Real Targets – Train Like You Will Hunt

If any of you have read much of what I have written in the hunting magazines I routinely write for, you know I am a believer in hunters shooting silhouette – realistic – targets. Why? Um, well, it makes perfect sense. Police do it, the military does it and bow hunters even do it. Why should rifle hunters not do it?

The premise is that it teaches your eye when to tell your finger to pull the trigger by creating a mental image of the sights in the right spot. An image you can access when under the stress of the moment. That’s a gunwriter way of saying, “Train like you will hunt.”

Realistic targets help you shoot better in the field and control buck fever. They are also a great way to train new hunters. For even more realism, cut the silhouette out from the cardboard.

Black silhouette targets like this are not very good for deer but are especially suited for training to hunt and shoot dark-colored animals like wild hogs.

A recent article in a popular hunting magazine deals with the science behind buck fever. The author offers mental exercises as a solution but fails to address the best way to eliminate the problem; build confidence in your shooting ability. The buck fever – anxiety – comes from not having the confidence you need to complete the task. If you know you have the necessary skill to make the shot, buck fever is nothing more than controlled excitement.

Good friend and experienced hunter John Barsness – who is also a great outdoor writer – once told me a reader complained to him that he did not seem to miss animals very often in the articles he writes. John’s response was, “Well, I don’t shoot at animals unless I’m confident I can hit them.” This may seem a bit arrogant but this confidence comes from practice – not mental visualization – and John is a very practiced and good rifle shot.

You can find targets for this type practice at Birchwood Casey. Check out my first column in Whitetail Journal magazine that discusses this training technique in depth.

HERE is another great target source from reader Papa Whiskey.


About gunwriter

Born and raised in the West Virginia hills, Richard literally grew up in the woods. He has chased coon hounds until daylight, waited out whitetails perched high in an oak, canoed the New River and hunted from the Montana Mountains to the Green Hills of Africa. During service in the Army and later as a municipal police officer and Special Agent with the railroad police, Richard obtained numerous certifications in small arms instruction. He has trained military personnel, law enforcement officers and civilians in the application of firearms for defensive, competitive and recreational use. Richard won the West Virginia Governor’s Twenty Award for law enforcement, the West Virginia National Guard State Pistol Competition and earned his Distinguished Medal with pistol. Badge turned in, Richard is now a contributing editor for several magazines. He was the compiling author of the book, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter and conceptualized and contributed to Selecting and Ordering a Custom Hunting Rifle. Richard also contributed a chapter to the John Velke book, The True Story of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Richard has patents on a riflescope reticle and a revolutionary bullet testing media. A hillbilly at heart, Richard lives on Shadowland - his shooting range in West Virginia - with the most understanding wife in the world, their three kids and a very protective ridgeback hound.
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3 Responses to Real Targets – Train Like You Will Hunt

  1. Papa Whiskey says:

    Safari Press sells some awesome targets called Perfect Shot targets. On the front is a photograph of the game animal and on the back is a mirror image with the bone structure and vitals superimposed. The idea is to shoot at the front and then check your work on the back. They only sell them with African animals but I have used the plains game targets to simulate deer and elk and there is also a warthog target that might be interesting to hog hunters. Fun!

  2. Jim Dodd says:

    I really learned to shoot game animals with a rifle under Jeff Cooper at his American Pistol Institute in a Basic Rifle #270 class. He taught on indistinct targets, but really worked on quick and accurate delivery of the shot. Every hunter should be able to deliver his Snap Shot standing on game to 100 yards in under 1.5 seconds. Same stuff still taught at Gunsite.


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