Shooters: Measure Your Kill Skill

Are there training drills hunters can use to measure and improve their shooting performance?

Any serious action-shooting competitor shoots drills. Exercises such as “El Presidente” and the “Bill Drill” have become standards against which competitors measure their performance. But what about hunters? In my experience, training drills for hunters are rare, but that doesn't mean we can't create our own and reap the benefit of using them.

A good rifle-training drill requires little in the way of equipment, is simple to replicate anywhere, has both a time and an accuracy component, and produces measureable results. Here's a rifle drill you can try. Feel free to modify it based on the type of hunting you do and the facilities you have available.

Cardstock paper: 8.5x11 inches; the timer function on your smartphone or a stopwatch; spotting scope; rifle and ammo; eye and ear protection.

Staple a blank sheet of brightly colored office paper on a 200-yard target. Fire two shots at it from each of the four major shooting positions (see below). Give yourself unlimited time to shoot the first bullet, but the second shot must be fired within 5 seconds of the first. Use a sling, pack or bipod for support, but only if it's what you'd normally have with you in the field.

  • Stage 1: Prone, two shots. Check your hits. This stage serves to confirm the zero on your rifle.
  • Stage 2: Sitting, two shots. If you ever wait in ambush for game, you'll likely be shooting from this position. Check your hits.
  • Stage 3: Kneeling, two shots. This is fastest way to get low and pick up some support, whether it's just from your own knee or from a nearby object. Check your hits.
  • Stage 4: Standing, two shots. Nobody prefers to shoot standing, but with some assistance from a handy tree or fencepost, it’s doable—and sometimes it's the only option. Check your hits.

A perfect score is 8, but any follow-up shots not made within the 5-second time limit are scored as a miss.

The 8.5X11-inch cardstock target is a reasonable representation of a deer's vital zone. When possible, put a larger sheet of paper behind this target; it will reveal in which direction the misses went and allow effective analysis of what's needed to improve. This drill requires only eight rounds, so it can be run twice with a single box of ammo. Cost is, of course, variable. Check the target after each two-round stage to identify where additional training is needed.

Practicing this drill with a .22 rimfire at 100 yards is fine, but reduce the target size by half if you do. Eventually, however, it must be shot with a hunting rifle and full-power ammunition—yes, even with your Super-Ultra-Maxi-Mega-Magnum. If you hunt with it, practice with it. And if you can shoot a perfect score at 200, move the target farther away and test your limits.