Participants should receive individual shooting instruction, ideally provided by their mentor/guide.
The ideal situation is to initiate participants into shooting with an air gun, so they can develop some basic shooting skills prior to shooting a high-powered rifle or shotgun slugs. Small-bore rifles (.22s) can be used as an alternative introductory experience, or as part of a progression leading up to the shooting of high-powered rifles or shotgun slugs. It is much easier to teach and learn fundamental shooting skills when the student is not having to manage recoil at the same time.
In any case, similar instruction should be provided between the air gun, small-bore and high-powered rifle shooting experiences. Instruction should include:
- Review of safe firearm handling procedures
- Sight picture
- Breath control
- Trigger squeeze
- Shooting positions - stabilizing the firearm in field conditions
Federal Premium Ammunition offers an excellent resource to review shooting instruction.
In most situations, a participant’s first few shots will be taken from a bench rest. This is a great way to build confidence in their shooting skills. Once the basic skills are reasonably mastered, we recommend that participants be allowed to shoot using other shooting positions, if the range rules permit shooting from different positions. Of particular importance are positions more likely to be used while hunting, such as using shooting sticks or a pack for a rest.
Safe firearm handling principles and practices
It is highly recommended that your firearm training practices mirror those taught in your state-sponsored hunter education programs. While your program likely goes well beyond what is taught in a standard hunter education class, it is important that the training practices be similar.
Often, hunter education programs do not include live firing of firearms, or even handling of firearms. Nonetheless, they generally have procedures to follow if a class elects to include these components.
Numerous, excellent resources covering firearms training are available for classroom use from online hunter education courses.
At a minimum, we recommend that the following topics be covered:
- Firearm actions
- Firearm handling rules
- Matching firearm to ammunition
- Carries and crossings
- Zones of fire
- Know target and beyond
Additional topics should be added based on the local conditions, hunting strategies employed and your decision on whether a full hunter education course is incorporated into your program.
Because many of your participants are interested in hunting because it provides a source of food, we recommend that you be prepared to discuss the pros and cons of using non-lead ammunition for hunting during the “matching firearm to ammunition” presentation.
Information on non-lead ammunition can be found at:
Because the use of non-lead ammunition for hunting is a personal choice in most states, this topic lends itself to becoming a homework assignment or a topic for small group discussion.