My wife asked recently why we have four trash bags full of plastic milk jugs piled up in a corner of our garage, instead of putting them in the recycling bin with the other stuff accumulated each week in our household.
By Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor
Because, I replied, when I want to go to sight in my hunting rifle scopes or just have a little fun the milk jugs filled to the brim with water explode in a violent shower. Who wouldn’t love that as a little break from trying to hit the bull’s eye on a piece of paper?
This was a bit of fun my father and I used to have when we’d go each year to a friend’s property to shoot our rifles. That was more than 30 years ago, back when I was just cutting my teeth on rifles, their power, and hunting seasons. My bang stick back then was a Winchester .243 that I still have and, occasionally, pull out of the safe. He favored a .308, and both were topped with Redfield scopes.
Now, I know it’s arguable that the .243 isn’t a good deer caliber. I killed a few with it in my early years, but have since decided on rifles with more power. Depending on my mood, I may pick up my Remington .270 or .308, or my Steyr .30-06 topped with a Kalhes scope. The latter was one of the first Steyr models of its kind, the Pro Hunter, brought into the U.S. before they hit the market. I was blessed enough to be able to try out this early intro, and eventually bought it because it’s a deer-slaying tack-driver.
All are bolt action rifles, which I prefer for a couple of reasons. One is tradition, since that’s what I started on. My father, who was a pretty good shot, taught me on the .243 and .308, and knowing I had only one shot before having to work the bolt helped me be more patient. The other reason is I just like them. Everyone has their favorites, though, which is fine.
Sighting in a scope to get your best groups for an effective, quick kill is paramount for any hunter who hits the woods. Bowhunters don’t go out without sight pins locked on specific yardages. Scopes should be no different and failing to ensure they are spot-on before the season starts is something everyone who uses one should do.
Sighting in a scope also doesn’t just mean with a rifle. If you’re using any weapon with a scope – rifle, shotgun, slug gun, handgun – then it’s imperative to make sure they’re at peak performance.
Yes, summer is hot. Take a cooler with some iced water, soda or tea. Leave the booze behind. Not only will it dehydrate you, but alcohol and firearms don’t mix. Seriously, just say no to the cold beer until you get back to camp or home and are relaxing. Take a few towels to dip in the ice water and cool yourself off, too.
Yes, ammo is expensive. If you have a favorite round that has performed well, stick with it. If you want to try something new, do some research online with your rifle caliber and different ammunition. A 158-grain may not yield the same results as a 180-grain. If you have a friend or two who needs to zero in their scopes, pool your money to buy some ammo and go shoot together. Split the ammo, keep good records with a notebook and pen to see which works best or doesn’t work worth a flip.
If you’re shooting at a public range, make sure you have any necessary permits and find out beforehand, if you don’t already know, whether they have a 100-yard range. You can sight in at 25 or 50 yards, but 100 is a good distance. Take binoculars, too, so you can see the groupings.
The old “hit a pie plate” mentality may work for killing a deer, but you don’t want or need groupings of three or four inches. You want ‘em tight. Why? Because if you aim behind the shoulder, or are a bust-the-shoulder hunter, you don’t need to be aiming at a spot behind the deer’s shoulder and miss by the width of your hand. That’s just silly.
Work to get the best groupings possible with the best ammo possible. That probably sounds idiotic, but there are some hunters who fire a few shots, call it good and head out. Do you need to be a 1,000-yard sniper? Not necessarily. But again, you want to get the best performance from your scope, rifle and ammo while doing your job as a hunter to the best of your abilities. Hone that sucker in to a good, tight group and be confident with your weapon and skills.
Skills is a big word, too. That means practicing to relax, squeeze the trigger and stay on the rifle. One of the best ways to do that is with a .22 rifle or, if you want to take it a step further, a good air rifle. The ammo is inexpensive and the basics are the same: relax, find your target, squeeze and follow through. Build those basic foundations to make yourself comfortable enough that when you have the rifle or shotgun, you’ll be ready or success.
It’s hotter than all get-out right now throughout much of the U.S., but deer season is just a few weeks or months away. My empty milk jugs are aching to be put out and blasted into a watery shower, with my laughter echoing in the background, of course.