Skip to main content

4 Shooting Drills to Make You a Better Hunter

Practice Under Pressure

4 Shooting Drills to Make You a Better Hunter
Most bowhunters practice from the ground, yet shots on game are often elevated. Drill accordingly.

If you’ve been hunting whitetails for years, I’ll bet you’ve had a number of times where you did everything right but let a big animal slip away because you blew the shot. It happens. Get over it. And if you are relatively new to hunting, don’t laugh, because, brother, if you continue hunting, it’s going to happen to you, too. There are things you can do to minimize your misses. The best remedy is experience. The next best thing is practicing under duress.

Anyone can make a shot while sitting on a benchrest in the shade. Unfortunately, giant bucks don’t often prance around the 100-yard berm in full daylight. Your objective is to make your practice conditions even more difficult than the real thing and then, most importantly, to place mental pressure on yourself so you’ll become accustomed to it while executing a perfect shot.

Try these drills involving competition, audiences, wagers, shot timers, and random situations. In almost every case, getting a friend to help you is best, but I’ve written examples of a couple drills you can do by yourself.

The Pellet Gun Plink-Off

Requirements: A buddy, an adult pellet gun with a scope similar to your deer rifle, aluminum cans, a backyard, cash, string, and anything from which to hang the cans.


Drill: Hang five cans at distances ranging from 15 to 40 yards. One shooter shoots five shots at all five targets in one minute or less, timed by the other person. Then the next person shoots. A small wager should be made to increase the pressure of each relay. Taunting and verbal distraction is encouraged. Shots should be fired offhand. Most hits wins the round. If all five cans are hit, the shooter putting up the shortest elapsed time wins.


Benefit: Shooting a pellet gun with a scope similar to your deer rifle accustoms your eye to focusing on a target, raising the gun quickly and seeing the target through the scope, settling the crosshair, and pulling the trigger. If you jerk, you miss. The pressure added via pride and money will raise your heart rate slightly, mimicking a real shot on game. With enough repetition you’ll be amazed at how good an offhand shot you’ve become. And if you can hit a can offhand at 40 yards consistently, nailing a deer from your box blind will seem easy.

3D Archery Shoot

Requirements: Your hunting bow, set up exactly how you hunt with it; a dozen target arrows; binoculars; a 3D archery club; multiple competitors, who are equal to or above your skill level; little to no pride.

Drill: Ask the guys at your local bowshop about upcoming 3D shoots. Pick one, show up well ahead of time, join a group of shooters that best describes you, pay your money, listen to advice from officials, and shoot the match.

Benefit: For bowhunters, no practice beats a 3D tournament where the mere pressure of competition and the eyes of an audience can turn a normally dead-nuts shooter into an arrow-flinging fool. Trust me!


Fact is, few 3D shooters are great their first time in competition—mainly because they haven’t yet learned how to handle the pressure, the same kind of pressure that makes hands sweat, hearts flip, and pupils dilate when a true trophy steps into your lane. This is why you can use competition to your advantage. Learn how to focus—aiming small—while under pressure and learn how best to cope with it in your mind. Some competitors say they actually begin using the pressure as fuel to focus! Sure, not all hunters want to spend a Saturday competing against strangers, but it sure beats whiffing on that 170-inch double droptine when he stops at 34 yards between two oaks.

Solo Rifle Shoot

Requirements: A rimfire rifle set up like your deer rifle, shooting sticks, three cardboard targets (preferably deer shaped), thumbtacks, woods or brush country safe for shooting.

Drill: With your rifle slung, walk through the woods and tack each target to a tree at least 50 yards from each other. Then walk at least 50 yards away in a random direction before turning around and stalking the targets. As soon as you can see the vitals of a target, hastily find a stable shooting position and fire a round. Without pausing, assume another field position—using the best rest available—and fire another round. Your goal is to put the first shot on target in less than five seconds with both shots in vitals in less than 15 seconds. Then go check the target, mark the holes, stalk the next target, and repeat.


Benefit: By placing the targets randomly in the woods and then walking away from them, you’ll forget exactly where they are and what limbs or obstacles might be in the way of the shot. By getting into a shooting position using the first available object or shooting sticks for a steady rest, you’ll familiarize yourself with your equipment and become fast when shooting deer in any real-time situation.

