Chapter 3 - Shooting Skills


A good hunter is an accurate shooter. Good marksmanship means you can hit your target accurately and consistently. It is the foundation that all responsible and ethical hunters rely upon. When hunting, your accurate shooting skills will insure a clean kill by a good shot to the vital areas. Marksmanship is a skill that can be developed and must be maintained. Proper fundamentals, technique and practice will make you a better hunter. There are numerous shooting ranges throughout the state where you can practice and develop your marksmanship.

Finding Your Dominant Eye

Determining which is your dominant or “master” eye is the first step in learning how to shoot. Generally it is most natural to shoot from the same shoulder as your dominant eye. Many people that are right-handed will also have a dominant right eye but not always. 

Determining Dominant Eye Dominant Eye

  1. Face an object about 10 feet (3.04 m) away
  2. Extend your arms straight out in front of you
  3. Form a small triangle by overlapping your hands

Dominant Eye Posture Dominant Eye Frame

  1. Look through the triangle with both eyes
  2. Focus on the object
  3. Bring the triangle toward your eyes, while keeping the object in focus at all times

     To keep the object in sight, the triangle will move toward your dominant eye.


Rifle Marksmanship

Finger off trigger

Learn how to operate your firearm before going shooting. A rifle range is the best place to begin shooting. Have someone experienced in the use of your firearm show you how to operate and maintain it. Disassemble, clean and reassemble your firearm to learn its parts and features. Work the action with dummy ammunition. Load live ammunition only at the range or while hunting.

Always follow The Four Primary Rules of Safe Firearm Handling to prevent accidents:

  • Always point your muzzle (or bow) in a safe direction.
  • Always treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Be sure of your target and what lies in front of and beyond it.

  • Rifle Firing Technique
  • Settle sights onto the bullseye of the target.
  • Move the safety from “Off” to the “Fire” position.
  • Place the first joint of your finger on the trigger. Don’t use the fingertip.
  • Finger on triggerTake a deep breath.

  • Exhale half of it.
  • Hold your breath as you gradually squeeze the trigger.
  • Follow through with the shot--continue squeezing the trigger after the cartridge fires.
  • If you are using a telescopic sight, be careful to provide “eye relief.” Keep your eye at least 3 inches behind the eyepiece so when the rifle fires you are not struck by the scope.

When a Cease Fire is called:

  • Unload your firearm
  • Leave the action open and chamber empty
  • Remove the magazine (if detachable) or unloaded (if not detachable)
  • Ground your firearm in a rack, rest or case.
  • Step back from the firing line
  • Wait for others to do the same and only proceed downrange past the firing line to put up targets when the line has been declared Safe.
  • Do not handle firearms or approach the bench when under a Cease Fire.
  • At most ranges, shooting positions at the firing line are numbered and have a corresponding number at the target rack where you affix your target.
  • Complete affixing targets quickly and return to the firing line promptly.


After shooting

  • Gun in caseKeep your ear and eye protection on if others are still shooting along the firing line.
  • Insure that your firearm is completely unloaded.
  • Secure the unloaded firearm in a case for transport. Keep the muzzle pointed downrange when placing in the case. Remove the bolt, if a bolt action.
  • Store your ammunition separately.
  • Retrieve your target at the next Cease Fire.
  • Properly dispose of used targets, casings, and trash. Leave the range clean or cleaner than you found it.


"Misfire" is when the gun fails to shoot immediately after the trigger has been squeezed and the primer has been struck by the firing pin. 

  • Keep the action closed.
  • Keep the gun pointed downrange for at least 30 seconds.
  • Carefully unload the firearm and look for obvious problems.
  • If the problem is not easily fixed, take the gun to a gunsmith.

"Hangfire" is a perceptible delay in the firing of a cartridge or shotshell after the primer has been struck by the firing pin.

"Squib load" is a round that fires with a less than normal pressure or velocity. It may be a noticeable, "poof," rather than the normal, "bang!" Squib loads can result in the bullet or shotshell wad failing to exit the barrel. If a bullet or wad is lodged in the barrel, firing a another round could cause serious injury or damage.

  • If you notice a difference in noise or recoil, stop firing immediately.
  • Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  • Open the action and make sure the chamber is empty.
  • Check the barrel for an obstruction by carefully passing a cleaning rod through the barrel, or if possible, by removing the bolt to check the barrel, or as with some shotguns, disassembling the firearm and removing the barrel.
  • Resume firing only when you are certain that the chamber and barrel are free of obstruction.
  • Examine remaining ammunition for damage or corrosion. Properly dispose of any suspect rounds.

Clogs and Obstructions

  • Completely unload the firearm
  • Keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, disassemble your firearm and clean it thoroughly
  • Never try to "blow" an obstruction out by shooting