What is Hunter Field Target (HFT) shooting?

A man shooting an uphill target with an air rifle on an HFT course

Shooting an uphill target, watch for wind and the pellet hitting high - Credit: Archant

Gary Chillingworth explains exactly what Hunter Field Target - or HFT - competition shooting is all about, including the kit you need to get involved

A while ago, I wrote a piece in Airgunner magazine about upcoming HFT in 2022, and I’ve had some emails from readers in response asking what HFT is, how to go about taking part, and the sort of kit and ability needed. So, I thought I would offer a quick guide to the hunter field target discipline, and I hope that this might help you all to take part in the sport that I love.

Firstly, HFT is a sport that all shooters, especially hunters should have a go at. It enables us all to test our ability without consequences and improve our skill. Over the years, I have spoken to many people who have tried the sport, and it has shown them that taking a rabbit at 40 yards is not always the thing to do. In HFT, we often shoot 25mm targets at 40 yards and these are some of the toughest targets on the course. When you miss them, you realise that getting a clean kill at 30 yards-plus is not always a guarantee!

A 25mm at 40 yards target on an HFT course

A 25mm at 40 yards is smaller then you tink - Credit: Archant

HFT TARGETS
If you do want to have a go, the targets that you will encounter will be; 20mm, from 8 to 30 yards; 15mm from 13 to 25 yards; 30mm out to 40 yards; and 35mm out to 45 yards. We have supported kneelers out to 40 yards and supported standers out to 30 yards, and finally, the dreaded unsupported kneelers and standers out to 35 yards, but there is only one each of these.

Twenty four of your 30 targets will be shot from the prone position, and these will be your bread and butter. Some of the best targets will be the 15mm, and believe it or not, the shorter targets from 13 to 16 yards are often the hardest. In the world of HFT, one of the main rules is that once you have taken your first shot, you are not allowed to adjust your scope.

Nick Aldridge shooting a springer prone on an HFT course

Nick Aldridge shows us how to shoot a springer - Credit: Archant

So many shooters will set their scope up with a parallax setting of around 25 yards and thus be able to see the long targets clearly, but this means that the shorter targets could suffer from blur, so a 15mm at 13 yards in a dark wood, with a kill zone that has been heavily shot up, the target might be hard to make out. Add this to the fact that if you have a zero of 35 or 40 yards, then the pellet will still be rising through your aim points, and you could struggle to select the right aim point for your target.

Also, from a prone position, it is very common for course setters to place targets high in the trees, and this can have a double whammy on the shooter. The first reason is wind because the wind up high is often stronger than when down low – for more on this, check my other article this month on how to shoot in the wind. The main issue, though, is if you shoot a high target and your rifle is more than 45°, then the pellet will hit high. Also, the same works if the target is below your feet at 45°, the pellet will still hit high.

A man taking a supported kneeling shot on an HFT course

Practice your supported shots - Credit: Archant

Up next will be your supported standers and kneelers and for these you will be given a tree, hay bale, or fence-post to lean against. Now, most of these will be marked ‘kneel or stand’, and it’s your choice. Some will be marked ‘stand only’, but these can only go to 30 yards unlike the 40 yards of the kneel and stand. The thing is, don’t always assume that kneeling is easier.

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Standing often gives you a more stable position and you won’t be kneeling on a tree root or slippery slope. Test yourself and see what’s best for you. You will also get a free-stander and free-kneeler, and for these you have to be unsupported. For the kneeler, you can’t sit on a turned foot and your forward wrist most be forward of the knee, but that’s about it. 

Pete Sparkes shooting free hand standing on an HFT course

Pete Sparkes is one of the best free standing shooters out there - Credit: Archant

HFT KIT
With regards to kit; any sub-12 ft.lbs. rifle will work, and you do really need a scope set between 8 and 12x magnification, although some shooters do use 6x, but they are a dodgy bunch with great eyesight. The most common calibre is .17, but there is always a smattering of .22 shooters, and I am glad to say that springers are popular and in the past, shooters with gas-rams and CO2 have taken part, and had a lot of fun. HFT is about fun and friendship and I can guarantee you will get both. 

If you want to know more about HFT, and learn a few tips and tricks, then go to YouTube and look for Shooting and Country TV. I have lots of videos there, on how to take part in this wonderful sport. 

HFT