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May 5, 2023
min read

Improve Your Accuracy with Four Easy Words

We’ve all been there. You just squeezed the trigger on that deer or elk that will fill your freezer and provide a lot of campfire stories for years to come. But, wait. He’s still standing there!

We’ve all been there. You just squeezed the trigger on that deer or elk that will fill your freezer and provide a lot of campfire stories for years to come. But, wait. He’s still standing there!

Now he’s looking your way, trying to figure out where that sound came from. Before you can rack the bolt and chamber another round, he takes off and is gone over a hill. Surely he was hit! Surely you will find a blood trail! Won’t you?

He didn’t run away looking mortally wounded, but he should have, right? After all, you went to the range and zeroed your rifle. It was perfectly sighted in and on target - at least you thought.

Those potential-miss shots can make for a lot walking around.

You look around for what feels like forever and find no evidence of striking the target. No blood, no hairs, and barely any evidence of him turning to run over the ridge. So, it must have been a miss.

So now you shift your concern to your equipment. It must have been the gun. The scope may have gotten knocked off in travel. Or, maybe there was a wind gust right as you shot. All kinds of questions flood your mind as to how in the world you could have missed.

I’m not sure about your misses, but most of mine can easily be attributed to operator error more often than equipment failure or wind gusts.

Prairie Dog Damage in a Front Yard

So this brings us to today’s topic:

How to improve your accuracy in the field with four easy words: “Go Prairie Dog Hunting!”

Ask any farmer or rancher from the mid-west to the Colorado Rockies, and they will tell you that prairie dogs are a nuisance.

From a rancher's perspective, they can severely reduce the amount of forage available for livestock and, if present for may years, can reduce the capacity of the land to produce desirable grass. Prairie dogs actually graze year-round in their area, whereas most livestock are rotated among pastures.

Not only do these varmints destroy hay ground that could be feeding your next steak or cheeseburger, they carry all kinds of diseases to the animals (and possibly humans) around them.

The fleas and ticks that survive on the prairie dogs are transmitters of diseases such as the Sylvatic Plague and Tularemia. While nowhere near as prevalent as the common cold or flu, both of these can be transferred to humans and produce symptoms that none of us want.

So what does any of this have to do with missing an elk or deer?

I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for a way to improve my shooting technique. In the past few years we have taken more frequent trips to the range (filming ammo patterning videos has helped there).

Shooting well can be summed up in the old adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Just because you used to knock bottle caps off a fence post at a hundred yards, doesn’t mean you still can. And even if you are able to make that bottle cap dance, don’t expect to be ready for every hunting situation you may encounter.

The adrenaline of rushing into position on your target deer or elk can reek all kinds of havoc on your ability to relax, control your breathing, and hold the crosshairs steady.

Just because you’re a good shot on Saturday afternoon with a rifle sitting on shooting bags at the range, this doesn’t ensure that you’re ready for hunting scenarios.

Trust me on this. I'm speaking from experience, and have made plenty of mistakes.

"Get out there and shoot"

Because of that, Adrian and I are extremely appreciative of recently being introduced to the world of prairie dog hunting. We saw first hand just how difficult shooting from multiple positions can be and how much doing so could help our shooting and hunting skills as well as possibly help out the land owner.

We’re going to use the “Go Prairie Dog Hunting” phrase to explain just how much it can help you also.

The “G” in go is for “Get out there and shoot.”

Shoot more and shoot often. If you aren’t willing to take a trip to the range and practice, you can expect that you might miss some animals you should have harvested. One trip to the range each year to make sure your rifle is still zeroed does not make you ready for hunting season. Trust me. I know from experience (There I go again).

Multiple trips to the range, especially with friends, will make you a more successful harvester each year.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “more trips to the range can get really expensive especially with the prices of ammunition these days.”

But don’t worry, you don’t have to drop a load of cash on your favorite hunting bullet. Find a decent load that doesn’t break the bank and focus on your shooting style, breathing, and grip. Make sure you are giving attention to each slow squeeze of the trigger that will keep you on target when faced with the harvest opportunity.

We all know Vince Lombardi’s famous quote: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.

And even if you aren’t able to find a lower-priced load for practicing, are you willing to sit there reading this article and tell me that you wouldn’t give $50-75 to have that buck you missed or lost last season? Would he have been worth a couple boxes of ammo and extra trips to the range?

