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2019 huntingsummit PhilippZerfass 052019 huntingsummit PhilippZerfass 052019 huntingsummit PhilippZerfass 05

Mastering the human element

How shooting training helps to place a clean shot and why trained marksmen can enjoy hunting more

Reading time: 5 min.

Philipp Zerfass was born and raised in Germany by a family of passionate hunters. The tradition of responsible hunting is ingrained in both his mother’s and father’s sides of the family. Very early in Philipp’s life, his father introduced him to hunting and safe gun handling. At the age of 16, he acquired his German hunting license and since then has been practicing his passion all over Europe and North America. In 2016, he started competing in combined game shooting, following his father’s footsteps, who still ranks among the most successful competitive shots the German Hunting Association (Deutscher Jagdverband, DJV) has ever seen.

Becoming a part of nature

Hunting allows Philipp to follow and express a basic human instinct: the hunting drive. “When engaging in any other outdoor activity, you are merely a guest of the wilderness. While hunting, you really become a part of nature,” he states.

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Honing your skills

Competing in shooting contests gives him the surety he needs to be a responsible hunter. “I am a sports marksman to be a successful hunter,” he says.

“I am always surprised at how similar the tension in shooting competitions is to actual hunting fever"

For all hunters, the thought of missing or wounding game is terrible. For Philipp, combined game shooting competitions are an excellent preparation for anyone who aims to place precise shots in the field and wants to practice hunting in a responsible way.

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Are you the competitive type?

If you are an ambitious person and enjoy putting your abilities to the test in a competitive setting, then you should consider participating in combined game shooting events. The competitions will also help you determine your limits, so that you can make the right decision of whether or not to pull the trigger in a specific hunting situation. “In the field, when I am not sure whether I will be able to hit the target correctly, I do not shoot at all,” Philipp says. He expects himself to always place a lethal shot when aiming at animals. For him, any lesser alternative is not an option.

Seeing your target and knowing your equipment

Excellent optical quality eases the tension before releasing a shot. The clearer your vision is, the more you can focus on the right position for a clean hit. Apart from an undistorted view, knowing your gear well is key. So practice, practice, and practice again so that you find your routine. Any doubts you have will be reflected in your shooting performance.

“Being able to fully rely on your equipment is paramount both in hunting and competitive marksmanship”

Clear your mind to shoot precisely

Through countless repetitions, you will be able to stay calm and effortlessly execute your routine. “Although shooting an animal should always be a very special act, the preparation and execution of the shot should be routine,” stresses Philipp. Being able to rely on your gun handling skills and marksmanship greatly supports hunters in keeping their cool.

The struggle within your own head

Philipp describes the negative symptoms of stress before shooting as follows: an extremely high pulse, shaky hands and knees, the inability to concentrate resulting in a sloppy positioning of the rifle. You especially need to be at ease in order to execute your routine effortlessly and quickly.

In shooting, you are your own worst enemy.Philipp Zerfass

Aiming high vs. aiming low

The will to better oneself again and again, is a trait that comes natural to ambitious people. When trying to hone your hunting skills, it is definitely a helpful asset. Philipp puts it like this: “If you are the best marksman at your shooting range, you are in the wrong place.” Thus, one should keep trying to find comrades and trainers that can show you how to reach the next level in shooting. But let us assure you, your efforts will pay off: “Everyone will find hunting far more enjoyable when they are well prepared,” states Philipp.

The power of experience

Although one might think that young people would be better shots as their reflexes and physique might still be in better shape, results of the competitions in combined game shooting in Germany have repeatedly shown that experience is a decisive factor. Philipp is convinced that seasoned marksmen can better handle the stress and therefore score higher.

Philipp firmly believes that it is the shooter’s duty to assess his personal condition and state of mind accurately before making a decision of whether or not to pull the trigger. Philipp is convinced that “preventing negative experiences is much better than having to deal with the consequences of wrong decisions.” If you realize that you are not on top of your game, refrain from shooting. Philipp recommends to put down the weapon, breathe deeply (or do whatever helps you find your center again) and then take a fresh start.

Despite all serious preparation and responsibility, Philipp deeply enjoys hunting and competitive shooting: “Hunting and participating in combined game shooting events is great fun. Watching those clay pigeons explode can become quite addictive actually” he laughs. A sense of humour helps to learn from your mistakes while training and keeps you motivated to become an excellent shot.

For further information on combined game shooting, please visit the website of your homeland’s hunting association.

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Philipp Zerfass

A champion’s equipment

“Those who appreciate high quality can’t help but smile when seeing products by SWAROVSKI OPTIK,” Philipp says. “At least that is what my SWAROVSKI OPTIK gear does to me.” Thus, binoculars, such as his beloved EL Range 8x42, play an important role whenever he is roaming through the hunting ground. On his hunting rifle, Philipp relies on the Z8i 2-16x50, while in competitions the Z5 3.5-18x44 is his companion.

For more inspiration follow Philipp on Instagram @westwoodhunter.