Rabbit hunting is a really good way to practice shooting from a standing position.”
Squirrel hunting is a good way to get some shooting practice before deer season.”

No, it’s not.

First problem is the ethics of using a living creature for casual target practice. This isn’t some animal rights drivel. Good hunters are conservationists and advocates for the protection and preservation of the environment and wildlife. Hunting animals is a normal and needed component of wildlife ecosystems for predator species, including Homo sapiens sapiens. Respect nature and give your fellow hunters a good name by being an efficient and ethical predator.

Second problem, hunting is too varied for this to be useful practice. You don’t know when, where, or if an animal will appear and for how long. The nature of the scenario (terrain, underbrush, distance, weather conditions) may be simple or demanding and can’t be known in advance. This makes hunting an excellent application of field marksmanship skills but a very poor way to create them. Much better to shoot under controlled and predictable conditions first. Identify what sorts of shots you can pull off.

Did you know that using a tree or rock outcropping for support will throw your point of impact off four minutes of angle from the zero you established at a bench rest? And that using those shooting sticks will move the point of impact almost the same amount but in the opposite direction? Or maybe it won’t. But you’ll never know if you don’t test it… or until you have that “unexplained” miss at the biggest buck you’ve ever seen.

Learn how to shoot on the range. Hunting is a place to use practiced abilities, not to create them.

Raw marksmanship skill is less important than marksmanship awareness. That is, knowing what sorts of shots are truly high percentage for you, and what should be passed up. Emphasis on knowing, not what you think, imagine, or wish you can do.

Small game hunting can provide additional hunting opportunities and experience, especially in preparation for more limited seasons such as big game. Just give it a little bit of the range preparation that it deserves.