One of the striking things I’ve found about hunting with new shooters is that they’re not sure which positions are acceptably solid for various ranges. After seeing one new hunter unsuccessfully blast away at deer over 300 yards away, while he was in the standing position, I thought I’d write this article. This article is for beginner hunters or those who want to know more about different shooting positions.
The standard standing position is what you’re going to use if a deer pops up at 20 yards and you need to make a quick shot, or a short range shot on a moving animal. It’s quick to get into, quick to get out of, and is easy to learn. It is also one of the least steady positions available. I limit my shots from this position to 100 yards or less, mostly because the other positions are better.
If your sling is properly adjusted you can actually snake it around your arm in a way that pulls the rifle towards your body and makes it much more steady. The hasty sling position takes some time to get into, and you need to ensure your sling is adjusted correctly for the clothing you have on, but it is better than an open shooting position like above. I might stretch out to 150 yards with this position.
For a shot where the animal is moving less, you can move your elbow tighter in, jam it into your side and mostly use your left arm to hold all the weight of the rifle. I find this position easier with a bulky winter jacket. This is the position used in many competitions as well. I almost never use this position, as I’ll make the shot with a faster deployed standing position, or go modified or kneel.
If you have a tree near you, USE IT! That tree is more solid up and down than your body and can make for an excellent forward rest. You can either grasp the tree and make a “V” with your thumb and index finger to grasp the forend on the right side, or grab the tree with a baseball bat grip and pop the rifle on the left side of the tree. Whichever way you do it, the tree hold shooting position is much more solid than most of the other standing positions. I’m comfortable using a tree hold to make a shot at up to 300 yards.
If you’re hunting in rural areas, fence posts are your friend! While I find that they’re at an inconvenient height, they’re super-solid and frequently in just the right place to make a shot. I used a fence post shooting position on my very first deer when I was 13 and it made that 300 yard shot achievable. One of my buddies made an excellent, 350 yard shot last year off a fence post.
The kneeling position is the position I’m most likely going to use if I have a few seconds. It’s quick to get into, solid, and doesn’t require any prep. Even for a 100 yard shot, I’d rather take a knee and make double sure that my bullet is going exactly where I want it. The elbow to knee connection is solid, and you’re using mostly bone and less muscle to secure the rifle. That’s important, because muscle moves and bone doesn’t. I’ve taken lots of close game with the kneeling position, but I’d be comfortable using it at up to 250 yards.
The sitting position is great for hunting in-close or at the edge of a field. It’s great for in-close because there’s very little body movement needed to get into shooting position. It’s also comfortable enough that you can be ready for long periods of time. There isn’t much difference to me between this position and kneeling, as far as rifle support goes, so I’ll still limit myself to 250 yards.
Prone is a very solid position, but it always seems that there’s something in the way! Whether it’s snow drifts, small rises in a hill, tall grass, there are lots of obstacles keeping prone from being my favorite hunting position. It’s an excellent position for shooting at the range but when hunting, I’m frequently prevented from being able to use it. I find that breathing is extra important when shooting prone, and that to make longer shots I need to control and stop my breaths at the right point. Some people can shoot from prone out to great distances but unless I can support the front of the rifle, I’ll limit myself to 400 yards.
If I know I’ll be in a spot where I can be prone, I’ll mount a bipod to my rifle. The bipod doesn’t actually do much for me on forend support, because I was already really well supported in prone. I find that shooting prone with a bipod lets me better support the rear of the rifle and make breathing less of a factor. With my left hand making a fist under the butt of the rifle, I can vary the height at the rear, giving fine-tuning adjustment to height and reducing the up and down sway of the rifle due to breathing. Without getting ridiculous, this is the most secure way of firing a rifle and I’ve used this position to take deer at up to 650 yards.
If none of this made any sense, check out my video instead: