How to Make a Fast, Accurate First Shot

“You can’t miss fast enough to win."

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Some hunting situations will allow you plenty of time to set up for a calm, collected shot, which you can make at your leisure. However, many other hunting scenarios require a quick, accurate first shot. You may have a small window to shoot a buck in thick woods, shoot at a running animal on a drive, or simply take advantage of an opportunity you weren’t expecting. You should take your time when you can, but should also be able to shoot quickly when you don’t have the luxury of time. 

“You can’t miss fast enough to win,” is an old competitive shooter’s saying, and it’s applicable to hunting as well. It’s one thing to get your first shot off quickly, but it only matters if it’s also accurate. As you’re practicing in the off-season, there are things you can do to help ensure that you can break a fast, clean shot when hunting season comes back around. Most of these drills don’t even require ammo. 

Perfect Your Shooting Position

One of the easiest things to work on is your position as you bring the rifle up and get on target. If you set up in an unstable position, it’s going to be tougher to get on target quickly and you’ll have a hard time breaking that first shot accurately. Instability will cause you to yank the trigger, as you try to time the crosshairs or sights as they pass over the target. 

You will be faced with a variety of circumstances in hunting situations, and you might not be able to repeat the exact stance or posture, but if you practice setting up in strong positions in a variety of circumstances, you’ll naturally adapt to stronger positions when a shot opportunity presents itself.

With an empty rifle, practice moving from a relaxed ready position, or with your rifle slung, and quickly bring the rifle to your shoulder and get on target. Practice this from different shooting positions you’ll encounter in the field: offhand, kneeling, and quickly bracing on a support. You’ll learn what positions are more stable for you and when the shot opportunity comes, you’ll be prepared to set a solid base for getting your shot off.

Watch the Target

In the off-season, practice building positions and shouldering your rifle while keeping your focus on the target. Keeping both eyes open and watching the target will help you get your sights on target and fire an accurate first shot faster—especially if the animal is moving. 

You’ll slow down if you stop to look at the settings on your scope or anything else that takes your eyes off the target. A common issue for hunters—especially in thick cover or on moving game—is not being able to find the animal in the scope quickly. Keeping both eyes on the target or while you shoulder your rifle will help you find it in the scope more quickly. 

Slow is Fast

Naturally, you will become both faster and more accurate by focusing on your shooting fundamentals during each shot. You can even do a lot of this practice without any ammo at all—by one simple dryfire drill.