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Author: Guest Contributor from Gunwerks.
You have hiked for miles to get to this point. You have accounted for elevation, distance, and wind, made your adjustments, and the game is in your sights. But with how much confidence are you pulling that trigger? Long range hunting requires many calculations and adjustments for an ethical shot at an animal from an extended distance, but a clean long-range shot starts with your shooting position.
When you have finally tracked an animal to a point where a clean shot is possible, you will need to adjust your shooting position for the terrain. There aren’t too many shooting benches out in the wilderness, so learning the best positions for every terrain and situation will ensure that when the time comes, you will have every chance to land the perfect shot.
We asked James Eagleman, retired Master Sergeant, Army Recon Scout Sniper, and Director of Shooting Instruction at Gunwerks, which shooting positions are a must for long range hunting. And with 26 years of military experience in every environment and terrain, these four shooting positions are tried and true.
Prone Supported Position — Accurate at 1,000+ Yards
Lay in the prone position with your body directly behind the rifle. This transfers the recoil directly into your shoulder and chest, which allows for a consistent recoil. This means from shot to shot your point of impact (POI) won’t change. If the rifle is in your bicep or at an angle, the recoil will affect the accuracy of subsequent shots.
Next, load the bipod by pushing your body weight forward against the buttstock of the rifle. Squeeze the rear shooting bag tight to keep the rear of the stock from moving downward during recoil. Place your chin on the stock and slide it down until your jaw line achieves cheek weld. From there, apply pressure from your cheek downward from the stock to the bag while making sure your head is as vertical as possible. Finally, make sure the rifle stock is firmly against the rear shooting bag as recoil will cause the stock to drop.
Seated Tripod and Rear Sticks Supported Position — Accurate at 1,000+ Yards
The seated shooting position provides excellent support and accurate shot placement when shooting in tall foliage or uneven terrain. While sitting with your ankles slightly crossed, set a front support tripod with the legs horizontal to your body for straight back recoil.
Place shooting sticks as vertical as possible over your legs and under the buttstock. Finally, lean in slightly to keep the rifle buttstock against your body.
Seated Tripod and Rear Bag Supported Position — Accurate at 400-600 Yards
Sometimes you won’t have the luxury of shooting sticks to support your shot. However, using a backpack and a rear shooting bag will stabilize your shot in a pinch. Like the shooting sticks supported position, the rear bag supported shooting position provides a clear line of sight in tall grass or rocky terrain.
Sitting with your ankles slightly crossed but your knees spread out, place the front of the rifle on a sturdy object like a tripod or rock, and clear any obstacles in the bullet’s path. Place the backpack on your lap and stabilize the buttstock with a rear shooting bag on top of the backpack. If you can, make sure the rifle buttstock is against your body by leaning in slightly.
Log Sticks Supported Position – Accurate at 1,000+ Yards
When a traditional setup isn’t available, or impractical, this next position will work to secure your rifle. Using a rock or log as support, pivot and cross scissor your bipod to lock it into place. This prevents the rifle from sliding off the support.
For this position, you can either sit or kneel depending what the terrain gives you. If kneeling, bring your right knee up and place your elbow on your knee — opposite for left handed shooters. Stabilize the rifle buttstock by placing the shooting sticks like we did in the seated tripod position. You can also use your support hand in a “V” shape to lock the buttstock into your shoulder. This prevents it from dropping during recoil.
Prepare with Practice
You never know what elements you will have to work around while long range hunting. By practicing these shooting positions and staying away from the shooting bench, you will greatly improve your chances of a clean, ethical kill on any terrain.