Key to a Successful Hunt: practice shooting positions

One cause for a hunter or huntress to not succeed in harvesting their animal is lack of practice. In hunter’s education, they teach us the four basic shooting positions, but it seems when we go to the range, we sit at the bench and “sight in”. You will not often find a shooting bench and stool while you are on a New Mexico big game hunt. When you head to the range, practice more than just sighting in your rifle at 100 yards.



Practice the four basic shooting positions. (Always remember the rules of shooting safety)

  • Prone Position: Lying on your stomach, using your arms, bi-pod, or pack to support the weight of your rifle, this is the most steady of the basic shooting positions. Practice bringing your rifle to your shoulder and getting your target into your sights. Prone is an excellent position when making long-distance shots and ideal if you have relatively flat ground and nothing to obstruct your view. It can be hard to find optimal locations for a prone position in the woods. Inevitably you are stalking a bull or a buck, and you are in the tall timber or thick scrub oak. Many down trees, rocks, and thick grass may block your target’s view as you lay on your belly. Because of this, you should always practice the other basic shooting positions.
    Prone shooting position. Most accurate because entire body is supported.
  • Sitting Position: Sit on the ground with your legs crossed or apart in front of you, creating a triangle (as pictured). Support each elbow on a knee. Pull your position tight, so your arms form solid support beneath the rifle. In this position, a hunter can be accurate at long and short distances due to the tripod of surface area and anchor points. There is not always time to get down to a seated position. You should practice kneeling and standing positions as well.
    Sitting shooting position provides a triangle of support for your rifle.
    Sitting shooting position provides a triangle of support for your rifle.
  • Kneeling Position: The kneeling position lacks the solid steadiness of the sitting or prone positions due to the decrease in support of the arms, but this position will be easy to get to in a hurry. Practice dropping to a knee, resting your support arm on the knee, and acquiring your sight quickly. With practice, you can become steady and accurate in this position. It is an important position to practice because sometimes animals come in fast. It will be more steady than the standing position.
    Kneeling shooting position provides a single line of stability for your support arm.
    Kneeling shooting position provides a single line of stability for your support arm.
  • Standing Position: The standing position is the least steady, so it deserves a lot of practice. There may not be time to lie or sit down in a high-pressure situation, such as when a bull elk comes running in. This is a magnificent animal, so you want to make a good shot. Practice control, acquiring your target in your sights, trigger control, and finishing your shot. In a standing position, your support arm will be held beneath the rifle and the trigger arm out from your body (as pictured). If you are wavering, move your support arm into your body for added stability. Do not take the shot if you cannot hold steady on your target.
    Standing shooting position provides support from arms only.
    Standing shooting position provides support from arms only.

You can use many other devices and objects to support your rifle while in the field. Think about having a mono-pod or bi-pod with you. If you have one, practice shooting with it. Practice sitting, kneeling and standing positions with your shooting sticks. In the field, you may use a branch or stump for support. Keep an eye out for things to help you get a good steady shot. Keep in mind that the more surface area your body has on the ground, the more stable you will be. The more stable you are, the more accurate your shot will be.

Lastly, while you are practicing finishing your shot, practice re-loading. Know the action of your rifle. Quickly lift and jerk the bolt back, chambering another round. reacquire your target so you are prepared to shoot again. This is very important when you do not make a good first shot. If you practice good habits at the range, they will show when you are in an exciting position in the field.

Good luck and Happy Hunting!

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Mia Anstine is an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, life coach, keynote speaker, and range safety officer, firearms instructor, and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and Host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast. 

Mia Anstine strives to encourage others to get outside, hunt, fish, shoot, and survive life with others in a positive way.

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Mia Anstine
MAC Outdoors LLC
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