How well does the average big game hunter shoot?

Roughrice, I’m sure that you are aware of, but not likely to encounter in Louisiana, unless you’re hunting in the Tunica Hills 😁 … temperature related thermals. In the mountains, generally……as the day warms, the thermals rise, bringing your scent uphill. As the evening comes on….the reverse is true!

So, you try to be above suspected game before first light, and on the lower slopes come evening! memtb
Strange thread! Aren't we all HUNTERS? I've seen alot of pics here daily of conquests in the field. So it must be the number of rounds sent down range that is the determining factor then? Or is it Paper doesn't bleed, or run away if poorly hit or missed. So I guess the comments are if I get this right...when we are hunting we must shoot at least a 3" group and stay within 200 yards...and then go back to 500-1500 to punch our targets! Sorry...just confused...I may shoot 1500 + rounds a year .....but I'm a hunter too!
skipglo buddy you hit the nail on the head.We all are hunters,what ever our age or experience level.
I don't hunt for others,unless someone is out of meat and starving and then I will gladly split my deer/elk with them.
I hunt for my family and myself and have been doing so since I was age 7 when I killed my first deer.
I don't compete but have had great days at the range and some not so great days but every day shooting is a good day.
All have fun!
Old Rooster
I'm an above average marksman but that isn't saying much these days. I generally shoot sub moa. I know MOST of my limitations and try not to overstep them. I generally don't shoot at a moving animal unless it's just strolling enjoying the day or grazing. I don't have very much experience with reading the wind. S.C. doesn't have very much wind compared to western states, so that is tough and finding a place to shoot safely over 500yds is tough. I used to instruct safely and marksmanship for my hunting clubs over the years and getting some people to accept their limitations under the circumstances sometimes is tougher than teaching marksmanship and safety. AND let's not forget that little redheaded demon known as buck/rack fever. I've experienced adult hunters just go to nothing over horns.
Like I've told some people is before you disengage the safely engage your brain.

My worse case of buck fever was on a doe. It was one of my funest hunts so I wrote a story about it. I will post in "general".
This is my 36th year as a big game outfitter in Wyoming. I guided before that. I've also guided a few other states. I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand on end. Most people can't shoot. Plain and simple, they can't shoot. Add that to the fact that most can't walk and couple it with the fact they can't see well and it creates a real problem. But everybody wants a 180 mule deer, a 350 bull elk, etc.

I have an 800+ yard range at home. I also build rifles and I shoot quite a bit. Not as much as LanceT but a lot. I bet most hunters don't shoot 20 rounds per year before they arrive here. We make everyone shoot. I have had MANY people that don't even know how to load or unload their rifle. I've seen some drop the hinged floorplate and try to load their rifle from the bottom, then mash the floorplate against the ammo. But others don't even know about the hinged floorplate, so they unload their magazine by running all the ammo in the magazine through the chamber by opening and closing the bolt 3-4 times. Many have "practice ammo" and "hunt ammo" different bullets and weights. We had one guy walk in the house and unload "John Wayne style" by working his bolt. Oops, had his finger on the trigger and shot through 2 walls and the shower before it buried itself in the exterior wall. This after passing signs that say "ABSOLUTELY NO LOADED FIREARMS IN THE HOUSE." Needless to say, that did not sell well with me.

Most are real happy if they can shoot a 2-3" group at 100 yards off of a bench with sandbags. I even have people that refuse to adjust their scope "because it was on at home." What the heck???? Then they really start to show their skill (or lack of skill) when we ask them to shoot plates at even 300-400 yards. Most say they have never shot that far before. The ones that have shot distance almost always miss at 3-400. Then they say "I was on in Alabama or California." And this is off sandbags and a solid bench under a protected shed. After hiking all day, dashing to the top of a ridge, huffing and puffing, they will miss.

