If you aren’t cheating, you’re not trying hard enough. Those are words to live by and certainly are applicable when shooting. By “cheating” I mean taking advantage of whatever you can to help stabilize your rifle and make the shot, including supports that you might be carrying with you and those you might encounter in your environment.
This notion is second nature to the folks I compete with in 3-gun and in sniper competition, where stages are puzzles to be solved and where if you can figure out a way to steady your shot without costing you time you do it.
Smart hunters have used similar cheats for years. This includes the use of bipods, shooting slings, shooting sticks, and backpacks as shooting aids. More recently, we’re starting to see tripods being employed in this fashion as well.
If you’re not using any aids of these types, you should. At the very least learning to shoot off your pack and with a shooting sling are good places to start, since these are items you’ll be carrying anyway.
Practice with them and an empty gun at home, and figure out how to deploy them quickly from the prone, sitting, and kneeling positions. Do some actual shooting with them as well in order to see what kind of accuracy-boost they provide.
Depending on your style of hunting, a bipod or shooting sticks can be a real benefit. For my daughter’s mountain goat hunt this fall, I’m carrying a carbon-fiber tripod with a HOG Saddle clamp on it and she’s gotten to the point where making 250-yard shots off it is a snap.
Take advantage of your environment, too. Using trees and rocks and other terrain features to brace your rifle is one of the smartest things a hunter can do. Whenever possible, you want to provide some type of padding between the hard surface of your rifle and whatever you’re resting on. Use a jacket or glove as a cushioning layer between your stock and the tree or rock you’re shooting off, and you’ll be more accurate.
You can even use things like bushes or sagebrush for support. Throw a jacket over a bush and rest your rifle on that, or grab a fistful of foliage with the hand that supports your forend and you’d be surprised at how much steadier it can make you.
Finally, as you’re stalking, make an effort to scan around for good shooting positions so you don’t end up scrambling when a buck steps into view. Just like the exits on an airplane, the best support for you might be behind you. Don’t be afraid to increase the distance to your quarry for a solid shooting position.
This concludes our 6-week series on preseason shooting drills. Big game season is upon us—good luck out there. Miss a week? We’ve got you covered: