Rifle Shooting Practice for Deer Hunting

I like to shoot tight groups from a bench rest at 100 yards it makes me feel good. But honestly it does me little good when it comes time to deer hunt.

Practice for deer hunting is best performed after your rifle has been bench tested for groups at the distances you are going to hunt.

Here in New England the average shot at a deer with a rifle is around 40 yards or so. At my club, the range I can place targets are typically in increments of 25 yards. So the 50 yard mark should be ideal to shoot off hand at a target with no specific bullseye painted on it. The kill zone is basically an 8 inch circle but practice with a 6 inch area behind the shoulder and centered on the lungs. http://www.the-whitetail-deer.com/Anatomy-of-a-Whitetail-Deer.html. A double lung shot provides the largest vitals area see the website above.


I like to take cardboard and create the chest/neck area of a deer. I sometimes draw a deer chest that goes left and one that goes right in the same image. In the images I am sure to create the neck chest and front leg and elbow joint which are key landmarks for your rifle whether with open sights or with scope. The front leg of a deer has that pointed elbow joint at the base of the chest. I use that leg/joint in a broadside shot to position my crosshairs just behind it and above it so the point of aim is a bit below the center axis of the body and just behind the leg. A hit in this location is in the center of the lungs and into the arteries just above the heart. This gives you some radial error of a few inches for adrenaline, being slightly off the mark etc. and still make a great clean shot to Vital organs.

Should you have a desire to attempt a shot at a walking deer, like I do, then it is important to practice shooting at moving targets as well. Balloons that move 6 inches on the target in the wind are a great way to learn your trigger’s breaking point.

As much as it is fine to shoot fast shots in tight groups, it is the first shot that counts. Everything else is secondary. How long it takes you to get that shot off is equally important.

I time myself with the a five second practice sequence with the safety at full on. Counting begins with the word Go and then count one-thousand one, one-thousand two etc. At 50 yards it takes me 4 seconds to get the shot off with accuracy. Or have the friend time you from spotting a deer you want to shoot and the time it takes to bring your gun up to your shoulder take it off safety and make the shot. Try to improve this time sequence.

Of course there is no adrenaline so that factor is missing. Dry fire is valuable as well. Before live fire you can do the drill and see where your cross-hairs end up when the firing pin falls. You are training your upper arm muscles to obey minor changes to get a shot dead center and feeling where the trigger breaks as well.

Practice with the clothing you are going to hunt with when hunting time is near. If there is a shooting concern with clothing you can resolve it before going afield. It is great to practice with a hunting partner as well to spot mistakes.

Recoil reduction is key to deer hunting for all hunters so a state of the art recoil pad will help the expert as well as the novice. Both Sims Limb Saver® and the Pachmayr Decelerator® have a great recoil pad and even a slip-on style recoil pad. Use them! You will be glad you did.

I have endorsed them for years and don’t want to own a rifle without one.

Make a pact with yourself to try the stand and timed fire sequence! It will bring home the venison this fall!

In addition to this valuable practice, veteran deer hunters still hunt and stop periodically where there is a strategic view and have a tree nearby to brace their rifle against for a steadier shot at approaching game. Remember to have the wind either in your face when still-hunting or cross winding your body.  ©


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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.