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Field Skills: Master the Awkward Shot

Unorthodox rifle shots are hardly practiced and rarely executed. Here's how to be prepared this fall.

Field Skills: Master the Awkward Shot

Heading west for a hunt this fall? Flatlanders are often stumped by steeply angled uphill or downhill shots. Understand the mechanics of making these shots, and you’ll be ready for the mountains. (Photo by Bob Robb)

Field shooting is not like shooting off a bench. There are times when you have to be quick and accurate from an unorthodox position. Naturally, going prone is optimal, but that’s not always possible due to things like high brush or other obstacles between you and the target or broken ground on which it’s difficult to get comfortable. In order to be ready to make a clean shot at the moment of truth this hunting season, here are three scenarios you should practice this summer.

Sitting—With and Without Shooting Sticks

Aside from prone, the most stable field-shooting position is sitting, especially if you can use either a bipod or tripod shooting stick for added support. This is especially true in the mountains, where you often have to shoot uphill or downhill, often at an extended distance. When sitting, rest your elbows inside—not on top of—your knees, which will help lock them in solidly. Getting the back elbow locked is key. Keep your spine as vertical as possible given the conditions. Dig your heels into the ground so you won’t slip or slide. This is particularly important in spot-and-stalk hunting, when it’s preferable to get above an animal and shoot down on it.

Awkward Shots
In lieu of a bipod, your pack can serve as a great fore-end rest in a pinch. (Photo by Bob Robb)

High-Angle Shooting

When an animal is above you on a steep slope, getting a solid rest and being able to make the shot can be difficult. Most of the time, a modified sitting position is best. However, there are two challenges to this: resting the rifle forend and resting the buttstock. With the fore-end, sometimes a rock, a tree stump or even some sturdy brush can be used (assuming you don’t have shooting sticks). It’s the back end that can be troublesome. Competition shooters carry what they call a “squeeze bag.” This is nothing more than an air- or foam-filled bag or pillow that molds to the body no matter how awkward the position. The bag fills the gap between the back elbow and the leg with a semi-solid rest. I like to use a rolled up jacket or a rain suit that I have crammed inside a stuff sack that I place between my elbow and thigh.

Awkward Shots
Something as simple as a rolled-up shirt makes for a fine rest. Soft props allow you to establish a solid position even on oddly-contoured surfaces like this shooting-house window frame. (Photo by Bob Robb)

Standing In a TreeStand

Treestand hunters assume their shots will all be in front of them. That’s why the stand is positioned the way it is, right? But what happens when a good buck strolls behind or off to the side of the stand, forcing you to stand up? Now you have to be able to use whatever’s available for a rest—a branch or limb, the tree trunk, the rifle sling, your pack—while contending with the limitations of your harness tether.

Awkward Shots
Photo by Bob Robb


In all field shooting, the importance of resting the rear elbow on a support of some kind cannot be overemphasized. This can be anything from the inside of your knee when sitting or kneeling, to a jacket or a day pack when prone and shooting at extreme uphill or downhill angles. I’ve also rested my rifle fore-end on the windowsill of a shooting house and used a tripod as a rear rest for the butt stock.

Also, it is important to try and keep the rifle as level as possible to prevent the shot from drifting to the side. This can be a definite challenge when shooting sideways on a slope or in other uneven situations.

There are several aftermarket bubble levels that attach easily to a scope tube that can help, many of which are available on for less than $25. Look for options from companies like Vortex Optics, Jialitte, Discovery Optical and ApexHorizon. —BR

Awkward Shots
The Swagger Stalker QD 42 offers a compact way to prop your rifle for awkward shots. (Photo by Bob Robb)


I’ve had to pass on several nice bucks over the years while hunting from a treestand because I couldn’t get a solid rest to make a clean shot given the angles at which the deer were traveling. The Swagger Stalker QD 42 ($129; offers a compact way to prop your rifle for awkward treestand shots.The bipod’s height can be adjusted from 14 to 42 inches, and its unique articulation compensates for literally any angle. As the name implies, the Stalker QD quickly disconnects from the rifle when not needed. It can be comfortably posted on your midsection for rock-solid standing shots from any treestand. — Dr. Todd A. Kuhn

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