good marksmanship does nothing to help find game, but some hunters contend that a high score on the target range does little even after the quarry has been spotted, claiming, “I’m not much good shooting at paper, but I’m deadly in the field!” There is some truth in this. Scores of hunters have proven themselves to be successful game shots but not so hot on the target range. Conversely, successful target shooting doesn’t always add up to success in the field.

Killer Skills?
We must acknowledge the im­­p­­­­­ortance of skill. No animal will fall to a poorly directed projectile. The only way to properly place those projectiles is with marksmanship. Skill at arms is the only ability that can fill a tag once you have found legal game, therefore, it is imperative for hunters to develop enough shooting experience so they know when an animal is shootable and to have the proficiency to bring it off when the decision to shoot is made. Putting bullets where you want them to go is the goal of every marksman and something every shooter, whether a hunter, soldier, police officer or plinker, must strive for. Bullseye targets only provide an easy-to-see, abstract index of how well a marksman achieved the goal of getting the bullets to favor center. In fact, many conventional target games are based on old military range exercises that were designed to teach soldiers how to shoot. Over the decades, much specialization has intruded, but the premise is still sound: Set up a challenge (a target at a certain range) that is the same for everyone and test your marksmanship skills.

Every hunter needs at least a modicum of marksmanship ability, but success on the target range doesn’t necessarily demonstrate that it has been achieved. There is more involved in effective field marksmanship than how close you can group shots on an abstract bullseye target. Let’s take a look at the differences between conventional target shooting, such as Olympic and NRA events, and hunting.

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