You crest the hill and there it is. Standing broadside 200 yards away is the trophy elk you've been seeking. Just one problem. Your frantic climb has left your lungs working like a bellows and your legs quaking. You've got mere seconds before the elk dashes over the next ridge. How do you pull off the toughest shot in hunting?
Follow the advice of Ben Maki, an accomplished big-game hunter who was once a top-ranked biathlete. As he puts it: "You can't control your heart rate, but you can control how quickly you relax." Good form is essential, which is why you need to practice first at your resting heart rate before trying to shoot well with a hammering ticker.
MANAGING YOUR HEART RATE • Don't rush the shot. Take a few extra breaths to settle down. • Don't hold your breath for more than a couple of seconds to steady your shot. "Overholding" reduces oxygen in your system, which causes your eyes to lose focus. • Stay calm. The more mentally relaxed you are, the sooner your heart rate will slow down.
ELBOW IN FRONT Get your elbow positioned forward on your knee.
BASIC TRAINING With good form in any shooting position, your crosshairs should rise and fall in a vertical line as you breathe. If your crosshairs move, say, from 2 o'clock to 8 o'clock, you need to address your technique.
TRIGGER MASTERY Practice dry-firing (a lot) while relaxed to master your rifle's trigger. Your barrel will always move in something of an arc, more so if your heart rate is up. Your goal is to get your trigger to break consistently when you are right on target.
PUMPING IT UP Exercise to elevate your heart rate and dry-fire some more. Analyze what happens with your sight picture when you're breathing hard. Once you're comfortable with your control, you can do this drill with live ammo at the shooting range.