Elk Hunting Tips – The Importance of Year-Round Shooting Practice
When preparing for a Colorado elk hunt or any western big game hunt, one of the best things any hunter can do is practice shooting year-round. Whether you plan to hunt elk with a guide or outfitter, or on a do-it-yourself adventure, there’s no excuse not to practice regularly with your weapon.
Keeping in “”shooting shape”” in terms of regular shooting is very beneficial during the off-season. One of the worst feelings as a hunter is blowing a shot opportunity. Hunters who consistently practice will always be more successful.
The weather could be bad, your heart will be pounding, you’ll be breathing hard and you may be on a steep slope or shooting at an awkward angle. Very rarely will a bull elk offer a second shot. When you only have one opportunity, you must be ready to make it count.
During the winter months or when the weather is bad, head to the indoor range. Better yet, joining an archery league can be a lot of fun. It will add some competitiveness, encouraging a shooter to get better. Plus, it offers the opportunity to learn from other archers.
3D shoots can be a lot of fun too and many hunting clubs offer them. Again, these allow shooters to practice under some competitive pressure. 3D shoots also force archers to practice judging the distance to the target.
While range finders have eliminated a lot of the guess work today, there will always be a time in the field where the time circumstances won’t permit use of range finder prior to the shot. Archers who are consistently good at estimating yardage will have a serious advantage.
As the weather warms up, take your target outdoors where permitted or find rabbits, squirrels or even soft stumps to shoot at. Practice different yardages, angles and shooting positions. In the field you may find yourself kneeling or sitting and shooting uphill or downhill.
Also practice with your hunting clothing on and shooting your bow with the quiver both on and off. Try running up a steep hill and then steadying yourself for a shot. Run back down and repeat.
It is also helpful to work on increasing your effective range during the off-season. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and practice shots just outside your range. Continue to stretch and grow your shooting abilities.
Last but not least, try to imagine and simulate the real live experience of the shot each time you pick up the bow. Make sure your draw is smooth and quiet, just as if the bull of your dreams were standing within range. Test yourself to make the first shot count.
The more these things become second nature, the better the chance you have of taking that bull of a lifetime when an opportunity presents itself.
Much of the same ideas for archery practice also pertain to rifle. Unfortunately, some rifle hunters don’t spend as much time shooting their rifle prior to their hunt as they should. This includes practicing at longer distances if possible. No shot with a rifle is a given, no matter how fancy the optics mounted on top.
Lack of practice and preparation can and does result in many missed opportunities. In fact, in our experience on average, rifle hunters are missing more opportunities than archery hunters these days, which is hard to believe.
It all boils down to persistent practice, knowing the distance and practicing shot positions you will encounter in the field. The off-season can be a great time to make a run to your local rifle range. Even on nice days, you will typically have the range to yourself this time of year.
As the nicer weather approaches, many clubs offer competitive shooting. This can be a great way to improve your shooting and get some great practice time. The off season is also a great time to experiment with new loads, whether you shoot hand loads or factory ammo. Find products that offer the best performance out of your rifle.
It’s amazing how some guys will play down the need to shoot consistent, tight groups at the rifle range given the large kill zone of an elk. They seem to forget that when you are off just a few inches at 100 yards, you can multiply the margin of error significantly if the bull of your dreams is standing at 300 or 400 yards away. There is no doubt that shooting confidence and consistency out to 300 or 400 yards will greatly increase your chances of taking an elk.
Both bow hunting and rifle hunting for elk in Colorado’s high country can be challenging, whether you plan to go with an outfitter or not. Make sure you’re ready for that shot of a lifetime.