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How To/Pro-Tips

Sighted-In and Staying That Way

A good sighting-in session requires three things besides your rifle and ammo: a solid shooting platform, an adequate range and a solid, safe backstop.

A real benchrest is best but a solid table with a shooting rest or sandbags will do. Shooting from prone or over a vehicle hood resting on a rolled up sleeping bag is less precise but may be necessary to check your zero in the field.

There are a lot of theories about sighting in at short range and using trajectory tables to extrapolate results out at real hunting ranges. However, a small mistake in measurement at short range can be a big error at long range. Also, all rifles are individuals and their actual performance may vary from published tables.

A solid backstop is a must. You must be absolutely sure that your bullets aren't ricocheting around the countryside.
You should periodically check your zero during the season. Sights that got "knocked off" and not corrected have cost many hunters big bucks.

Plinking Around

We should all strive to become better shots, either with bow or gun. Most of us can still shoot bows in the backyard. However, in this crowded world, gunshots ringing through the neighborhood are severely frowned upon. This is particularly so with centerfire deer rifles, which produce a lot of bang.

Yet there are still many places where .22 rimfires create no problem. This, plus the fact that .22 ammo is quite cheap, is a boon to shooters. Shooting 500 to 1000 rounds of rimfire ammunition over a summer will do wonders for your marksmanship. It's best to duplicate your deer rifle with a .22 with the same action type and sights.

Punching holes in paper can get boring. "Active" targets are more fun. Tin cans are fine if you clean up your mess. Glass is a no-no. Shotgun clay targets leave many fragments that are hard to clean up. I like charcoal briquettes. They are cheap, available, biodegradable and make a nice puff of dust when hit.

Blind Stands

We aren't talking about stands where you can't see anything; we are talking about stands where the deer can't see you. This has become more important as deer have responded to hunting pressure by becoming more wary. Nowadays, deer look up and if they see you sitting on an open platform, they don't much like it. If you hunt from a ground blind, camouflage is critical.

Camouflaged and covered stands are the answer. Many modern deer stands are equipped to accept an optional camouflage screen that can be wrapped around the stand. Any stand that has a box-like construction or a shooting rail can be draped with camouflage cloth with a few simple ties or connections.

Natural camouflage is good. When preparing your stand site and cutting shooting lanes, leave a bit of natural vegetation around your actual stand. However, it must be open enough to allow a variety of shots. The ideal combo is a bit of natural growth backed up with a camouflage-covered stand.

Bow Basics

By now you should have started your archery practice routine to get ready for bow season. Start out with frequent but short sessions. You have to get your muscles re-toned just like your reflexes. Some archers reduce their bows draw weight for early practice sessions but I try to avoid that because it means at some point I will have bring it back to full hunting weight, re-sight and re-adjust my thinking
Just a few shots a day, several days a week is the best approach. Don't be too quick to re-tune or re-sight your bow unless something is obviously wrong. Minor flaws may indicate that it's your shooting form that's off. Wait until you are back in form before re-sighting or fine-tuning your bow.
Remember to finish off by shooting from realistic hunting positions and angles, preferably at 3-D targets. If you hunt from tree stands, you should certainly practice your down-angle shooting. Your final practice sessions should match real hunting situations as accurately as possible.

Top Cover

Top cover for your blind can be very annoying. It restricts your vision and can be difficult to swing and shoot through. Nevertheless, it is necessary for wary ducks. The more wary they become, the more top cover you need. Circling ducks can look straight down at you, which is a view deer and turkeys seldom get.
You still need to wear your personal camouflage and make sure all items in the blind are camouflaged. This includes coolers, blind bags, gun cases and other gear. Often well-camouflaged hunters will sit brightly colored shotshell boxes out in the open, forgetting that ducks can see them and may flare.
I think a facemask and gloves are very helpful. In particular, the camo mask allows you to look up and keep track of circling birds. I use two types of masks. For early season or mild weather shooting I use mesh masks and gloves. In cold weather, I wear a warm full-coverage facemask and insulated camo gloves.

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