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Shooting Positions in the Field, Trip to South Dakota, and Random Notes

Posted by on August 4, 2013

I get to shoot and hunt in a lot of different environments and with lots of different people. Sometimes when going to a new area I am being guided, and sometimes I am doing the guiding. I enjoy both, and when I am the one being guided I do what the guide say, take advice when offered, and use the time as a learning experience.

One of the most common deficiencies I see with those new to airgun hunting, is they sometimes have difficulty getting the accuracy they expected. My read on why this happens is that they do all their practice on a bench, rather than shooting from the typical hunting positions offhand or off sticks. When hunting small game I limit myself to 35-40 yards shooting from a sitting, kneeling, or standing offhand position and practice this a few times a week. I didn’t do this in the past, but then would blow shots in the field when forced to shoot from an infrequently used offhand position. To correct this I made a concerted effort to practice the hard stuff more, rather than avoid or ignore it.

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Shooting off sticks, a bipod, a tripod or some other firm and stable rest is preferred. But when you get out in the field this is not always an option. Here my son is lining up the long shot, and is locked in solid. But the prepared hunter needs to get their practice in with offhand shooting from a variety of positions.

I’ve written a lot about taking long shots when after prairie dogs, where I often shoot off sticks from a sitting position. With several of my .22 and .25 rifles and Rhino bipod sticks, I can hit a fifty cent piece at 75-100 yards all day long if the wind isn’t blowing. Actually what’s difficult is knowing how to make the incremental hits along the trajectory, and besides utilizing field positions when practicing this is a key element…… figuring out where your gun is going to impact at all the ranges at which you’ll be shooting.

When shooting prairie dogs I almost always uses shooting sticks from a sitting position. When stalking squirrels in spring or early fall, I often have to make standing offhand shots almost straight up into the canopy. Later in winter longer shots are often called for, and sitting with my back against a tree and the gun up on sticks works best. When still hunting in the woods and coming up on a squirrel feeding on the ground, sitting or kneeling shots are often required. For stalking deer and hogs it is often necessary to to shoot standing, either offhand or off sticks, because the grass and brush are too high for a sitting or even a kneeling position to be used. In my experience this is almost always the case when hunting Africa, and I really start to step up my practice with the guns I’ll be using on these trips, taking maybe 50 standing shots a week for a couple months leading up to my safari.

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Practice from the positions and in the conditions you’ll encounter while hunting. Out on the open grasslands you can’t go prone because the grass is too high. I shot a lot from a sitting position both with and without bipods. Sitting like this is good for a 40-50 yard shot, throw in a solid bipod and I’ll go out to 100 if the wind plays along.

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Need more elevation come up on a knee and brace your lead arm on the bended knee. This is my next selection if a sitting shot doesn’t give me clearance over ground cover, not quite as stable as sitting but more than standing offhand!

I like to put up spinners in a field over a large area, and wander about setting up and taking shots randomly. This gives me the opportunity to change up distances, estimate range, shoot from practical positions, and shoot while on the move. This helps with respect to controlling breathing and settling in after some exertion which again, is the type of conditions encountered while hunting. So the bottom line is…. practice, practice, practice …… but make your practice practical. Get the right positions and the right distances worked out before shooting game!

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I do a lot of offhand shooting, and really start to ramp it up before my African hunts, because I know I’ll have to take these shots fairly often. I practice with and with out shooting sticks, this provides context and a reality check for when you get into the field!

Other Stuff
As mentioned in the last post, my son and I followed up on our plans and loaded up the Outback with several guns and tanks of air, boxes of pellets, metal spinners, and set off for a scouting trip to South Dakota. We were looking for public land and permissions to hunt on private property for some DIY hunts later this year. While primarily looking for a place to hunt pheasant and a place for me to take a public land antelope this season, it seemed like a great idea to bring a few airguns for fun shooting, and any incidental varmint shooting if we stumbled across an opportunity.

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I always enjoy sightseeing along the way, we stayed in a small motel one night right near where supplies left the Missouri river and headed off to Deadwood by ox cart.

On the first day we saw deer, a few rabbits, and lots of birds… but no pdawgs or ground squirrels. However after a day of scouting and hiking, we set up targets and spent a few hours plinking and having a great time …… nice not to have to worry about ammo shortages! We were shooting the Talon P .25 in carbine configuration, the new Hatsan B65 .25, and a collection of Korean big bores ranging from .357 to .50 caliber. We had a late dinner and crashed out with the plan for an early start in the morning, but awoke to a downpour

Day two we saw some deer and antelope as we moved about west of the Missouri river, but didn’t find any active prairie dog towns. Speaking with the owner of the motel we stayed at in Pierre, I was told that the populations were down due to disease…… don’t know if that’s true but surely didn’t see the populations normally encountered out here. So, after two days of hunting the most interesting wildlife we saw were on Harley Davidson’s heading out to Sturgis…. On the upside, I was told about an upcoming predator hunting competition in February, and if I can get my predator hunting buddy Brian Beck to sign on, am going to go compete airguns against the centerfires (the rest of the field I guess). If you’re interested in finding out more shoot me an email and I’ll send along some info.

I have several writing projects that I’m working on right now; for Predator Xtreme an article on black guns, for Fur Fish Game and article on squirrel season springers, for Airgun Hobbyist articles on night hunting gear and a review of the GTL 480, and will be doing an article on African big game airgunning for Airgun Shooter (UK) magazine and footage for American Airgunner TV…. so check it out. I’ve got lots of new guns and gear that I’ll be writing about.

And what I am very excited about is the airgun outfitting services we’re developing for Airguns of Arizona, which I’ll be telling you about in upcoming blogs. We reckon it ‘s about time that airgunners wanting to try out some of the great shooting around the country and further afield, have the opportunity.

Well that’s it for this week, keep the lead flying and get ready for the new season! Speak with you all next week.

3 Responses to Shooting Positions in the Field, Trip to South Dakota, and Random Notes

  1. Doyle Andrews

    I compete in the NRA metallic silhouette small bore hunter class. This off hand shooting carries over nicely to field hunting with my air rifle.

    • Jim Chapman

      Hi Doyle;
      I agree, any form of shooting that gets you off the bench will help your hunting. The bench tells you about the rifles intrinsic accuracy and the shooters ability to assess and adjust for environmental variables, but shooting offhands or sticks tells you what the hunter is capable (minus the beating heart and rapid breathing when a nice buck is in the crosshairs).

  2. Jim Phillips

    Great advice! I will; be heading to my farm this weekend and will practice from positions I expect to be shooting from when the squirrels and crows come around. I better get a subscription to Fur, Fish Game to read your article on squirrels with springers, my kind of hunting!

    Thanks!

    JimP
    Air Arms Prosport .22
    HW 97 KT .177
    Hw 95 Luxus .22

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