©Copyright Heidi Koehler Photography
After listening to my friend’s excuses of why he missed I ventured the opinion that perhaps he should have gotten a rest before he pulled the trigger on the rifle. “What rest do you mean? I slept very well thank you very much” he replied. No, I was not talking about that kind of rest but rather resting your rifle on something to steady your aim and increase shooting accuracy. Shooting off hand is without question the most unreliable way to get a clean killing shot at an animal. There are only a few hunters that are capable of shooting accurately off hand, and even they only manage some kind of consistency at very short distances. Depending on speed of the bullet and distance to the target a fraction of an inch of movement of the barrel at the moment you pull the trigger can be as much as ten inches or more off the target downrange.
Personally I rather would let an animal walk than shooting without some kind of rest. For personal reasons I don’t like bipods attached to my rifle but if you like them then they are as good as it gets as far as rifle rests go. What kind of rest I use depends on what type of hunting I do. On a spot-and-stalk hunt I carry a lightweight telescopic shooting stick with me that can easily be adjusted to different lengths and also makes for a very handy walking stick on long hikes into these remote areas big bucks call home. In a hunting situation where I am in a groundblind or on a treestand I use homemade wooden cross sticks cut to the perfect length to be used when sitting in a chair to shoot. However, there are times when a bipod or shooting stick is not feasible. In these situations nature will provide you with many ways to stabilize your firearm; holding the rifle against a tree trunk and supporting the barrel with you hand (as shown in the picture above) provides incredible stability as does laying the rifle over a fallen tree trunk or resting it on a large rock and shooting from a sitting or prone position. Make sure to put something soft like a glove between the rifle and the surface of a hard base as this will prevent barrel pouncing.
When you’re done sighting your rifle on the shooting range it is a good idea to get off the bench and do all your future shooting practice as you would when out in the field on a hunting trip. You will right away notice that it feels very different from shooting off the bench. To enhance accuracy and familiarity with the firearm and the various shooting positions you may face in the field it is imperative that you practise these ahead of the hunting season opener. As ethical hunters we owe it to the prey we pursue to make every shot count. The best way to aid us in this direction is to be certain we can make the best shot before we pull the trigger. The scenario at the beginning of this column could easily have led to much more than just a frustrating experience and a few wasted bullets. It could have wounded an animal that then would have to suffer for a long time before it expired. Do the animals we hunt and yourself a favour and get a rest before you pull the trigger.