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Keeping your eyes and rifle rock steady on the prize is paramount to success for big and small game hunters alike. Don’t blow the chance of a lifetime by opting for an off-hand shot. Brad Herndon Photo

Is it possible to be a great marksman, but a lousy game shot, and vice versa? Yes, though the two scenarios are by no means mutually exclusive. By “marksman,” I mean one who is good at shooting targets, i.e. inanimate objects—be they paper, steel, whatever. And how does one become a great marksman? Simple: practice. How does one become a good game shot? Again, practice, but one must also have field experience—the more, the better.

Shooting at a live animal is different from target shooting in one very important aspect. Other than the jitters that can afflict a competitive shooter, any form of competitive rifle shooting, other than in a biathlon, is done when one is at rest. Yes, there’s a certain excitement that goes with competitive shooting, but it’s quite unlike the heart-pounding, lung-heaving rush that comes with having a wall-hanger bull or buck in your sights. Even if you’ve been sitting on-stand for hours and you’re perfectly rested and breathing normally, that changes when game appears.
And, just as often, there are other scenarios where a shot will present itself after a long stalk or an arduous climb. When my pulse is racing and my chest is heaving, shooting from the standing, off-hand position, I’m lucky to hit a 15-inch circle at 100 yards.

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Some commercial bipods have adjustable, telescoping legs but require far too much time to deploy.

Once, after wounding a feral pig, I chased it in an effort to deliver the coup de grace. Three times I stopped from a dead run to try a standing, off-hand shot, and three times I missed—all at ranges no more than 50 to 60 yards. Of course, the boar was running directly away from me, so it shouldn’t have been that difficult. But it was.

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Any object like a tree or the side or top surface of a rock can add greatly to how steady one can hold a rifle.

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