Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges big-game hunters to sight their rifles and practice shooting at the range before the hunting season starts.
“Hunters who are thoroughly familiar with their rifles have a better chance at being successful in the field,” Rick Basagoitia, Colorado Parks and Wildlife San Luis Valley wildlife manager, said in a news release. “Shooting an animal with a high-powered rifle, no matter the distance, is not a natural skill. Hunters must know the capabilities of their rifles, the intricacies of their scopes, the characteristics of their ammunition, the distance of the targets and their own competence for setting up for a fast shot at an animal.”
Shooting skill is viewed as an ethical consideration by hunters.
“We don’t want animals to suffer. Preferably, hunters will get the job done with one shot,” Basagoitia said.
According to Brian Bechaver, a district wildlife manager in the San Luis Valley and certified firearms instructor, shooting often, shooting a lot of rounds and stepping out of comfort zones at the shooting range are the only ways to become proficient with a rifle.
“Most people can shoot off a bench and when they know the range of the target,” Bechaver said. “But a lot of things go out the window when you’re in the field and you see an animal.”
A hunter is forced to estimate distance, take positions that might be awkward or shoot across different gradients, with environmental and physical factors in play, such as heat, cold, wind, fatigue or adrenaline. Because of this, Bechaver recommends that hunters practice in uncertain conditions. For example, hunters should shoot from the prone position, shoot while sitting, use a pack for support, estimate distances and check the hunch with a range finder.
Before hunters go to the range, they should review rifle specifications, understand how to adjust scopes, know how to use a range finder and be aware of ammunition’s capability. Targets should be set 100 to 200 yards away for a practical distance, and sized according to the vital-organ area of the animal being hunted, which is about a 15-inch diameter for an elk and a 10-inch diameter for a deer.
“Practice, practice, practice,” Bechaver said. “The more you shoot at the range, the more confident you’ll be when your shot really counts.”
For more information, go to www.cpw.state.co.us.