With gun seasons popping up across the country, including here in my home state of Michigan, I figured now is the perfect time to examine a few helpful tips for using the boom stick in the whitetail woods. I actually just picked up a new Thompson Center muzzle loader, seen above, so I’m particularly excited to be heading out during firearm season myself this year. Given the fact that most of my hunting time is spent with a stick and string, it’s been even more important for me to slow down and think about the unique factors that must be considered when using a firearm. Although firearms can be used at longer distances and are sometimes easier to learn how to use, it doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. So be sure to know your gun, practice and prepare as diligently with your gun as you would if you were bowhunting. That being said, I’ve put together four sure fire tips for gun hunting that should help you make the most of this year’s firearm seasons! So good luck and shoot straight!

1.  Consider Aiming For The Scapula: According to one of the most thorough studies on gun shot placement, conducted by the South Carolina DNR, the most lethal shot for gun hunters is the shoulder blade shot. A quote from the report explains the effectiveness of this shot quite well…. “Presumably, it works well because it strikes part of the heart and/or lungs, which itself is a mortal blow. However, a shot through the scapula damages the brachial plexus, which is part of the central nervous system, therby rendering the animal immobile. It knocks the animal out and it never regains consciousness. Also, the shoulder is a large target that offers room for erro. A high shot hits the spine; a low shot, the heart; and a rearward shot, the lungs”

2. Never Taken An Unsupported Shot If You Don’t Need To: When aiming and firing a gun at a deer downrange, having some kind of support can be absolutely crucial to getting and staying on target, so don’t forget to do it. If in a tree or blind, try to use a limb, a wall or some kind of solid item to rest your gun against. Another option, if you hunt on the ground is to carry shooting sticks. If you’re walking, try leaning against a tree, kneeling or sitting down to shoot if you can. Some times the quick pull up shot is your only option, but if you have time, find a way to steady yourself and you’ll be glad for it.

3. Know Your Gun and It’s Limitations: I very often hear about gun hunters encountering a buck way off, and despite the fact that the hunter doesn’t feel good about the shot, they say something like “well I had to at least throw some lead at him”. Well, I’d recommend a different approach. Know your gun and stick to shots that are within it’s maximum range. As a gun hunter, it’s important to look at your unique firearm and operate within it’s limitations. The differences in what you can achieve between a rifle, a muzzle loader and a slug gun are vast, so be realitic with yourself. Practice on the range and then stick to what you know you can do comfortably.

4. Take A Deep Breath, and Squeeze: This is nothing new, but it’s so important I feel it’s worth mentioning. You need to focus on squeezing the trigger when the moment of truth arrives, rather than hitting, punching or pulling it. Any of these harsher trigger pulls will result in you pulling your sight off target and a big buck possibly slipping away. My best advice is to work on two things while preparing for a shot with your firearm. Number one, control your breathing with long, deep breaths. Secondly, while doing this talk to yourself and repeat some sort of mantra. Something like “Focus on a spot, squeeze. Focus on a spot and squeeze”. Keeping your mind focused on this can help you prevent a rushed shot and a punched trigger. Take aim, and slowly squeeze that trigger til it surprises you with a “Boom”! The next thing you’ll see is a down deer or one that is soon to be!

Do you have any helpful tips for firearm hunters? Please share them in the comments!