Dress Rehearsal Bowhunt

Requirements: Your hunting bow; four practice arrows; a tree-stand; woods; at least one 3D deer target; the exact hunting outfit you intend to wear during the season from the waist up, including hat, gloves, facemask, shirt, safety harness, vest, jacket, etc. Even better if it’s raining or snowing or the sun is in your eyes.

Drill: Mimic an actual deer hunting scenario by setting up a treestand in the woods. Then randomly place a deer target somewhere between five yards and 10 yards past your maximum range. (Who knows—you might surprise yourself!) Climb the tree and secure yourself before taking one shot from a sitting position, one from squatting (as if you must shoot under a limb), one while facing 135 degrees to the right of the target (for a right-hander), and one while facing 45 degrees to the left of the target so you must twist your torso to shoot. Your goal is a tight group in the vitals. Climb down, place the target in another random location, and repeat. Challenge yourself in any way you can. Set goals and punish yourself if you miss. For example, if you miss, make yourself climb down, retrieve the arrow, and start all over until all four shots are true.

Benefit: More times than not, a big buck won’t just saunter directly in front of your treestand, turn broadside, and politely pause for you to make a target-range-type shot. Therefore, we shouldn’t always practice this way. Anticipate and practice for the worst-case scenarios so you’ll be better prepared when the giant of a lifetime comes in directly behind you and remains partially shielded by the one limb you forgot to cut down. After all, if you don’t lean out, crouch, or tippy-toe to make the shot right then and there, you likely won’t get another chance. Practicing under duress will up your odds of nailing him.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Is That a Grizzly Bear?

Kevin Steele and Jason Morton are above the Arctic Circle pursuing grizzly bears in Alaska and put a stalk on what they believe is a good one.

B&C Typical Mule Deer

B&C Typical Mule Deer

Doug Burris Jr's typical mule deer taken in 1969, could just be one record that will never be broken.

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

Venison Cheeseburger Bites Recipe

If you're tired of the same old jalapeno and cream cheese poppers, here's a completely different take on the popular party appetizer. Easy to make, and incredibly delicious, these mini cheeseburgers, wrapped in bacon, make the perfect one-bite-fits-all snack for your next tailgate party or hunting camp.

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Take your venison loin to a whole new level with this delicious reverse-seared stuffed elk backstrap. Smoking the backstrap on a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill first, then finishing it on a blazing-hot skillet or flattop, creates a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak with a crispy, seared exterior. The filling of diced mushrooms and creamy Boursin cheese adds a whole new level of amazing flavors to an otherwise classic smoked venison loin.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Check out the new fleet of off-road options for hunters.2020 ATV Buyer's Guide Wheels Afield

2020 ATV Buyer's Guide

Rick Sosebee - June 23, 2020

Check out the new fleet of off-road options for hunters.

These are our favorite new products of the year for the archery crowd.Best New Bowhunting Gear for 2020 Bowhunting

Best New Bowhunting Gear for 2020

Petersen's Hunting Editors - May 21, 2020

These are our favorite new products of the year for the archery crowd.

These trail cameras feature the latest wireless technology.The Best Cellular Trail Cameras for 2020 Optics

The Best Cellular Trail Cameras for 2020

Tony J. Peterson - July 09, 2020

These trail cameras feature the latest wireless technology.

Technology is taking deer hunters, and their gear, into the future. The Best New Deer Hunting Technology Accessories

The Best New Deer Hunting Technology

Jeff Johnston - May 15, 2020

Technology is taking deer hunters, and their gear, into the future.

See More Trending Articles

More How-To

Breeding season is over, elk are smart, but competition is low.How to Kill a Giant Post-Rut Elk North America Big Game

How to Kill a Giant Post-Rut Elk

Mark Kayser

Breeding season is over, elk are smart, but competition is low.

Trail cameras can provide some valuable intel, but don't rely on them too much.Are You Relying Too Much on Trail Cameras? Whitetail

Are You Relying Too Much on Trail Cameras?

Jeff Johnston

Trail cameras can provide some valuable intel, but don't rely on them too much.

A look at the three types of terrain backcountry hunters are likely to find themselves in during fall seasons, and the tactics and gear needed to find success.Backcountry Terrain Types and the Tools You'll Need to Hunt Them How-To

Backcountry Terrain Types and the Tools You'll Need to Hunt Them

Petersen's Hunting Staff

A look at the three types of terrain backcountry hunters are likely to find themselves in...

See More How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now