Precision Shooting 1-Part 3: Marksmanship: Just The Basics
Our timing was perfect – the witching-hour was just starting! As we glassed each patch of buck-brush and sage we started to locate feeding deer. From our vantage point we could see at least half a dozen does either feeding or still bedded-down. Because of the nasty winds they were all on the opposite side of the valley. I had checked the wind several times with my Brunton Sherpa meter – average speed was just over ten miles per hour with gusts to fourteen. Glen and Wayne crawled to the edge of the valley and snapped down their Harris bipods. Within seconds they had the closest group of mulies in their scopes.
“Let’s let Glen blood that brand new Stealth.” I said to my partner. “Wayne you back him up on that big doe that is walking down the slope towards us. Distance is going to be just over 585 yards.” There was not much angle downward as they are almost directly across from us. “Give me fifteen and one quarter minutes of elevation Glen.” Wayne helped Glen with the turret setting, then they assured me that they had put on the elevation. Then I told him to put on three and one half minutes of left windage and to get on the far-off deer.
“Remember to breath slow. Release the trigger real easy, no jerking!” I said to Glen. “Tell me when you’re ready.” I focused my Nikon Venturer XL binocs on the far-off doe. “Shooter Ready!” Glen said. Wayne immediately repeated the same phrase. I waited until a nasty wind-gust had blown through and said, “Send it!”. A few seconds later the valley echoed as the Sierra bullet arced upward over six feet and drifted a foot and one half to the right. After what seemed like a long time we heard a deep, solid smack as the bullet disrupted on hide, muscle and spine. The doe dropped on the spot.
“Great shot, Glen – what a way to break in a new rifle!” said Wayne as he shared a high-five with our new shooting partner. I stood beside the smiling hunters and shot one more laser reading – this time on the carcass of the mule-deer. “Five eighty-six! Not bad for a newbie!” I said to Glen. I had to grin as he sat in awe of the shot that he had just made. “Unreal, that is unreal. I don’t believe I could make a shot like that!” Glen said as he looked at the long black rifle. “I could really get into this!” “Unreal, that is unreal!”
We savored the moment for a while until the cold wind started to freeze us to the bone. “Well, so much for that – your Stealth ain’t a virgin anymore!” Wayne said as we walked back to the truck. “You got that right!” said Glen, then he involuntarily said the phrase that dominated his thinking, “Unreal, that is just unreal!!!” Wayne and I looked at each other and grinned. We had just created another monster – our new buddy was hooked on long-range hunting.
As mentioned in the above story, all of the attributes that make for an accurate rifle are important, and in this situation, came together very well and performed as expected. Also, the shooting position is important. Because of this, I have included some of the more used shooting positions for you to review.
The Standing position (or off-hand shooting position) should only be used for short range distances. You are vulnerable, more visible and not very stable. Your body and arms will fatigue causing you to wobble. You are also like a ship's sail which will catch the wind, again causing your stability to be compromised. The standing position usually comes into play during quick, snap engagements for instance when you are walking. For this reason you would want to keep the power setting down low so that the wobble would be reduced and your field of view through your scope increased. Standing, you want your feet parallel with your hips and shoulders, with the elbow of your support arm tucked firmly into your rib-cage. In this position you must apply good breathing skills or your rifle will porpoise; not easy to do when your heart is beating like crazy and you and your competition are eyeballing each other.
The kneeling position is similar to that of the standing position but with less presentation. The buffeting of the wind is usually somewhat reduced however; you are still fighting the issue of stability. Again, if you are utilizing a variable power scope, it is wise to compensate for the “wobble” by reducing the power setting down to a more manageable level. In the kneeling position you will notice the shooter with his elbow bone directly on his knee bone; and he is utilizing his sling as it is “cuffed” around his bicep. Well, Bone on bone is not exactly what you want. It is better to move the elbow slightly behind the knee or in front of the knee, off of the bone and onto muscle. This will help you to stabilize better. In addition, what you do not see is that the heel of his foot is tucked under and into his tail end. If a tree was available for him to lean up against, it would further aid in his stability. But this position brings us to an interesting issue; your heartbeat and its resulting pulse.
One could write a book on breathing. Breathing helps keep your mind clear and oxygenated; your heart beat consistent and is an equally important issue. Many times I have heard the stories where a hunter and his guide are waking the tundra when all of a sudden they spot a Moose. The hunter’s heart begins to race and he fights to quickly get down and on target as time takes on a whole different meaning. Looking through the scope he tries to settle down while not being noticed, but it is not easy. However, if you are in a position other than standing, or kneeling, there is one thing you can do to immediately help with the pulse of your beating heart; relax your legs. Your legs have about one half the blood of your entire body in them, and when they are tensed and tight, you are restricting your blood to your torso. This causes your heart to beat stronger and increases the force of your pulse. The moment you relax your legs, and un-bend them, you will immediately notice your body and breathing relax.
Breathing methodology has been pretty much established and written in stone. As taught, the shooter would inhale three deep breaths and then on the fourth exhale, slow the exhale at the halfway point, and pull the trigger in-between heart beats. Well, there is another method that is rarely taught, but does work very well. You would again, inhale and exhale three deep breaths of air, then on the forth inhale, at about half way, very slowly continue to inhale. You will notice that your heart beat is much milder then on the exhale method; try it.
This obviously takes a conscious effort and most hunters will say they don’t have the time to relax. Do you believe this to be true? After all, you are prepared and you do have your data. So, do you have to rush the shot? Do you have to guess where to hold? If it is a close shot there may be no time for anything but the snap shot. However, “if the quarry is at distance, and your approach is refined, you should have a considerable amount of time”.