Get Your Hunting Rifle Steady
While hunting, you don’t have the luxury of shooting from a bench, so you can’t be picky on where you get your shot opportunities. Also, the best long-range hunting rifle won’t do you any good if you can’t get it steady. All of which creates a welcomed challenge. Read on and you’ll learn to steady your rifle using items you’re already packing for a clean accurate shot.
GO PRONE FOR THE BEST SHOOTING STABILITY
This position is one of the most stable and preferred positions in long range hunting situations. In the prone position, focus on stabilizing the rifle with two points of contact, in the front and the rear.
You’ll need front support like a shorter 6-12” bipod, a backpack, or natural support like a rock or log. If you use natural front support, increase your aiming stability and place something like a pair of gloves or a rolled-up jacket between your rifle and the rest to add grip and cushion.
Once you have your rifle pointed at the target, position the rear bag under the stock. As you settle squarely behind the rifle, place your support-side hand on the bag to raise and lower the rear of the stock. Do this by squeezing it, sliding it forward-or-backward, and changing its position.
This position is perfect if you can see the target while lying down. With Independent front and rear support, it offers ample vertical travel for varying terrain and a target that’s on the move. Being low to the ground minimizes getting blown around by the wind or getting spotted.
The downside of this position is it only works if you have a clear view of your target while lying down. It’s not ideal in flat brushy conditions, and you must carry the extra weight of the bipod.
HOW TO BUILD A STABLE SHOOTING POSITION WHILE SITTING OR KNEELING
If prone isn’t an option, sitting or kneeling are the next best choices. Like shooting prone, think of the best ways to stabilize the rifle with two points of contact.
A KUIU pack equipped with a Carbon Fiber Frame is stiff in the vertical position and makes a perfect impromptu rest. Place your pack so its rested firm on the ground with the bag facing you. Rest your rifle in the U shape between the upper frame stays. It’s a good idea to keep something soft in the top pouch to help cradle the rifle's forend.
For rear support, you have a lot of options. The quickest is to place your elbow against your knee. If your position doesn’t allow your elbow to reach your knee, fill the space with soft gear like jackets or a backpack. Tuck it under your strong-side arm to help stabilize your movement. If possible, having your back up against a solid object will also help.
Another proven method is to use a trekking pole as a rear support. Deploy the pole, so the padded grip is as high as the rear stock and the tip is planted firm to the ground. Clasp the pole with your fingers and rest the bottom of the rear stock between your thumb and the pole, resting in the web of your hand. You can change the elevation of the rifle by moving your hand up and down the pole.
HOW TO BUILD A STABLE SHOOTING POSITION WHILE STANDING
If standing is your option for target visibility—like the sitting position—it’s best to have the gun balanced on the forearm and rested on a tripod or a sturdy natural rest like a tree branch, rock, or log. Use your support-side hand and rest it on top of the hunting rifle scope or forearm for added stability.
In a standing position, it’s more challenging to get a solid rear support. If you can get a dead rest on the front, use a tall tripod as the rear support. A flimsy short tripod will not be enough. Deploy the tripod so it’s at least as high as your head while you’re in position. Make sure to plant all three legs of the tripod on the ground.
Rest your rifle forend on the front support and position the tripod so one leg is next to the rear of your stock. The stock will rest against the leg. With your support-side hand, clasp the tripod leg with your fingers and cradle the stock firmly against the leg with your thumb. You can change the elevation you’re aiming for by moving your support side hand up or down the tripod leg.
This position takes some practice to perfect. It’s as dead-steady as it gets for a kneeling or standing position.
UNSUPPORTED SHOOTING POSITIONS: SITTING, KNEELING, AND STANDING
Use a positional sling or a standard rifle sling to steady yourself on quick shot opportunities that don’t offer time to build a position. By wrapping the sling around your support hand, the added tension steadies your aim. These positions are vital to learn and take a lot of practice to become efficient with.
PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.
No excuses, right? The key is to get out and try these positions. You may even come up with techniques of your own. When a shot presents itself, you’ll need to know exactly what to do. At the moment is not the time to figure it out.
With the growth of the NRL Hunter Matches, NRL (National Rifle League), NRL22, PRS (Precision Rifle Series), and other long range shooting matches, these positions are being proven and perfected by competitive shooters. Use their techniques to make yourself a better hunter.
Nothing gets your heart pumping like the hunt, but the next closest thing is competition. By trying your hand at a rifle match you’ll be able to duplicate the feeling of a high-pressure shot and expose any flaws you may have with your form, equipment, and positions. Plus, you’ll learn a lot from other shooters.
Once you’ve perfected your shot in practice, try it out in a match and you’ll confidently make shots on animals that you may have otherwise not taken or missed. If competition isn’t your thing, get out to your local range and apply these tactics. It will pay off if you do.