Shot Positioning for a Clean Kill

Shot Positioning for a Clean Kill

by Glen Stilson

I remember by first big game kill very clearly in my mind. My dad and I had put the sneak on a small group of elk in the middle of an open field, and now they weren’t more than 150 yards away. From behind the cover of some cedar trees, I rested my rifle on a branch, half-standing and half-crouching to get a solid shooting platform. My young shaky hands pulled the shot a bit, and though I hit the cow elk well, she did not go down immediately. We had to follow her a short ways to where she had laid down, and from a standing offhand position about 50 yards away, I had to deliver the final shot, this time to the head. It was a pivotal moment in my young life, for a number of reasons.

The point of my telling this story is to say that hunting kills are rarely delivered from a shooting bench or a prone position, yet many hunters do not practice field shooting positions once they’ve verified zero on their rifle or bow. Once I’ve verified zero, I like to finish a pre-hunt range session with shooting from as many field positions as possible, including heading out onto public land and setting up targets among trees and bushes, forcing me to use sometimes unconventional field shooting positions in order to make a good clean shot.

Here are a few of the shooting positions that I like to practice most, and that offer the best chance of a clean kill in the field.


Shot Positioning for a Clean Kill, kneeling/unsupported.The primary components of a good kneeling position are multiple points of contact with the ground and a low center of gravity. Sitting back on the heel of the foot connected to the knee that is touching the ground is a great way to get lower and more stable, but not everyone can physically do that, so practice getting as low as you can based on your own ability while still maintaining balance. Stabilizing your support arm when using a rifle can be done by putting meat-to-bone, never bone-to-bone. Hook your tricep over the kneecap or press your elbow into the thigh behind the kneecap. Adding a rifle sling wrap around your support arm can further increase your stability.

Shot Positioning for a Clean Kill, sitting/unsupported.Sitting

One of the most stable shooting positions, but not a great position if you may need to move quickly for a follow-up shot. The primary components of this position are multiple points of contact with the ground and support for both arms. The more you can lean forward, the better – again, this may be limited by physical ability. Use the same meat-to-bone arm support concept described above with kneeling.


Shot Positioning for a Clean Kill, sitting/supported.You can add artificial (bipod, tripod, shooting sticks, ruck) or natural (branch, stump, rock) support to either of the above positions for even more stability. Just remember that during any supported position the barrel should not contact the support. Only the forend or stock should be touching the support so that the harmonics of the barrel are not affected, thus maintaining your accuracy.


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