Yes, you can use a competition gun for hunting.
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Stress. It can be categorized by type – distress, eustress, neustress – and classified by hormone – adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol. Some of its effects can be positive, at least in the short-term, while others are overwhelmingly negative. When it comes to the role of stress in hunting one factor rules them all: training. Yes, you read right. Training isn’t just the purview of self-defense shooters and competitors; training matters for hunters.

“You do not rise to the occasion in combat, you sink to the level of your training. Do not expect the combat fairy to come bonk you with the combat wand and suddenly make you capable of doing things that you never rehearsed before. It will not happen.” (Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, “On Combat”) Whether you’re a fan of Grossman or not, he is dead-on about this.

Mastering adrenaline is a valuable skill while hunting. During a self-defense situation it becomes vital.

There are those who argue training is irrelevant; muscle memory isn’t real, repetition has no bearing on future performance during a hunt – or an assault – and practicing specific skills today has little to no bearing on tomorrow trigger time. (Yes, there are people who say these things or variations of them.) And while your life isn’t – typically – on the line while you’re hunting, many of the same factors come into play thanks to adrenaline dumps.

This is reality.

The effects of stress on your brain and body are notable and include various temporary responses: increased blood flow to muscles, mental hyper-focus, greater oxygenation, and a rush of adrenaline-fueled energy. You even become resistant to pain. At first blush these may sound fantastic – an adrenaline rush can only help you, right? – but there are downsides, too. While not lost, your fine motor skills may not be as sharp, and more oxygen is being gulped down by way of hyperventilating. Hyper-focus can become tunnel vision. An adrenaline dump makes you shake like you’ve been mainlining caffeine for days. Learning to work with and through stress isn’t just important, it’s vital.

Get this. Learning to manage adrenaline and stress while hunting isn’t just about the hunt. One day it might cross over to a self-defense situation and be a major factor in saving your life.

Training isn’t just for self-defense. It comes in handy for hunters, too.

This is why we train.

Legally, anyone with a current, government-issued ID who is capable of passing the checks involved in a Form 4473 can own a firearm. (Of course, not everyone adheres to those legalities.) Those of us in possession of legally acquired firearms should be training with them far beyond a single run through How to Shoot 101.

It doesn’t matter if you’re hunting or intend to carry concealed. You need training. The woods are full of good old boys who believe a single shot fired through their .30-30 is sufficient effort not only for deer season but the entire year. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution (yeah, I said it).

Firearms training might begin with memorizing and following the four golden rules of guns but it doesn’t end there. It never ends. There are classes available for shooters of all skill levels and firearms academies across the country offer them. Sure, it might be ideal to visit Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona but it isn’t necessarily feasible. Attend classes where you are able. As for the when, make time.

If you’re thinking you don’t need any training because you’re a hunter, you’re wrong. Shot placement, trigger control, understanding drift and drop – the list of skills to hone for a successful hunt is almost endless. Getting a boost from a qualified instructor is what we call a Good Idea.

Former Sheriff Jim Wilson once said “It’s not about a week of shooting, it’s about a lifetime of learning.” He was right. Train. Practice. Work at it, don’t just scrape by.

Remember, shooting skills are perishable. Keep training.

This is why we never stop.

Ongoing training not only improves hunting and shooting skills but keeps existing skills honed and ready. Shooting skills are perishable, meaning it requires consistent effort to maintain them let alone further them. No matter what you want to call it – muscle memory, procedural memory, chocolate banana bread memory – one thing is clear: repetition is key. Skills cannot and should not be rushed or ignored.

Invest the necessary time. Train properly and often, and once you have the building blocks down do not simply walk away from them. Revisiting the basics now and again benefits us all. Pay attention to the wisdom of experienced shooters both past and present using the pieces of their lessons you can and discarding the rest, but do not be dismissive. A shooter doesn’t have to be a student of only one shooting school of thought; in fact, they shouldn’t be. Rather than mocking someone because you disagree with some facet of their practices or think they said something silly once, pay attention. You just might learn something.

Of course, if someone is dangerous or downright ridiculous – like the video going around where the shooter uses his mags to jab at the eyes of a dummy for supposed self-defense purposes – walk away. (Run. Run away.) Disagreements over methodology are far different than instances where a supposed instructor or expert is unsafe and preaching risky or foolish tactics.

Back to hunting. Blaming misses and wounded animals on your gun is rarely an accurate gripe. Learn to work through adrenaline and practice until your understanding of placement, drift, and drop is beyond rudimentary. Wouldn’t you prefer successful hunts? Then work for it.

As for gun owners who believe luck will protect them, consider this: luck is rarely incidental and frequently created. Make your own luck by training.

The skills you hone as a hunter will benefit you as someone who also carries concealed. Although the adrenaline dump that takes place during an attack is almost impossible to replicate, hunting is a fantastic way to get an idea what it feels like. Yes, there are different types of stress, but learning to shoot well with adrenaline coursing through your system is a valuable skill.

The ways various shooting skills weave together is amazing – and useful. Take a moment to consider what you might be able to learn from another sector of the shooting sports world. Then get out there, train, and enjoy the hunt, adrenaline and all.

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  1. What type of training, exactly? We’re not tier one operators and we will not become so in a few weekends a year. Which x seal or green beanie do we pay our hard earned money to become trained? And will their lawyers and insurance vampires allow them to really train you or just give you the mistaken belief that you’re now trained up?

    Having been in the military I know that the level of training to go after bin laden carries great risks. People sometimes die in that training.

    If you are trained enough to safely handle your weapon on a day to day basis(glock leg, anyone) then you are well trained enough for real world DGU’s. We have myriad examples right here on ttag of folks that were old, and untrained(in at least one the dude had never fired a gun before) that prevailed in their armed encounter.

    The bad guys aren’t trained. They aren’t well armed and they aren’t a dedicated team of x operators(this only happens in hollywood). They look for an easy mark and a gun scares them off 99% of the time.

    • Fully concur, there is also the gear over training mentality. One does not need a SAI weapon to shoot well. Magazines and jackasses on you tube insist you do.
      Folks don’t practice IA for their weapon either. I love the stupid look someone gets when their weapon doesn’t fire or malfunctions.

    • Still, the better prepared you are, the better off you’ll be. Get whatever training you can.

      In my case, since I can’t afford to take a class, that means I should be watching videos made by experts and taking notes and putting their advice to the test on the range…but I generally don’t even do that.

      Will I be okay if I ever have to use a gun to defend myself? Probably so. I’ve had a hell of a lot more practice with firearms than just about any criminal. But I could still be a lot better than I am. And being better is…well…better.

    • Not always. It’s been documented that some gangs keep some members “clean” so they can join the military, learn real fighting skills and teach them to other gang members upon ETS. At least according to a couple of anti-gang intell classes I attended. No such thing as being undertrained. Just be selective about your training.

      • Depends, some of us have multiple deployments and actually left the FOB. And there are good trainers out there with real experience. That teach stuff that actually works, not theory.
        I can tell you this from multiple firefights I’ve been in. Nothing can replicate the stress of combat. Until you’ve had someone actively trying to kill you. You don’t know what you are talking about.
        Targets don’t shoot back or make sudden moves, take cover etc.
        On the criminal being trained, who knows? Even a fool gets lucky on occasion.

      • Not what I said. I’ve been in fights in the military and in fights on the civvy side. Apples and oranges. But i’ve yet to meet the hollywood super villain. If you’re not doing stupid things in stupid places with stupid people you will never meet the super villains either.

        Priority for all of us is safe gun handling. Priority 2 is accurate gun handling. Any training involving team tactics, kicking doors, etc. is just walter mitty bullshit that will make money for the training industry. It’s your money, spend it how you wish.

        Training for hunting isn’t training. It’s learning at the side of an older, wiser hunter. You start when you’re a kid and the generations before you show you the ways of the wild.

