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Running Shots: 5 Things to Consider

Running Shots: 5 Things to Consider

The ethics of shooting game on the run is hotly debated. Some claim that they would only shoot at moving game if it was already injured while others consider the ability to take running shots an essential skill for any big game hunter.

Under certain circumstances taking a running shot makes sense, particularly when a game animal is injured and might escape if it isn't anchored with a second shot. The ability to shoot running game is certainly a valuable skill for a hunter, but being able to shoot game on the move requires practice and planning before heading to the field. Here are some tips to take that toughest of all shots.

Focus on the Game

If you constantly switch your focus between the animal and your sights you won't be able to keep your rifle barrel moving in a smooth, steady motion. Instead, the muzzle will be chopping along and you won't keep the rifle moving steadily. Also, the animal may slow down, speed up or change its course, and if you aren't paying attention you'll completely lose your sight picture.

Think like a Shotgun Shooter

photo by Ben Gettinger

Skeet shooters, sporting clays enthusiasts and wing shooters spend quite a bit of time shooting moving targets. What are their keys to success? First, they keep their gun moving, following through after the shot. Get your rifle up and keep it moving. Practice swinging through your targets and, if you own a shotgun, head to the skeet range.

Learn the Techniques

photo by Ben Gettinger

The two most common methods for taking running shots are sustained lead and swing through. Sustained lead involves holding a certain distance ahead of the game, perhaps a body length, and pressing the trigger as you maintain that distance ahead of your intended target. Another option is swing through, which involves starting behind the animal, catching up to it and shooting as you pass the animal. It is essential that you keep the muzzle moving so you don't stop your swing.

Practice the Shot

In Finland, all hunters must take a shooting test prior to hunting. One phase of the test consists of putting three shots in the boiler room of a moose silhouette that's on the move from 75 yards away. The moose travels at 15 mph from left to right, right to left, and the left to right again. Photo by Aaron Decker

I've heard of several methods of training to shoot running game, from shooting reaction targets to affixing pizza boxes to the top of remote controlled cars. In addition to practicing the shot, work on reloading without lowering the gun. Practice doesn't have to involve live fire, either. Improve swing and follow through with an unloaded rifle until you have committed the actions to memory.

Know Your Surroundings

photo by Ben O'Brien

Before you even consider taking a running shot at game make absolutely certain you have a clear field of fire. Don't let the excitement at seeing moving game overwhelm you. Take the shot only if you are absolutely certain that you aren't putting anyone else at risk. Things happen very quickly when you are shooting an animal on the move. If you have any doubts don't fire.

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