Terminally connecting on that trophy of a lifetime with a single, well-placed bullet or arrow is critical on every hunt. Learning to manage your sight picture with your bow and rifle will help you to become a more accurate marksman, and ensure that the bullet or arrow is delivered where it needs to go for quick and terminal placement on big game animals.
Full field Of View
When your eye is properly aligned with the optic, there should be no visually detected “scope shadow.” Ensure that you have a natural field of view when your rifle is shouldered and that you aren’t looking through the scope at an angle. Any scope shadowing will affect where your bullet impacts your target.
For archers, it’s the same concept with your peep-sight to post-sight relationship. There are several sizes of aperture diameters and shapes of peep sights, but generally, the smaller the peep sight, the more pin-point accurate they are. The same concept applies here as with a rifle scope; you want a full, even field of view.
Natural Point Of Aim
The natural point of aim is where the rifle or bow wants to naturally rest within a given shooting position when the shooter is completely relaxed. You can’t drive or muscle your shot left to right, up or down, and expect accuracy downrange because the rifle will always return to the natural position that it rests when your body is completely relaxed. In order to modify your natural point of aim, you must make small adjustments in your entire body stance or rest. Oftentimes, the tiniest adjustment will make all the difference in your downrange success.
Reticle Or Pin Movement
When taking a hasty in-field rest or shooting your bow, there is bound to be reticle movement on your target. Typically, one only gets a dead-solid rest from the prone position in a zero-factor wind condition—the remainder of the time, we experience movement from our reticle or pin on our intended target.
I find that many young hunters and shooters are not aware that the reticle will oftentimes have movement, and they struggle in the field trying to hold steady on a game animal. This is not the time or place to learn how to control reticle movement, and lack of practice could result in poor shot placement or missed animals.
Practicing shooting from hasty positions before you enter the field will help you learn how to manage your movement. With your bow or rifle, practice controlling that movement on your target, left to right, up or down, or in a figure 8. The goal is to control the movement within the size of your desired target so that during all phases of the movement, when you press your trigger, your bullet or arrow impacts the target within acceptable or terminal tolerances.
One common error people make is that they achieve the desired sight picture and quickly try to “punch” the trigger. What happens here is that by the time your eye tells your brain that the sight picture is ideal, your reticle hold has already moved and by punching the trigger you are most likely going to pull your shot off target and could even develop target panic. Learning to manage movement within acceptable tolerances will tighten your groups and help reduce or eliminate bad habits, such as punching the trigger.
Applying steady rearward pressure and follow-through on your trigger will help to ensure accurate, repeatable shot placement.
Aim Small, Miss Small
When you’re learning to manage your reticle or pin movement, remember the old phrase, “Aim small, miss small.” If you have an 18- inch elk-sized target at 300 yards, focus your optic reticle on a specific point within that target; on an animal it could be the crease behind the front shoulder or a dark shadow on the animal hair. Find a spot that’s specific and focus on that only. The same concept applies with a bow at any given range. Locate a specific terminal point and manage your pin movement around that specific location.
Be sure to follow-through with your bow or rifle. Watch your shots impact, and if you’re behind a gun, only after you see impact can you then cycle your action. If you’re an archer, proper follow-through will ensure that your arrow trajectory is uninterrupted.
I know a lot of this sounds minor—or maybe even redundant—but it’s those little things that make the big difference when it comes time to pull the trigger.