Too early to sight in your firearm for deer?

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The kickoff of deer seasons with bowhunting is a reminder that the gun seasons are not far off, either, and it is high time to make sure that your shooting irons are not far off – target, that is.

Waiting till just days before the hunt to zero in a rifle or slug gun is an expensive recipe for cheap excuses for failure afield. Yet we see it every season. Familiarity and proficiency with a reliable firearm should be the aim. And yet some hunters just plain don’t like to shoot at targets, and they do not practice.

I was reminded of these thoughts recently after a buddy took a new rifle to the range to zero in the scope, looking ahead to the Ohio deer-gun season after Thanksgiving weekend. On just the second shot, the extractor failed on the rifle and my buddy had to have a dealer send it in to the maker for repair. Goodness knows if he will get it back in time, or whether he will have to rely on his Old Faithful.

In many years as rangemaster for my club’s annual charity fundraiser, a public sight-in day, I may not have seen it all but I have seen plenty. Loose sight bases and/or scope rings, missing parts and more. And frankly, our public shoot at the end of October is too late to remedy some of problems our range crew encounters. Too, gunsmiths are swamped with last-minute requests for fixes – and then the customers complain about slow service!

So, get out the favorite smokepole now and check it over. Make sure it is clean and properly lubricated, that all the bedding and sight-mounting screws are properly tightened, the stock is free of cracks and defects, and the action cycles properly. Then get out to the range and shoot.

I am amazed at the casual approach I see to zeroing a rifle or slug-gun that I have witnessed over the years. A handful of shots from an improper rest, or no rest, producing a pie-plate-sized group at 25 yards is not accuracy. It is a prescription for a miss. No, we do not need competition-grade accuracy from our firearms for hunting. But we do need good, practical field accuracy.

A white-tailed deer’s vitals, the heart-lung area, is about the size of a hunting magazine on its side. Are your rifle, and you, capable of putting all your shots on that magazine at, say, 100 yards? That is what I mean by practical accuracy, though I do not often see it on the range. The only way to achieve that is through practice with a properly maintained firearm.

Speaking of practice, one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself in preparation for the season is to obtain a couple of dummy rounds and practice dry-firing your piece. So doing greatly improves trigger control and familiarity, and that translates into confidence in the field.

Eliminating or reducing variables in the field is a key to hunting success, and maintenance and practice are two issues that can be dealt with. Now.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Firearms, Ohio – Steve Pollick, Whitetail Deer

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