“P” is going to remind us that we should “Practice different shooting positions.”

Adrian propping the 204 Ruger on a Primos Trigger Stick Tripod

Although some harvest shots may come from a completely rested and fully supported shooting position, that’s not always the case.

So, prairie dog hunting can give you the opportunity to try out all sorts of thing. First, we took a few shots off hand at close range. Then we tried our hand at resting the gun on an old fence rail. And finally, we moved on to standing with the rifle resting on a tripod.

Don’t be afraid to practice shooting from these and other possible hunting positions.

Shoot from prone while propped on your bag. Take shots from standing while braced against a tree or pole. And, even try your hand at kneeling shots. Take it a step further and hike up a hill, run in place, or do some push ups to get your heart rate elevated and your arms tired - then take your shot.

Make sure you don’t forget faster target acquisition at close distances, too.

If you’re that guy who is always bragging about his tight groups at the range, but never leaves the bench, it’s time to make a change!

“D” really brings us to the heart of this topic. “Don’t just go shoot at the range.”

Make some time to varmint hunt. Even if your area doesn’t have prairie dogs, find a nuisance animal to hunt. Most areas across the country have coyotes and open seasons that allow you to hunt them year round.

We all know that pulling the trigger on an animal is very different than a metal target that can't move. Putting yourself in a hunting position, even for an animal you may not be wanting to eat, will significantly increase your accuracy on target when offered an opportunity at a big game animal.

Varmint hunting makes you focus on all those things you practiced at the range.

Zeroing in on smaller animals really limits your margin for error and requires attention to the details in your shot sequence. Make sure that each shot is as close to the same as possible. Aquire the target, stay on target, and take that slow, steady trigger squeeze.

Focus on Your Shot Sequence

While some paper targets at the range may blow in the wind a little, rarely do they take off running like a prairie dog if you happened to miss your bullseye.  

I’m sure that Adrian had no misses on the prairie dogs, but I know that I had to take several follow-up shots. Whether the swirling wind actually caused a miss or I just jerked the trigger, learning to follow those little creatures in the scope taught me a lot about second chances.

If you aren’t able to track an animal in your scope after the initial shot, you will miss an opportunity at a follow up shot and possibly miss the chance at harvesting that animal.

Unfortunately there were several times those evasive little creatures went diving back underground before we could get a second shot, but many times it was that ability to keep them in the scope that provided a deadly blow.

“H” reminds me to “Have fun!”

Even though some days afield and at the range can be frustrating, don’t forget why you are out there. Shooting and hunting continue to bring us opportunities to enjoy more than just the everyday hustle and bustle of life.

Slow down a little bit. You will absolutely not get any better at shooting by rushing through the process or not taking the time to learn from each shot.

Don’t get frustrated with every miss or every greater-than-MOA grouping you shoot. Learn from it. Take the time to analyze what you did well and what could have changed.

The learning you do at the range today will inevitably make tomorrow’s harvest shots more enjoyable.

Friends Make Great Spotters

Trips to the range and into the wild are usually more fun with family or friends. And an extra person with binoculars can really help in spotting those prairie dogs! I know we were significantly appreciative of having friends help spot the animals and call out adjustments we could make for the next shot (assuming we may have missed the first shot).

Pros & Cons

  • Improves your accuracy
  • Increases your ability to track an animal in the scope
  • Learn shooting from different positions
  • Fun with Friends
  • Time spent afield is always a PRO
  • Extra ammo can be expensive
  • Prairie Dog hunting can be addictive


Should I Buy This Thing?

In case you can’t tell, we really learned a lot while enjoying a new adventure. Neither of us had ever tried chasing those destructive little creatures, but I can assure you that our first time won’t be our last!

Get out there and practice the essentials of “Go Prairie Dog Hunting” even if you don’t actually have them in your area.

I promise, you won’t be disappointed in the results when you’re sitting around the campfire with more big game success stories also.

Written by

Robbie has enjoyed the outdoors since he can remember. His earliest memories include hours upon hours of squirrel hunting and learning how to enjoy all aspects of hunting season in God's wonderful outdoors. Now he is always working hard and testing gear in the field to give you the best review and most thorough information he possibly can.


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