Hunting is difficult, no doubt about it. You have to mix the art of being stealthy and sneaky with the challenge of making a shot. All while having a raging heartbeat so powerful you wonder if your rib cage can hold it. That's why we train for a hunt.
The moment that you have to make the shot count really often boils down to training. For me, I love to do aggressive archery events such as Total Archery Challenge or Mountain Archery Fest to prepare for the archery season. I also thrive on Precision Rifle Series type of matches or training to prepare for a rifle hunt.
Both of these extreme events push your limits of shot distance, fundamental abilities, and making a shot count under duress. It is often easy to make a good shot when you have been sitting still, tons of time to set up and get yourself in a perfect position, and your target has no opportunity to exit stage left.
Training for a Hunt
In Total Archery Challenge (TAC), for example, the ski lift drops you off at the top of the mountain with your gear in hand and a pack on your back. Each competitor must hike the trails of their course until they come to an orange cone. At that cone, you use your binoculars and locate your 3D foam target. Next up you get the distance for the shot with your range finder. More often than not, there is a very tiny shot window or a lot of obstacles in the direct path of the target to increase difficulty.
In every TAC event that I have completed, there is a massive arrow graveyard piled up at each cone to allow you to take a moment and prepare for the shot. You may also have a moment of silence for all of the arrow carnage!
I enjoy shooting long-range rifles, as well. Imagine yourself grabbing your gear including a rifle along with any sandbags or tripods that you will require and managing your equipment as soon as a loud timer goes off. You know your course of fire may only be 10 shots in 120 seconds. But, you have rules of engagement, trigger and bolt rules on the rifle, and even sometimes a shot order that must be respected or you gain penalties on your performance.
If that doesn’t raise your heart rate, I am not sure what will! These courses train you to acquire your target, dial in on the scope, adjust for windage as needed, and frequently make a follow-up for a hit if allowed without adjusting turrets or scope dials. It is a true testament to holdover and compensations as you visually confirm your hits/misses.
Training Makes Perfect
I personally have not shot at an animal at extreme distances before. I just managed to drop my cow elk in October 2022 at 565 yards with one shot from my 28 Nosler. To date, this is the longest rifle shot that I have ever taken on an animal. I only feel comfortable with this because I have trained with my hunting rifle in ranges of 1,000-1,200 yards.
TAC events frequently boast of 3D targets at ranges of 85 to 100 yards on every course. Very few targets are under 40 yards! This vastly enforces a solid and stable base for archery shot set up along with good grip and release follow through to reduce missing the target entirely at those distances. This is the only time I have heard people shout and cheer over landing an arrow on a knee, ear, nose, etc. FOAM is a friend at those distances!
The harder you train, the less difficult a hunt is…
It seems wild, but the harder you train at long distances and complicated shots you will find that the hunt becomes much less difficult. Train hard to make the hunt easier! After lobbing shots at 80 and 100 yards with my bow, a 30 to 40-yard shot at an animal feels like a breeze.
Don’t be hesitant to sign up for an event. Archery events like this are spreading like wildfire all over the US, and most states already have some form of long-range rifle type of competition. Give it a chance and let yourself grow! Who knows, you may be the next TOP SHOT!!!!