If you are a deer hunter, your chances of success improve quite a bit with practice — shooting practice.

This should be more of a priority than the much-touted items of looking for "sign," wearing scent-free clothes and using a name brand chemical attractant around your stand.

Compound bow, conventional bow, crossbow, muzzle-loader, rifle or slug-shooting shotgun are all effective on Arkansas deer but only to the extent of the person shooting them.

Practice. Practice raising, aiming and squeezing off the shot as much as you practice the actual shot.

One item to consider is using another arm for your weapon. With elevated stands, this can mean a rail on which the weapon can rest. We’re talking primarily rifles here, but crossbows can also be used with a rest. Other bows, probably not.

Should your hunting circumstances allow it, a bipod on your rifle is a real asset. Give this some thought, and work a bipod into your game plan if at all possible. Simple plastic bipods that clamp on to a rifle barrel can be bought for just a few dollars — less than the cost of a box of ammunition — and they work, as well as being lightweight.

A deer hunter’s first step in rifle practice is when he or she picks up the gun in a closet, cabinet or other location at home, said Joe Huggins of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

"They need to check and see if it is loaded," he said. "This seems obvious but there was someone killed in Saline County a few years ago when her husband got out a muzzle-loader rifle and dropped it. It was still loaded and capped from last year. It went off and killed the woman."

After making sure no ammunition is in the rifle, give it a thorough visual check and clean it, he said. "Run something through the barrel to make sure there are no obstructions, not even dirt daubers or dust bunnies."

The process of getting a rifle into shooting position is also a key to deer success. Do it enough so it’s as automatic and comfortable as tying your shoes or brushing your teeth.

Dry firing with a dummy cartridge in the chamber can be a help, too, and this can be done at home.

Then head out to a range for practice shooting.

For many hunters, rifle practice is three shots at a paper plate after he or she gets to deep camp. Yes, this is better than nothing but not much. Invest is a box of cartridges for practice. Choose the same type, the same bullet weight as you plan to use when the season opens.

If you can use a shooting bench at the range, start there. Get the rifle sighted in and get accustomed to the recoil and the noise, as well as the important squeezing of the trigger.

Then make your final few shots at the range from the offhand position. That is the hardest of the four shooting positions to handle for accuracy, but it’s the one you may well use when a deer shows up unless you can shoot from a stand with a stool and a rail.

All this produces confidence in a hunter’s ability to use the rifle efficiently.