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Get on target fast and stable

April 22, 2022

Get on target fast and stable

The Top Four Shooting Positions Every Hunter Should Know

Hunting is a dynamic endeavor. Terrain and vegetation change with every step, potentially affecting your shooting opportunity. When a shot presents itself, your ability to read the landscape and quickly transition to the best shooting position is critical for success. Learn and practice these fundamental techniques for the most stable, accurate and ethical shots on game.

General Rules:

  • The further the rifle from the ground, the less stable the shot.
  • Get a rest. An auxiliary rest will increase stability for enhanced accuracy.
  • If you have a sling on the rifle, wrapping your arm through and twisting, creating a “hasting sling,” will snug the system up for your shot.
Shooter demonstrating a prone position for a successful hunting stance.

Prone: Landscape permitting, getting prone is your ticket to stability and long-range success. With most of your body contacting the ground, there are less variables influencing the shot. Longer shots require increased precision. Take time to find a spot to get prone if a longer shot is required.

To Execute:

  • Lay down on your stomach.
  • Snug the butt of the rifle into your shoulder pocket with your support arm elbow contacting the ground just left of the rifles forend (right-hand shooters).
  • Square your body directly behind the rifle with your toes facing out. Ideally, you’ll be positioned directly in line with your target. This is easily accomplished on flat ground without obstructions. In the field, torso and leg position will likely be modified in some capacity due to conflicts with hill slope, brush, rocks, and other environmental factors.
  • Press face firmly into the comb of the stock, maintaining a solid cheek-weld, and look directly down the sight.

Modified Prone: Use a bipod, backpack, or natural-terrain feature like a log, stump, or rock to assist with support of your rifle’s forend. Jackets or other substantial items in your pack can serve as rear support for the buttstock.

Shooter demonstrating a sitting position for a successful hunting stance.

Sitting: Sitting cross-legged with knees elevated, heels touching with knees elevated, or legs straight away from the body and bent, you will gain a more elevated shooting position (compared to prone), steady the shot, and maintain a low profile to stay hidden from game. Many hunting situations like ground hunting for deer, turkeys, and predators may start and finish in these handy variants of the sitting position. Short- to moderate-ranges best suit the sitting position.

To Execute:

  • Pick the sitting position to best fit you and the situation.
  • Snug the rifle into your shoulder pocket with your support arm hand under the forend of the firearm.
  • Tuck your elbows inside of their corresponding leg just below or at the knee.
  • Press outward slightly with elbows while squeezing your legs together. This creates tension and helps eliminate movement.
  • Press face firmly into the comb of the stock maintaining a solid cheek-weld and look directly down the sight.

Modified Sitting: Add shooting sticks or a full-size pack positioned vertically as a rest for the rifle’s forend for increased stability.

Shooter demonstrating a kneeling position for a successful hunting stance.

Kneeling: Mitigate prayer-shots by taking a knee. That’s right, the good old knee connected to your body makes a handy rest, provides more stability compared to shooting offhand and will get your sights over obtrusive brush, grass, and other groundcover. And it’s fast to get in and out of, a benefit when time is of the essence. Kneeling can conceal you better as well. A person standing on two legs exposes more of their profile and looks, well, like a person – not what you want when trying to stay hidden from game. For the sake of this discussion, we will cover the “High Kneeling” position. This version (There are several formal kneeling shooting positions) is the most used and most versatile for hunters. It is impossible to eliminate a degree of wobble, so kneeling is best for short- to medium-range shots.

To execute:

  • Drop your right knee to the ground (right hand shooter). Your left knee will naturally come up and provide a rest for the elbow of your support arm. Getting your elbow to a spot where it extends just beyond the knee is best. Avoid placing the point of your elbow directly on the knee.
  • Snug the rifle into your shoulder pocket with your support arm hand under the forend of the firearm.
  • Press face firmly into the comb of the stock, maintaining a solid cheek-weld, and look directly down the sight.

Modified Kneeling: Substituting shooting sticks, a full-size pack positioned vertically, downed log, or other terrain feature as a rest for your knee increases stability. If using auxiliary forend support, bring your right knee up (right hand shooters) to support the buttstock. This provides front and rear support.

Shooter demonstrating a standing position for a successful hunting stance.

Standing Offhand: The most difficult from an accuracy standpoint, least practiced, and often needed, the offhand shot is one to be comfortable with. A quick opportunity or the need to use height to your advantage may make an offhand shot your best or only option. The least stable, reserve offhand shots for shorter ranges.

To Execute:

  • Building your base with an athletic stance (feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent).
  • With your left foot forward (right-hand shooters), angle your body toward the target. Your position should feel natural when bringing the gun up and getting on target.
  • Press face firmly into the comb of the stock maintaining a solid cheek-weld and look directly down the sight.
  • Experiment with support arm position on the forend. Move it fore and aft, finding the optimal position for stability when looking through the optic. Of note, a rearward support-hand position can provide the ability to suck your elbow into your body, creating an additional contact point for increased steadiness.
  • Looking through the optic, the reticle will be moving. It will take practice to manage that movement. Ideally, the reticle will appear to have a rhythmic element to its motion - rhythm you can time and use to your advantage. Begin your trigger press prior to the reticle crossing where you want it when the gun goes off, timing the shot so it breaks on target. Familiarity with your trigger and how it breaks is extremely important. If you have an acceptable sight picture - meaning you are confident the bullet will hit within a margin of error to be an effective shot - you are good to go.

Modified Offhand: Use standing-height shooting sticks (or a field-procured standing-height stick suitable to serve as a shooting stick). Leaning into an adjacent tree/boulder - or resting the rifle on an available fencepost - can greatly aid stability.

Final Thought: Regardless of shooting position, practicing, and learning to “call your shot” will make you better. Calling your shot means analyzing and mentally cataloging your mechanics and sight picture the moment the gun goes off. Were the crosshairs low left? High right? Dead on? Make that call before evaluating the target. You may be surprised what you can predict, information you gather, and things you identify for future refinement being intentional with every shot. No shot taken at game will be the same. Infinite variables are at play. Make time to practice the different shooting positions at the range, and if possible, in-field conditions. You will become a more effective hunter.

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