Practice now for upcoming deer season

I can’t tell you how many deer hunters I know who never touch their deer rifles, or any firearm for that matter, until just prior to deer season. For many it doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but for others it can be the difference between a hit and a miss.

I’m actually surprised you don’t hear about more of these hunters missing deer. But then again, you have to wonder how many do actually miss but won’t admit to it.

Pre-season target practice is not only a necessity, it’s a lot of fun. It did, however, take a shot in the gut for a while following the passage of the New York SAFE Act. Ammunition prices escalated and .22 rimfire rounds were not just hard to come by, but pricey. Even standard rounds such as the 30-30, .308 and 30-06 were scarce.

The result was hunters and shooters keeping what ammo they had stockpiled and not spending as much time as usual at the range. I fell into this same rut myself.

I hunt mostly in the Adirondacks and use a short-barreled, lever-action Winchester Model 94 with open sights for most of my hunting. Hitting deer on the move and working around obstacles is the norm. This is an acquired skill that must be kept sharp, and I’ve paid the price by not working at it during the off season.

A round or two of skeet with a shotgun, even with a simple target thrower, certainly helps. It forces you to look down the barrel with your sights and use both eyes, keeping the target in the picture as well.

Better yet is having a rimfire rifle that closely replicates your deer rifle. A few years ago I picked up a Henry .22 lever gun that feels quite similar to my deer rifle. I also own a Ruger semi-automatic that I put a scope on and is similar to my Southern Zone rifle.

Both of these rimfire guns see plenty of late-summer and early fall action, as does a single-shot Marlin I have and shoot .22 shorts.

Plinking is great fun. I’m fortunate to live in an area where I can shoot safely on my own property. I use a small shooting gallery and occasionally have a session with the Henry, often shooting offhand, just like I would at a deer in the woods.

As for the Ruger, I keep that dialed in with high-velocity ammo and she’s dead on at 50 yards. I frequently use this gun in the summer months to take care of woodchucks, which seem to make their presence known a few times each season. Being an avid gardener, woodchucks are not tolerated. I’ve even pulled high with the Ruger and taken out chucks at 80 yards.

I enjoy shooting my deer rifles, too, and will visit the range with them at least twice before the season, and often during it. I usually bring the Henry along on those shooting sessions and get into some intense target shooting where I quickly move from target to target at various distances. This is great practice.

The serious deer hunter owes it to their quarry and to themselves to spend time at the range before hunting season. Shoot straight!

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Dan Ladd

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