How I Carry my Rifle

I want to talk about how I carry my rifle on a mountain hunt. My technique is likely slightly different from what I see most hunters doing. Keep in mind that I am speaking specifically about mountain hunting, which involves days and days of hiking and only a few moments, if we are fortunate, of handling the rifle.

Every hunter is looking to carry the rifle to address three considerations, and it’s going to be a matter of personal preference and the terrain and type of hunting in question that will determine the best method. The three considerations are:

  • Weight and balance of the loaded pack
  • Protection of the rifle and optics from dropping, scratching and compression
  • Quickness of access

I describe my approach for the mountain situation below.

Both Denise and I carrying our rifles in the centre of our packs.

Weight and balance of the loaded pack

 For me, the best position for my weapon is directly in the centre of my pack because it’s generally speaking the heaviest piece of equipment that I would have. I don’t want to be out of balance at any time when I’m rock hopping when I’m just hiking through the mountains; I want to be as stable and have my weight distribution as solid as I possibly can.

If you choose to put your rifle on one side or another, balance the weight with a spotting scope, water or tripod.

Some people find that the rifle disrupts their front-to-back balance. I don’t, but this is something to consider. If you have your pack loaded with heavier items closer to your spine, you can minimize the backwards pull of the gun.

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Protection of the Rifle and Optics

Taking off your heavy pack, often upwards of 80 lbs, introduces the risk of scratching or seriously damaging whatever you have on the exterior of the pack. No matter where your rifle is, you will face the risk of damage. With the rifle in the centre, I don’t have to worry about which side of the pack hits the rocks because I know my rifle is on neither side.

My rifle and optics were protected when I lay my pack onto the ground.

Quickness of Access

Removing the rifle is quick and easy.

In the mountain hunting environment, access speed is a very low priority. Some hunters have commented that the threat of a bear encounter necessitates easy access to the rifle. I have been fortunate to have avoided such encounters, so it’s not something I worry about very often. I’m unwilling to carry a gun in my hands or on a traditional rifle sling for such a low-odds risk. I would much prefer to have a bear spray at hand that move my rifle from its place on the rear of my pack.

I’d invite you to consider these factors the next time you head into the field. Having spent hundreds of days mountain hunting, I’ve been very pleased with this approach, and I think you might be as well.

My Three-Step Process for Successful Execution on a Mountain Stalk

I follow a simple, three-step process to help myself stay calm and execute on fundamental aspects of a successful mountain hunting stalk. By mountain hunting, I’m referring to the pursuit of sheep, goats, Mountain Caribou and often bears. These principles apply to all kinds of spot and stalk hunting where the game is stationary and not constantly on the move. Still, they are more critical in the mountain environment with the species I mentioned above. By repeating this process every time, I maximize my chance of having Lady Luck on my side.

This ram remained bedded for about an hour after we go into position.

My first step is to find a shooting position on the hill that maximizes my chances of keeping eyes on my target if it moves or if my first shot doesn’t anchor it. More often than not, stalks occur when mountain game are bedded and resting during the middle of the day. I will likely have an extended period between getting into a shooting position and having a shooting opportunity. I also want to select a shooting position to move from while remaining unseen. This concealment could be finding a bush, a change in the terrain, rocks or an exposed position with a backdrop that means I will not skyline myself. Suppose the game remains bedded for hours, and I command an unobstructed view above the animal. In that case, I may wish to have a position where I can sit up and move away from my rifle.

This grassy knoll provided the perfect location for me to remain out of sight of the spectacular Dall’s Sheep ram, giving me plenty of room to remain comfortable while maintaining my view of him.

The distance I will set up will depend on numerous factors, including:

  • my capability as a shooter with the rifle and optics I have
  • the wind and weather conditions at the time
  • the type of game (the size of the vitals)
  • the kind of shooting platform available to me (prone, tripod, tree branch, off-hand?).

My second step is to build the shooting platform. When possible, I will use a tripod. Tripods provide the stability we all know from the best shooting rest at the range in a package I don’t mind carrying up the mountain. Tripods also allow me to be more flexible in my shooting position selection. Due to the added stability of the tripod, it’s no big deal to pull back 100 yards to have better cover and coverage.

I will do my best to get prone, whether I have a tripod, a bipod, or an improvised rest. Laying my entire body on the ground gives me the best steadiness and control possible.

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Once I have established where my rifle will lie, whatever rest I am using, I ensure that my body is sustainably behind my Gunwerks ClymR. From the prone position, that means to have my body lying parallel to the gun. My body is comfortable yet strong and stable for a seated or standing position.

The third step is to dry fire. With the crosshairs trained on the animal (don’t forget to range!), I practice my trigger squeeze, working through my breathing routine and settling my heart rate. I’ll do this for a few minutes while the sheep or goat is bedded. After a week of misery in the mountains, finally pulling the rife out and training my reticle on a good ram will get my heart beating. We all know the feeling! This dry firing is the perfect therapy to give me the confidence and calm I need to make the shot that counts. Exercise caution to ensure you don’t load the rifle and make an unplanned and unsafe shot throughout this process.

Dry firing is a perfect technique for calming the nerves, checking your body position, and loosening your trigger hand’s grip on the stock.

This process is something you can integrate with your own. I think, by slowing yourself down and not selecting the first shooting location you see, you will set yourself up for success on your next mountain hunt.