Finding The Right Field Rest
By Mark Hampton
There are times when shooting off-hand is practical — especially when the range is close. I’m sure there are some people capable of shooting a tick off a squirrel’s butt from 100 meters off-hand. But for most mere mortals, a good, solid rest will definitely enhance precise shot placement.
We’re not talking about shooting paper targets, steel plates or rocks on the pond bank where close might be good enough. We’re referring to hunting magnificent game animals where a well-placed shot equals a quick, humane kill; something ethical hunters strive to accomplish. Placing the bullet precisely in the vitals is paramount.
How do we stack the odds in our favor? Well, before we begin exploring logical choices let me first say what works best for me or Joe may or may not be the best choice for you. We’re all different and have our own way of getting things done. Whatever system or method we utilize, practicing with the specific method’s a wise decision. Even then, you’ll still find yourself in a circumstance where shooting from an unorthodox position is the only option.
Placing a pack on top of a large boulder provides a solid improvised rest.
Many deer hunters hunt from a ladder stand, but this can present a challenge. When I hunted from one of these, I welded a brace on each side. If the deer was directly in front of me I’d raise my knees and use them as a rest. Experiment and determine what works best from your particular stand or blind.
Bipods and tripods are also another beneficial method. There are several models from manufacturers such as Primos, Caldwell and Bog-Gear, which will provide a useful, steady platform under certain circumstances. Creative talents may be able to alter these particular systems to work well for individual needs and desires. As they say, necessity’s the mother of invention.
I’ve spent considerable time hunting in mountainous terrain for sheep, ibex, goat, tur, chamois and other critters living in the clouds. In these circumstances, a backpack may serve as a rest. You can place the pack on a rock, knife-like ridge or anyplace to get the gun high enough off the ground for a clear shot. If shooting a revolver, I always take a small piece of thin leather to cover the pack to prevent damage from cylinder blast. Packs can be filled with rain gear, extra jacket or other paraphernalia to assist with bulk, firmness or height. The backpack has worked well for me in the mountains and open country where grass or vegetation isn’t a deterrent. It makes for a dandy rest when the situation allows. I’ve even carried small, lightweight bags filled with media and found they come in handy.
By resting your back against a tree, a handgunner can use his knees to provide a solid rest.
What ’Ya Brung
If hunting from the ground, sitting next to a tree with your back braced and knees up can provide a decent rest. Some folks prefer their elbows resting on the knees. Others often put their knees together and rest their wrist on top. What works best may depend on what type of handgun you’re shooting, length of your arms, optic or other factors. Practice different ways and see what you like better.
Experienced handgun hunters are an innovative bunch. They improvise in some of the most creative ways. A fencepost may be the only option nearby. That two-feet-tall stump over there might suffice. Once while hunting sitatunga in Zambia’s Bangweulu Swamps, I placed my gloves in a V-shaped tree branch, forming a perfect rest for my Encore. We were hoping to catch a sitatunga in a small clearing not 100 yards away. Unfortunately, the sitatunga forgot to read the script! The opportunity presented was long — one I couldn’t have made without a good, solid rest.
Occasionally I’ve found myself shooting at extreme angles up or downhill. This situation may require the hunter to improvise. It could test your creativity and get you thinking outside the box. Resting your handgun in a stable manner will increase the odds of making a good, well-placed shot. It’s definitely worth the effort.
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