Building a Stable Shooting Support in the Field
Whether you are a big game hunter or a competition shooter, being able to create a stable platform to shoot from could be the difference between success and failure. When that opportunity of a lifetime presents itself you will have a few precious seconds to get into a stable position and execute a shot. Luckily this is a skill we can practice at home or at the range before ever getting in that high stress situation.
There are few general rules to keep in mind when you are evaluating the most effective and stable shooting position. First, the lower you can get to the ground the more inherently stable your setup will be. This just means that in general a prone position is going to be more stable than a seated or standing position. Next, the more points of contact you can have between your support and the firearm the more stable you will be. When you are able to get a front and rear support in place this creates a rock solid platform! The last one is to be aware of the natural point of aim and the stability of the rest. What I mean is you don't want to have to perform a balancing act to get your rest to stay in place, and you really want your firearm to be aimed at the target without having to torque the rifle or force it into position. All of this will give you the highest chance of a successful shot.
Using your Pack!
Your hunting pack has to be one of the most universal and critical pieces of gear when it comes to creating a rest. This versatile piece of gear can be used as either a front or rear support and most of the time can be used from a prone, kneeling or even seated position. Another thing to remember is that you can use your pack in combination with another support. For example you can use a log or tall bipod as a front support and cradle your pack in the vertical position and use it as a rear support. The most obvious way to use your pack is to lay it on the ground and shoot prone but this is really just the beginning of what your pack can do! This is a great one to practice at home and don't forget to be creative as the possibilities are nearly endless. Don’t forget to put some items in your pack when practicing to simulate the gear you will have in it during hunting.
The right gear can make it that much easier
In this day and age there is lots of gear available to make this process a whole lot easier. You have everything from ultralight bipods to adjustable shooting sticks that can help you create a stable setup. When it comes to gear one thing to balance is the functionality versus the weight. Sure that 9” bipod might help you get stable in a prone position but that won’t do you any good if where you hunt the vegetation is so tall that only a kneeling or seated shot is likely. This is one of the main reasons I no longer run a short adjustable bipod on my hunting rifle. They are great when you can use them but I have found those perfect situations just dont present themselves very often. In this category I look for items that are going to support multiple positions and configurations. This is one of the main reasons we created the Quick-StiX. They are versatile enough to be used as a front or rear support and can be adjusted to a wide range of heights. The main thing here is to pick something that suits your hunting style and be sure to practice before heading out on the hunt of a lifetime.
Practice Makes Perfect
The importance of practice cannot be understated! Practicing develops habits and instincts which will take over when "buck fever" sets in and your brain goes to mush. Removing your brain from the equation frees you up to focus on the other critical details of your shot and decreases the odds of mistakes.
There are many ways to go about practicing these positions. The most effective way is to take a hands on approach. To practice effectively you need to create some stress by setting a time limit and using only the gear you would expect to have with you in the field during a hunt The nice part is this can be done at home in your garage or backyard without using any ammo. You will simply be evaluating the effectiveness of the position by the amount of reticle float you are seeing.
Here is what I do at home in my garage to practice building a support. I will start with my pack loaded and on my back with my rifle in my hand. I will get a stopwatch ready on my phone so I can easily time how long it takes me to get into position. I will then decide if I am working on a prone, kneeling, or seated position. I will start the stopwatch and start building my support. I will let the stopwatch run until I have achieved an acceptably stable position. By going through this and coming up with multiple options you will ensure you can create a stable support when the moment of truth arrives. Don't forget creativity is king, there are no wrong answers if it results in a stable support! Below are a few examples of field setups we have used in past years when harvesting animals.
In this setup the hunting pack is resting on top of a log and is being used as a front support. Then the Quick-StiX are set up and being used as a rear support on the rifle. This was a very stable setup and allowed a successful 762 yard shot on a bull elk.
In this setup the goal was to get as low as possible with the rear of the gun to gain stability while using the Quick-StiX and Quick-Clip in bipod mode to support the front of the gun. This setup was stable enough to take a 560 yard shot on a bull elk.
In this photo the pack was used to build a rear support with the front of of the rifle supported by the Quick-StiX as a tall bipod to take a bear at 160 yards.
Going back to the general rules we started with, notice how low the shots were taken from, just high enough to get above the brush. Notice the multiple points of contact even the elbow on the knee to create another rigid joint in the last picture. And, notice how often the pack, your most versatile rest, was used.
At the end of the day using what you have on hand and making sure that your gear is multifunctional is the key to creating a stable rest. Being able to create a rock solid shooting position takes practicing under stress. The more positions you practice, the larger your positional shooting quiver will be and the better prepared you will be for that next opportunity. Hopefully you learned a thing or two from this article. I can guarantee you that by practicing before you head into the field will increase your odds of success once that shot opportunity presents itself.