  2. I rember my first deer, got buck fever, says I” I’ve read about this, settled down, kerpow, WTF figured it would drop, no two hops in the brush, oh great now I ve gotta go find the damned thing. Next deer fuk dat heart lung shit, kerpow right in the head DRT, says I ” now that’s more like it”…Oh this is about training, training is for amateurs.

  3. Well written article. Firearms aren’t like bicycles !! Be your best ? Well than the above article by Kat says it all. It doesn’t take a genius to know that to get out and train , as often as possible , is something we all should do. Be our best at our craft ! Thanks again Kat. Great read. I hope people listen to good advice when it comes their way.

  4. Who is Kat Ainsworth and how many years as and 11B?

    “muscle memory” is the kind of pseudointellectual claptrap of the sort that would make the king of pseudointellectuals, BO, proud. Sanitation Engineer.

    • Zero years, a wannabe that took a class or two. And shoots dumb animals.

      Kind of like Lucas Botkin or the coward James runaway Yeager.

    • I concur…I give advice on something I’m an expert in. Hunting ain’t self-defense or armed conflict. Unless that bear chomps on you😩

    • An 11B is probably the worst person to take self defense advice from. He is trained to seek out and engage. An armed citizen or even a good cop knows that object is to stay to the left of bang if at all possible.

      • Because speed, surprise and violence of action is something grunts know nothing about. I was under the impression that if you were unable to avoid or de-escalate, that those other things kind of came in handy. But I don’t know, I was only 11M.

        • There is more to personal protection than speed, surprise and violence of action. Personal protection is all about learning to recognize avoid threats.

          In the intelligence word the Creed is don’t get noticed, run away if you are and the use force is to be avoided until you exhausted all other alternatives. Personal protection is the very opposite of what military personnel fo in combat.

  5. A few questions:

    How does one prounounce Kat?

    Is Kat short for Katherine?

    Was there an obscure reference to a Slade song in this article?

  6. Training is good in every facet of life. The question is how much time and money should be spent on training before it becomes wasted time and wasted money.

    Hunters take the hunter ed course, and most of them seem to enjoy and learn something from it. Which is great, but they can still get buck fever and once in a blue moon they shoot their hunting partner.

    OTOH, fighting isn’t hunting. Fighting at the level of your training is true when you’re trying to pacify Ramadi. But little old people shoot big bad guys every week and never waste a dime trying to becoming operators. Hell, they hardly know how to clean the damn gun, and they still win the fight.

    So what’s their secret? They choose not to be victimized. That’s it. That’s the whole thing right there. It’s a mindset. And most of the time, they were born that way. You probably were too. But if you don’t have the will, you can train until Doomsday and you will still lose.

    • I’ve met several officers who have been involved in deadly force encounters, a couple were severely wounded. They all stressed the fact that the power of a winning mindset and drive to be victorious is just about the most important factor.

  7. What’d you hunt with the 1911? Just curious. Seems like It would be fun to hunt with. I’ve hunted plenty, but I’m just getting into handgun hunting for the first time, and starting off with a S&W 629 .44 mag.

  8. Watch Active Self Protection videos on You Tube and go to the range at least once a month, is my advice.
    And attend formal training at least once a year.
    That’s what most regular people can afford to do. Time and money wise.

    • I have watched Active Self Defense videos and find them irrelvant to anybody who isn’t a gangbanger or lives in a third world country. Short of that Your chances of encountering any one of those scenarios is as close to zero as you can get.

      The wrong kind of training is worse than no training

  9. Kat, I’m going against the grain here but I liked the article. To me, it was about staying in control of your faculties in a stressful situation so that no accidental discharged occur, or not doing a mag dump inadvertently when drawing to defend yourself. It’s about aiming for the vitals, not discharging shots randomly but making sure that you and your gun operate “as one”.
    This doesn’t just automatically happen magically, it does require practice to hone these skills. You made the valid points and I , for one, am not letting gender bias cloud the issue.


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