Shooting Rests by Shane Hurkmans
People ask me all the time how I can shoot so far. I tell them I use a shooting rest. They are shocked that someone like me uses a shooting rest. Basically, if you don’t have the gun as steady as you can, you’re not going to hit a thing.
A shooting rest can be anything to support the gun from shaking. Without a rest, or “off hand”, is ok if your shots are less than 100 yards or you don’t have a support handy. If you hunt in the woods or in the big timber you already have a ton of trees just standing there, use them. Rocks, dirt mounds and other things you can prop your gun in or on will work for a rest. If you wear a backpack you can use the pack for rest by placing it on the ground or on or stump.
How many different types of rests are there? I don’t think I can fit all of them in on this article, but I’ll try. Let’s start with your rest at the bench first. When you get ready for the deer season coming up you go out and shoot your gun to sight it in on paper before you go a field. You can use your car or truck hood; just have something to put the gun on, like a few gun cases.
Then you have sand bags that work great for the guy that does some shooting, but just for fun. Then you have guys that want to have a front rest and a rear bag to shoot from. A front rest can be a box with sand bags in it or it can be a machined peace of steel that has been milled to have adjustments so a person can make that last fine-tuning of the cross hairs on the target. So lets look at this now, you use a rest to sight in your gun but you don’t have a rest to shoot the deer in the woods from. What was the purpose of you going to the range?
Now when you hit the field you should have something you can use, no matter where you go. Shooting sticks, monopods and your sling are all going things to have with you. There are a lot of shooting sticks on the market for you to choose from. All of them are great to shoot from and I have shot from most of them or have seen them in action. You can make a pair of sticks out of wood, tent poles or whatever you can find. This way you can customize them to your own personal preferences. Monopods are a great tool. You can use them for walking in the woods and you can also use them to shoot from. Theses work great for that spring bear hunt or for a run and gun turkey hunt in the spring. Turkey hunters know that using a support to hold their shotguns up when that tom is coming in is better than holding onto a gun for a half hour or so. Not fun, been there done that. I use a pair of shooting sticks to shoot from when I’m hunting for coyotes or fox. I prop my gun up and wait for them to show. There’s a lot less movement when you’re ready for the shot. There are now tripods on the market that work well for the guy that needs to have a good rest to shoot from when they are out hunting elk and needs to take a shot out over 300 yards. In Africa most guides use a tripod for their client to shoot from.
When you’re in your stand there are shoot aids for you there too. If you’re in a tree stand you have a lot to choose from. You can get a shooting rail for your stand or a swing that holds your gun up for you. If you sit in a ground blind you have some choices. If you have widows in your stand you could put in a board to hold a sand bag in the window to shoot from. If you don’t have windows in your ground blind you can use shooting sticks, a branch or monopod, just something to help you support the gun. If you are one that walks or sneak hunts, you can use the sling on your gun for that quick shot if you wrap the sling around your arm to steady yourself for the shot.
There are bipods that fit right onto your gun too. Theses are great for having something with you all the time for that shot. Most of the bipods on the market today have adjustments so you can use them from a lying down position to a kneeling position. Some of them pivot so you can shoot on uneven ground. The bad thing about bipods is they add weight to your gun, but really not that much.
If you are thinking of using a rest, try some of them out. Ask people that you know how they like the one they use and ask to try it. You also have to think of where you are going to use it the most. Then pick the one that suits you. For the tree stand guys there are great things for you to try. Get something up there to help you make that next shot. I have built frames from wood and attached it to the tree stand to make sure that I had something to use to help me shoot.
Try this, the next time you go out and shoot at targets with your gun. Shoot at one target off hand and then shoot from a set of shooting sticks or a rest that you might use in the woods. Look to see if there is a difference in patterns, either larger or smaller, and you tell me if you need the help or a rest. Remember to keep it fun and to keep it safe.