In the final moments of a stalk, the rifle will almost always be fully loaded (cartridge in the chamber and safety on)—not only to be ready but also to avoid the metallic noise of working the action in proximity to game. Again, muzzle control is essential, with the mechanical safety as only a backup system.
- Crawling. Depending on terrain and vegetation, a lot or a little creeping and crawling is often required to get into a final shooting position. The biggest safety challenge comes when crawling is required. And this is potentially one of the most dangerous situations because many mechanical safeties can be brushed into firing position by grass and twigs. The trigger can also be snagged. Natural excitement doesn’t make it better! It is essential to focus on the muzzle, step by step, and ensure it is pointed in a safe direction. The muzzle can be offset to one side, or if you are in the rear of the line, the muzzle can be reversed.
- Butt scooting. An alternative to crawling on hands and knees is to sit flat with legs forward, knees bent, and feet flat on the ground. The rifle is laid across the lap with the muzzle to either side in a safe direction and with arms straight and hands to the rear. Using legs and arms, you scoot forward a foot and then repeat. Although slow and uncomfortable, butt scooting is safer from a muzzle control standpoint. If any significant distance must be covered, it is also less strenuous than hands-and-knees and creates much less wear and tear on hands, knees, and rifle.