We do all this because we need to know their limits. A few can really hunt/shoot. The vast majority have to get close and have lots of time. They talk about their abilities, but it is often not backed by what we see at the range. In fact, most of the guys who show up with a turreted rifle don't even know that the turrets on the rifle can be adjusted. They have someone else sight in the rifle and just leave it. When I pull out my big box of tools to adjust their turrets, they are really confused.

I would say only 10% of our hunters are real hunters. They either can't walk or can't shoot, and certainly can't shoot quickly. I'll close by saying if I had a quarter for every time I have heard the phrase "I can't find him in my scope" I could retire immediately with a million quarters in my pocket. The truly amazing thing is that people spend all the time and money for a western hunt and are so very unprepared. Simply amazing.
In summary, it is true most people can't shoot and most people are physically unfit. We meet some very nice people but most are not well qualified for western big game hunting.
I believe you are exactly correct with respect to the average hunters ability, lack of practice under field conditions and being out if shape. I have to totally agree on acting fast to shoot quickly off hand. It totally irritates me that guys need a minute or two to get an animal in the crosshairs.
I practiced running, leaping, standing shots on jackrabbit with a rifle and I could get twice as many as dad with a 12 gauge shotgun. I'd kill up to 80 jackrabbit in a single afternoon outing, some in mid air jump...then come back the next day and kill coyotes feeding on rabbits. I would shoot rabbit and squirrel with my elk rifle a 7mm or 338 Win mag, and practice on moving targets...take turns shooting empty rolling oil cans rolling down hill off hand. Plus long-range varmint shooting past 1000 yds and 17,000 rds of match ammo at 1000 to 1400yds, and several barrels later changed calibers and got bored with LR shooting I accomplished everything I set out to do, including eggs at 1000 and pop can at 1400 yds. No benches all prone, sitting, or offhand shooting.
For game I used 2-7x scope or 3- 9x scope and even a 1-4 x scope to kill every big game animal set on the lowest power. At least a full third on a full run, cause two jumps the elk or deer is out of sight.You can smell a musky bull elk, you tracked him all morning, and the cows are bed down infront of him, you know he's a bull by the urine pattern in the snow, you have his track, your bull is at the end. He's now bedded down 15 yards away but you can not see him, but you can smell him. A squirrel give you away, the bull jumps antlers thrown back in one leap he disappeared, crashing through the pole thicket like a freight train. A little to slow on my reaction, but I dog him through the pole thicket like a hungry wolf, the third time he tries that his one jump ain't good enough, I thread the bullet through the pole thicket into his chest in one second at 35 yds.firing as soon as the rifle hits the shoulder. Farthest one 100 yds full broadside run, he was terrified when the cow sent out an alarm. I put 3 175 gr noslers from 7 mag in his chest in a pattern the size of less than a softball on a full run. He was dead but wouldn't go down, ran down the hill put another round in the rifle, he's standing there bleeding from both nostrils, saw me and took off running, put another round in his chest...he died out of sight on the other side of the hill. I was 4 canyons deep in the wilderness, and afraid he was going to make it to the bottom of this one. Packing out is a bitch...went to the 338 win mag, and 2-7x set on 2 X heavy duplex to kill every big game animal after that. Even a 600 yd deer the only one over 100 yds, I used the 7X. I lived in cabin in the mountains in a gold mining camp in 1972 as a security guard. Was high-school athlete 2nd fastest in the state and HS football hall of fame. I could jog and run the mountains all day. Ever look back over your shoulder and see the mountain top you came over the side of at dawn, in the distance 8 maybe 10 miles away, your alone, this is a wilderness area, no one knows where you are. You hunt light and fast or exceeding slow, when your close. Total 16 rds of mag ammo in gun & different pockets, dressed in full camo, and a pack and a large 6" Buck knife. You will always kill the elk in 2 days or less, don't look for a trophy but nice 5 and 6 points will be good, you take what nature give you. Hunting was fun, if you're in very good shape, and can run for miles, in mountainous terrain, no one would hunt this way with me, and I didn't know anyone who could keep up. The packing was marathon torturous grueling process. So one day I quit. Being old now I can still shoot pretty fair ...but can never hunt this way again. Total self reliance and awareness, everything and every decision is important to your survival, no phones, no one will come for you, no one knows you exist out here. Like stepping on the moon. Called hunting in simplest form and studying & enjoying nature. I would have enjoyed it more if after killing the bull I could just wind him up and let him run again, see ya next year, kind of thing. Catch & ya don't pack it out and ya don't have to eat it.
What was the wind doing?

