I’ve been targeting shooting for well over 35 years. Yet, I’ve only been hunting for about 10. To-date, my hunting trips have all been for Pheasant or White-tailed deer. While it’s something you have taken for granted, or never considered, I’ve had some friends ask me to highlight the differences between target shooting and hunting. In short, there’s a lot more going on in the woods, so you better be on your game…and not just what you’re hunting.
First, let’s talk about Safety:
Head to a formal shooting range, and it’s going to be very obvious which way is “downrange.” There’s generally a very formal set of rules around who can go downrange, when, what exactly everyone else on the range can, and can’t do, and even where they can, and can’t be, when anyone is downrange. Likewise, there will generally be rules governing how, when and where you can unholster your gun, or remove it from its case, and making sure all guns are pointed downrange at all times. Finally, most formal ranges will generally have at least one RSO (Range Safety Officer) making the rounds, observing your every move, and ensuring all safety practices are followed. Many of these same rules should apply to your informal and even impromptu backyard ranges – most are easy to apply. Point being, most range environments are fairly well laid out and controlled.
Head into the woods, and most of that “controlled atmosphere” disappears. Certainly the 10 Commandments of Firearms Safety always apply whenever firearms are involved. However, things just aren’t as black and white, or as obvious in the woods. There’s a lot more on you, the hunter.
There are trails to navigate. There are obstacles to contend with, be they creek, river or fence crossings. There are tree stands to climb and stay in. All while carrying a loaded gun. (More hunters get hurt falling out of tree stands than anything else.) Hikers and dog walkers will walk through your lane. Other hunters may wander into your line of fire. Game will flush and come in from the most inopportune angles.
Honestly, when I’m on the hunt, I’m generally more concerned with who’s in the woods with me, who’s on the other side of these blow-downs, or where’s this slug gonna go if I miss than I am with where the birds are or rushing a shot on a deer.
A target shooter could easily go through a couple hundred rounds in a a typical trip to the range. Depending upon the game being hunted, time of year and location, a hunter might be lucky to get off 1 – 3 shots in a typical trip afield.
Maybe you’ve never thought much about it before, and many may take this for granted. While you need to be focused, and in “high alert” mode when doing both, but there’s a lot more to think about when hunting, and hunting is generally more dangerous than target shooting.
At the Range – whether it’s a formal range with Range Safety Officers, or an informal, impromptu back-yard range there should always be:
1. A certain direction designated as “downrange,” and it should obviously be the same direction for everyone. This is where your targets go. This is the direction you’re shooting. You need to know you’re target, and what’s beyond. Go to a formal range, and they’ve generally got this laid out for you.
2. A certain set of rules, understood by all on the range, around who goes downrange, when, and what everyone else on the range can and can’t do when anyone is downrange.
3. Rules stating All firearms should stay holstered or cased, until you’re on the firing line.
4. All firearms should be pointed downrange, at all times. Even when you’re unloading the gun from its case.
Whenever you’re target shooting, whether it be a formal range, or an impromptu back-yard session, a certain direction should always be designated as ‘downrange’, and there should always should be should always be
In the woods, you’re pretty much on your own. There’s RSO (Range Safety Officer) watching your behavior. Downrange isn’t clearly or obviously marked. There’s obstacles to content with.
For me, there’s generally a lot more going on mentally while I’m hunting. At least until your comfortably in your stand
There’s a lot more to the “Shoot / Don’t Shoot”
Pull that trigger, and that’s bullet’s going!