One Man’s Innovative Miss Strategies
By Mark Hampton
After four decades of some pretty serious handgun hunting, I’ve become a distinguished master at missing. I’ve missed just about every possible way, including a few impossible ones. “How’d you miss that one, Mark?” I’ve heard, oh, once or twice before. I’ve even invented new ways to miss. I’m not talking about a difficult shot, a long-range poke, or a challenging running stab. I’m referring to an easy, chip shot, any junior high cheerleader could make offhanded. Before I share my secret, let’s first take a peek at how — and why — we miss in the first place.
Don’t gently tug the trigger; yank the heck out of it! This could send the bullet several feet from your intended target, easily. Call it the “proverbial flinch” but however you define it, jerking the trigger will not result in anything worthwhile. Trust me on this one.
You relish the fact those tiny, bug-hole groups from the bench will surely impress your friends. So I dedicate all my practice sessions shooting from a rock solid platform. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be within miles of anything rock solid when I’m climbing mountains in search of Dall sheep. I should have been practicing for the sheep hunt all summer shooting from actual field positions — like my backpack. Apparently I tend to throw common sense out the window at times.
Once the gun’s sighted-in, practice sessions should center around actual field
positions you expect on the hunt. This dashingly suave position doesn’t make a
great photo op but it does get your line-of-sight over a bush or rock. Note the
mud, grime and sweat. Mark only hunts in fun places.
Rushing the shot has never been my friend, and “rushing” might be from many different things. You’ve been sitting in a deer blind for several days and haven’t seen any really good bucks. Suddenly, out of nowhere steps this monster 10-pointer. I can’t get the gun up quick enough. I’d better shoot this brute now! Add some adrenaline rush, fold in some nerves, a good dose of anxiety, buck fever, frozen fingers, etc. while you’re at it. “The buck is going to walk behind that brush and I’ll never see him again!” E-gads! Shoot!
You guessed it — another clean miss.
Poor shot selection arrives at about the same time as the above drama. “I’m shooting a .500 Rhino-Stomper and I could shoot him anywhere, at any angle, and still punch my tag,” you think. Or not? Maybe the animal was behind some brush, partially hidden behind a boulder, or there were other animals in front or behind it. Whatever the reason, there’ve been times I didn’t wait for the prime opportunity. I rushed my shot — and jerked the trigger.
Oh, and how about the “Don’t bother to pick an exact spot on the game where you want the bullet to hit,” syndrome? Sometimes I just like to get the animal in the scope and pull the trigger. The animal runs off untouched. When my buddy asks me, “Where were you aiming?” I can’t, um, er … provide a good answer.
Another one of my favorite techniques is over-confidence. “I’ve had a good run recently making several consecutive one-shot kills. It doesn’t matter what I’m hunting, distance involved, shot difficulty, or any other challenge, the game is over when I pull the trigger. Without question, I have become the equivalent of an experienced Navy Seal sniper. So naturally I give my gun a new name — the “Death Ray.”
Between my superior skill set and the magical powers of my handgun, we’re invincible. We can’t miss! It’s impossible! Then, filled with delusion in my lackadaisical stupor, I ignore all basic fundamentals, every last one of them. Wouldn’t you know it — a clean miss catapults me back to being a mere mortal! I hate it when that happens. I give my gun another name, but the editor won’t publish it.
Shooting off-hand can be challenging. Practice shooting in difficult
situations may help you avoid missing a shot in the field. But always
cheat if you can and use a rest — even if you have to bring it with you!
Get Back In The Saddle
There’re other times not even an experienced expert at missing like me can fully explain the blunder. I thought the sights were lined-up correctly, or the crosshairs were centered. Everything looked good. Everything felt good. What could have possibly gone south? I can’t comprehend what happened — but I recognize a clean miss when I see one. Most of the time I know exactly how I missed, but once in while I stump even myself.
If anybody would discover a way to avoid missing altogether it probably should be a guy like me, someone who’s mastered the art of missing. And I think I found it. The secret to never missing is easy — don’t shoot. But if you do shoot — and you should — when you manage the inevitable miss, shake it off, learn from your mishap, and get back into the saddle. Nobody said handgun hunting is easy. It’s fun, challenging, and the rewards are immeasurable — but it’s not always easy. Trust me on this one too.