September 16, 2021
By Josh Honeycutt
Steadying a rifle can be a challenge at any time, let alone when a live animal is in the crosshairs.
Fortunately, there are several strategies and shooting positions you can employ to settle in and minimize the wobble when hunting.
PRONE SHOOTING POSITION
Begin by lying down on your stomach. With legs outstretched, turn your feet outward. This will lock the lower half of the body in a stable position. Then, center your weight so the rifle doesn’t try to pull left or right. Lastly, shoulder the rifle and place each elbow on the ground for support. If you have a backpack, place this under the forearm of the gun for additional support.
PROS: This is the most stable in-the-field position. There's little likelihood for body movement, which means the crosshairs stay on target. It's optimal for long-range shooting, but will improve accuracy at any range.
CONS: It generally takes longer to get into the prone position than others. Plus, tall vegetation can pose an issue. Always be aware of your muzzle, ensure it's free of debris, and when it comes time to shoot, make sure nothing is between it and the target.
SEATED SHOOTING POSITION
When seated on the ground, raise your knees and plant both feet so that your legs create upside-down Vs, or sit with legs crossed. Then, rest both elbows on your knees and steady the rifle.
PROS: This option is great for stabilizing the lower half of your body. It reduces the likelihood of movement in your waist, thighs, knees, calves or feet.
CONS: It does little to improve the stability of your upper body pivot points, including your torso, shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck and head.
KNEELING SHOOTING POSITION
If right-handed, place your right knee on the ground and sit on the heel of your right foot. Then, shoulder the rifle, place your left elbow on your left knee and lock in for the shot.
PROS: This is one of the fastest shooting positions to get into and works great when you don't have time to settle into a more stable position. Kneeling is a prime choice if the target appears to be ready to bolt or is already on the move.
CONS: If the vegetation is too tall and sitting on your heel results in an obstructed muzzle, rise up so your right leg makes a 90-degree angle. This will lead to less stability, but typically offers a workable shot.
IMPROMPTU REST SHOOTING POSITION
Fence posts, tree limbs and the like make great shooting rests. If using a branch, place the end of the gun's forearm in the crook (base) of it. If you can rest part of your body against the tree's trunk, so much the better. With a fencepost, either rest the forearm atop the post and hold it steady with your off hand, or position the rifle against the post and atop a strand of barbwire, again using your off hand to stabilize it.
PROS: Limbs are plentiful when hunting in the timber, while fenceposts make long shots across open fields far easier.
CONS: Tree limbs and fence posts aren't always where you need them. Even when one is handy, its orientation might not allow for a comfortable shot.
OFF-HAND SHOOTING POSITION
When there’s no time to assume one of the above positions, make an off-hand shot as stable as possible. Stand at a slight angle to your target with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart and your weight slightly forward on the balls of your feet. Shoulder the gun, turn your left elbow downward (assuming you're right-handed) and lock it back against your torso to add support.
PROS: This fast-shooting technique is suitable for short-range shot opportunities and keeps you above most tall vegetation.
CONS: This shooting position offers the least amount of shooting support. The shooter must rely almost entirely on his or her strength to steady the shot.