Hunting season is one of my favorite times of year. It's the perfect excuse to head off into the wild, becoming one with nature again, and perhaps even bring home a nice feed. My dad taught me how to hunt, and his father before him. As a kid they were my heroes, and they knew everything when it comes to bringing down a big buck.
We head out as a family every season, and as I've gotten older and my daughters are starting to grow, I've started focusing on the shooting techniques that I can pass down to them. To help my girls become better marksmen in the field. And after just finishing a course on long-range marksmanship, I'd like to share with you the techniques I discovered in the training.
Don't stick to just the bench
I get it. When you head to the range the easiest position to shoot from is the bench. Once you've sighted in your rifle, it's easy to just punch out a bunch of rounds right into the kill zone. The trouble is, shooting from the bench isn't an accurate representation of the shooting conditions you'll face in the field. You need to practice a variety of different shooting positions that you're likely to experience when you're hunting. Without practice, you can't have a hope to replicate these shooting positions with any success in the real world.
Get used to your shooting rest
One trick I picked up is the importance of a good shooting rest. The key to consistent shooting is comfort. You should know every piece of your gear, inside and out, so that it almost becomes a second nature to use it. Of course, in the field you may not always be able to find the right shooting rest, tree branches and even your backpack isn't reliable. My advice, is to buy a portable solution, like our rifle rest sand bags. That way you've always got a reliable base, no matter where you're hunting. And for me, when shooting prone, a reliable shooting rest is key.
Practice, practice, practice
There's nothing better than good practice for improving your shooting skills. These are the different positions you need to incorporate into your training sessions to ensure you're able to maximize your accuracy when you're hunting long range. Because practice makes perfect.
The prone shooting position
This is my favorite for big distances, and the technique I'm most comfortable with. Lay flat on your stomach, with your right shoulder pointing towards the target. Extend yourself fully straight, and take a breath to relax. Bend your elbows and rest on them, and curve your shoulders forward ever so slightly. This helps you to tighten your core, and provide a solid base for shooting. Your arms will support your rifle, and you can use your shooting rest for more stability.
The seated shooting position
Look straight at your target, then turn about 30 degrees to your right. As you sit down and cross your legs, place your left elbow onto your left knee, and tuck your elbows in and under the rifle as much as possible. Take a breath and strengthen your core, resting your right elbow on your right knee. With both elbows resting on their respective knees, you've got a solid base to support and shoot.
The kneeling shooting position
Look straight at your target and turn about 45 degrees to your right. As you kneel down put your right knee to the ground, and leave the left knee raised with your foot forward. Sit on your right foot so you're stable, and lock your left elbow in as a base of support for the rifle on your left knee. Take a breath, and solidify your core, and you're ready to shoot.
The standing shooting position
Look straight at your target and turn anywhere from 60 to 90 degrees to your right. Position your feet so they're shoulder-width apart, and bend your knees ever so slightly. You don't want them locked into position. Supporting your rifle with your left arm, tuck your elbow in close to your body to create a stable base, and pull it in tight against your right shoulder.
Know your limitations in each position
Before you head off on a hunt, what's critical is you understand your own limitations in each position. There's no point trying a 100-yard shot while standing in the field if you're not able to keep your groups on a paper target at this distance in the range. The only way to know your limitations though, is practice. Take the time on the range to determine where your limitations are, in each position, so you're not "pushing it" when you're trying to take down a real target. The key to being an effective hunter is knowing your maximum hunting ranges, and ensuring you're close enough to effectively make the kill shot when you get the chance.
Personally, I've found I'm most accurate when I'm lying prone. I can use the ground as a stable base, and with a rifle rest I'm pretty effective up to about 200 yards. A little less than this and I'm 99% confident I'll make every shot I need to make. It's just not worth trying to push it if there's a chance you'll miss, and potentially only injure your target and let it get away.
Becoming an effective long-range shooter isn't rocket science. But it does require practice. So, kit yourself out with the right gear, and get down to your local shooting range and start practicing. Just remember to get out from behind the bench, and practice a few different positions. You'll be shooting accurately at range in no time.