Several of West Virginia’s hunting seasons open in September, as do many throughout the Southeast and other parts of the nation for whitetail deer with archery gear.
But firearms seasons are quickly approaching, and now is a great time for hunters to scout favorite hunting areas and properly sight in firearms to be sure they are on target when they go afield, according to Chuck Waggy, wildlife biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
Most species of wildlife modify their behavior and movement patterns in response to the availability of food. As highly nutritious acorns and other natural wildlife foods ripen, wildlife will find these sources of food and concentrate in these areas. Hunters who take the time to scout their hunting areas and locate productive wildlife food sources before season opens will greatly increase their chances of successfully harvesting game.
Pre-season scouting is an excellent way to spend days afield with a youngster and teach him or her about the hunting heritage and outdoor wonders of West Virginia. This is also a good time to make landowner contacts and obtain permission to hunt on private land.
“Early fall is a pleasant time to visit a shooting range, and public shooting ranges are normally less crowded during this time of year,” Waggy said. “I encourage adults to use this time to introduce youth to the enjoyment of shooting. This is also a great opportunity to instruct youngsters in the methods of safe gun handling.”
The proper sighting in of a firearm involves the use of a safe shooting range, a solid shooting support and a few basic shooting techniques. A shooting range should have a safe backstop and be at least 500 feet from any residence or place where people gather. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources maintains many public shooting ranges statewide, and these facilities are excellent places to sight in a firearm. The location of these ranges can be found on the WVDNR website at www.wvdnr.gov.
Tips for Sighting In a Firearm
When sighting in a firearm, solidly support the firearm on a sturdy shooting bench using sandbags or a commercial shooting rest. Always place the fore stock of the firearm, not the barrel, on the support. Stock and sight mounting screws should be checked for proper tightness.
Be sure the ammunition is the correct caliber for the firearm, and sight in with the ammunition that will be used for hunting. Several different brands and types of ammunition may need to be tested to determine the one best suited for a particular firearm.
Always wear proper eye and ear protection when shooting, and be sure other persons nearby are also wearing this protection. Try to time your sighting in sessions so the sun is not shining directly into your face or onto your sights.
A sandbag placed between the rear of the stock and shoulder will greatly reduce the impact of the recoil on a shooter’s body when using heavy recoiling firearms. Assume a comfortable shooting position so your muscles are relaxed. Position the firearm’s sights on the target by adjusting the support so the support holds the firearm on target with little or no effort on your part required to maintain a proper sight picture.
Relax, take a deep breath, slowly let the breath out and then smoothly pull the trigger with the pad of the shooting finger when the sights are properly aligned on the target. Be careful not to use the joint area of the shooting finger, and do not jerk the trigger in anticipation of the firearm firing. After firing the shot, follow through smoothly and relax before looking at the target or firing another shot.
Fire a three- or five-shot group, determine the center of the group and make sight changes as necessary. Follow the firearm or sight manufacturer’s instructions to make the necessary sight adjustments. Fire several more groups, allowing the forearm’s barrel to cool between groups, to determine if the firearm is properly sighted in.
When you are confident the firearm is properly sighted in, practice shooting several groups from the various unsupported field shooting positions (e.g., standing, kneeling, sitting and prone) that likely will be used when hunting.
Proper pre-season scouting and going afield with a well sighted-in firearm will enhance your enjoyment of hunting opportunities in the Mountain State.
Need some maps?
Topographical maps of 23 West Virginia Wildlife Management Areas are now available online, according to Frank Jezioro, director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
The maps, featuring boundaries, contour lines, water features, roads and trails were produced by the DNR Wildlife Resources Section.
Maps for areas around the state are available in different formats and resolutions to accommodate different Internet speeds. To view or print a map, go to the DNR website www.wvdnr.gov and click on “New WMA Topo Maps” under “Hunting.”