How well does the average big game hunter shoot?

Jun 1, 2023
I have hunted quite a bit and guided in the US West. My experience has been that the average hunter does not shoot very well. Even worse, most think they are very good or better. When guiding, we always had the hunters "check their rifle" at 100 yards (longer in a few places). The results made me realize that I better get the hunter close to the game. While that is always the goal, before I guided, I thought that getting within 200 yards should be good if not forced to shoot offhand. After guiding I believe that 200 yards is the limit for most people to take an ethical shot.

With training and lots of practice most could stretch that yardage, but it seems many are not willing to put in the time and money. At least we are more easily able to get ammo and components now.

I hunted with a guide who was already a great shot and then worked to become better. If Allen takes a shot, I know it is ethical and expect the animal to be brought to bag.

Maybe this is the wrong forum (as I expect this group to be dedicated to put in the work), but what has been your experience?
A friend of mine said yrs ago, what he had seen at the range for hunting sight ins, told him about 100 to 200yds should be most folks limit. Said most of them from what he saw at 100 and 200 wouldn't be able to consistently hit a 5 gal bucket lid at more than 200-300 and minute of bucket lid is not fair to the animals imho, especially when you throw adrenaline on top of that. Agree with everything you said.
Personally, I think that I’m better than most…..excluding serious shooters. But, not nearly as good as I should be!

Anyone with a basic knowledge of firearms, bullet velocities and trajectories will be better than many! If that person will then put in a little time from the bench and several field positions.….that alone will make him/her better than most! JMO memtb
I am a Firearms Instructor at the S.O. Range and we have a Hunter Sight in day every year before hunting season. In addition to that, we have a public shooting day the first and second Thursday of every month. Shooting from sandbags off of a bench, most people can't shoot a three inch group. They come with equipment in awful shape, with a WalMart scope on a 7mm mag that won't group at all. Again, this is off of sand bags off of a concrete bench. A hodgepodge of ammunition, different brands and bullet weights. They shoot as fast as they can chamber another round regardless of what we instruct them to do. A six inch group at 100 yards, and they want to start cranking on the adjustment turrets not having any idea about shooting a "group", then moving the group. They shoot 5 more rounds into a worse group, then crank on the adjustment turrets. At the end of the session, if the shots are anywhere on a sight-in target at 100 yards, they proclaim: "That's good enough". They then throw their rifle into the bed of their pickup and drive away. Most have no ammo left, and say they are heading to Cabelas or WalMart to get more ammo, not realizing they need the same brand and bullet weight they are sighted in with, but realistically wouldn't matter the way they are shooting. Of course we have exceptions to the above where someone will show up with a rifle already sighted in and shoot a nice 3/4 inch group two inches high at 100 yards. BUT that's not very often but it does happen.
The number of unskilled "hunters" is much higher around Los Angeles than anywhere I have seen. Prior to deer season the public ranges are packed with guys trying to sight in scopes and they can't even get on paper at 100 yards having burned thru a box of ammo and most don't know how to zero the scope.
Most modern cartridges if sighted in at 200 yards will be ~6" low at 300 yards, ~20" low at 400, and ~36" low at 500 yards you will definitely be minute of elk but nobody puts the time in to learn this. Often heard is the "I took a shot at it but I missed" because they had no idea what to do past ~150 yards. I help as much as I can and direct people to this sight or youtube "how to" videos but for my own safety I rarely hunt on the weekends.
My wife sent me this and I just laughed and said someone doesn’t understand the word sniper.
Average hunter is happy hitting a pie plate at 200 yards.


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What really bothers me is the trendy marketing around long range hunting, everyone thinks they can go buy the "easy button" setup and be a sniper.
For example a friend I grew up with who shoots well from a bipod to about 300 yards went and got a PRC cuz he wants to kill deer and elk at 800 +.

I did my best to educate him and emphasize how import it is to shoot in the wind and really learn ballistics before lobbing bullets at game animals.
Sure enough he waited until the day before his hunt in Montana to actually shoot beyond 100 yards, he was texting me in a panic cuz his ballistics weren't jiving with actual impacts.

Long story short he said he "missed" two bulls that season between 500-600 yards because branches probably got in the way🙄
The next year he made a terrible shot on a raghorn at 700 yards and took the front leg out, him and his buddy found him hours later and at least finished the deal.
He literally went shooting maybe twice before the season.
I haven't hunted with him in 3 years now and never will again.

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