If you’ve been to the range to prep for hunting season and have noticed that your shot groups aren’t consistent, it may be due to the developed bad habit of Shooting Flinch.
While sighting in with a friend, I noticed that she’d developed a flinch. She was anticipating the recoil while shooting her rifle, which significantly reduced her accuracy on target.
If you’re having a similar problem, there are a couple of techniques you can try to help reduce flinch. We need to get a tight shot group on the target.
Shooters feel the recoil as it punches the butt of the rifle into the shoulder. It’s most recognizable when we shoot from a bench or prone shooting position. If it isn’t addressed, it can lead to bad habits which carry on into the field and can ruin a hunt.
In addition to the flinch, some habits a shooter can develop are closing their eyes, pulling or jerking the trigger, or sitting back or pulling away just as they pull the trigger. These bad habits will cause their shots to rarely hit the zone where they are aiming.
Start by shooting from a bench or lead sled to make sure the optics are zeroed. After that, you need to transition to a shooter held rifle position.
One thing you can do is to add a shoulder pad, puffy jacket or vest. 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 shooter’s shoulder. Something you’ll need to consider is that this will change the length of pull for the shooter, so test out the trigger finger’s reach before you go to live fire. This should be done before the hunt anyhow as we may be wearing different gear depending on the weather conditions.
With the added padding between the rifle and shoulder, the anticipation of recoil induced pain may be reduced.
With the expectation of recoil out of the way, you may notice other issues. Such as the bad habit of closing the eyes or the reflex of sitting back from the gun as the trigger’s pulled.
You can work on relaxing during the shot as well as some of the following:
- Breathing techniques – Take a deep breath, slowly exhale then hold it for a pause as you pull the trigger.
- Shoot at larger targets – Instead of aiming for a point on a bulls-eye shoot large paper animal-shaped targets. Aim for the kill-zone instead of a dot.
- Trigger control – Worked on slowly taking up the slack on the trigger to prevent pulling or jerking her shots. Learn to pull the trigger slow and steady. As you pull the trigger look to see the point where the bullet hits the target. You should be surprised at the shot as it breaks.
- Shoot from various positions – Shoot from the shooting bench and transition to sitting, kneeling, standing and from shooting sticks. This will provide a new focus that is not that of the anticipation of the shot.
- Create shooting scenarios – Have a partner talk you through the following, “The elk just walked out. He’s broad-side. He’s clear. Take the shot when you’re ready.” Then add a reload into the scenario. Remind your partner, “You’re going to shoot once. Quickly throw the bolt and reload. The elk didn’t fall down. Quickly re-acquire your target and shoot again.” Rehearsing this scenario not only helps for real-life hunting situations, but it takes the shooter’s mind off the recoil.
With some practice the added confidence of shots that are grouped better we can reduce shooting flinch. Another thing to note is to shoot a very minimal number of rounds so the shooter doesn’t become tired or sore. Six rounds may be plenty if you’re preparing with your hunting rifle. Don’t let the shooter leave the range with a sore shoulder. You’ll be happy to work on better groupings instead of evading the dreaded bad habits.