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How To/Pro-Tips

Staying Warm And Dry

The key to keeping warm outdoors is layering clothing. Several layers of clothing are better than one heavy garment. Layers trap more insulating air and allow the wearer to put on and take off clothes as the temperature changes. You must manage moisture. If you get sweaty, soon you will get clammy and cold. Take off some clothing before exerting yourself and put it back on when you get still. Rain gear should "breathe." That is it should let out the vapors of bodily moisture but keep the larger liquid molecules of raindrops out. Some garments accomplish this with a waterproof/breathable membrane. Others impregnate the outer fabric with polyurethane. For best results wash the garments with a waterproof/breathable membrane regularly (but in a manufacturer-approved way). To refresh the waterproofing on the polyurethane-impregnated fabrics, spray with a high-grade silicone. Good insulation allows the outward transpiration ("breathing") of moisture, while trapping body heat. Pick compatible insulation to go with good waterproof-breathable qualities for great hunting garments.

Driving Deer Well

Deer drives are an excellent way for a coordinated group of hunters to take deer during the midday and other low-movement periods. Driving also helps cope with "islands" of heavy cover where hunter-savvy bucks skulk during daylight hours. Safety and coordination are critical. Both drivers and standers should wear hunter orange. Drivers must push through the cover in a coordinated fashion and at a uniform speed. They shouldn't get too far apart or move too fast because wise old bucks are prone to simply hunker down in heavy cover and let the drivers pass on by. Drivers must also know when they are approaching a stander and signal him that they are nearby. Open land with cover strips and woodlots is ideal deer driving terrain because the deer escape paths are so well defined. Deer driving in the deep forest is more demanding. The standers should have a good knowledge of the deer trail system so that they can position themselves in the spots with the best potential.

Muzzle (Loader) Blasts

Black-powder hunting with muzzleloaders is a real blast and is rapidly growing in popularity. Primitive weapons hunting also allows many hunters more time afield due to special seasons, special areas and other "extra" hunting opportunities.

The prospective primitive-weapons hunter can choose between traditional side-hammer guns that look like they came right off the frontier or opt for the ultra-modern "in-line" muzzleloaders, complete with scopes, that look much like a modern bolt-action rifle. The side-hammer guns are more traditional and romantic but the in-lines are more efficient and a bit more reliable.

Either way, all muzzleloaders must be cleaned thoroughly after use because both black powder or its modern substitute, Pyrodex, are corrosive. Using progressive burning smokeless powder in a muzzleloader is very dangerous. Never use anything but true black powder or Pyrodex in a muzzleloader.

Also check local "primitive weapons" regulations for special season dates, minimum calibers allowed for deer hunting, plus projectile and sight restrictions. Some areas prohibit certain types of bullets and telescopic sights on "primitive weapons" hunts or special areas.

The Long Shot

Most deer hunters who take the time to practice are competent game shots out to about 150 yards. Hitting a target at 200-250 yards is well within the capability of an accurate rifle, high-velocity loads (2,600 feet per second or more), a good scope and a well-practiced shooter. From there on, things get difficult and should not be attempted except by very capable shooters. Most bullets from most common "deer cartridges" (2,600 to 3,000 feet per second) will drop several inches to a foot at 300 yards. Those same bullets will drop almost two feet out at 400 yards. Also, wind drift can "push" a bullet several inches to a couple of feet to the side of point of aim, depending on wind velocity and rang To even begin to hope for such long-range success, the shooter must have a super-accurate rifle (100-yard groups of 1 1/4 inches or so), a really good scope and really good range-estimation and shooting skills. Responsible hunters hew to high-percentage shots at reasonable ranges within their equipment's and their own capabilities.

Don't Choke Up

Federal waterfowl regulations require the use of non-toxic shot. For most of us that means the soft-iron shot commonly called "steel." Steel shot is different from lead. First, because steel pellets are lighter than lead, go at least one shot size larger than you used with lead. Also, since steel is harder than lead, the pellets don't deform and it shoots a tighter pattern. This means opening up the choke at least one degree. If you used "full" with lead; use "modified" with steel. In fact, some of the larger steel pellets, often used for goose shooting (sizes BBB and larger), often shoot better through an "improved cylinder" choke. Pattern your gun to be sure. Alternatives to steel include bismuth and the new tungsten pellets. Both are ballistically better than steel, though rather expensive. Bismuth most closely resembles lead, while tungsten pellets are so hard that they require special wads. However, both perform better with less choke that old-time lead shot.

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