I shoot several cold bore shots every day. The range I decide to shoot depends on the wind - zero to less than 5, I will shoot at 910 or 1057. 5-10 I shoot at 760. Gusting hard I shoot at 620 or 500. I have said it before, but I will keep saying it: once past 650 or so yards, the wind is going to kill you. To hit that 10" target at 910 90% of the time, you have to be absolutely perfect on your wind call and it cannot change during the TOF. Your group size is getting bigger and your tolerance for wind estimation error quickly requires you to estimate the wind within 1 mph. 1300 yards? Pure luck, as your TOF is long enough that a perfect wind call can change. I have hit a 10" target at 1400 yards but I can't do it 90% of the time and I don't believe anyone can. Just my opinion after shooting every day. But if anyone can, I would be happy to pay you to teach me - but we have to do it at my CO place or the Arizona desert.
if a 10 inch vital area is to be hit that only allows for a wind call to be off by 5 inches if your shot happened to be perfectly centered, I have shot with some of the best long range high power shooters including those on the palma team and to make wind calls to that degree of accuracy past 600yds is for sure a thing of luck when the wind is blowing. at camp perry there is a match called infantry trophy where 5 or 6 shooters with service rifles would start at 600 yds prone with a sling and iron sights and when the targets were popped up they shot very rapid fire for a minute or two then the targets were pulled down and every one found out how good the wind call was, the team coach made the wind call before the shooting started and at perry 3 or 4 minutes of wind would be common. If the call was off by 1 minute that could yeild a lot of misses on the silhouett target. One year our junior team, 50 % young ladies, out shot the marine corp. team. good fun. I don't think well over 98 % of hunters have any buisiness shooting over 300 yds. I try all the time to get anybody around here, Boise area, to come to a long range match at Vale , oregon because at a match every shot will be pulled and marked so the shooter will get feed back from every shot and will get very good info as to what the wind is doing to each shot. I haven't seen the wind to be steady very often most of the time you have to evaluate the shot each time. nobody has any buisiness trying to shoot animals past 500 yds without some experiance shooting distance so wind effect can be determined. only experiance helps learn this. also people need to get off the bench unless they are going to be bench rest shooters the bench is a waste of time, how often do you see people at a range shoot in their position they would likely use in the field. I have never been to a military range that has benches
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?
Interesting, well when I first moved to Colorado there were quite a few ranges where you could zero at 400 yards, not that way anymore, with the better optics bullets, and gear in general, there is no reason for hunters to not be a good marksman and a proficient hunter. But as you have stated the range time, when I set up a rifle, I have to trust that my gear if I do my part will harvest the animal. That means my rifle scope ammo combination must have been dialed in, my drops verified to hit consistently what I feel is my range limitation. The maximum range I currently shoot at only is 300 yards, performing a ladder test, verifying drops, to 300 yards, puts me at a maximum of 600 yards. If I could spend some time at a 1000 yards then I might consider longer range shots conditions and ammo permitting.

