FLAT OUT

Some­times get­ting down on your belly is what you have to do, says the ed­i­tor

Air Gunner - - CONTENTS - www.high­land­out­doors.co.uk

Phill Price of­fers ad­vice on shoot­ing prone - for com­fort and top-class ac­cu­racy

With the sum­mer al­most upon us, those hunters who are lucky enough to have plenty of rab­bits will be keen to get out onto pas­ture­land in the hope of a good rab­bit din­ner. In ar­eas that are heav­ily grazed, cover can be hard to come by and some­times the only way to be within shoot­ing range is to get down on your belly and take shots prone. There was a time when I found that easy, but these days it needs a lit­tle thought. I like to pre­pare by first check­ing the wind di­rec­tion to en­sure that my scent isn’t be­ing car­ried to­ward the war­ren. Then I find it’s best to walk into a field and let the rab­bits see me and go down into their burrows. Whilst they’re out of sight, I can get ev­ery­thing ready and use my rangefinder to estab­lish a ra­dius I know I can shoot in ef­fec­tively from that po­si­tion. Next, I fit a bi­pod with ad­justable legs that of­fers flex­i­bil­ity to my shoot­ing spot and I also choose cloth­ing that will pro­tect me from what­ever I’ll be ly­ing on, such as thick trousers and a proper coat.

Shoot­ing prone re­quires a de­gree of flex­i­bil­ity in the shoul­ders and neck that al­lows us to hold the ri­fle cor­rectly and get our full sight pic­ture through the scope. It also needs to be com­fort­able enough so that we can stay on aim if the rab­bits move about whilst we’re try­ing to take per­fect shot. It’s worth prac­tis­ing this at home to find out what works for you, rather than ar­riv­ing in the field to find out some­thing’s not right.

PAIN IN THE NECK

Pic­tures are al­ways bet­ter than words to de­scribe shoot­ing po­si­tions, but I’ll men­tion a few things that work for me. With the ri­fle on its bi­pod, I find my quarry in the scope and then get the ba­sic sight pic­ture. I use my left hand un­der the toe of the butt pad for an­other point of con­tact that will add con­sid­er­able sta­bil­ity to my aim. Next, I fo­cus on be­com­ing aware of any un­wanted ten­sion or dis­com­fort in my body, and try to find ways of elim­i­nat­ing it. The ri­fle should re­main on aim with­out any mus­cle strength be­ing used to guide it. If you’re strain­ing to get onto the rab­bit’s kill zone, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up pulling the shot. I pre­fer to let a shot pass rather than risk wound­ing, and if the rab­bits don’t know you’re there, you of­ten have plenty of time to get com­fort­able and steady, so don’t be tempted to rush. If I stay on aim too long I get a ter­ri­ble

pain in my neck, in which case I re­lax and rest un­til I can get com­fort­able again be­fore try­ing for a shot.

GET COM­FORT­ABLE

The bi­pod I use is a clone of the clas­sic Har­ris model, made by Buf­falo River and im­ported by High­land Out­doors. It’s solidly built and has a mount that can be canted to al­low for the in­evitable un­even ground we’re go­ing to be shoot­ing from. It also has ad­justable length legs that ex­tend from 9” to 14”, which I find a very prac­ti­cal range. They of­fer longer and shorter op­tions as well. The rub­ber feet work on ev­ery­thing from soft soil to con­crete, so I have no com­plaints about them and they seem to be very durable show­ing al­most no sign of wear.

There is much de­bate about what the an­gle your body should be rel­a­tive to the ri­fle, but I be­lieve you have to find out what works for you. Some peo­ple lie at quite an off­set to get com­fort­able, whilst oth­ers pre­fer to be al­most in line with it. Only ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and prac­tice will show you what your body needs. I lie at just a small off­set be­cause that’s where I’m com­fort­able.

PLAN YOUR PO­SI­TION

Un­sur­pris­ingly, be­ing prone places your head in a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion on the cheek piece, com­pared to shoot­ing stand­ing, and it can be tricky to get the full sight pic­ture. Drop­ping the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion a lit­tle can help this on some scopes by of­fer­ing a slightly big­ger eye box.

Shoot­ing from prone has other ben­e­fits be­sides help­ing us to re­main un­seen. Firstly, once you get the knack, it’s a very sta­ble way to shoot and can pro­duce top- class ac­cu­racy. Also, the lower to the ground you are the less your pel­let’s flight is af­fected by the wind, which can also help ac­cu­racy. How­ever, there are draw­backs. If there’s even the slight­est rise if the ground be­tween you and the rab­bit it could well ob­scure your shot, and any veg­e­ta­tion might get in your way, too. It can be re­ally frus­trat­ing when you can see your quarry from the sit­ting po­si­tion, but can­not take the shot prone. The ob­vi­ous an­swer to this is to plan your po­si­tion care­fully as you be­gin.

Prone shoot­ing isn’t for ev­ery­body, but I rec­om­mend try­ing it out. Tak­ing some time to prac­tise away from the hunt­ing fields will tell you if it can be­come an­other skill you can add to your set, and per­haps put a few more rab­bits in the bag this year.

“it’s a very sta­ble way to shoot and can pro­duce top- class ac­cu­racy”

BELOW: Com­fo­rat­bly rested like this makes for su­perb sta­bil­ity on aim

ABOVE: Some peo­ple pre­fer to be at much more of an an­gle to the bar­rel

BELOW: Plac­ing my left hand on my right bi­cep is an­other way of sup­port­ing the butt solidly

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