As I was sighting in my Little Gal’s rifle for her elk hunt, I noticed she had developed a flinch. She was anticipating the recoil when shooting her rifle. It was significantly decreasing her shooting accuracy. Her shots were all over the target, and some were even missing it entirely. I have tried a couple of teaching techniques to help reduce her flinch. We needed to get a better shot group and hit the “kill zone” on paper.
Shooters feel the recoil as it punches the butt of the rifle into the shoulder. It is most recognizable when shooting from a bench or prone shooting position, and when adrenaline is flowing out in the field, the bad habits can ruin a hunt. A shooter can develop a habit of closing their eyes, pulling or jerking the trigger or even sitting back just as they pull the trigger. These bad habits will cause their shots to be all over the place, and rarely hit the zone where they are aiming.
In working with my Little Gal, I have had her practice shooting with her hunting vest on. It is a Prois Sherpa vest which is soft and plush. It provided a significant amount of shoulder padding. Another thing a shooter can do is purchase a butt pad for their rifle. It will absorb a great amount of the recoil between the gun stock and the shooters shoulder.
With the added padding between the rifle and LG’s shoulder, the pain anticipation was reduced. The problem was the bad habit of closing her eyes was still there as was the reflex of sitting back from the gun as the trigger was pulled.
We worked on relaxing as well as some of the following:
- Breathing techniques: She took a deep breath, slowly exhaled then held it for a pause as she pulled the trigger.
- Trigger control: We worked on not pulling or jerking her shots. She learned to pull the trigger slow and steady.
- Shot at larger targets: Instead of aiming for a point on a bulls-eye . I purchased paper targets that were animal-shaped. I asked her to try to look and see where the shot was going to hit.
- Shot from various positions: I had LG shoot from the shooting bench as well as shooting sticks in order to change her mindset.
- Created shooting scenarios: I asked her to rehearse the following, ”The elk just walked out. He’s broad-side. You are going to shoot once. Quickly throw the bolt and re-load. The elk didn’t fall down. Quickly acquire your target and shoot again.” Rehearsing this scenario not only helped her for real-life hunting situations, but it took her mind off the recoil and her shot grouping was much better.
With the added confidence of shots that were grouped much better, LG began to realize she could overcome her flinch. We also shot a very minimal number of rounds–generally a maximum of six. She never left the range with a sore shoulder. We are happy to be working on better groupings instead of evading bad habits.
Images courtesy Mia Anstine