Does it take time yes, but it is fun.
I usually spend the latter half of the summer and fall shooting long range a couple times a week. Set up as it's getting light only to take 12 to 15 shots before mirage becomes a problem. Then I pack it up and head home. Longest shot last year was 674 yds on a deer. 524 on a cow elk. Year before was 711 on a deer and 876 on a cow elk. Also popped a couple doe whitetail over the hood at 500 plus yards. I'm not a competitive shooter, but I shoot a lot out to 900 yds and feel very confident when I'm in the field. Probably one of the reasons I like to hang around on this site...
I first started long range shooting about 30 years ago. I chamber my own barrels and true the actions. Nothing is sent out. Example the Bartlein barrel blank arrived at noon.. I built my Dasher from a barrel blank, trued the action, chambered the barrel threaded for a muzzle brake, installed m16 extractor, machined a bolt knob, and loaded ammo for it, and was out shooting the next day at noon. So I have an advantage in cost. But back then 30 yrs ago it was a 308 26" and 27" barrels, with a heavy load of Varget, which was 8 lb kegs were $112, volume buying Lapua bullets by 3000 lot to get a discount, Lapua brass and Fed 210M primers...once settled nothing changed for the life of the barrel, a new barrel may require a slight variation in powder charge at barrel change.
No muzzle brake on these 308 rifles, a jewell 2oz trigger on a trued Remington 700 action. Practice schedule was 85 rds every week sometimes more often shooting from the prone on a mat. Never fired a long range shot off a bench...ever. the local rifle club is only 200 yds I quit that.
Never had the fancy electronics, only a Lica range finder. Tried so wind meters but they were usless. I used a Leupold M3 10X USMC scope mil dot to MOA on the turrent...but you learn to convert. It's capable of shooting eggs at 1000 yds with good eyesight, and I did. Got the USMC scout sniper manual and my subscription to Precision Shooting mag. Put it all together my way. I ran 17,000 rds at 1000 to 1400yds with the 308, same recipe. Before changing equipment. Shot out across a wide canyon with a couple thousand feet drop, it was logged bare for the whole distance. Learning the wind was interesting high up and it doesn't last for 30 sec. It can be blowing in opposite direction on the target side as it hits a mountain and turns back around on your side. I shoot with in 5 seconds of loading the round, everytime. Your hitting a pop can, and the barrel is hot don't stop until the wind blows ya off target. The elevation changes 10" up or down at 1000 yds depending on conditions, at the time. But there is a general elevation for a certain time of year. I call wind in mils, a guesstimate, feels like a 2 mil wind ... dial over 2 mils, adjust with respect to the angle. Fire, spot impact, discipline in your work ya only get one sighter for effect, and move fast before the wind changes. Even works in combat, with small arms fire going off in the background. Nowadays I have a bunch of electronics but lost interest in LR shooting and you must keep it up to be good at it, and you must have the right mindset, mentally move the bullet into the target while waiting for impact, never a doubt that you'd hit even on ridiculously small targets. Like shooting basketball, ya quit for awhile and ya can't find the hoop. It's more expensive than ever and time consuming. Plus all the negative encroachments on 2nd ammendment rights & regulations. I Still have access to lots of public land a few miles from home.
Same caliber of people buy already mounted game to display as a trophy in their house. IMO.
I should note. There are definitely exceptions to this mindset.
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Here is a photo of a deer in my living room which I didn't kill. John gets fulll credit.

John Lachuck killed it a few decades ago. I thought it was a beautiful specimen of a muledeer so I asked him if I could buy it. He said,
"Talk to my son when I'm gone."
Thank you for that Rich. Made me realize I hadn’t considered historical, or more importantly, sentimental situations.
There’s a day coming that I will display lots of mounts that I didn’t take. I will display them with pride and honor when that day comes.
I try not to judge others’ motivations for hunting and enjoying the freedom of the great outdoors. There are individuals that pursue perfection and spend the time and $$$ to achieve awesome results. Others that know their limitations but still enjoy a day in the woods with old rifle in their hands are okay with me. If we can influence people to spend a little time learning the important aspects of safely improving their shooting capabilities, it will let them build more confidence and expand their love for hunting and shooting. This will be a win for us all. I’m not sure what constitutes an average hunter, but long range probably shouldn’t apply to average hunters.
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.
That’s sad.I had one at the range a short while back that didn’t know how to clear his weapon and remove the magazine and I don’t think he hit anything but I did offer some one on one help and I haven’t seen him yet